From focus groups to scalable qualitative: The growing pains of digital qual research 2

By Edward Appleton, Director of Global Marketing at Happy Thinking People GmbH

Qualitative research has changed radically over the past decade. The days where it was mainly about focus groups and in-depth interviews are long gone. A typical qualitative project in 2018 is likely to be multi-modal, involving any number of approaches – social media analysis, workshops, co-creation sessions, mobile ethnographies, semiotic decoding and cultural interpretation for example.

Organisational structures have also moved on: agencies with qualitative legacies are beefing up their analytics departments to offer seamless qual-quant solutions and having an in-house IT function is very common. Qualitative researchers are increasingly seeing analytics as a potential opportunity.

Conceptual thinking has also moved on to embrace contemporary theories of human behaviour and motivation such as Behavioural Economics. Triangulation is increasingly the norm. Digital qual has become mainstream – just think about MROCs (market research online communities).

Which is all perhaps witness to the strategic importance attached to qualitative research: getting to the bottom of the question “why?. This is an extremely valuable place to be, being tasked with the quest for causality, when so much in the market research space is in flux.

But how did we get there? And is qualitative research really on the path to a consultative space, advising strategically, becoming expert at the follow-through process via insights activation expertise?

Let’s look at the key phases of past development and how qual has been impacted by digital.

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