Customer Success, Product, User Research

3 Fun Ways Brands Use Qualitative Research ‘in the Wild’

A special kind of research is making waves in the world of qualitative studies. “Research in the wild” involves researchers leaving the controlled environments of labs and organized experiments to capture sentiment in the moments that subjects experience it.

Unlike traditional qualitative research, like focus groups, research in the wild happens in the community – on the street and inside the homes of participants. It comes out of an emerging understanding that unnatural environments simply aren’t the best place to learn about the impacts technology and advertising have on the real world.

In this post, we’ll look at three creative ways leading brands are using research in the wild.

1. “Brushing Up” on the Consumer Sentiment Around Toothbrushes

YouEye did some concept testing for a company trying out toothbrush ideas, and decided to use research in the wild. Participants were asked to go into the bathroom with their smartphones and physically show us their toothbrushes and other dental hygiene products. The point was for participants to get into the mindset of dental hygiene while also looking at toothbrush concepts for the future.

It doesn’t get much more “up close and personal” than following someone into the bathroom to witness their oral healthcare. This study effectively gave a more realistic picture to our client about what people want in a toothbrush.

2. Moms Serve Up Snack Ideas in the Kitchen

Another study for a different client involved parents, particularly mothers, speaking about their snacking routines. These parents were asked to show us their pantry (via a smartphone or webcam) and demonstrate how they prepare snacks for their children. No concepts were shared during this study, rather, the feedback was simply used to frame how the target demographic currently fixes snacks, as well as highlight areas of opportunity on which the client could zero in for future products.

The following screenshot is a frame of a video in which a participant walked us through a typical snack routine, guided by the prompts we provided:

Video Frame Screenshot

During the study, the client was able to glean some unique insights about snacking, such as the following from two health-conscious mothers:

Participant Feedback

3. Consumers Display Candid Letters to Their Favorite Clothing Brands

We did a study for a clothing company in which female customers told us why they no longer shop at a specific store. We asked them to pull clothing items purchased at that store from their closets, hold them up for the webcam, and explain what they love about the pieces.

Next, the participants “wrote” a break up letter (shared verbally) to this clothing company, explaining why they hadn’t bought anything there in six months.

The results were used by our client to give a voice to their target buyers’ suggestions. They used the feedback to assess areas of opportunity regarding what marketing campaigns they might consider, and what discontinued clothing lines might be most missed.

Real World Research for Real Customers

Researchers find they get the most complete pictures of their customers when they’re in natural, comfortable environments. In that way, qualitative research in the wild can be an effective way to connect with consumers, and collect the data that sustains that connection into the future. Plus, brands can get as creative as they want to with these type of research studies, which makes for a lot of fun!

User Research

Why Focus Groups Are Outdated for Qualitative Research

Since about the 1920s and 1930s, focus groups have been a part of marketing research and budgeting for strategy and product development. However, our products are far more sophisticated than they were even a decade ago, and the marketplace is a more complex animal. That’s why it makes sense that our market research methods should evolve along with them. Strangely though, focus groups have remained the go-to market research strategy. Here, we’ll lay out some reasons for you to abandon the familiar, yet outdated, focus group.

Focus Groups are Slow

If you’ve ever tried to organize any event with a significant number of participants, you know how much work it takes to get people to commit to an in-person appointment. You need to set a date, contact individuals, wait for them to respond and hope they agree to the plan.

For example, did you know that out of two million seniors eligible for an annual Medicare wellness visit, only about 100,000 actually went to that appointment? If people are lax about their own healthcare, they can’t be expected to pour excessive energy into market research.

Assuming at least some of the invited participants will experience scheduling conflicts, you’ll end up spending even more time gathering participants than you do the focus group session itself.

Once everyone is in the room discussing the topic at hand, you’re still only at the beginning of the research process. The review and analysis of the research happens afterward, and can take up to three months.

When you’re under the wire to get a new product released, you need a research method that can keep up with today’s fast-paced market and increasingly complicated customer demand. For this reason, focus groups are becoming an outdated solution.

Focus Groups Often Don’t Create the Entire Picture

Researchers in focus groups work with a very small number of people, meaning they end up with a minimal sample set of their target audience, despite spending a significant amount of money on the project.

If you only have the qualitative data of 10 or 15 participants, it’s unlikely you’ll get an accurate measure of your wider market.

Another missing piece is how researchers gather information in focus groups. If you’re not watching what participants don’t say (for example, reading between the lines of what they do say, so to speak), you’re missing out on important insights.

Not all focus group researchers are trained in this skill; on the same note, focus groups don’t always lend themselves to an environment where it’s easy to track individual behavior. It’s important to be prepared for what can happen in focus groups that influence individuals, like when inhibited group members don’t speak up or when some participants are influenced by the group.

Focus Groups are Costly

Focus groups run up a bill not only because of the time they require, but also because they are costly endeavors. As this kind of research is typically outsourced to consultants, you incur that expense as well, shelling out $4,000 to $6,000 per session.

The focus group method is also costly because you can’t afford a product fail based on the feedback of such small samples.

In an earlier post, we discussed some recent product fails, including Google Chromebook, which perhaps could have been avoided with the right research. Better research in this scenario may have predicted, for example, the widespread consumer desire for products like a hard drive for games and work software, and features that address security concerns.

Such a mismatch between market segmentation and product vision is avoidable with a bigger picture drawn from the proper qualitative research.

What Can Replace the Focus Group?

Agile qualitative research is today’s answer to outdated focus groups. Some of those methods include surveying and recording behavior of participants in the comfort of their home as they respond to prompts, or doing the same out “in the wild” as they go through their day.

Because it can be conducted remotely, you save time and money on logistics, and witness participants’ reactions in realistic environments. Lower overall costs mean you can greatly expand the size of your panel.

The advanced technology that comes with companies that perform this type of qualitative research also allows for analysis that presents huge time savings. Where a 30-minute video used to require 45 minutes for viewing and tabulating, for example, this technology can slash that time down to 15 minutes.

While it’s true that the focus group was a foundation for the qualitative research we know today, we’ve evolved. Agile qualitative research can help you effectively scale your customer insight and bring better products and strategy to market, faster.

Best Practices, User Research

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Research Leaders in 2015

Research leaders within a company are a crucial component to the way a business solves problems, gains insights and drives revenue. However, the way the research leaders are utilized may not always allow them to make the most of their skills. In this post, we’ll discuss how research leaders can take the reigns by being more strategic and making a greater impact in 2015.

1. Be More Strategic with Research

Even though research leaders essential for driving results, the roles often go underutilized and are grossly misunderstood within the company. Part of this is due to how researchers operate; when you’re simply following the investigative paths requested of you, you can’t initiate strategic research studies based in your own wisdom.

In 2015, vow to apply your strategic eye and what you know about the business to design studies that don’t just look at tactical things (such as the color of a button on a website), but drive real conclusive insights that impact the business. The result can take you out of the more reactive role you may be serving, and put you into a “strategic partner” role, where you can really get your hands dirty with what you’re able to accomplish when unleashed.

2. Embrace New Technologies That Add Richer Data

Part of conducting excellent research is implementing the best tools. Too often, researchers will default to something like or, and restrict themselves through their functionality. These tools tend to be too generic, and lack the level of data analytics that allow you to truly identify patterns and trends in behavior. They might provide video, but do a poor job of analysis and turning it into structured data you can use.

In 2015, resolve to look at better options for more thorough research. A good technology solution must answer the following core questions as a research study is carried out:

  • What were the users’ expectations when interacting with the stimulus?
  • Were those expectations met when the users were interacting with the stimulus, stimulus being the website or contents or something else?
  • How did the users react to the experience of interacting with the stimulus?
  • Most importantly, how did their reaction influence their future behavior?

3. Explore Agile Research

As a research professional in your company, you’re often so inundated with requests for research that projects are generally backlogged, and the options for getting the studies complete take too long. Traditional methods of qualitative research, such as focus groups and the like, are generally inefficient but often used.

That’s why in 2015, consider more agile research opportunities – those can help you achieve your goal of obtaining richer insight at a fraction of the time it takes to engage in more traditional methods. Dump the cheap tools, the small samples and the expensive third-party research providers.

With agile qualitative research (like the options YouEye provides), research leaders save money and time conducting research remotely, and also have the ability to scale with larger samples more frequently throughout the research and testing process (for whatever it is you’re looking at).

Approaching research in this manner in 2015 – with more strategy, better tools and more agility – will surely help your company realize the full potential that a research role can bring to their initiatives and bottom line.

Best Practices, Measurement

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Marketing Leaders in 2015

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions in our private lives. Why not set resolutions for our professional lives as well? If you’re by chance experiencing a seasonal lull, take this time to set some goals for 2015.

The job of a marketing leader is increasingly complex, and businesses are investing more in marketing talent and technology. On the other side of things, consumers want a tailored experience, and data and research is crucial in order to provide that. Here we’ll suggest three resolutions to help you lead your marketing team in 2015.

1. Truly Connect with Customers by Asking What They Want

Framing your brand’s messaging or the messaging around a product is crucial for making that “connection” with customers. Of course, you can’t implement successful messaging unless you know what resonates with your target market, and you can find out through research and testing.

For example, Survey Monkey conducted research on the importance of testing ad copy, and found that 72 percent of advertising professionals felt testing was important for success.

Testing messaging concepts on the target audience is key prior to launch. Microsoft research via YouEye is a good example of this philosophy in action. Through YouEye’s qualitative research, the company tested the proposition of the newest version of Windows, and found that a product’s emphasis on familial relationships and life enrichment increased customer interest.

So for this resolution, skip the buzzwords and hype, and opt for solutions to “real life” situations.

2. Beat the Competition by Understanding Their Customers

You might know your Net Promoter Score, and it may be an important metric about your brand. What you might not know, however, is why people choose the competition over you.
In many markets, we assume our customer base is the same as another company’s and the wider market in general, while in reality, there can be several differences. For example, T-Mobile may not understand why Verizon customers stick with Verizon, rather than switching over to T-Mobile.

What it comes down to in most cases is little nuances that create significant differentiators; talking to actual customers can only discover them.

To get a better sense of how customers differ by brand, look at search engine leaders Google, Bing, and Yahoo. In addition to easily claiming the most users, Google attracts more Mac users, smartphone browsers and people under 45 than the other two. Bing and Yahoo see more male than female users, and most of the users are over 45. The products perform the same function, but for vastly different groups of people.

You can get a good understanding of why people choose one brand over another through qualitative research. Going back to the example of T-Mobile and Verizon, one way you might approach this is assembling a group of, say, 30 people who are actually evaluating their next cell phone purchase.

A competitive analysis may pinpoint the vulnerable element of Verizon’s customer base, and suggest tweaks T-Mobile can make to absorb a certain percentage of Verizon’s customer base.

For this resolution, make plans to get a better sense of why people choose you over the competition, and vice versa, in 2015.

3. Focus More on Creating a Great “A” Test in the A/B Test

As marketers who do A/B testing, it’s standard to come up with ideas for an A test based on our best guess, and spend most of our time focusing on what the B test will be. Wouldn’t it make more sense to be certain the A tests are pointed in the best direction before spending a bunch of money on the A/B testing?

Much more goes in to A/B testing than two different ideas for your site. Before you even begin testing, you need a clear strategy and hypothesis, and consideration on how long the tests are to run. Calling a test too early can result in overblown confidence in one version, and seeing it fail after implementation.

Qualitative research – asking your customers what they think about A – will help breathe life into the starting point of your testing. It can help marketers create the ideal A test with real customer insights and the “why” behind the action.

So in this resolution, avoid starting A/B tests with false notions that you are only trying to improve upon. Instead, move the dial beyond the inch-by-inch growth of quantitative research by creating tests that pack the greatest punch.

Here’s to a productive, insightful 2015!

Best Practices, Product, User Research

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Product Leaders in 2015

No matter how effective your marketing or attractive your website, you can’t have success without a great product. Not only does it need to be great in and of itself, but also needs to deliver what your customer really wants. So in these last few days of 2014, sit down with your product team and discuss the resolutions that will help you stay focused in 2015.

1. Don’t Make the Product Vision the Engineer’s Job Only

Smaller companies, such as startups and the like, often put their engineers in a product management role. When you’re pressed to juggle limited resources and budget, those who engineer the product might seem like an ideal fit. The problem is that engineers aren’t typically close enough to the customer, and the situation doesn’t yield the best results.

Because of the nature of their work, engineers are biased when it comes to things like creating product. Just because they believe a cool, new feature is a must-have item, it does not mean it resonates with the target consumer. This can also create friction with other teams in the company that are likely concerned with the messaging around the product or the sales of the product.

Of course, it’s always good to keep in mind that countless new products fail all the time – 75 to 95 percent, in fact. Many of these failures are due to a disconnect with consumer desires and the finished product. Check out our post on some of the major recent product fails for a quick reality check.

2. Don’t Make Assumptions About What Your Customers Want

It’s easy to assume we can figure out what the customer wants by simply brainstorming with co-workers. However, even those who work most closely with the customer may have a skewed version of what the target market really wants.

As an example, a recent Edelman Group study found that 51 percent of consumers feel that brands are under performing when it comes to asking about their needs. The poor attitude on connections suggests that companies aren’t doing great qualitative research or creating ideal personas, and are relying too heavily on assumptions.

Rather than take a shot in the dark, just ask your customers what they want. Actually talking to your target market is the best way to get to know it. YouEye and others have solutions that drive qualitative research, connecting with real people for effective feedback throughout the development process.

3. Do Incorporate Customer Feedback in an Agile Way

People who create products like software or something else, like a phone, for example, are often investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the project. With this kind of money at stake, it’s crazy to rely solely on a hunch, quantitative data, or feedback from focus groups for product creation. It’s especially unwise to gather such information only at the beginning and end of development, rather than throughout.

Today, agile product development is very popular, and requires feedback and customer insight at regular intervals, in a speedy manner. It’s essential to have a system that allows you to get feedback quickly and cost effectively for the most successful connection with your customers.

Consider the traditional focus group. Sure, they’ve been around for almost a century, and had their place in a world that was technologically less advanced. Today, though, focus groups are slow, costly, and often don’t produce the entire picture. Agile research using advanced technology is a far better bet for the 21st century product leader that’s also employing agile product development.

Even if you’re not doing agile product development, agile qualitative research is more cost effective than the traditional means, and scales to a larger sample. Remember, obtaining customer feedback is not a one-time thing. Scheduling consistent and frequent touch points with your target consumer lets you analyze concepts, and constantly evaluate feature prioritization.

Keeping the Focus in 2015

Success in product development is about recognizing what the customer wants, and using the best tools available to find out what that is. Stay objective about who is best to put in product management positions, in addition to keeping the realities of product failures top of mind when employing the wrong approach. Rather than guess at what your target market wants, actually talk to your customers for real answers. Finally, make the most of that agile development process with agile qualitative research, letting the two work together for your products in the coming year.