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How Quick Can Qualitative Research Be?

How Quick Can Qualitative Research Be? 

In today’s competitive environment companies are under increasing pressure to get their products and ideas to market as quickly as possible – often cutting corners in the process.  Lately, much has been made about the amount of time needed for qualitative research.  The implication being that no contemporary, successful company can afford to wait “that long” for answers from consumers.  Some marketers are choosing to skip qualitative exploration altogether while others have adopted techniques dubbed “Quick Qual”.  At Spark Ideas we’re continually looking for ways to speed up what can often be a time-consuming process – but we’re not convinced that “Quick Qual” is necessarily saving time in the long run.

Three ways “Quick Qual” isn’t all that quick:

quick qual

1.  Quick Qual uses an existing panel of consumers.  This took time and money (probably serious amounts of each) to establish in the first place.  The research might be faster  because some of the upfront work has already been done.  We would equate this to the way building a condo tower will be relatively quick if you assume the land has already been purchased, existing structure demolished and excavation already complete.  Plus someone has to bear the cost for all of this work.  And are you sure this panel will meet your needs?

2.  Quick Qual is sometimes not “qual” at all.  Quick Qual often asks qualitative questions in a way that can only provide quantitative results.  In general, questions tend to be closed-ended – meaning the respondent chooses from a list of possible answers or ranks something on a scale provided. Perhaps the intent is to understand behaviours — but in this style of questioning you may learn how many consumers behave a certain way, but you won’t understand why.  There is not much insight to be gained here.  In Qualitative Research we look to understand all the factors that lead to the respondent providing a particular answer – and indeed hearing the answer in their own words.  We dig deeper and look to find what would have to happen to get the consumer to change their behaviour.

3. Immediate is not the same as quick.  New online research tools are continually emerging and at Spark we utilize some of the best tools available.  But just because a study is online does not necessarily equate with “quick”.  Do online tools speed up the response gathering process? Sometimes.  But how long it took to develop the questions or how long it takes for respondents to answer are still important variables in the overall speed of the project – regardless of whether or not the study is conducted online.

Save time the smart way. 

In our experience the best way to save time on any qualitative exploratory is to spend time at the beginning.  Time spent early will always deliver time savings later.  Spending time at the beginning will help your business:

  • Achieve clarity on learning objectives
  • Define concepts and variations to be tested
  • Identify and fully define the target audience

Spending time here will deliver speedy, efficient, meaningful qualitative research – which will, in turn, translate to better success in the marketplace.

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