AQR Training Course: The Essential Guided Tour to the Universe of Online Qualitative Research

Marketers Find Web Chat Can Be Inspiring

Devising Campaigns, IBM, Harrah's Are Guided by What Consumers Are Saying—or Not Saying—Online. Wall St Journal, Media and Marketing By EMILY STEEL

IBM and a handful of other major marketers, including casino operator Harrah's Entertainment and software giant Microsoft, are experimenting with developing ad campaigns based in part on what consumers are chatting about on the Web.

For decades, advertisers have relied heavily on sometimes-dated consumer surveys and focus groups to provide grist for their ads. Now, some are using new technologies to scan the Web for key words to find out what consumers are—and aren't—saying about their brands.

Then, they are incorporating those findings into their more-conventional research and using them not only to choose the overall themes of their marketing campaigns, but also specific text and photos for their ads.

Once the campaigns are up and running, the companies and their ad firms are using the same Web-scanning technologies to gauge consumer reaction to their messages, and to fine-tune them to boost performance. In creating a recent campaign for its Lotus business software, IBM and its ad agency, Ogilvy North America, tapped sources ranging from consumers' Web searches to the comments they posted on video sites like Google's YouTube to their conversations on social-media sites like Twitter.

'Market research is too important to be left to the market research department' Seth Godin

Everyone can now do DIY research and many marketing people are - sometimes just for simple answers to simple questions. They may not even see it as research, just curiosity or looking for a steer, some basic information, some fresh data. They are getting to see the benefits of market research, even if they don't know it yet. Those that have access to online communities are using them as a resource for asking qualitative questions - and are getting quick and timely replies. There are ever increasing numbers of online research products that are being sold directly to marketers or digital agencies. MR departments are doing more work in-house - but all of this is not the end of qual - it's a huge opportunity.

This is a challenge to traditional qualitative research, which needs to expand its skills and professionalism into the online universe. Clients are showing us the way; we need to meet them there if we are to maintain our role and our relevance as trusted advisors.

So the guided tour will cover much more than simply transposing traditional qualitative techniques online; it's a complete orientation to what¡¦s out there and how it can be used.

Listening: harvesting and analysing qualitative information from the web.
Where does the data come from and how robust is it?
Are clients just listening to the conversation or really hearing what is said?

If you have been on this planet for the last couple of years you will know that marketers are all busy 'listening to the conversation'. You will see that the definitions of 'listening' mainly involve the tools for doing so rather than the ability to hear what is being said.

A large range of (often free) tools are available to search, retrieve, track, count, monitor and analyse information from blogs, social networks, websites, video clip sites etc. You will have a list of these to try for yourselves.

Many organisations are using professional dashboards to constantly monitor their brands and you will soon be getting briefs that include this sort of data. But where does it come from and how robust is it?

Using social media to conduct research
Ways of doing research from inside social media platforms that are not covered by any of the other sections.

Webnography, Netnography or e-ethnography
So new it doesn't even have a real name yet. What is the value and what are the dangers?
Pure Netnography is the study of naturally occurring groups on the web - e-communities, such as user groups. It's the gold dust of spontaneously given information. As in real life it can be participant ethnography where you actively engage, or purely observational. Both are hugely valuable but also fraught with ethical, validity and data protection issues.

Ethnography lite tools and platforms; (including mobile phone apps) and immersive online research
Imagine doing accompanied shopping, shaving, or surfing, without you having to be there. Would you get better quality data or worse, if you left it up to the respondent to narrate their expereince to you?
Ethnographers would be offended at the idea that a few weeks interaction with participants counts as research, so lets call these tools 'ethnography lite', as in observation and/or capture of experiences in the field. Examples are:

* Text message or camera phone postings to message boards (see BBFGs below) to capture how participants are feeling or what they are doing in-the-moment, without intruding or following people around. Others may then comment on these. The postings could also be in the form of word and picture or video diaries or blogs.
* In situ narrations using mobiles to capture descriptions of experiences, or wireless webcams that can record behaviour, words and expressions in various settings.
* The above can also be used for pre-and post tasking.

For immersive research participants may be given a series of tasks to engage in and report on. Some providers include online tools for image and video analysis and editing. The methods are contextual, can be sustained over a period of time and involve rich media such as images and video.

Bulletin board focus groups (BBFGs) and private social networks
The surprise star of the online qualitative research world. Find out why.
These are Asynchronous formats and platforms -questioning and responding by voice, text, image or video in participants' own time. With Web 2.0 people can interact without physically being there at the same time, making it more convenient for them to participate and overcoming some of the limitations of instant chat formats. Particularly good for longitudinal research. Variations include:

BBFGs Bulletin board focus groups / forums
A moderator posts questions (by text, video or phone message) and participants respond on a private message board in their own time. The moderator can allow them to see and comment on others' responses, as well as uploading stimulus material and asking respondents to upload photos/videos. We will be using a professional platform to demonstrate the capabilities in the 3 day BBFG.

Also Blog groups and MEGs Moderated email groups.

Online focus groups (OFGs) chat and audio-visual
Replicating focus groups - synchronous or in real time, with one or two moderators.
Can you get emotions if you can¡¦t see the respondents? How do you keep them engaged in the task? Do they interact less than face to face groups and why might that be a good thing?

The most recognisably traditional format, these take place in a virtual 'group room' where people meet at an appointed time and respond in real time to questions and stimulus. Clients can also watch and listen in and send notes to the moderator!
We will be running a chat OFG as part of the De Luxe tour. Not only will you get a good idea of how it is to be a respondent, the group will show you how to make the most of this methodology.

Online tools that replicate offline tasks (e.g. for pre and post tasking)
You don't even need to think in terms of groups anymore; if you just want a quick reaction to some stimulus material you can put it online and ask a set of participants to mark it up and comment on it. You could use it as a pre-task, a post task, or simply as a stand alone. There are various platforms available - we will be trying one as part of the course. There are others for collaging, concept building, laddering etc.

Online communities for market research (MROCs) and other purposes
Unlike the 'naturally occurring' communities of net/webnography there are many communities specifically created for brand advocacy, customer relations management and ongoing research (MROCs - Market 
Research Online Communities). They can last for months or years. Unlike panels, these have a social, interactive centre, allow/encourage members to start their own discussions, and are actively moderated, managing relationships and group dynamics - even with larger communities numbering 100's or 1000's. MROCs can be used quantitatively like panels, but also questions/tasks/issues can be posted daily, and will be discussed by smaller groups of people who find them most interesting or relevant, making them in effect a qualitative tool.

Creativity, Co-creation, and Crowdsourcing
New opportunities for creative thinking that don¡¦t require a workshop venue and several flipcharts.
All of the above methods make it easy to involve designers and clients in the research and creation process, although some brands set up websites that are specifically about asking consumers / designers/ specialists to share their ideas and knowledge.

Crowdsourcing is tapping into the collective intelligence of a broad audience to complete tasks traditionally done by a single person or small group. Generally done using the Internet, Crowdsourcing is being used for a variety of tasks in marketing, product design, development and other areas. It is claimed that solutions are found more quickly and that solutions from 'outsiders' can be more apt.

P& G famously uses 'open innovation' with a range of partners for R&D. InnoCentive is a leading website where solution seekers can post their questions. Crowdsourcing is also used for Government planning (transit system for Salt Lake City) and non-profit organisations.

Predictive market models
Why we can stop asking people to tell us what they think and do.
A very brief look at how the possibilities of online research are changing thinking about how research itself can be carried out. Along with the rise of behavioural economics, which favours the experimental model of research, it points to a decline in the value of actually asking people about what they think and do.

Cost: From £225 for AQR Members


Venue: Central London TBC
Date: 16 July 2010

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