Posts Tagged ‘Qualitative Research’

The following post was written by Mark Dengler, President at RMS.

In the market research world, the voice of the customer (VoC) is key to understanding and managing customer experiences as well as enhancing product/service design. You should always be listening to your customers and what they are saying, whether it be directly to your organization’s staff, indirectly through consumer review websites, or social media. The vast majority of all companies primarily compete based upon customer experience. Therefore, listening to your customers is vital to a company’s long term growth and success. Customer interests, wants and needs are constantly changing. By doing VoC research, your organization can stay abreast of ever changing customer preferences. Unfortunately, actual customer feedback data is used only a small percentage of times when making a decision that affects them. As a recent article I read stated, “If you don’t understand customer market perceptions or how interactions with your firm are being experienced by your customers, it’s nearly impossible to regularly meet, much less exceed, customer expectations or to improve your organization’s performance (Michael Hinshaw, CEO, McorpCX).” And that really is what we’re all looking for—long-term customer relationships earned by exceeding their expectations.

Findings obtained from VoC work will keep your organization competitive, driving product/service enhancements. Actual VoC work should incorporate both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. It should be ongoing, and results should be thoroughly reviewed by management staff. The information obtained should capture information tied to identifying customer needs, expectations, loyalty, and usage intentions. Moreover, it allows for organizations to develop customized marketing strategies that can be used in targeted campaigns. We now live in an age of one-to-one marketing versus one-to-many marketing strategies (one size fits all). It is important to note that VoC is not customer satisfaction research. VoC focuses on learning and assessing customer expectations, whereas customer satisfaction aims at measuring customer experience. Both activities are vitally important and provide organizations with valuable information. Finally, be sure to look at all sources available to “listen to your customer.” This includes regular debriefs with the sales force team, the customer service department and/or anyone else along your distribution chain who has a direct touch point with the customer. With the rapid growth of social media, customer feedback should be regularly monitored. In today’s fast paced marketplace, “hearing voices” is often a very good trait, particularly when it’s your customers’ voices. Listening to and acting upon these voices is what is ultimately going to help set your company apart from its competition. The need to implement a VoC strategy is vital for your organization’s long term success.

RMS is a full-service market research firm. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at RMSresults.com.

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The following post was co-written with Zach Shaw, Panel Associate at RMS


What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research is a non-numerical method used to discover and understand consumer behavior, beliefs, attitudes, experiences, and interactions. Qualitative data is often implemented during the exploratory phase of the research, using unstructured or semi structured techniques to facilitate an open dialogue with the participant(s). Giving the participant more freedom in their response allows them to provide more detail than can be gathered through closed-ended quantitative research. Instead of looking for statistical comparisons, qualitative researchers will evaluate the gathered data to identify trends given by the recipients, and implement solutions.

Types of Qualitative Research:

  • Focus Groups – A focus group includes a small number of people (often 10 or less) brought together to participate in a guided discussion by a moderator. The discussion focuses on specific products, topics, or services, and follows a pre-determined focus group moderator’s guide. The moderator’s guide outlines the questions to be covered, as well as the topics for which the moderator should expect to probe deeper for additional explanation.
  • Intercept Surveys –An intercept survey is a very brief, in-person interview with a participant and an interviewer. For example, the interviewer might approach someone leaving a retail store and ask them a few questions about their experience.
  • In-Depth Interviews (IDIs) –IDIs often take the form of a one-on-one discussion between an interviewer and participant. The interviewer typically follows a semi-structured interview guide, developed prior to the conversation, to direct the discussion. It is common for IDIs to be completed in-person, over the phone, or via the web.
  • Mystery Shopping – Mystery shopping is used to measure the quality of a service, compliance with regulations, or to gather specific information about products and services. This method allows the client to obtain competitive information without being involved in the process. Mystery shoppers often gather this information through telephone calls or by visiting the store and acting as a customer.

Why do Qualitative research?

Qualitative research can be used at any phase of research, but is most commonly done as a first or last step in the research cycle. It can be very valuable when developing new products or marketing initiatives that are looking to gauge consumer perceptions. Qualitative data allows the researcher to have in-depth discussions with participants and allows the researcher to gather more detailed information on consumer needs, behaviors, desires, routines, and a range of other information that companies use for designing products and services. The depth of qualitative research allows the researcher to uncover contextual details that may be overlooked in quantitative research.

What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research looks for patterns in numeric data and is generally better for confirming and clarifying a research hypothesis. Applying statistical tests to numerical data provides a better understanding of trends, allowing the researcher to make more informed statements about the results. RMS customizes each questionnaire to the needs of the client, but many of the questionnaires follow a structured outline and are primarily made up of closed-ended questions with provided response options for the participant to choose from. This structured approach to research is different than the more conversational approach used in qualitative research.

Types of Quantitative research:

  • Mail/Paper Surveys – A mail or paper survey is a questionnaire that is completed by the participant on a hard copy rather than in digital form. These types of surveys can either be distributed via postal mail or given to the recipient in person to complete. Mail or paper surveys are a great option for populations which may not have easy access to a computer or the internet, but are known for often having a lower response rate than other types of quantitative research.
  • Mixed Mode – Mixed mode research involves more than one type of data collection. For example, data may be collected with a combination of research methods to reach the desired populations. Phone surveys could be used to collect data from an older population who is more likely to have a landline; online surveys may be distributed to those younger than the population receiving the phone surveys, and paper surveys would be used to collect data from the subset of the population who does not have immediate access to a phone or the internet. A mixed-mode approach allows the researcher to ensure data is collected from the target population of interest, with a mode that is most comfortable to that population.
  • Online Surveys – An online survey is a digital version of a questionnaire. Participants may be sent a survey link that is embedded within an email, or they may access it on a social media post, which they can complete online.
  • Telephone Surveys – A telephone survey is completed over the phone. The interviewer takes the participant through the questionnaire question by question.

Why do Quantitative research?

Quantitative research often gathers a larger number of responses, allowing the researcher to make more reliable assumptions regarding the resulting data. Quantitative research questions can be used to measure consumer feelings, satisfaction, and other factors in a structured form, giving the recipient limited response options.  This quantifiable approach to research is a great option when a client has a sense of what their target audience thinks, feels, or expects, but would like to further test their assumptions.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com

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In-depth interviews (IDIs) are an insightful qualitative research method that allows the researcher to tap into the mind of consumers. To keep costs down, many businesses choose to complete IDIs via telephone, rather than the more costly option of conducting the interviews in-person.  While telephone IDIs provide a cost advantage, the researcher loses the ability to read visual cues provided by the respondent when answering questions. Due to the inability to communicate face-to-face, there are extra steps that should be taken to ensure open-ended questions asked via telephone are transcribed effectively.


Here are four tips to transcribe open-ended responses:

  1. The importance of quality responses

Quality of data is more important than quantity. Ensure that the responses you are transcribing make logical sense. Also, don’t force a complete. If you notice that your respondent is not offering valuable information to the end client, feel free to stop the interview. There is no rule that says you have to finish every interview you start!

  1. Keep the responses clean

The RMS analytics team will go through and re-read every open-ended response, so we try to make sure all responses are free of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Not having a consistent format and clean responses will lead to poor reporting or excessive data cleaning time.

  1. Probe for additional details

Suppose your respondent replies to a satisfaction question by stating, “It was good.” From here the researcher should follow up by asking the respondent why “it was good.” To be diligent about probing, we suggest always following up on questions where respondents provide three words or less. Best practices in research suggest that probing on open-ended questions leads to more in-depth responses, and ultimately provide the client with more rich data.1

  1. Record responses verbatim

The researcher should record responses as stated by the respondents. This means the researcher should be recording responses in first person. For example, instead of, “He feels the hours should be longer,” record, “I feel the hours should be longer.” Additionally, do not try to summarize the respondent’s comments, or use your own words to make responses more concise. Try to capture as much as you can from the respondent’s own words.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our market research services, please contact the Director of Business Development, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

1 Smith, S., & Albaum, G. (2012). Basic Marketing Research: Volume 1. Handbook for Research Professionals. Official Training Guide from Qualtrics. Retrieved from: https://www.du.edu/ir/pdf/basic_marketing_research_vol_1

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When budgets get tight and businesses need to get answers fast, many will immediately jump to a survey or other form of quantitative design. Decision-makers just don’t have the time to wait for a lengthy process of in-depth interviews (IDIs), focus groups, or shop-alongs. The trade-off of a lengthier and more in-depth study does not outweigh the need to have data quickly, but like anything in business, more preparation and more attention put to the beginning of a process will almost always pay huge dividends at the end.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Quantitative vs. Qualitative is the classic left vs. right brain clash. But instead of picking a side in research, why not use both?

Enter Qualitative Research or the prototypical right side of your brain. Qualitative research often gets a bad rap for being creative-heavy and scientific-light. Therefore it goes over-looked and is viewed as too expensive for its return. Although it is often cut out of the research design in order to jump right into a survey (face it, a new hotel isn’t going to be approved for financing based on two focus groups of 6 people each), using exploratory methodologies before measuring reaps many rewards for the research team and the client. To use a baseball analogy, qualitative research is the really good set up reliever out of the bullpen that gives the flashy closer a chance to earn a save. If you don’t have a good bullpen to set up your closer, you won’t even have a chance to earn a save and a win for your team.

What are the benefits to using qualitative research before quantitative research?

  • Qual provides an avenue to dig deeper and ask whyAs with any good exploratory research, this conversational methodology allows for additional communication between the researcher and the “researchee” (I just made that up). Simple answers can be probed on, examined, and underlying drivers and factors can often be uncovered through qualitative research. As an example, quantitative research would provide you with data stating your most recent laundry detergent purchase was Tide. Qualitative research would provide you with reasons behind your Tide purchase such as noticing laundry detergent on the end cap, comparing the cost of Tide to other detergents in-aisle, and remembering a television commercial talking about the new stain defender technology. Or you just really like the color orange, who knows? Whatever it may be, it will be uncovered using qual.
  • Qual provides an opportunity to be collectively exhaustive through response lists in a follow-up survey. By asking open-ended questions through qualitative research you’ll be able to identify common answer themes from respondents. As a survey writer you can then take those themes and compile the question into an aided response structure to limit the number of open-ends in a survey, which will take the respondent less time to complete and improve the survey experience. We’ve spoken about that here on the Bunker Blog.
  • Qual examines issues and strengths to further address in a quantitative forum. In some instances, when you go directly to quant you miss the opportunity to be exhaustive with your research efforts. Oftentimes, good research leads to more questions than answers. Believe it or not and as odd as that sounds, it often rings true. Your first research project is more of a starting point for answers than an end point. By jumping the gun directly to quant, it does not provide your team with the opportunity to re-address and uncover new ideas. For instance, if you launch a major survey and a reoccurring theme for dissatisfaction is customer service, there’s no going-back to dig deeper. In truth there’s always a way to go back but it’s not efficient or budget friendly. However, if you conducted qual first, you would have been able to uncover issues with customer satisfaction and included a series of questions in the survey to get more measurable ratings on specific aspects of that experience (waiting time, friendliness, knowledge, etc.).
  • Qual offers time to digest, reexamine, and refocus the research. Here at RMS, we use the “break” period between qualitative and quantitative research to refocus our efforts. I say “break” in quotations because that can last as little as a day (or less). What it does do however, is give the entire team an opportunity to reassess objectives for the quantitative study. Are we headed down the right path? Do we need to rethink next steps? Are we addressing the right content for the survey? Are there any new ideas we want to explore? This check-point allows time to digest all of this information.

With all of these benefits stated, in some instances it is still appropriate to cut out qualitative research and go directly to quantitative. In what instances is that true? A situation like a tracker study where the first wave of the survey has already been designed and you are looking to benchmark data, government standardized surveys where wording and answer choices cannot be customized, or situations where hard data is needed almost immediately with no wiggle room on budget or timeframe. If you know 100% of your clientele purchase your product solely because its color is orange, it may be appropriate to pass on qual, and even quant, or maybe even research in general.

Thanks for reading my post. To connect with me on LinkedIn click here or to follow me on Twitter click here. If you are interested in conducting a qualitative or quantitative research project with our firm contact our Business Development Director at Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS). Sandy Baker can be reached at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

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This article was written by Mark Dengler, President of Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) in Syracuse, NY. It was featured in a prior edition of RMS News.

Focus groups are a tried and true way to engage populations to learn in-depth information about opinions, perceptions, and experiences. They are a form of qualitative research that embraces group interaction to maximize participant responsiveness and allow for in-depth probing. Typically consisting of 4 to 12 people, a focus group utilizes a moderator to lead and interview participants as a group. The result is a great deal of perceptual information that can be used to validate, uncover or help direct further research.

Focus Group Facility in Syracuse NY

Focus Group Facility in Syracuse NY

To be successful, a focus group needs meaningful interaction. During a focus group, the moderator gets the respondents to interact with each other in a way that reveals additional information, so every other respondent can hear and respond to participant comments. The hallmark of the focus group is open-ended group interaction. Respondents can answer in their own words, rather than being forced to give yes or no, multiple choice, or numerical answers. More importantly, people are able to freely react to each others’ responses.

Stimulation is created by the excitement, group support, challenge, new ideas and other features of the interaction. It can provide strategic advantages that often mean the difference between the success or failure of a product or service. There is an almost irresistible pull to say things that they would ordinarily not reveal. Here are some types of interactions you may see in a well-run focus group:

  • Reaction to each others’ comments
  • Drawing each other out
  • Asking questions you didn’t think to ask
  • Building on each others’ ideas
  • Sparking new ideas
  • Jogging each others’ memories
  • Modifying each others’ comments
  • Filling in-completions and gaps in knowledge
  • Nudging each other out of ruts and habitual thinking
  • Taking opposing positions
  • Persuading each other
  • Changing their opinions

As a result of stimulation, you get more information from the group than you could possibly get from any amount of questioning of individuals.

Focus groups are often considered a luxury. People often think, “We don’t have time for that sort of research with our specific pressing problems, and we’re in touch with our customers anyway.” However, what your customers and prospects are telling each other may not be what they are telling you and, in today’s economy, you can’t afford to not know the correct customer perceptions. Your understanding of what the consumer wants must be crystal clear. A skilled focus group moderator can often uncover dissatisfaction and needs that may be deeply buried in a customer’s mind.

Focus Group Syracuse NY

Focus groups, more than any other method, allow for the emergence and pursuit of surprise qualitative information. Agendas can be modified from group to group, and even within groups. Most market research begins with focus group research or some form of qualitative research and may often be followed up with quantitative survey work. Never underestimate or dismiss the immense value received from focus group research. This research modality provides a direct link into the perception and opinions of participants.

Looking for a focus group facility in Syracuse NY? Contact Sandy Baker, the Director of Business Development, at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

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There are many crucial aspects to a good qualitative research project, including the moderator’s guide, design of the participation packet, and even the report that is delivered afterwards.  But all of those pieces of the qualitative puzzle are insignificant unless you can actually get a fair number of participants to show up for the focus groups and/or interviews.  You can write the best moderator’s guide in the world for a focus group, but if only one or two people show up for a sitting of 10-12, the guide won’t matter.  With that in mind, here are a five steps geared to encourage participants to show up for your qualitative research project and improve your participation rate.

  1. Bigger incentives – Vance wrote a blog post on this a while back and made some good points about the relationship between incentives and qualitative research.  Ultimately, the amount you offer varies depending on the audience invited, the time frame to do the research, and the amount of time required for the involvement – among other things.  It’s one of the most difficult things to determine in market research, but you don’t want to lose out on a large number of participants because they won’t drive to the facility for $75 but would have for $100.  The incentive mentioned during the screening call has to pass the “ear test” and pique interest.
  2. Raffle off another incentive – this is in reference to raffling off an additional incentive for those participants who either show or show early.  Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) often does this to encourage participants to show 15 minutes early.  This allows the team to better understand the turnout ahead of time and deem if last-minute phone calls are necessary.  Nothing eliminates the stress on a research team like having all 12 participants show up early and providing the moderator and/client viewers with options on who to keep and who to let go.  Adding another throw-in sweepstakes encourages participants to commit.
  3. Confirmation letters with directions – as part of the recruitment process at RMS, confirmation letters are prepared, printed and mailed to all participants prior to the date(s) of the focus group(s).  We also send a one-page overview of what a focus group or in-depth interview (IDI) entails for those coming to our site to do the research in-person.  In addition to the letter confirming the date and time, we also mail a sheet of directions to our QualiSight focus group facility in Syracuse, NY with a nice aerial picture of where our offices are located.
  4. Confirmation emails and texts – these are critical parts to the recruitment process for qualitative market research, especially for those participants who are recruited a week or more ahead of time.  By using multiple avenues as reminders – mail, email, reminder phone calls, and texts – you’ll ensure you’re covering a variety of touch-points.  There is a thin line between just the right amount of reminders and overkill, but as a market researcher, I’d rather hear “your reminders annoyed me to death” than “no one reminded me.”  If it’s a case of the latter, you probably won’t hear that feedback because that participant wouldn’t show to tell you.
  5. Provide contact number for questions – lastly, provide a contact number of someone who can help answer questions about the project or anything else that comes up on the participants end.  Participants are often anxious about participating in qualitative research and nothing can put that anxiety to ease better than a person who is confident and can answer questions to subside any concerns.  If you have an office of five people or 500, an already nervous participant doesn’t want to hear “Let me check on that and get back to you.”
focus group facility syracuse ny 5
View of a typical night before RMS focus groups.

Use these five steps to improve participation in your qualitative market research project.  Sometimes, no matter how much preparation you do on your end and no matter how many reminders you send out to participants, you’ll occasionally still get a bad showing for your qualitative research.  No-shows happen.  So it’s always important to think about plan Bs and plan Cs in case that does happen – such as supplementing lower numbers of focus group participants with additional IDIs, holding another group, and/or complementing the research with a follow-up survey.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm in Syracuse, NY, with its own on site QualiSight qualitative research facility.

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Transcripts are a great tool for market research analysts.  Whether you are conducting multiple focus groups or a series of in-depth interviews, having the conversations transcribed is invaluable for reporting.  Oftentimes focus groups will last up to two hours  and IDIs can last up to an hour or more (if they do, you’d better pay the participant a nice incentive).  Although most focus groups package recorded audio files or video files with your rental, transcriptions still offer many benefits to the market research industry.

market research firm upstate ny

1) Including verbatim comments in your report (made easy).

Nothing is more painful than having to watch hours upon hours of focus group video to pull additional findings or additional quotes for your market research report.  Actually, scratch that, having to listen to audio files may even be more grueling, but sometimes necessary for our clients to provide them with a quality, in-depth report.  Having the focus groups or interview pre-transcribed come the time of your report allows you to cut and paste those verbatim comments into your PowerPoint deck with ease, rather than having to listen-pause-type, listen-pause-type, etc.

2) Free up time for focus group management/logistics and listening to participants.

Although I encourage analysts in the client viewing room to take notes and jot down key takeaways for your report, often other logistics call you away from the groups.  Therefore you end up missing pieces of focus groups where participants could have mentioned something very important for the objectives of the study.  Plus, knowing that the groups will be transcribed word-for-word puts you at ease and allows you to really listen to participants and interpret their thoughts/opinions for your client.

3) Quickens the speed of reporting.

If you include selected comments in your PowerPoint deck, nothing is easier than a quick CTRL-C, CTRL-V from your transcript.  Another benefit is the ability to cut directly to a section of the group by simply doing a CTRL-F for a specific term or topic (for us PC users; forgive me Mac users).  For instance, if you’ve conducted eight focus groups across the U.S. in the past three weeks for different types of cleaning supplies, it might be very difficult to remember takeaways about shopping behavior for dish detergents in a grocery store.  It also might be difficult to remember how your urban markets differed from your rural markets.  With transcripts, just open up the file(s) and search for “dish detergent” and it will take you directly to those mentions.

4) An extra deliverable for the client.

Clients love value-added in market research.  Not only do transcripts help the market research firm write a quicker, more accurate, and more robust report, but the transcripts can also be passed to them as a deliverable.  They can refer to these transcripts down the road for key items or circulate them among staff who couldn’t attend the focus groups.   It’s a win-win situation.

Are you interested in conducting focus group research or in-depth interview market research in Upstate, NY?  Contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker, at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 315-635-9802.  Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm in NY.

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This blog post was written by our guest blogger Mark Dengler, Owner & President of RMS.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could read our customers’ minds? Well, the next best thing is to conduct qualitative market research. Focus groups and In-depth Interviews (IDIs) open a window to help us gain detailed and in-depth information about what a target population may think or feel about a specific product, service or idea. These widely used qualitative research tools, while not quantifiable, can be very enlightening as they provide an understanding of the customers’ attitudes about a recent service experience or product use. Who better to ask than your own customers?

Both methodologies are used to gain free-flowing ideas and opinions that would not be possible to express in a written survey. A combination of qualitative (focus group, IDIs) and quantitative research tools (surveys) complement each other very well, and make up for what each approach individually may lack.

The choice of which qualitative or quantitative methodology to use will depend on the objectives you hope to achieve from the primary research and your target audience.

market research in syracuse ny 001

RMS QualiSight Focus Group Facility

What is a focus group/IDI?

A focus group is a small discussion group facilitated by a trained moderator. Typically, eight to 10 individuals are invited to share and explore attitudes on a specific topic of interest for approximately two hours. The moderator encourages participants to freely discuss their feelings and opinions, and is skilled at asking probing questions to gain insight and depth of attitudes.

An IDI is typically a face-to-face conversation between a researcher and a single respondent with the purpose of exploring issues or topics in detail. Sometimes IDIs are completed over the telephone or using electronic software such as Skype. The interviewer encourages the participant to freely discuss his/her feelings and opinions and is skilled at probing further to gain insight.

Most people really enjoy being part of these research modalities. They are not asked to purchase or endorse anything; in fact, participants are typically thanked with a stipend or honorarium that varies depending on the topic of interest.

When should I use focus groups and IDIs?

Focus groups and IDIs can be used to accomplish a number of different objectives. They are generally used when you’re looking for more than yes/no answers and you need more information than a survey can give.  The key feature is that these research methods allow for thorough probing. For example, if someone says the lobby was “busy,” this term could be positive (provided real energy, good vibe) or negative (felt congested and overwhelming). Focus groups and IDIs allow for a better understanding of a respondent’s perceptions.

Some specific applications of both methodologies include:

  • Identifying attitudes, perceptions and/or satisfaction about your product or service;
  • Identifying and defining the needs of a specific user group;
  • Learning your competitive position perception in the marketplace;
  • Generating new ideas for products or services;
  • Role-playing or the dynamics of a larger group such as a school board meeting, town hall meeting or other larger community event;
  • Obtaining broad-based community perceptions;
  • Identifying opportunities and barriers related to your product or service; and
  • Testing advertising copy, themes and packaging.

Most importantly, these research methodologies are relatively quick and inexpensive, offering in-depth insight into consumer thoughts.

Mark Dengler is the president of Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) a market research firm in Syracuse, NY. For more information about RMS, email our business development team (located in the right toolbar of this blog) or call us at (315) 635-9802.

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Many qualitative research projects, such as focus groups or in-depth interviews, will offer a monetary incentive to entice people into participating. In fact, unless the research is being conducted for a person’s employer or for a charitable organization, incentives are the only way to get them to give up their time. At the beginning of such a project, the amount of an incentive needs to be established. Some organizations don’t hesitate to offer generous incentives, while others try to save money by offering a low amount. Based on our extensive experience with such projects, we here in The Bunker think that offering low incentives is usually a classic example of being pennywise and pound foolish. Here are five reasons we believe it’s usually best, from a research standpoint, to open up the purse strings and offer more rather than less:

1. Higher Levels of Engagement – Participants who have been offered what they consider to be a generous incentive are more eager and favorably disposed toward participating in a study. People are happier when they feel like they are being well-compensated for their time. That’s just human nature. The increased energy and positive attitude is very important when a person is going to be sitting through a focus group that might last two hours or a telephone interview that could go on for an hour.

2. Faster Recruit Times – Many qualitative research projects are conducted on a very tight timetable with inflexible deadlines. There’s usually a desire on the client’s part to get the results fast. In the case of a focus group, the difference between a quick project turnaround and something that drags out is usually the process of recruiting participants. A low rate of people willing to participate can force you to put more costly resources into recruit and/or reschedule the groups. Oftentimes, the incentives have to be raised midway through the process. We have found through our recruiting efforts at our Syracuse, NY call center, that high incentives make people more likely to agree to participate, or to at least entertain the idea before hanging up. Since an unproductive recruit can completely hamstring a qualitative project and throw timelines off, it only makes sense to reduce that risk through higher incentives.

3. Fewer No-Shows – What if you held a focus group and nobody came? Okay, that’s an unlikely worst case scenario, but an otherwise well-planned and executed focus group can be ruined by light participant turnout. In some cases, make-good groups have to be scheduled, which nobody wants. In the case of in-depth interviews, few things are more frustrating than calling an interview participant at a pre-arranged time only to find out that they are not available. High incentives can’t eliminate those problems completely, but they certainly help. It goes without saying that people who are willing to back out of a commitment that will pay them $40 will be much more hesitant to pass up $150.


4. Long-Term Savings – It may seem counterintuitive, but committing more money up front for incentives will usually result in lower overall project costs. The hours saved from having a higher incidence rate with recruiting calls and a reduced need to over-recruit to make up for no-shows will often more than cancel out the increased incentive costs. It is sometimes hard to convince people of those savings at the beginning of a project because they are anticipated, whereas high up-front incentive costs are immediate, but having worked on projects with both low and high incentives, we in the Bunker can vouch for the fact that the savings involved with the latter are very real.  

5. Positive Associations for the Research Sponsor – Every organization that conducts market research tells participants that they value their opinion, and most are sincere when they say it. Those who pay substantial incentives put their money where their mouth is and prove it, creating positive associations with the organization (assuming the research isn’t blinded) for a long time thereafter. On the other hand, offering an incentive that is seen as cheap or stingy can have the opposite effect. What kind of message does it send when people are asked to give up an hour or more of their time for a $10 gift card? At best, such an incentive would fail to generate interest, at worst it can insult the potential participant and leave a bad taste in their mouth. Why risk that?

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A prior market research blog post (authored by our guest blogger, Mark Dengler, President of Research & Marketing Strategies) gave the following explanation of qualitative research.

Qualitative Research is used to explore and understand people’s beliefs, experiences, attitudes, behavior and interactions. It generates non-numerical data – for example a customer’s explanation of “very satisfied” rather than a “10” rating using a numerical scale. Techniques like focus groups and in-depth interviews are commonly used in qualitative research fieldwork to document a variety of experiences, or in studies about how an organization is functioning, revealing views and experiences of test subjects.

Qualitative research is usually the first step in market research and usually involves follow-up quantitative research.  Qualitative research can include, but is not be limited to:

  • Focus Groups
  • Mystery Shopping
  • Intercept Surveys
  • In-Depth Interviews (IDIs)

If you are unfamiliar with qualitative market research and how it relates to a process, see the image below.  RMS, a market research company in Syracuse NY, uses this flowchart in our business development materials to new clients.  It helps walk them through the process of commissioning qualitative research from start (RFP) to finish (report).  Obviously, all qualitative research projects will not follow the same path, but most can be summarized through this graphical process. 

What is Qualitative Research? | RMS

Interested in conducting a focus group in Syracuse, NY or other forms of qualitative research?  Contact Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) at 1-866-567-5422 or visit our website.

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