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By Tamara Irminger Underwood

When thinking of qualitative research methodologies, what first comes to mind for many are focus groups and in-depth interviews. While these are tried-and-true ways to gain insight into consumers’ decision-making processes, there are alternative methods for market researchers to use.

The ideal number for conducting meaningful focus groups ranges between 6-8 participants. But focus groups aren’t the only option qualitative researchers have. Depending on the study it might be more appropriate to conduct in-depth interviews, dyads, or triads. Think of it as the 1-2-3 approach: In-depth interviews are one-on-one conversations between a moderator and study participant; dyads involve two people; and triads involve three people. Here’s the catch though, it isn’t simply breaking down a focus group into smaller components. What makes dyads and triads a powerful tool for researchers is in selecting participants who may have dissimilar opinions or influence on purchasing decisions so the differences can be dramatized. This provides opportunities for the moderator to probe the differing opinions within these small groups and illuminate their various perspectives. Let’s look at some of the features of in-depth interviews, dyads, and triads more closely.

What are In-Depth Interviews?

If you want or need to dive deeper into a topic, then in-depth interviews are the way to go. An in-depth participant has the exclusive attention of the interviewer and topics can be explored in more granular detail. Conducting In-depth interviews allows the moderator to spend more time on questions and topics, yielding more detailed responses. In-depth interviews are also a good choice when exploring more sensitive topics that are harder to discuss in group settings.

What are Dyads in Market Research?

Dyads can be structured in two ways. The first is to recruit two participants who may know each other (husband and wife; parent and child; two friends or co-workers). These are referred to as Known Pairs, and are the go-to choice if working with children or younger participants. The other option is  recruiting strangers who have been screened for sharing similar behaviors and interests OR a conflict pair. When selecting a conflict pair, the researcher is trying to dramatize the differences between the two. This is useful when looking at loyal users of two different brands or products to learn more about the reasons behind the brand loyalty, and where its weaknesses are.

What are Triads in Market Research?

Triads involve three participants who may or may not know one another. Triads offer some of the advantages of focus groups and in-depth interviews in that the moderator can hone in on topics/subjects while also having a diversity of opinion. Triads also offer researchers opportunities to test how group dynamics can influence purchasing behaviors. For instance, you can recruit two participants who are brand loyal to one product and one participant who is brand loyal to another. The moderator can then create situations that would test the strength of brand loyalty and see how the dynamic shifts between the three participants. Triangulation within the group can sometimes reveal areas for companies to focus on when creating marketing plans.

Market researchers are trained to identify which qualitative methodology is most appropriate for the study being commissioned.  Each methodology has its strengths and weaknesses, and knowing which to choose when designing a study is why market research is best done by a professional third party company. 

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