One of my passions is to ponder the future to understand industry trends and where the industry will be in the years to come. The following guest contribution by Willie Pena of Insights in Marketing provides his take on trends in qualitative. Willie Pena writes about qualitative market research and other popular forms of market research for IIM. Connect with him on Google+, LinkedIn.
Current and Emerging Trends in Qualitative Market Research
Just as marketing is changing in recent years, technologies are also changing the way that market research is conducted. Traditional qualitative research methods, like study groups, polls and observational studies, are going digital and expanding the ability for researchers and businesses to target participants and collect information. Successful businesses expect innovative research solutions that offer more than just data.
Adapting Qualitative Research Methods to Social Media and Mobile
Focus groups, observational studies and other traditional tools still have functional uses and are relevant in the digital world, however their costs are substantially higher than many of the emerging and maturing research methods available today. Deliberative and participative research methods are gaining popularity due to their increased ability to discover information on a larger scale.
However, the largest growth is found in social media and mobile market research. Across the globe, the Internet and mobile technologies are providing unprecedented access to markets and individuals. This provides a wealth of information that can be obtained without the need to secure a facility or spend months qualifying participants.
From high-definition video conferencing and instant communication around the world to the ability to reach participants on their mobile devices and access to demographics that are traditionally hard to reach, the Internet is providing technology based research methods like the kinds seen here by IIM the likes of which has never been seen before.
Five Trends Gaining Traction in Digital Qualitative Research
- Market Research Online Communities – MROCs combine a mixture of social media, online discussion and qualitative research to provide long-term benefits, in-depth insight and an unparalleled level of access to program participants. The format is flexible enough to suit nearly any audience, through gamification, live chat, bulletin boards or other methods, to provide a powerful tool for researchers at a fraction of the cost that hosting in-person events and similar studies would cost.
- Social Media and Qualitative Research – Social media is one of the driving forces in new methods of technology based qualitative research. From qualifying study participants to conducting research on the plethora of platforms available, there are near-endless options for optimizing your research methods, reaching new audiences and gathering mass quantities of data quickly and efficiently. However, these platforms are also ideal for long-term research due to their low-cost, easy management and instant communication features.
- Mobile Ethnography – Ethnography was once a research method reserved for large projects and businesses with big budgets. With the penetration and instant-access characteristics of mobile research, mobile ethnography allows for ethnographic studies with lower costs and compressed timelines. Through video chat, mobile polls and other tools, it is possible to conduct contextual and immersion studies without the need for constant on-site supervision and many of the other characteristics that make traditional ethnography daunting and expensive.
- Increased Automation and Accelerated Speed to Market – As the amount of data available to researchers increases, artificial intelligence, data mining tools, trends analysis algorithms and other research software are improving the ability to uncover trends, collate data and achieve results. This, in turn, is reducing the overall time need to conduct thorough research and produce results for clients. Both are fueling a surge in research-related spending within businesses and creating an ideal market for researchers in the years ahead.
- Increased Emphasis on the Customer Experience – Study reports including interactive elements, such as word clouds, video clips and storytelling, help to provide information with increased insight. Geo-location targeting, mobile surveys and other tools help to conduct studies in the moment as experiences are occurring to capture a truer sense of the study participant. The result is that traditional question-and-answer and static report formats of qualitative research are losing ground to new technologies at a rapid pace.
Qualitative research is evolving from rigid, complex structures to dynamic, real-time studies. With the help of mobile technologies, social media and other advances, qualitative researchers are enjoying a period of research advancement where greater market penetration, increased consumer willingness and skyrocketing business demand are pushing research to previously unseen heights. These current and emerging trends are likely to influence qualitative research and market research as a whole for years to come.