Filling the Gap: Ideas on Qualitative Digital Strategy

For the past several years now we’ve heard all about how constantly connected we are to our digital world through our mobile device, and we see this play out across many facets of our daily life. A quick look at Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends, and there’s no question that mobile is here, and mobile is here to stay. (Some might even say this is old news, as mobile really has been around for awhile now.)

When it comes to mobile tech and the brain, we can reference notable clinical psychology (Turkle, 2011) and neuroscience research (Fox et al, 2009; Carr 2011) describing the perils of digital distraction, while other social and cognitive research points to the perhaps evolutionarily advantageous changes our brains are making to accommodate this influx of available information (Wegner, 1985; Sparrow, 2011).

Either way, good or bad, productive or distracting, mobile has reached an omnipresent place in our lives. So for those of you reading this post, presumably interested in the world of market research, I want to talk through a few tricks of the trade when it comes to mobile and/or digital ethnography research. How can you, as consumer insight experts, capitalize on this human phenomenon of constant connectivity when it comes qualitative data capture?

Here are a few ideas worth considering:

The Mobile Shop Along

  1. Mobile shop alongs allows researchers to go shopping with their customer – capturing in-store insights at the moments that matter as shoppers interact with products on the shelf, experience displays, assess prices, and ultimately make a purchase decision.
  2. Brands want to know how consumers are experiencing their products live in-store – what are the key variables that ultimately drive the consumer to make a purchase or not?
  3. Shopping in a store is an experience shaped and colored by a multitude of factors: time of day, other shoppers, the store’s layout, or perhaps an exchange with a store associate – capturing a shopper’s journey in real-time provides context for meaningful data collection.

Video, video, and more video

  1. A plethora of statistics exist when it comes to video consumption and video capture in our digital world – whether it’s about Pokémon Go video uploads skyrocketing across main stream social media, Facebook’s latest video initiative that works to help brands tell stories through video ad content, or Twitter’s “Life, Camera, Action” campaign. Video is very hot right now.
  2. Unlike any other medium (aside from in-person IDIs), video has a unique way of capturing the genuine Voice of the Customer.
  3. Pure and simple, people like watching video, and they like creating their own content. Make this work for you and your business in a creative, and socially meaningful way. (Easier said than done, I know … I will cover this in a future blog post!)

Ask questions in the moments that matter

  1. Achieve data driven confidence when promoting a new product, in-store advertising, shelf or display.
  2. As Bloomberg TV suggests, deliver your content when and where people want it, and capture your insights in the moment that matter to your target audience.
  3. Avoid memory bias by capturing a genuine shopper experience and enable a natural shopping experience – today’s consumer is ready and willing to engage via their mobile device.

Make it fast, make it simple

  1. Market researchers have to be able to deliver insights with speed. Modern focus groups and field research studies can take many months to complete and deliver. They’re hard to coordinate, analysis is often manual, and they are expensive (especially when compared to most big data platform licenses).

So while this post is by no means exhaustive when it comes to qualitative digital research, people have written books on the topic, I hope I’ve left you with some good food for thought as you consider your digital strategy.

Qualitative research via digital channels enables us to fill a gap in data that is crucial to evolving our businesses in a mobile first world. So while there are many challenges that come along side this type of data capture, mobile devices and the human desire to connect aren’t going anywhere – how can you harness this momentum for your business?


Juliana Smith Holterhaus, PhD is a principal research strategist at Qualtrics. With a background in decision sciences and mobile technology, she enjoys engaging and problem solving with clients in the applied market research and digital experience space.

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