By Julie Aebersold
One of the most diverse market research events I’ve ever attended, the 21st ESOMAR Global Qualitative conference, opened up the world of qualitative research, showing the power of innovation in studies around the globe. In the heart of Porto, I found myself surrounded by innovative, creative and stimulating minds; all from different cultures, brought together with one passion – the drive to take qualitative to a whole new level. The goal was to future proof the industry.
The conference brought to my attention the reality of qualitative research. Researchers will do whatever it takes to get closer to the consumer. This means taking risks, and sometimes failing, but failing with grace. The studies showcased the latest methods by testing the new technology on the scene to trial its impact on the industry. So if you think the technology behind qual isn’t as strong as the technology powering quant, you might want to think again.
The biggest surprises from ESOMAR 2017 Global Qualitative, in no particular order are:
- Robots and qualitative research are not naturally incomparable
- Chat discussions using WhatsApp and Messenger proved more effective than forums (they formed a stronger bond with participants and increased conversation by over 20%)
- Chat bots are powerful enough to grip the roles of the interviewer, the ethnographer and even the prober (and the bots even produced the same quality of results while saving 80% of the time)
- Humans actually trust robots! When the bot is introduced as learning and ‘not yet perfect,’ participants sympathise with the bot and actually go out of their way to help them learn faster
- You should make every decision twice – once sober and once drunk
- VR isn’t about focusing on the individuals, but it’s about the relationships and reactions
- VR is cheap! There are cheap options to fit any company willing to give it a try
- VR is easy! All you have to do is hit the record button, and you can leave the room
- Spiritual methodologies work? Meditation might be a solution for those ‘difficult’ participants – a study used relaxation and meditation to connect with the implicit associations and deep anxieties carried by men who are balding
- Humans are still just as important, if not more! Robots can only provide half the story, it takes human analysis to truly connect all of the dots
- Mosquitos are the world’s deadliest animals, killing over 700,000 humans per year (more than murderers)
So then, what does the future of qualitative research look like?
From virtual reality and chat bots, to AI and automation, future proofing qualitative research means finding the ultimate balance of (wo)man and machine. It’s in using machines for all their worth, but also understanding where the researcher must come in. But not to fear, the more we automate and move into the future of bots, the more our creativity and analytical minds rise above and become critical to the future of market research. As Samantha Bond at SKIM put it, it’s about knowing when to automate, and when to think.
By Julie Aebersold, Keen As Mustard