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The Most Effective Ways to Use a Market Research Journal

The market research journal has come a long way from the slightly dog-eared notebook which we would leave with participants for them to fill in (then spend several hours trying to decipher their handwriting and ponder the significance of the food stains and miscellaneous splodges obscuring key words). Now, the online market research journal is a free-form research tool distinct from the more formal, structured diary task.

A diary task involves setting participants a series of open-ended and closed questions to be completed on a regular basis (every day, week, or month) or when a specific event occurs (for example when they shop in a certain store or contact customer services) with automatic scheduling.

By contrast, a journal entry is more free-form diary entry, influenced by social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and allows short-form text entry, easy video and image upload and location tagging. Participants can make as many entries to their journal as they like as and when a thought pops into their head, an interesting event happens or when there’s something they want to share.

Reminding your participants to allow their location to be tagged when they post to their journal gives invaluable context to where they were when they posted. GPS on smartphones has become more sophisticated and less of a drain on battery over the last few years, so it is now more reasonable to ask participants to share their location than ever before. Location tagging enables you to build up a map of where products are used, experiences are at their best and worst and where respondents are most likely to interact with certain brands.

In one of my recent blogs on market research smartboards I discussed the importance and value of asking participants to submit images. To enable you and your stakeholders to be able to see the context in which an event is taking place, a call is being made or a product consumed, ask your customers to upload images to their journal to show who they are with, what the ambience is like and to generally set the scene. Most photos will be images respondents have taken on their phone or tablet, but could as easily be an internet meme or a cartoon describing their day!

If a picture tells a thousand words, a video tells a thousand more! You can get much more of a feel for a participant’s emotional state, intention and meaning through a video. Again, as for pictures, a video also gives you much contextual information and background. It also may well be easier for respondent to update their journal by filming a short video on their mobile rather than entering text through their phone’s keyboard.

All of the above, especially location, are best leveraged on a mobile device or tablet. Using a journal tool which is optimised for mobile will really help you untap the value of the market research journal allowing participants to post to their journal when they are out and about — when you are most likely to obtain the most interesting data. Further, given that 33.4% of all web traffic now comes from a smartphone based browser, you want to make sure your journal is fully accessible by and optimised for smartphone!

A good market research journal tool will allow you to prompt and probe on journal entries to allow you to ask respondents for expansion, clarification and further examples. Make sure you take this opportunity to get all the information you can out of your respondent whilst the event they have journaled about is fresh in their minds — but if you can’t, it’s no problem as the rich nature of the journal enables respondents’ memories to be jogged using the stimulus they have submitted.

Because market research journals allow participants to upload such a rich range of data, it is important to work out the details of consent prior to starting the study. This will also reassure participants about the way you will use their data and share it with stakeholders and therefore make them more likely to be forthcoming, as well of course as being good practice in terms of data protection.

In summary, a market research journal, used wisely can provide a rich seam of insight into participants’ day-to-day lives, brand interactions, customer service experiences and purchase decisions. Our market research journal, JournalMR provides the perfect mobile-optimised companion to DiaryMR allowing you to painlessly collect and curate text, image, video and location data.

How have you used market research journals in an effective fashion? Tell us in the comments below or let us know if you have any questions about them.

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