Shaping the Future of Qualitative Research

We kicked off the year with a trip down to Phoenix for the annual QRCA conference. This year’s theme was: Elevate & Cultivate: how do we elicit deeper-level, decision-making insights and clearly convey them to help bring brands closer to consumers and their true moments of experience? A lofty goal, no doubt. But after three days of presenting and talking to hundreds of research professionals and moderators, we identified some key themes that by addressing, will move us toward that coveted state of qualitative research nirvana. Here’s what we took away:

Finding the right participants remains challenge #1. The success of finding insights hinges on first finding the right participants to talk to. We heard story after story about good projects gone bad because of poorly recruited respondents. The consensus is that as an industry, we must find a better and sustainable way to find fresh, qualified respondents.

Everyone is starving for new, innovative techniques. It seems the days of playing it safe are over. Researchers seem willing to take more risks and be the first to try new techniques that might not necessarily be tried-and-true methods in search of deeper insights.

Subcontracting in the qualitative world is creating new challenges. In a world where we value specialization, it’s not uncommon for there to be multiple parties involved in a project. But how do we ensure we have the right people for the job? This seems to be a particular pain point for clients. We must chart new rules of engagement and find new solutions to match the right providers to the right clients.

Research before the research can make us smarter, better, faster. Secondary research, brainstorming and hypotheses development as input to research proposals, guides and stimuli is becoming more and more common. Going into a research project with a better understanding of what we know, what we don’t know and what we think we might learn increases our chances of unearthing more meaningful insights.

As veterans of the industry, we’ve noticed that many of these challenges don’t change over the years but, luckily, how we address them do. That’s why we’ve focused so heavily on continually refining our Social Adaptive Recruiting™ (SAR) method and why we’re developing behavioral economics-inspired techniques. We’ve even been working on a tool to connect moderators and clients in new ways—an exciting development that we’ll be talking more about in the coming months. We think these are the types of innovations that will move qualitative research forward on our tireless pursuit to find deeper insights that move people.