Since the birth of market research in the early 20th century, strategies for gathering qualitative consumer insights haven’t really changed much. Projective exercises have brought new tools to focus groups, but other qualitative research practices have remained fairly consistent. But like consumer experiences in overall daily life, the Dawn of the Digital Age brings new behaviors, more complex challenges in consumer insights but also new opportunities, often accelerated by the application of technological innovations.
Projective techniques in qualitative research have largely been limited to paper-based exercises, so in order to scale and bring efficiencies and speed to the process, the platforms used to support them need to change. One critical opportunity for innovation involved bringing technology to data collection in modern focus groups. In the new Digital Age, consumers live in a world where our lifestyles transition fluidly from the physical world to online, where we are constantly multitasking, and where social media has transformed the way we communicate and engage. The traditional focus group format had drawbacks that understandably become unappealing and even a bit tedious to many participants. Further, qualitative insights and reports that synthesized conclusions and recommendations often take 1-2 weeks. The speed with which brands need to make decisions in the Digital Age was making qualitative insights a luxury many brands could simply not afford.
Behavioral science has revealed a lot about how consumers engage with brands and make shopper choices. The need for a behavioral framework is especially critical in qualitative research: respondents need context and saliency, or what we refer to as familiarity and how easily something is to recognize, and the exercises to reveal their motivations must be easy and even fun.
With deep expertise in qualitative in-context research, at PRS IN VIVO, we asked ourselves: “How do we innovate qualitative techniques and tools, make them more engaging for respondents AND still deliver better, more reliable outcomes to clients as efficiently as possible?”
Cue, the Tablet.
PRS IN VIVO’s Qualitative Research experts and our innovation teams examined the challenges and have developed an entire S1 Digital Qual Toolkit. Grounded in our trusted and proven research expertise, and proprietary behavioral framework, the S1 Digital Qual Toolkit leverages a highly familiar and commonplace platform (the tablet) to improve both the respondent’s AND the client’s experiences and yield better-accelerated insights. The exercises are gamified and digitized to evoke System 1 responses thus avoiding the pitfalls of well-intentioned yet over-rationalized reactions.
Here’s how it works:
The S1 Digital Qual Toolkit is implemented from the moment participants enter our ShopperLab®. We provide each consumer participant with a tablet on which they create a “profile” that lists their age, gender, upload a photo, and other basic identifiers (much the same way they create their profile/bio on a social media platform like Instagram). This facilitates filtering and segmenting results easier for clients based on demographics they may want to evaluate.
Clients in the viewing rooms (or viewing remotely) are also provided with a data link where they can not only observe and listen to the respondents but see their engagement with the projective exercises collected in real time.
This interface for consumers mimics a standard social media environment that most participants feel comfortable using. It plays a crucial role in the context of gamified activities that participants will be asked to complete.
The data in between gathers and synthesizes the data so trending insights emerge while the focus group is actually in progress. Data is only “data” if it is not being effectively compiled into visualizations of images, symbols, and words that organize trends at the blink of an eye. These innovations foster engagement for clients in ways not previously available and make sense of the information instantly.
A significant benefit of the S1 Digital Qual Toolkit for PRS IN VIVO’s researchers and moderators isn’t just that we can now generate reports even faster than ever before.
The entire experience allows us to create engagement with our clients that they actually enjoy as well! The immediate impact that our client can witness and customize in real time during this new approach to a focus group session creates a more indelible “peak moment” steeped with consumer insights that they will remember when sending their products to launch. It demonstrates the concrete benefits of the ingenious application of technologic innovation that can be the catalyst for the acceleration of insights that can drive better outcomes for their brand.
The Digital Age has transformed the ways consumers and shoppers behave. The Qual Toolkit is small but a powerful example of how PRS IN VIVO is harnessing the three most important factors to accelerate shopper insights that drive real-life outcome: in-depth category expertise in shopper marketing, a behavioral framework and ingenious application of digital technology to enable effective innovation that serves research participants, and our clients.
Sheryl Brie has been with PRS IN VIVO since 2008 and has worked in multiple categories across various channels both brick & mortar and online. Sheryl is a RIVA trained moderator and utilizes System 1 interventions and projectives in order to gain insights and understanding around behavior. Prior to joining PRS IN VIVO, Sheryl had spent 10 years in the market research industry. She holds a B.A. in Literature and Rhetoric from Binghamton University with a concentration in Sociology. Sheryl is also an active member of QRCA (Qualitative Research Consultants Association).