What? To find out what in the world we’re talking about, read on for this month’s issue of CSR’s newsletter, Research with a Twist.
Julie Brown President
Last month, the CSR team had the good fortune to attend and co-present at The Market Research Event in Orlando, Florida. As always, we were happy to see many of our clients and to learn more about research industry trends. A prominent theme this year was the importance of synthesis of data, rather than analysis alone, in order to maximize insight. As one presenter predicted: “Synthesis will increasingly automate online commerce, customer support, health service delivery, and other applications as systems continue to mature and are joined by other question-answering technologies.”
The idea is that “no research study is an island.” For example, when writing a report based on a qualitative new product testing initiative, findings could incorporate related insights from a qualitative study about a different product, a quantitative brand tracker, data collected from the corporate website about page visits, customer requests submitted to the call center, and customer data about past purchases.
In other words, analysis of the results from one study is interesting and informative, but it needs to be synthesized with other known data in order to be optimally meaningful. This all-inclusive approach is perfect for this time of year – the Kumbaya of the research world. All of our information is important and connected!
From what we gather about this trend, and from our own experience in the field, here’s a brief, dialectical history of how this concept of synthesis as applied to market research came to be:
Thesis: Qual is dead, long live data analytics
Admit it, if you are a researcher, this thought has occurred to you. With the overwhelming amount of data out there and accessible, why would we need to ask anyone anything? Over the past several years, companies and organizations worldwide have begun to recognize the power of Big Data, and have developed the processes and tools to tap into its riches.
For example, cars now report back to auto manufacturers and insurers, your pharmacy knows which coupons you likely want, and Google knows everything we’ve ever been curious about (even THAT!). In terms of supporting businesses that leverage the data collected by these manufacturers, retailers etc., Big Data services are growing exponentially faster than overall information technology.
Market research, and qualitative in particular, the bell tolls for thee! (And it’s not to the tune of “Silver Bells.”)
Antithesis: Qualimodo announces, “I’m not dead yet!”
Like the hero in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, qualitative research, or “Qualimodo” continues ringing its bells for all to hear (“I’m not dead yet!”). Although often derided for its unwieldiness, Qualimodo continually demonstrates its value to the business community.
As we’ve discussed at length in this newsletter and in other venues, in-depth interviews are very often the best format for gaining insights from executives and other high value audiences. These research participants typically have deep experience with and insights into your products and services, which they are happy to share if given the chance truly to speak their minds.
In addition, social conversation – the exchanges that occur among social media users – are qualitative and also of great interest to companies that sell products and services. Customers and prospects talk online about what they like, don’t like, need, don’t need, and everything in between. The great thing about these conversations is that they are qualitative – open-ended and incredibly revealing.
Long live “Qualimodo” – perhaps not the prettiest data source from the outside, but beautiful and insightful on the inside!
Synthesis: One big happy data family
Fortunately, everyone, from the market research industry, to the C-Suite, to world leadership, is coming to the understanding that insights don’t come from just one place. Like when all the Bedford Falls townspeople in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” come to the aid of George Bailey (he’s bailed them all out in the past), the equilibrium is restored – synthesis of many sources is the goal, rather than arguing merits of one approach to the exclusion of another. Bells ring, and angels get their wings!
For us research residents of our own Bedford Falls’, this means an added emphasis on our role as curator. Like poor Clarence who finally gets his wings, we work, sometimes with the help of other, higher, powers, to identify the critical pieces of information that reflect the “Wonderful Life” story that needs to be told.
With this, as always, we wish you all the gift of great insight this year!
Here’s the Twist:
The rise of Big Data led many to believe that qualitative research was no longer necessary. Today, the pendulum has swung back a bit, and we appreciate that qualitative research still provides a vital piece of the business information puzzle. It’s our role as researchers to bring all relevant data together in an inspired, harmonious, and illuminating way. So, to paraphrase that jolly old man: Merry Synthesis to all, and to all a good night!
Mixology (Putting Research into Practice)
As you know if you’ve ever read this newsletter, our website, our marketing material, or ever talked with one of us, at CSR our mission has always been to synthesize the benefits of both qualitative and quantitative research. The following are some of the “best and highest uses” of our approach:
Executive and Customer Insight Communities: In addition to engaging business decision makers one-on-one, see (and track and leverage) what happens when they talk with each other!
Wins and Losses Research: Why does your company win sales? Why does it lose them? The answers to these questions are money in your pocket, particularly after content-coding and analyzing the results to identify common themes among, and differences between, “Wins” and “Losses”.
“Day in the Life” Studies: Get to know your clients’ needs and habits by talking with them at regular intervals about how they spend their days, and use their challenges and frustrations to create solutions to problems they otherwise wouldn’t have remembered to share with you.
The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. The “Twist” to what we offer is this: We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data. As a result our clients gain more actionable and valuable insights from their research efforts.
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