So, into Day 2 at Qual360 EU! The question for me was, could I keep up with the mental challenge of a second day of new projects, new insights, new methodologies, and new inspiring opportunities, which on paper were very different to Day 1? Here are my thoughts throughout this new day of market research challenges:
Innovation and Troubleshooting Research
In the first talk of the day, Nils-Erik Gustafsson from Ericsson took us through a personal journey of introducing (and selling-in) qual research within a B2B tech-driven company. Much like Sky Labs on Day 1, we got a real first-hand insight into the challenges of selling-in research, especially qual, within a large brand organisation. Some fascinating anecdotes really helped bring the session to life, and key points included the importance of observational techniques, of managing stakeholders so they don’t ‘try to answer every question’ and understand that sample sizes aren’t everything! All points I’ve long held close but never managed to put quite so succinctly.
Following on from this was a great case study by Happy Thinking People (thank you for hosting the drinks reception the night before! Good gin, snacks and conversation!) with Electrolux on the use of Virtual Reality. This proved to be a great introduction, not just to how VR can be used to do prototype testing at a fraction of the cost of building the actual product, but also in how Electrolux learnt and adapted their product mix by using VR in their product development cycle — this iterative process is something we can all learn from, whether or not VR is incorporated!
Marcos Dreher from Hartmann then took us back to basics, and provided some lessons in how to spot — and avoid — key mistakes or errors in the research process. Contrary to popular belief, mistakes are not just the domain of the ‘rookies’ but also the ‘old timers’; they don’t just arise from putting less experienced researchers on a project, and sometimes we get so caught up searching and applying the next innovative research method, that we forget about the simple things we need to make sure to nail first. The important takeaway — we all need to learn to build better relationships between clients and agencies, but also internally between stakeholders.
Seeking Trends and Trust
After the break, Holly Doran from Brandwatch led us through a fascinating project looking into meat-free products. This was, perhaps, more interesting to me because it was in a subject that fascinates me — a brand new, growth market — plus incorporated social media analysis, which is something I’ve never personally experienced in the research process. Social media listening gives us the opportunity to analyse direct, consumer-first, in-the-moment feedback, which is completely unprompted from any market research professional; it’s totally authentic data that can be accessed at a large scale — in this instance, there were 7,292 quotes analysed. And the findings? There are two distinctly different market segments:
- Those seeking direct meat-similar products
- Those seeking the opposite to meat
Both are directly opposite in their needs and need different strategies and totally different products. Aside from the inspiring use of social media analytics, the quotes taken directly from Twitter made for a hilarious and engaging session!
The presentation that followed was just as interesting, but for a very different reason; “Foresight not insight” is a mantra that’s easy to spin out, but a very hard one to actually live by. In a previous life, I was involved in research projects that aimed to look forward and ‘spot the future’, but it is true to say those projects needed something a little bit different to actually discover ’trends’.
This session from Kao and Point Blank Research set out how to use industry ‘experts’ and stakeholders to first understand their take on the industry changes, then to workshop and co-create different scenarios, map future states, before finally checking and validating what this means for stylists directly through a global online community. The staged approach really matters in this type of work and I’m glad the session focussed on the ’process’ and unpacked how they did it, instead of just stating samples or methods. “Our output is input” is perhaps a statement that should stay with all of us, rather than getting so hung up trying to get to the ‘actions’ on our own. Perhaps my ‘previous life’ would have unfolded differently had I heard this back then.
Christiane Schwieren from the University of Heidelberg took us through a behavioural economics perspective on ‘trust’. A little bit of disclosure here — behavioural economics isn’t really something I’ve spent a lot of time understanding, so, this was a bit of a crash course into the topic for me, but interesting nonetheless! The interactive game really aided my understanding by breaking down what could be quite academic into a very practical introduction. The real point of the session was to explain how social capital can be built through ‘trust’ — tangible human-to-human reciprocal benefits. And the qual in all of this? The qual is needed to add the context, to understand the ‘why and how’ reasoning behind the actions taken within behavioural trust games so that organisations can truly understand their research participants on a more intimate level.
The Power of Connectivity and Convergence
relativ* kicked off the afternoon with an overview of how we live and make sense of ourselves and the world — an interestingly confident, but accurate, start to the afternoon — through our relationships, our connections; essentially exploring how we relate to one another. From this, they have developed an intriguing metric — and index — of ‘Kinectivity’, which is essentially their way of ranking brands on how consumers are relating to brands and categories (made up of what they ‘get’ from the brand and how they ‘feel’ about it).
There was next a very inspiring view from Badoo’s Jemma Ahmed on how a client-side researcher approached a traditional ‘problem’ (the need for insight into user journeys and user experience at key touchpoints) with a radical ‘solution’. There followed a whistle-stop tour of taking the best ideas from a variety of skill domains — user research, market research, analytics and passive data — and mashing them into a fast, lean, internally-led project. This session provides confidence to client teams that they can do things in a different way and did set out a great argument for ‘converging’ insight skills and not seeing them as separate teams, silos or disciplines.
With the amount of innovation we’re doing together in all the different aspects of the research experience, qual research has a bright future ahead. But the great thing is, we aren’t replacing traditional qual, just amplifying it.
Alexsas Drozdovskis from Yandex Zen then brought with him a very big set of questions around long-term business survival and contended that the issue to long-term competitive advantage is not a lack of insights and ideas, it is actually the cultural barriers and fear that operate around a business. Drozdovskis gave a very good overview of how the design sprint process can help overcome these barriers by bringing different parts of a business together and working as one streamlined entity: one of the brilliantly beneficial effects of breaking down internal silos.
Reinvention, Not Replacement
And so, to the final session of the conference. A hard slot, but Northstar Research and Colt Technology Services provided, what was in effect, a good summary of the whole conference — a reinvention of how they approached and changed what had been a very traditional telephone qual with PowerPoint into being a reinvented programme.
The reinvention ended in a programme that mapped customer journeys and combined the use of AI alongside individual interviews and ended in an interesting approach to ‘quantifying qual’. For Colt, the benefit was in building internal reassurance, value and action. The great thing? It wasn’t replacing traditional qual or removing interviews or moderators — it was amplifying it.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.