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How To Win More Online Qual Projects

Here at Further we are constantly being tasked with helping researchers win new online qual research projects. So we set about developing a masterclass to help senior researchers get more online qual projects across the line.

It's especially relevant right now as in-person research is inhibited by the global Coronavirus pandemic and researchers around the world seek new ways to understand consumers' attitudes and behaviours.

Before we ran the masterclass, we asked participants to share their experiences and attitudes so that we could measure who and what we were dealing with. Before you watch this recording (see link at foot of page) or read the transcript below, you should know that...

30% of the audience believed that in-person qualitative research was better than online qual...

..but..

30% didn’t feel as though they knew enough about online qual to be able to sell it confidently

The masterclass by John Whittle, an MRS approved trainer and research lead at Further, addressed the following areas:

  • How online qual compares to other methods – the upsides and downsides
  • The journey that clients, participants and researchers will go on
  • How clients can remain in control and have ownership (if they want it)
  • The sizeable value online qual delivers

 

Transcript:

Masterclass: How To Win More Online Qual Projects (Transcript)

This masterclass has the aim of helping you talk confidently about online qual and build confidence and excitement with your clients, which is something that's especially important right now. Things are changing rapidly. Clients are uncertain on budgets and spending more than ever. they need a guide really that's empathetic, that gets their problems, their pain and can really lead them on it on a journey which might be new to them. So as we'll cover in this session, there are some key things and elements that I need to understand about the online qual process. I know that you've got everything in hand for some of you listening to this. This might involve brushing up on some lesser used skills or tools for others. You might actually sit in exactly the same boat that those clients do. So the way I've just described about feeling a bit unsure and uncertain might capture exactly how you all feeling.

If you are in the latter camp don't worry. This session is designed to build an understanding of why you might use online qual-. And as I say, increase your confidence in exploring and discussing it. Now further as a company is there to support you at any stage from behind the scenes and we can give you the tools very literally platform wise, but also sort with more support tools to help you win business and deliver it. This tool, however, will not focus on our technology. it might draw from it as a baseline, but it's not going to be focussed around us as a solution. This masterclass is more about selling online qual as a whole. So not just asynchronous communities. And the reason for that, to be honest, the first thing I want to share is because in this entire process, the technology isn't important.

It's very much how you use it, which is perhaps a slightly controversial line coming from a company whose core identity and offer sells from online qual and one form of that. But it's true and it's it's important to state. There are tons of platforms out there really great ones and each one offers their own take on digital qual, synchronous or asynchronous. One of the biggest challenges as a research team is identifying which one to use and becoming proficient in it. In the current climate, if your team or you have maybe slightly more time, I would actually encourage using that to explore the landscape, get to know the platforms that are out there, get to know the solutions that you might be able to use and see which ones work for you. But the most important things to know is that your clients aren't buying tech. That won't win you business. What clients really need to see more than anything, are possibilities, not dashboards, simply showing a wonderful looking platform is not the golden solution. And there's sort of four things that are really key. These are kind of guiding principles for any methodology, perhaps. But I always revisit these whenever I'm talking to a particular client, talking a particular brief. There are things that I always consider anyway, and we'll go through these and show how they relate particularly to online qual. But in terms of what we want to share with our clients is they need to see the journey that they and their consumers and audiences are going to go with you and the particular platform of your choice. They need very crucially to understand how this method, especially if it's a new one, how it compares to one that they might be more familiar with in terms of depth and engagement, how they might feel if they were participating and how they'd feel during the particular project. They need to see the points in the journey. This entire research projects is where they can be in control and where they can take ownership should they want to control usually makes people feel confident. And we're always looking to make sure that our clients are confident and ultimately they need to understand the value behind the figure that you're going to present to them at the end. And now before we get into sort of how you can go through and do that, we ahead of this session got all of you or many of you to complete a survey, which was a bit of a highlight in an exploration of the industry as it stands. And what was really interesting came out of this is that I think many of the worries and fears the clients have could be quite a few people on this webinar as well, which is to be expected. And this plays an interesting role in the way that the methodologies break down. You can see from that breakdown on the left, the top three or four are still very traditional, really traditional methodologies, which are fantastic. And then online research communities coming in fifth on the right. You know, we look at experience, about nearly two thirds have a few projects that they use, 25 percent, maybe a bit more regular. And then the really interesting one for me, I'm sure maybe for all of you is research as well as that one on the bottom. Right. I believe in personal qualitative research is better matched equally by all. I don't feel I know enough about them. So these are, you know, concerns from research and from many of you on the call. And these are the same things that clients have. So it's obviously gonna be very tough to understand maybe when to use an online methodology or even to sell it with confidence if you necessarily may not have those, you know, the same rationale behind you. So as we go through this, perhaps some of the arguments that we use with clients might also appeal to you or answer some of those queries. And if they don't, we can have a discussion about it at the end, which would be great. Now, the first part in the process of of what we sort of do when we look at our clients in the space of on my call was qualifying them.

Your client is looking to back what is potentially maybe a new method. And as with any projects, they are looking to make very important business decisions, again, with confidence.

Again you can hear me say that a lot, but with confidence based off the insights that can gather in order to get to a point where they can move forwards, you need to make sure that you start off on the same page. So what this tends to mean is when we talk about online and I've mentioned that there are many different solutions out there. What do we actually mean? What do you mean when you say online? What do they think they mean when they say, like, you need to align on the same same point? And something that some teams sometimes tend to forget is that it's not the client's job to be an expert on the methodology or the range of tools that are out there, because there are so many people, you know, pick up random ideas or what might be useful things that might be good for a brief, things that might not be not good for brief. Your role as a research team is their associate is to act as a guide and help them translate what they want into the method that will actually be suitable for them. Now the nature and the degree of the concerns that they have will typically vary based on their experience with online qual. So through a call I would recommend because it's actually more effective and efficient or through an email whatever system you might have set up within your team. You need to identify which camp your client falls into. And typically you see on the screen we have two we tend to go with are they an online qual newbie or all a bit of a veteran. And you can go through an initial. What we're going to talk about here is broaching the topic of online and then you go into and dive into their brief in particular. And based on where they fit depends on the sort of route that you will take. So we're going to tackle first off, the newbie and what the newbie usually has or requires is a bit of myth busting. As I've said, you're going to need to provide evidence or reasoning for this methodology as a whole. And there are a lot of common myths out there. And I love this. I'm a big fan of the myths. These are often arguments that often get used for not using online qual. We've got online on our site. Tons of articles and papers and resources you could use, but I'll answer a lot of this based from my experiences, i say from moving from a traditional methodological background as a social scientist to a more digital one. The first one is that I'm going to cover the first for what they fall into what I call the you call the you can't or can't get rather. So in this instance, you often get clients where we can't get the same level of detail. They're worried that people aren't going to engage in volume based sense online, that they'll treat it like they'll shoot you a one liner and that's it. Now, the argument that I tend to go with this is that, you know, I do an online community here is a baseline. Is that in let's let's take a very well run focus group and a very well-run online community. There are variables required to get to either. But let's say we take them on a standard level in a focus group. If you have 90 minutes and you've got eight people, if my maths is good there and it might be wrong but should be right. You're going to get about eleven point two five minutes. That's if everyone speaks fairly entirely fairly that, everyone has their own crack of the whip as it were. You've done the very best job as a moderator. You'll probably going to get that amount of people. You know, typically we know that your is going to get someone who leads a little bit more. But let's say on average, that's the amount of data you're gonna get from a single focus group. And if you've spoken to those individuals once if it's a online community an asynchronous one, if we take, you know, three days and 20 minutes per day, that's all golden golden amount. So that you can always add with just the right amount of incentives. 20 minutes a day is the most you can get people to engage with. You're going to get 60 Minutes per person. So in terms of an immediate investment and looking at just volume, we'll go to the other ones are maybe just purely in volume. You know, there is an argument there for using an online community, there's also a cost argument. You could do a online group chat and you could do multiple ones of those. And again, you would probably make up the volume on that. You're cutting down on travel and logistics that's in terms of detail or volume. The second one tends to be in terms of depth. You can't get the same depth and just perhaps my my absolute favourite one. Because it comes into when you're looking at how you're exploring behaviours and knowledge and emotions and the routines that you're looking at. You know, most research that we do as an industry is about understanding how people behave, how to respond, how they think in a certain specific context. Yet if you look at the methods that we are using, we're perhaps asking people to come out of their naturalistic environment. We're asking them to come into a facility that they've never been before and maybe speak to an individual that they've never met before and then we're saying to them. Right. What we want you to do is we want you to think back to how you would react in X situation. We're trying to mimic or create a context and where they're able to share those emotions. But ultimately, we are asking them to reflect and rationalise in an interview or a focus group face to face. I am a big fan of using methodologies that reach people through their smartphones or their tablets that reach them on their terms, because you can engage with people across a range of contexts. They will react and interact, you know, at varying points when it suits them, perhaps. But also when their emotions are different, when they've been shopping, when they've had a bad day, when they had a good day, thanks to social media as well. And it's the integration of technology in our lives. People feel more used to sharing freely and information through through video and text and so on. But they're used to sharing many facets of their lives that they might not. As a social science is one of things I study was identity. When you do focus groups and interviews, people will give you a slice of an identity. It's not that they're going to lie to you particularly, or they're not gonna give you a valid search, but they'll give you a, you know, a performance, which is interesting. Online, if you can engage with people over a sustained period of time, you're going to get different slices of those identities. So, again, we can look and we can explore emotion and behaviours in a context that perhaps is much more akin to the same behaviours and emotions that we present when they make the decisions that your clients are interested in. Again, I've kind of mentioned as well you also get a range of data types and clients particularly like that, you know, you can get photo video. You can use projectors. You get things like heat maps and drawings and and timelines. You were engaging in an asynchronous community, for instance, over a longer period of time. You can ask them to go away and do tasks and then come back. But even in a synchronous community, people, when they're on their own turf, typically are more comfortable. They used to be a whole movement many, many years ago in terms of folks setting up in living rooms because it's about making people more comfortable while there's no more comfortable set up for many individuals than in their own place. Place Of relaxation. One of the things I like as well is we get you can't get the same level of quality. And I think this is really fascinating because often we can probably all talk about the logistical issues we've had of showing stimulus, making sure that everyone's paying attention to it, that everyone's had a fair chance to engage with it in the correct way, that they've had the right time to think about it. Again, I'm talking about asynchronous communities here but synchronous ones as well. You can have a greater control of biases stimulus. You can control how long people see things for, who sees them for. You can control, you know, do I need some segment, for something. Do they see it at a certain time? You can make sure that people are viewing it and engaging with each other in a different way. So in a focus group it is very difficult and a lot of time to say all the men in the room, look at this and then leave and all the women come in. Whereas you know, online because of technology, you're able to filter and segment the way that people engage with it. You can also control bias in a slightly easier way. As I've said earlier, with things like focus groups, you're kind of always your skill as a moderator is about controlling the voices and the flow of that conversation. But there's always going to be someone who leads and perhaps influences those in the group with things like synchronous and asynchronous online qual. You can really make sure that people have a fair chance to speak or that they're, you know, that they're going to explore concept individually and then perhaps within a segment and then socially, you know, never looking at leading the way that people are talking.

But you're always thinking about how you frame it, how you giving them a framework where they can explore things, you know, in that naturalistic way. Are they going to explore that concept as they would on their own or in group? You have a greater ability for bias and validity in terms of testing. And the other thing, as well as in terms of quality, you know, it's device agnostic.

Typically a lot of the things that we can do now. Greater technology tends to come with greater access so people can choose the best communication style through their technology. I mean, phones and laptops and tablets. But actually, I also mean, in terms of how they communicate.

Some people are really good at verbal communication. Some people are better written communication. Some people are better at interactive communication. Again, with focus groups and interviews, we're only ever giving people and often allowing people who feel confident enough to attend those groups, which immediately skews our segments.

We're only allowing those people to speak in a way that we've defined with online qual. You have so many different tools available. Some people will say, well, actually I'm much better at doing a diary. I'm much better at speaking to you live or I'm much better at typing. You have the ability to speak to a very broad range of consumer types and give them the opportunity to communicate their meaning and their experience in a way that really works for them. My favourite then is the ones that you can see the whites of their eyes. This is an argument that was always levelled at me by my academic friends. You know, they're not in the room. They might lie to you was the the thing. I don't know if they're not telling the truth. We've actually become very good. I'll tackle asynchronous in terms of understanding when people are perhaps not sharing a genuine sense of self. I mean, anyone that's ever received a full stop at the end of a text message can tell you what that usually means. We have our own triggers. This is also where things like emojis come in themselves. Semiotic analysis. But if you are worried about not seeing your consumer, you can do synchronous communication. You can triangulate your methods. You can use video again in that online sense to make sure that you are seeing the whites of their eyes which is important because you do want to bring that consumer often into the boardroom and of that company so that they feel that they really connected with them in terms of sort of what online quote was good for as well. You know, I said earlier about making sure that you're aligning the right method with the brief.

We've worked on so many different ones. I'm not going to read these out. I'm going to take this as an opportunity to have some water. But these are the ones that we've used online qual very successfully for both synchronous and asynchronous methods.

And clients will often have a sense they'll think it's only good for diaries. or it's only good for products, and actually there's a huge range of things that it's good for. You just have to consider the way that you're actually going to use or employ that methodology. So it's about, you know, having that conversation with the client as well about what you can use it for. Obviously current circumstance as well. I'd add another element and I do particularly want to touch on this all the same. But, you know, with Corona virus online qual is more for the foreseeable future does offer a solution. So it is perhaps an avenue as well that makes it more attractive than it might have been. But as I said, perhaps precipitating many of the conversations you might be having with clients. One of the other myths we get is the quicker or the efficiency and that these are so they fall away from the you can't arguments. But instead, you know, how long does it take? There's a lot of confusion usually around how it works. And, you know, there's this there's often a distrust of tech, which I've said, but then often it can be massive expectations on the other side of what it can do. Now, online qual, one of the benefits I feel, but maybe those of you, if you'd like to travel, might disagree is that it doesn't require travel times. You can run multiple studies or multiple markets at the same time, which means that you can as a research team. If you are very efficient, you can have you know, I mean, I've at any one time got between six to 10 projects that are running on a week by week basis. And because I'm not having to travel from each because I've got various members who are moderating or analysing and checking in is that I can dive between them by sitting at a desk. You know, I'm able to handle a greater volume of studies than I would if I had to be travelling around the mental load that would take the other thing as well in terms of you'll see I've got it written like for like testing is that with a topic guide that we might use in a focus group or an interview. Is that, you know, there's always going to be some variation just by very nature of how a conversation flows and how someone engages with it, which is fine. But you know, if your clients are worried about validity in terms of how online qual can work, asynchronous particularly you are often developing from a guide that everyone explores or engages with the same way. So you're very much testing like for like in global studies, this is really useful. It means that you are ensuring that you are getting a very accurate comparable read across markets. Minimise transcription that because by the nature, usually if people are entering things by text, you don't have to get it transcribed. But there are also wonderful tools out there for video which you know, and there's video heavy projects are brilliant transcribing things. And that's absolutely awesome the data itself. You know, if you've already set things up through even the asynchronous, even the synchronous ones, sorry, they have you know, your discussion guide can be put in there and you can timestamp things as you go through. So data is much easier ordered than typically when you need to be transcribed and have to go through it. So it's always easier to manage. But, you know, an average project in terms of efficiency, can take anywhere from five to seven weeks depending on the deliverables and the markets. And that's just one. But that can be one project again across multiple markets. The caveat, obviously with that is that it does require good planning, good communication and great coordination. Now, if this is something you've not done before, that could seem very daunting. There are some big buts there. But again, you can work with your supplier if this was us. We can work with you to to help you manage that in any way that you'd need. And we have all those processes lined up, perhaps the last one to come to, really, in terms of the myths is the big one, is this the dollar one, as it were? You know, it's online. Why isn't it cheaper? This is this is one that I always think is really interesting because it resonates with so many other parts of our experience with technology. Clients tend to think that because you're talking to people online, that their time is worth less. Although the project is worth less and this isn't you know, this isn't stuck to our own industry. Actually, if you look at dating apps as an academic I was looking at dissemination of information through technology, the way that technology has it, in the way that we engage with each other, we often tend to think actually that we don't value each other as much. I think clients sometimes fall prey to this. You are still engaging with people on their terms, on their time.

And if anything, actually, especially now with as many of you will understand, juggling being parents and teachers all of a sudden and full time carers, you know, your time is probably worth even more. You are still recruiting in the same way for a qual project. You are still incentivising. It is still key you are. And this is one of the challenges of online qual you are competing with their lives because you are taking them, because you are engaging with them on their terms and not taking them out. You are having to make sure that you are a priority now if your studies done really well. It's very easy to become a priority and you become actually something that people really enjoy. A lot of the studies that we're running at the minute. At the end, we always do some participation surveys and people say this is giving us a break and a reprieve so you can become a priority, but you have to make sure that you are incentivising and of course, towards the right people. Now, in terms of cheapness, it is cheaper incentive not being to pay for facilities you don't need to pay for for travel and you have access to a greater volume and range. You're not limited to geographic location in the same way your participants are, as I said before participants who can attend interviews and focus groups tend to be those who can afford to do so who can usually afford to travel. You've taken that into account, but also those who feel confident and able to do that. Online qual allows you to connect with people. It can often be more egalitarian in terms of the space that it offers the final one as well and the one that I often stress with clients is, you know, what's the value of getting it right first time? If you are talking to people and you are getting those accounts, those experiences, and they are from the heart, they are considered, they might be immediately based on emotion, they might be more rationalised. If you're getting all of this wonderful conceptual data is going to allow your clients to move forward, with confidence and make those right decisions the first time clients can always go with a cheaper option. I'm sure many of you probably felt in similar frustration where you've had to have that argument again and again of what you could do it cheaper, but you're not going to get the same thing. You know, you get what you pay for, buy cheap, buy twice is the saying. There is often an argument to have with clients, which, yes, this might matter, perhaps sometimes even seem more expensive than you thought it would, but it's very much an investment. The data that you will get perhaps from online qual when it's done correctly, you know current circumstance notwithstanding is incredibly valuable because it saves you money as opposed to then probably having a campaign that doesn't hit in the right way or launching a product that isn't targeted at the right consumer.

That hasn't been based on all the nuances and the intersectionality that is present in our day to day lives. Companies can't as we all know anymore, get away with telling their consumers what they can do or offering a single solution. They very much have to ensure that they are working harmoniously within that consumer, or that audiences landscape. So you have to use a method that enables you to do the same. Getting it right the first time. Those are typically the sort of myth busting that has to happen normally with newbie clients but I wouldn't call them new newbies as a starter there, but with newer clients to online qual, for online veterans it's a little bit different. But again, it's still very much rooted in identifying their expectations of what online means to them, especially if they've used a method before. They're going to think they know what online means. But you're going to have to align and either show them what your version is or, you know, help them on that journey.

And it's important to talk about what have they dumped for what worked for them before, what did they like, what didn't they like, and what are you going to do differently? And as always, it's is this the right thing? The right thing to do as a brief. Now, part of this might be not everyone's going to even be online veterans are going to be fully on the same page with all the myths we've just gone through. So there might be an element of myth busting in there as well. But it's important in that qualification call to think about, you know, what is your experience and what have your experiences been? Because as I say, you want to make sure your client, just with the methodology as a whole, is an overview feels confident. Once you kind of had that qualifying call about, you know, when you've had an inkling about I think this might be the method we're going to use. You need to start thinking about what this particular brief, why is this method that I want to use this version of online qual relevant?

One of the things I've found is that clients who've never done online qual before, you know, they find it easy to envisage a focus group in an interview because we've all been in a conversation. If if you have to turn to anyone, you can imagine how they're going to translate a topic guide on. But it's a lot harder when technology comes in and that distrust, and the fear's there to translate it. So this is your chance. Once you've qualified that the method as a whole to actually begin to give them a framework to map it on to, use their brief and the way that you begin to do that if you think about, you know, what are the advantages? What can you do with online qual, as a method that you couldn't do with another? And this might relate exactly back to those myths that we just went through. But, you know, does it solve a current need? Are they looking for a particular type of product or a particular type of user? Do they need a certain deadline? Do they need a number of markets at the same time? You have to really consider what your client is looking for. Those who want, you know NPD and co-creation are going to want a slightly different approach that could still use the same platform as opposed to those who are looking at a consumer thing, you know, consumer understanding. So you're trying to think about, OK, well, what's the data they want? And how am I showing that this method is going to get it? Does it bring the consumer to life more?

Are we going to get more in the moment footage or are we going to get more spontaneous reactions to concepts that can then be considered? Are we going to get the consumers to have an ability to think on their own then in a group and then design the product that they want? And do we want greater global reach? Do we want it to be interactive? This is your chance to begin to shine as a team.

And we often talk about our learn, develop and evaluate model where within a seven day community you can start off with your customer usage and attitudes, three days, getting that real broad top of funnel contextual understanding. Developing some concept maybe having a pause, going away with the client developing and then coming back with the same consumer group, taking everyone on a journey in the same way that the client wants to take them on a journey. What are the needs you're going to solve? How is this brief going to be tackled. Now, sort of probably the first part in one of the process of doing this particular brief is what we call the process and the platform. And this is where you begin to show the technology that you are thinking of using. But it is important, I've got here in red and yellow to flag up that your client will want to know why you've chosen the platform, but your answer shouldn't be based in the technology.

It shouldn't be because it has a heat map or it does this, that stuff is important, but actually what your client wants to really know at the end of the day is that you can use the technology, that you know what you're doing and that you are in control and have some capability. Even if you don't feel you have that, again, you should be working with your suppliers talk to your suppliers. They can upskill you on that, but you know, there are some fun bells and whistles but again as we go back the client isn't the one that has to know how everything works it's you. This is where you get to show your toys as it were and how you're going to use them. And it's where you get to show your creativity and expertise as a team through the platform. Now, in an ideal world, the best way to try and do this is through showing an older project or how you tackle this in a similar way before. If you have, or that's were can help supply images. But if you've not done this, if you suspect online qual, was a good method for this project or this client, that you've never done this method or worked with this client in this way, there is no harm in saying, well, actually, we did this work with you before, but we think, this method, this is a better option, or if we'd have done that project we worked with you before this is what it would look like online. Having a base to compare to is brilliant, you can even take a study with a different client that you've done so well. We did this work before with X, but actually this is what we'd like to do and we think in this situation it will work like this. As I say, if you're missing collateral or images or even the confidence to talk about it, if you want to use our platform, we can get in touch. We can help you with that, if it's another supplier get in touch with them. Ultimately, what you're looking to do is excite the client, you want to turn some of their questions, some of the points that they're worried about. You want to think about how the activity, you know what the activity is going to look like. You want to demonstrate the kind of responses you're going to get, so again, this is where the previous stuff works, but as you can see we can show you and prepare you with various slides that in our particular platform, show the depth that you're going to get. Don't be afraid to highlight the differences in the types of data you're going to get, again clients can understand from an interview and a focus group, you're going to get X amount of text or you might get some post-it notes and some of the journeys. Show them, what they're going to get from this, try not to have anything hidden. You want to be as open, as transparent as possible, and again talk about it with confidence and you want to show what it looks like for the participant because, you know, they're worried about whether they're going to engage with their consumers and again, it's harder for them to map that conversation online. So the more able you are to show all the elements, the more likely they are to think "ah right this is great". Not only do they know what they're doing, but I understand what that journey is going to be. Once you've tackled process in the platform, it's time to move to the timeline, the timings. If they went with this method, what is that timeline going to look like? You see, we've done a very basic account here where we sort of go through intensive project commission. This is perhaps one of the, other than value, I would say is one of the most key parts you need to be able to talk about this with real confidence. What's that timeline going to look like, but what are the variables? How long is that recruiting going to take? Against standard usually about 2 weeks depending on the partners you're using, but you know within that time, what are you going to be doing? What are the deadlines if there's stimulus that's going to be created? When does that stimulus need to be ready for? If you're using a particular supplier, again, it's worth talking to the supplier probably first before you talk to the client about what the deadlines are that they need. So if you need help with programming or with the design of the platform, talk with the the supplier before you talk with the client, but then with the client, be able to say you know, this is when we need this by, this is how long this will take once we put it on here, here is the process. If you have the process mapped out in your head, then it means that the client again feels that things are in hand. No one panics when there is a plan even if the plan changes it's good to talk about, you know, how you're going to onboard them where there might be those little things that might slip or what happens if thing change?

Again, if you've not got a lot of experience with this get in touch with your supplier, get in touch with us, we can always talk to you about how that might work and what sort of variables might be. Now in terms of that process as well. You have to look at the involvement, where and how can they get involved? Clients, I think really like traditional qual and online qual because they get to sit in that back room and they get to watch, which is great. How can they take part online, many platforms will have an observer back room, so talk about and show them how will you on-board them and how are you going to make their lives easier? Is their curated content that you can share with their little favourites or tanks that you can use, what can you do to help the client ultimately understand very quickly the data on the inside that they got, and how can they quickly communicate with you? Are there any tools on the platform or is there a document that you can use, or an email system. Knowing all of this and talking about the elements where they can have control is key because as I said before, control makes people happy typically, so what is their level of involvement? The final thing that in terms of it is looking at security. Now, some clients especially if they are new to online qual they will probably have some concerns, but they won't have all of these. You will need answers to all of these typically, and what I mean by that is you should ask your suppliers what their answer are to this, so the data that people are going to share with you, what are their backup plans? Where's it stored? How private and confidential is it? What can the suppliers do in the case of really sensitive prototypes being shared or sensitive information, there's nothing in the same way in a focus group in an interview there's no way to stop someone walking out and sharing all the things they've learned with their friends. There's no way to stop someone taking a picture of a screen with their mobile phone as much as you can lock the screenshot issue. So what can you do? You can add watermarks to images, you can have more terms and conditions, you can make sure that commercially sensitive things are safeguarded. Know what you can do with this when you're talking to your client, because if you can bring it up and talk about it competently, then again they will feel that they've got things in hand. Where is that data stored in terms of where the servers based? GDPR? What are the issues with data processes, data controllers, what can the supplier do? How long have you got access to the data for? Other things around anonymity, that you need to look about what happens in the case of recovery, where are the backups gonna be? Perhaps I think more me is someone who's directing projects or working with clients, where are the teething issues going to be? You can design the most incredible study with the best, you know, best process, best engagement, best activities, what you cannot always account for is people's technology. We always when we recruit through our recruiter we tell people to update their browsers, we make sure that our platform is able to accommodate a range of different styles and softwares, but you always have to build in time for errors. Where is the support going to be on hand for the participants? What about for the moderators? For the clients? Talk to your client about the support that is on hand and know where this is by talking to the supplier, and again, make sure that there are clear lines of communication. There might be parts in a project where things you know, there's going gonna be some teething issues where something gets dropped or there's an error, how quickly can things be rectified? How quickly can you talk about that? Talk with your supplier, talk with your client and understand that. That kind of leads to our step by step, these are the things that you have to be aware of. If you go through this, it will increase your chance to begin talking to your client about it and being able to help them feel confident. So step one, know your rationale, know why you might use an online method, and if it's right about it and you step two do your homework before even talking to a client, explore a few platforms, use this time if you've got it now to see what you and your team like. Suppliers like us, we're always happy to give demos, but there are so many out there that perhaps within your team you can disseminate who's going to look at stuff, and then practise with your team, you can even practise with us. We run sort of Dragons Den workshops where after a little bit of training, people will try and pitch to us, you know, as if we're the client. It's good to try and tackle those myths or those questions and get used to talking about it, don't be afraid to do it. It's easier to do it in the company of those that you're used to than when the pressure's on. If you don't have an imminent brief at the minute, take an old one and think, how would we tackle that in an online sense once you have to look at a platform, once a brief does come in, or you think there might be a project, qualify your client, are they a newbie? are you going to need to bust those myths, or are they a veteran?. You're going to need to set those expectations in line, and then when you're with that client, tackle that specific brief, look at the process and the platform, what are you going to use? Get them excited. What are they going to get? What are the advantages? What might their study look like? How is it going to relate to their business needs? What does the timeline look like? What are the securities and safeties that you can provide them with? This is where I come and do a little bit of a further plug, but in terms of sort of support we're very happy to work with you. You know, we work from all spectrums, from just providing software to management. We want you to win it's obviously good for us, but we want you to feel confident in what you're talking about so we've got documents, we've got a whole client resource area in terms of talking about the platform and about how you would tackle specific briefs. But we're also happy, you know, to have a conversation with you as one comes in, so if you think this might be a good idea, but I don't know how to go through it. Have a chat with us. We're always happy to lend support at any point in terms of sort of what we can do as well is, you know, we can help with those recruitment and those research operations and then we can recruit with up-skilling. This is just one of a number of master classes that we run, we offer training of just on the platform, but also in terms of things like research design according to different types of debriefs that you're going to get. So as I say, for those of you who maybe need some extra capacity at the minute or for those who've never done this before, get in touch. The sooner you can get in touch around a specific brief or a client, the quicker we can work with you. We typically have many different agencies that we work with, spend time building your deck, getting to know the platform of your choice, and the last thing that I would probably say before we move over to any questions that people might have, is people buying from people they can trust. Speak plainly, especially in terms of technology, it's very easy to talk about things with jargon, but if people feel lost, then they're not going to feel comfortable. So speak in a language that they understand and access that guide my translator. But again, always allow yourself what I call five minutes to nerd out, I can't resist it being an old academic. I always enjoy speaking about stuff I've probably done a little bit here. There's always a need to show your expertise and your experience, but then relate to people on their level. So build what you're going to say and work with what you're going to go through with the platform. That's all I wanted to run through in terms of the master class, we kind of want to open it up to you now, we've got a Q&A section so people have got any questions they can. I think we're going to try, and if you write them in there, we might also be able to provide you with the opportunity to speak. So either, you know, pop your questions in there maybe we can allow you to go through. I'm going to take some more water.

 

Question

OK we've got a question, are you seeing more clients do online qual, at the moment due to Covid-19? Yes, definitely. It has offered a chance for people to still connect with consumers. I think one of the interesting things is people thought that you wouldn't have to incentivise people as much with online because they would be hungry to engage. As I said, people, if anything, are juggling more time commitments, but definitely we are seeing a lot more online, a lot more people trying to pivot. We have a lot of clients, you know, new clients recently who are very quickly under pressure to adapt new methods in terms of what that's looking like with consumer behaviour. You know, there's a lot of uncertainty at the minute in terms of what's going on. And what we are saying to our clients is now more than ever, insight is really needed and people are actually really enjoying connecting with each other and very much enjoying taking part in studies. So, yes, there is, there is a bigger switch to online, so being more up-skilled in it is paying off. What would you not use online qual for? I love that question, thank you, I'm so glad you asked that because that's always an interesting one. So I am a method agnostic. I was trained to do various different bits and pieces. So, you know, you probably think that I would always pick a digital solution, but that's not the way. I think I wouldn't use online qual for user testing, particularly, there are also really good tools out there with screen sharing functions, which are brilliant. But I also think sometimes user testing has to be done in person, anything where there's an immediate visceral emotion. So studies that look at dealing with trauma, particularly, you know, very sensitive subjects are best in person. Anything where you need to probably see the immediate pupil dilation, that's better, that's why I think user testing is really good and experience testing is better done in other methodologies. But that being said, in terms of trauma, if it's past trauma, you know, we've done studies looking at one of my colleagues, Dr. Marie-Claude Gervais, she looks at the experiences of LGBT individuals who are 65 plus. so sort of 90 online, and that was looking at those dealing with cancer, and that was incredibly sensitive. That was actually really brilliant, because it allowed people to reflect back and then to tackle things as they move forward. Well, we got so from Edman, you mentioned having classes about as observers, but how do you ever get clients to engage with customers directly? How do you moderate this and how well does it work? Really good question. So we typically in all the work we do, we don't get we don't always get our clients to engage directly with consumers, as a rule, generally, it's not saying we don't do it. What can often happen is, you know, we have tools on our platform, for instance, where clients can flag up particular topics or issues or questions and they can share that with the moderator.

We're a firm believers as a team that you build the rapport and the you know, and the behaviour with the moderator, you get them used to speaking and engaging. We tend not to have the clients in because A the clients can sometimes get a little bit trigger happy. So too many voices in a focus group can be distracting. So there are tools that we have on our platform to allow them to do that, now that being said, there are times where the client needs to talk. So we've done studies where we've run an online group, an asynchronous group for seven days. We have cherry picks, the best participants that we like to show what's going to work, and then we have done a synchronous group or, you know, in the in the old days, pre Covid. We would invite them to a workshop and have them talk with the client, so we tend to have a baseline where we're building it and then we will figure out who should they speak to, who's going to be perhaps the key persona or the key epitome and we'll bring them together. So, yeah, you can have some communication through the platform and there are many platforms that do the same, and then choosing a more controlled methodology, what works really well, because that way you know that your client's going to get some value out of talking to the right consumers in a way and see your job there again is to act as a guide.

 

Question:

Thanks for taking a bit of the fear out John, thanks very much. In your experience, do veterans still do traditional qual or have they left it behind, and what proposition of online groups are just straightforward discussion? What proportion involves? Good question, it depends. So I would say the first one, so do veterans still do traditional qual, have they left it behind? (A) it depends on their experience, obviously if it has gone badly and when it goes badly, it can go really badly, you know things aren't in hand if the processes aren't there, if if they haven't enjoyed it, then of course, they're not going to use it. If they have used it. I think what clients really like when it works well is they are surprised at the amount of data they get. People tend to think of online communities as these big panels they can dip in and out of and actually they take huge amounts of work to work with, but what clients have always said to me is they enjoy the richness. They enjoy the fact that they can connect and that they can dip in because, you know, clients as well, they're managing everything they've got in their business. So if you've made their lives easier, they like being able to dip in and bring it along, now there's an important thing as well to be aware of, which is, you know, there is a theatre to research that I'm sure we're all aware of, when you bring someone to an interview or a focus group there is you know, there's that sense of excitement, and that's what I think a lot of people get a buzz out of, clients as well. So what you're always looking at with with online qual, is how do you still have that sense of excitement? You start that really from the start with the recruitment, but with the clients, how are you building that in? How can you take them along for the ride when they have been brought along through the journey, I have found in my experience they tend to stick with online qual and often just once they've got the emotional element simply from a logistical sense as well, because again, they can still keep doing what they're doing. They can dive in and get the data. It makes better value choices, and they're able to share things quickly internally. You know, you can have videos and soundbites and things, so I have found in my experience that when it's worked well, it's worked really well and has become, you know, a real tool in their armoury. In terms of what proposition of online groups are just straightforward discussion and what proportion involves stimulus, it depends on the brief and what the client's going for. In our platform that we use, one of our biggest things that's useful is concept testing and new product development because, you know, you can take advantage of those tools that deliver heat maps and mark-ups and things like that. But at the same time, we have diary studies, which are, it really depends I think sometimes it depends on the tool that you use. We're pretty well balanced, which is lovely, but there are tools out there that are much better at synchronous those online discussion groups. That's really a question of what technology and platform you're looking for.

Question:

In my experience, data is way bigger online than in a focus group. I have the feeling that analysing takes more time and a different mindset than an offline focus group. I do have that feeling. It is the feeling you are right, so I actually run another masterclass in terms of analysis. So with online groups, so, you know, you put text and policies so I assume you're talking about asynchronous. I always say to clients that I work with one of the great things about online qual, asynchronous qual is when it works, you get a lot of data, and one of the problems is when it works you get a lot of data which is a nightmare to deal with sometimes. The way that I actually teach teams to do that is tagging, you know, a lot of these platforms ours included have really effective tools that allow you to sift through the data and you have to think you have to structure things in a different way, and actually it starts from how you design your guide in the first place.

In qual you tend to use as many words as you need to to get to a point, and your brain in that conversation is doing the job of analysing at the time. You can come out of it, kind of debrief your client in asynchronous qual particularly you have to make sure that, you know, you've pre-empted things a little bit more, there's a little bit more of a journey and a script that you're going through. But if you've done it correctly, what it means is that you've used the best capabilities of the platform as well to make your lives easier so you can use tagging functionality. But also the format that you're going to get the data through is easier. Video is a really interesting one in this if you're not using a video partner who can transcribe things. I use video very leanly because clients know I want a video for every activity from 7 days, these participants. You suddenly end up with three days worth of home movies to get through, which is a real problem to look at. So thinking about the activities you're going to use, using the tools on the platform and working within your team to be able to at the beginning align on meaning and on structure and on manipulation of data. Knowing what's available to you, and again this is where you talk with your suppliers. Honestly, I can totally get that it can feel overwhelming when you start and I was very much the same I used to use vivo in old school projects, but there are tips and tricks out of there that you can use and all your suppliers should be able to help you with that.

Do you look to limit group length, and to my mind there should be a max of four participants as more than this makes it harder to avoid people talking over. Yeah. I mean with synchronous online it's a real challenge as we've all found with Zoom meetings over and over. It's, you know, turn taking. I read an article was a bit kind of ignored the standard things that we might do in a traditional conversation. There are tools that you can use, obviously you can mute things but it kind of changes the flow of the conversation, four participants is good, I mean in a typical focus group, I typically never would have more than anywhere between six to eight and I'd be very careful about how I'm managing that flow of conversation, but online. Yeah. Less is probably more with that. And again, probably hoping that what you can do in terms of boosting the numbers is because you're not travelling. You can schedule a few more back to back, you know, make sure you've got water rest and the ability to recharge, as we know how tiring that is.

Sophie, we've been talking about getting clients over the hurdles, what are your hurdles as researcher that you've got to get over how did you solve it? Brilliant question. I think one of the things that I found... So one of the things that I enjoyed, but was a challenge, being honest was adapting the way that I think about how you ask a question. As a saying traditional qual, you just ask questions as many as you need to to get to a point hopefully without leading your participants to the answer you want. With technology you know, we're blessed in a way by people sharing so freely now in so many different ways, and the tools that we have available to us mean that we can access that. But having to adapt and think, I want to understand something in situ or I want to get this type of reaction or I want it to be immediate, or I want it to be more slow and then to come back to it, I want to be more reflexive. The challenge for me was thinking, how am I going to understand this technology so that I can then write the guide in the best way, and that was probably what took me the longest amount of time, and what helped me was, again, talking to people who knew the technology first, knew the capabilities, and then I could look at with a guide, and this is what we do with our clients. We, you know, with clients, we're very experienced they'll just come to us with a rough guide and we'll optimise it for the platform make sure it's got the right settings, the right abilities that you can actually do things in the way that the platform will allow. But, typically what happens is clients will come to us with questions and we'll sit down and go right. Here's the question you want. Here's how we can tackle that, here's how we're going to look at that bias. Here's how we can look at it individually. That was probably one of the biggest things is thinking about how I translate to that, but once you get used to it, it's really enjoyable and it's great fun. I think probably the other one actually which I tackled earlier was looking at the analysis. How do you keep that? There's a huge amount of data to go through. You don't want to suddenly become snow blind effectively. How are you going to organise that? So, especially how are you going to organise that within a team? How are you going to work within a team to make sure that you've communicated effectively? You know, you're not probably going to be, especially at the minute in those rooms with the big walls, with the Post-it notes, how are you gonna know, are you going to work on it per activity or you're going to pick particular participants? Inter-team communication, translation. Those are probably the hurdles that I had to say. But also I really enjoyed solving.

 

Question:

I've most often used platforms previously with participants working on individual exercises and interested in using it in a more advanced level and planning out both individual and group exercises could you say a bit more about that. Of course I could. In terms of that, the way that I always talk to teams about that is what is your ideal? Do we want to understand how people make decisions or how they feel on their own? Do we want to do it as if they're out and about in a group, you know? Are we looking at social constraints? We're looking at how maybe gender will play a role, or status will play a role. The way that always say to teams is tell me your ideal. In an ideal world, what is it you want to know because I guarantee you there is a technological solution out there. Don't start with is it or isn't it possible? This is what my tech team tell me when I talk about the platform they always just go John, just tell us what you want and we'll find a solution. And this is what I say to the teams that I work with. What do you want to understand from people? How do you want to get it? Do you want to get that contextual basis of how someone's engaging with a particular category? So one of the things that we often do, we've done this with bacon, with frozen pizza, with technology is we will take people and look at them in their life. Look at how that particular item or category fits into their life. You know, figure out when are they using it, how are they using it? What are the competitors? Where does it feature in their routines? Understand in a holistic sense where it sits, and we'll go alright, we've done that in an individual level. What will now do is let's go away. Let's take that, let's design some concepts and come back, and again let's get them to look at those concepts. But they probably know there have been some other people online, let's get them to have a group discussion. Now, we might have used a, you know, asynchronous community for the first bit to capture that through those diary tools, through some of those projects. But then we can move it onto a group discussion if we want to. You can move through you know, some platforms will allow integration, it's up to you and what you need, what your client wants don't be afraid to talk big about what you can achieve.

I've got one last question and I'm going to wrap up. I know people are probably busy, got meetings to go to. What are your thoughts about live, moderation and also your thoughts and having respondants interact with one another freestyle in the absence of a moderator. Not a fan of not having a moderator, probably because I'm a researcher. I think you can upskill and empower participants to become their own researchers under guidance, it's a technique I use online where I say look, we want you to go out and interview with these questions and have a conversation after probably a participant has been used to being part of a research process, that works well. Just allowing them to have free, to freestyle it can be a little bit of a worry. Having them interact with each other, that's the point of a focus group that's great, but yeah, anything going wrong? I mean, certain platforms have, you know, swearword blockers on them and moderations tools on them anyway. So it depends, again, on what you're trying to get out of it. I'd always suggest there is a moderator somewhere and try and take advantage of the technology you've got. But usually, you know, that's the road where the researcher comes in.

I'm going to wrap it up there because I'm sure that everyone else has meetings to get to, but thank you very much for joining and listening. Thank you very much for your questions, that's brilliant. As I say, we will be sending out options to have the recording and we'll also be sending out options to, you know, arrange some more one on one sessions where we can talk about your briefs and your concerns and everything that's useful for you. So stay safe, everyone. Have a wonderful rest of the week. If you're in the U.K., enjoy the bank holiday tomorrow, and hopefully we will speak to some of you soon.

Thank you very much.

 

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