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How to capture and understand a year in the life of consumers, in just one week

Published 26 Apr 2020 4 minute read

Online qual
Online qual

What would you do if, for a new marketing and communications campaign, you needed to understand consumers seasonal habits, behaviours and attitudes over the course of an entire year, but you didn’t have the time nor the budget to do a year-long study?

That was the challenge set one of Further’s clients recently, to which a novel approach was devised using online qual techniques and some smart technology.

Everybody in the research world knows that people are poor witnesses of their own behaviour, and behaviours are best observed when they happen. Also, if research focuses on specific touchpoints (physical, occasions, moments in time), the objectives are best served if said research happens in that context or moment in time. However, real life does not always allow the “ideal” approach.

The end-client in question wanted to explore and better understand seasonal insights. They wanted insights that would help them build adaptable communication and marketing based on what really matters to people in a specific (calendar) moment.

In an ideal context, where time and budget are not an issue, the researcher would follow people throughout an entire year and capture their fluid preoccupations and interests. Otherwise, asking people in March to remember what they care about in November has the potential to miss the moment or, worse still, hit on some obvious, even cliché stuff, and miss the more nuanced, emotional needs and tensions.

Running the research over an entire year wasn’t an option, due to budget and time restraints, and decisions needed to be made just three weeks after the brief was received. The client needed to be planning their communication months ahead.

And so a big idea started to emerge.

What if the whole 'year-long observation' idea could be flipped on its head?

The information on what people care about and how their interests and needs change throughout a year already exists - on people’s mobile phones and computers. We know that people document their lives, their needs, their feelings intensively on these devices via the pictures and videos they capture and share. Literally gigabytes of already exist on their mobile phones, their status updates on social networks and social media posts.

Even better, all these are captured “in the moment/ in context”. Testament to what people are feeling and thinking in that moment in time, aiding even more their recollection of the events and their thoughts and feelings at that time.

As you can imagine, there was a lot of stimulus to work with. There needed to be a way to outline, organise and analyse all the unstructured data, and space was needed for all these pictures and videos to be brought to life from the depths of people’s phones and computers – both for the analysts but also for the other participants.

There was no way this could be done offline or in a limited 2-3 hours timeframe – it was simply too big an ordeal with so much data.

The solution

Using Together™ Further’s intuitive online qual research technology platform, the researcher has the perfect space to gather and organise a wealth of unstructured pictures and video clips, and organise them in themes (time, months of the year etc.). Within the Together platform is a tool known as the Picture Book which supported this need perfectly.

Together_platform_e80a93b1a047738bf46bd04beb614e7fAt the start of the research (which took place over just one week) we created 12 separate folders on the Picture Book, corresponding to the months of the year. Participants were then asked to look into their self-documented lives and upload to each folder photos / social media updates (via screengrabs) that they felt were representative of what was on their minds at that time.

The Picture Book feature allows the participant to add a description to the photos and video clips being uploaded, which was essential to understanding what was really happening at that time. It also enabled the moderator to probe further and get more detail on what the participants meant, by allowing them to choose respective stimulus. All of these techniques were essential for the qualitative approach to understanding people and their thoughts and feelings.


The asynchronous, online qual methodology not only enabled the research team to manage a high complexity of data input, but it also helped achieve something else that would have been very difficult had we opted for in-person or offline sequential interviews or focus groups: ‘rolling analysis’ and ‘co-created analysis’. Within just one week, we went from collecting the inputs to formulating the insights and adapting them to the clients’ business / categories / brands with relative ease and agility.

The researcher had to stay really immersed with the participants’ uploads, constantly formulate hypotheses on the possible patterns and relevant insight, and probing accordingly. However, once the hypothetical insights were formulated and shared back with participants for them to validate / invalidate/ enrich them, the task became much easier.

DUB004_Mobile_screenshot-min_optimised-1 (1)

No amount of analysis would have made this possible in sequential interviews, or even focus groups, without the ability to constantly access and review the raw data that had been uploaded, or the chance to go back and probe on an earlier input based on something revealed later or on some eureka moment surfaced in an overnight incubation.

Analysis with participants

The research team wanted to co-create the analysis - the identification of true insights - making sure that they didn’t miss something important. The Picture Book’s monthly files were made available to all participants for browsing (with permission).

Participants were tasked with looking over what other participants had posted and and asked t identify patterns themselves. Another of Together’s toolkit was used for this, called the Idea Storm. It’s a tool that enabled participants to share their own noticed seasonal patterns of behaviour or mindset, and then gets other participants to vote on those ideas based on two criteria; agreement and relevance.

Together, an intuitive, adaptable online qual research platform

Together’s Picture Book and Idea Storm are really useful tools when you want to:

  • Tap into the wealthy resource of “self-documented” lives of people, in qualitative manner – that gives you the ability to probe for understanding and to build hypotheses of “what that means” as you go
  • Capture more emotional inputs – visual metaphors involve the whole brain for decoding while written language is rather a left-brain task.
  • Co-create analysis with your participants. It is, however, very healthy to recognise our own limits - we are often outsiders to the people or topics we are researching, and an analytical view “from inside” can illuminate issues we might missing altogether.

Why not book in your demo now, or alternatively contact us at hello@go-further.co or call +44 (0) 20 3515 3301 or +1 (810) 853 6986

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