The Qualitative Explosion

The following excerpts are from an article that appeared in RW Connect on March 12.

Welcome to the most exciting and challenging era in the history of qualitative research!

Qualitative research has experienced more change in the past 10 years than in the previous 50.  And there is no sign that the pace of change will let up any time soon.  For qualitative research professionals, the ride is exciting, but it is fraught with challenges and pitfalls.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that online qualitative research may have hit a tipping point in 2013.  The tenor and tone of our conversations with clients has changed.  At 20|20, we have passed from creating awareness of online qualitative to expanding the knowledge and applications for researchers already aware of — and interested in — the methods.  Only 2-3 years ago, much of our user training centered on the introduction of digital qualitative methods to researchers with little awareness that these methods even existed.  Today, virtually all researchers are aware of the basic digital methods and many are eager to learn how to use and apply the methods’ various strengths and weaknesses.  It appears that online qualitative research as a research category became mainstream in 2013.

The adoption of online qualitative techniques gives researchers more tools to gather better consumer insights in more ways than ever before.  These techniques allow the researchers to peek into the lives of respondents in a much more contextual capacity than is possible when asking respondents to come to a central location, such as a focus group facility.  The Internet and new mobile capabilities make respondents readily accessible at the point of interaction with a product or service that was never available before.   The ability to connect with respondents in context adds richness and validity to qualitative research driving deeper and more accurate insights that, ultimately, raise the value of qualitative research to the marketer.

The variety and capability of the new qualitative research methods are mind-boggling.  The times are challenging.  Researchers must learn and adapt like never before.  The days when being an outstanding “focus group moderator” was sufficient are gone.  Qualitative researchers are now challenged to understand the various technologies and how to apply them.  They must be continuing learners to keep up with the options in online and mobile research that will keep their clients on the cutting edge of insights.

Here are four steps a qualitative researcher can take to be up-to-speed in the new world of diversified, technology-enhanced qualitative research.

  1. Recognize that traditional methods are not dead; they are very much alive.
  2. Realize that the interviewing skills and analysis that distinguish excellent qualitative researchers are still valid.
  3. Commit to learning about the emerging options and their application to research and marketing problems rather than execution specifics.
  4. Propose new methods as an option or as an extension to more traditional methods and do so only when they add value to the research.

For the complete RW Connect article, click here.

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