A Casual Conversation on The Future of Qual

We are currently living the future of qualitative research. The era of online qual has dawned with a spectacular eruption of opportunities and techniques that are transforming research practices for the better. It is now easier than ever to get high-quality, in-depth qualitative insights that truly inform stakeholder decisions.

Online qual is firmly cemented in the future of the insights industry. With tools from many research agencies working to integrate creative tasks and video streaming, recording, manipulation, and connection into daily research experiences, it’s hard to imagine ever needing to go back to in-person research. While in-person research was the best chance for qual insights, and it still has a place in the insights industry, it’s place is now drastically reduced with the other online channels are being used as a staple of daily data collection and analysis.

This takeover of online qualitative research experiences is what we discuss in our latest Casual Conversation video, with Research Associates Cherry Huang and Dr Matthew Farmer, Head of Operations Gareth Bowden, and Assistant Project Manager Sarah Garbacz enthusiastically exploring their own views on the future of qual.

What’s Next for Qual?

The future of research in its many facets has been debated throughout its existence, but the variety of opportunities we have with more online qualitative methodologies taking the stage has never been so wide.

While there was a distinct move to online insight generation and communication before 2020, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for online research experiences. More insight teams are taking advantage of video conferencing software to directly connect to participants around the world, setting up online insight communities and panels to gather as much insight into the future and into the success of ventures as possible.

The two common denominators in all discussions taking place is technology and the willpower to successfully understand the general consumer. As Cherry Huang stated, we are currently very much being driven to innovate research like qualitative methodologies by the constantly evolving state of technology, so one future we will undoubtedly experience is a more natural and consistent evolution by accepting the technologies that come into our lives.

“The future of qual projects will shift from tech-driven to tech-led, meaning that the driving force, speed, quality, and price efficiencies technology delivers will meet industry needs.” — Cherry Huang

Artificial intelligence, for example, is still very much in development, and the closest we have come to integrating any AI technology into research practices is through automation and machine learning. We already understand the benefits of automating certain research aspects, but with artificial intelligence there is so much more opportunity for researchers to delegate more research tasks and then focus on qualitative and quantitative insight generation and activation.

Having access to better technology will allow the insights industry to focus on three challenges that has stumped our growth for a good number of years — scaling the reach of insights, supercharging their influence in wider organisations and industries, and streamlining our research processes so that we can become more efficient in our work. Automation, as already stated, goes some way to that for those who have implemented it, but there is still work to do in order to become truly efficient and influential.

“Over the next 5–10 years the developments in AI can hugely influence qual projects… Qual research is time-consuming and costly, whereas AI can help researchers generate insights quicker and cheaper.” — Sarah Garbacz

This is where we need to work towards in order to cement a successful future of qualitative research. With qual typically recognised as being the most intensive research (in the way that it’s hands-on and needs more creative thinking in order to draw out the best insights), improving the reach, efficiency and accessibility of this research type will escalate the impact it has on businesses and insight teams around the world.

The Casual Conversation Series

A Casual Conversation on… is a series of short, candid videos with the FlexMR leadership team that introduce the key offerings of the agency, our thinking and viewpoints on the future of market research and the insight industry. Throughout these videos, you’ll hear direct from those involved in designing the InsightHub platform and the unique agency model that FlexMR operates.

This article was originally published on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.




FlexMR is The Insights Empowerment Company. We help brands to act decisively, stay close to customers and embed agile insight at the heart of every decision.

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FlexMR is The Insights Empowerment Company. We help brands to act decisively, stay close to customers and embed agile insight at the heart of every decision.

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