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By Tamara Irminger Underwood

Experienced qualitative market researchers know that the key to understanding what drives consumer behavior often requires multiple market research methods, and will design studies that include various methodologies and sources. This isn’t a ploy to increase project costs. By including multiple market research methods, as well as sources, researchers have higher confidence in the data and can identify conflicting answers provided by study participants. It’s not that participants are intentionally misleading, but it’s not uncommon for them to give different answers depending on how the question is phrased, or for participants to say one thing and do another. This is why qualitative market research studies tend to be more time consuming and expensive then just sending out a survey. Researchers aren’t just looking for answers, they’re looking for behavioral patterns that shape the answers.

InterQ recently completed a study where the client wanted to know various pain-points along their customers’ journey. We could have attempted to discover these pain-points singularly through in-depth interviews, focus groups, or surveys, but this wouldn’t have provided comprehensive data to draw fully confident conclusions. Instead, we designed a study that included mobile ethnographic participation, (with our great mobile ethnography partner, Indeemo) in-depth interviews, and asked participants to wear heart-rate monitors. By incorporating multiple data-collection methods we were able to probe gaps that appeared between moments when participants said they weren’t stressed, but their heart-rates said otherwise.

This study was a prime example of how time diminishes “in-the-moment” emotions. Had we relied only on in-depth interviews to capture pain points, our findings would have been very different, and would have not captured the right data. However, because we triangulated our methodologies, we were able to see when stress-level spikes and pain-points were captured in real-time through our use of mobile ethnographies and heart rate monitors. When participants were asked about their stress and pain-points during the in-depth interviews, they were much more sanguine about their experiences. Their recollections were dramatically different to their responses that were captured in real time. Fortunately, our research team is experienced and trained to see these gaps as they appear and adjust their interview questions accordingly. The end result was we were able to provide a comprehensive report back to our client built upon multiple data inputs that painted an accurate picture of customer pain points.

Qualitative market research is most accurate when multiple sources of data can be tapped for understanding. This isn’t to say that useful information can’t be gleaned from single-source techniques, but our years of experience have taught us that better outcomes are achieved when researchers can draw from multiple sources and employ various methodologies to capture data.  Experienced and trained qualitative researchers know how to design studies to get the most out of whichever technique they use, from drafting questions for interviews to moderating focus groups. When qualitative market research is left to the professionals, it’s more likely you’ll glean insights that can more accurately shape marketing plans and strategic operations.


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