10
Apr

The Power of One Voice

By: Donna Taglione, Vice President

Prior to the Corporate Researchers Conference in late September 2016, David Almy, CEO of the Market Research Association (now Insights Association), wrote a short email promoting the event. In his message he said, “You only need one great idea to truly succeed, or one great innovation to truly advance.” Even though his note was endorsing seminar content, the notion of “one” got me thinking. In the age of Big Data, how important is one voice?

In my world of one-on-one interviews and focus groups, hearing the voice of one is critical. No matter the location or space, offline or online, one common thread I’ve seen in nearly every interview I’ve conducted is the presence of doubt in the consumer’s mind. I try to reaffirm to them at the start of every conversation that their perception, their voice, is important. I learn something new or different from each and every person I talk to and some of the most insightful comments are prefaced with qualifiers of uncertainty – “I don’t know if you want to know this or not …” or “I don’t know, maybe I did something wrong, but I noticed…” Respondents are always afraid they’re not telling us the “right” thing.

Big, little, obvious and not so obvious – it’s all important and nothing is “wrong”. The collection of individual voices helps to uncover patterns on a larger scale. Patterns that point us in a direction; patterns that help us weave a story. The beauty of qualitative research is that sometimes these patterns and collective voices force a u-turn because some “wrong,” off-hand comment by a few individuals turns into something of sheer brilliance – the “why didn’t we think of that” revelation.

These are the revelations we seek. In the aftermath of these moments, comes insight and direction. But there are times when client observers believe that the power of one voice can be negated, particularly if that voice does not solidify objectives but alters the direction of project. The remedy is to have open and honest discussions between the moderator and observers after the interviews are complete.

The easel is my best friend in a back room debrief, helping me chart confirmations of previous learning, note questions that still linger and record the gems of any project – the a-ha’s – those things that opened eyes to a new or different way of thinking and/or doing. The best intel often comes from an innocent remark; a remark that inspires a packaging engineer to rethink the design of a container or an advertising person to redirect the creative approach with greater clarity and understanding.

John F. Kennedy once said: “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” In qualitative research, I know first-hand the importance of one person’s experience and opinion. It is the everyday experiences of individuals that aid product developers, designers and advertisers to make and market better products. We should all keep trying to hear the customer’s voice. It’s the one voice that can, and does, make a difference.

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22
Sep

Have You Lost Sight of Your Target Customer?

Have you lost sight of your target customer?

By: Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

Imagine if your boss told you that she had found the perfect target group based on attitudes and needs segmentation, called Savvy Savers, and wants to conduct research with them.

But once you head off to find this target group, your boss tells you these Savvy Savers also have to drive a certain type of car, be aware of a certain brand, have 2.5 kids, see themselves as innovative, like to try new things, and must be located in Dallas. Welcome to the world of recruiting qualitative research with a segmentation algorithm screener.

What is a segmentation algorithm screener?

Traditional screeners use a set of questions to identify qualified consumers to participate in qualitative research. These questions usually revolve around criteria such as demographics (i.e. age and income) and can include category preference questions.

A segmentation algorithm screener is more complicated. Companies usually segment their market into subsets based on criteria such as attitudes, usage, or needs. These segmentations are usually done through a national quantitative survey. The results provide population subsets that companies usually name in order to speak about these segments of their target market in a more personal way.

Once the segmentation is complete, companies have a list of questions that they feel every named segment, such as the Savvy Savers, will answer the same way regardless of where they live. These series of questions is called an algorithm.

Why are segmentation algorithm screeners problematic?

Not all segmentation screeners are a bad thing. When applied effectively, they can bring companies closer to their target market. Issues arise when expectations are different from reality.

Issue #1: The algorithm target may not be the real target audience

Let’s use our Savvy Savers target as an example of being “the perfect target.” If the potential consumer answers the algorithm questions in a certain way, they fit the desired target market and qualify for the study. However, “this perfect target” is never perfect on an algorithm screener. Clients want potential participants to qualify for the study by answering the algorithm questions a specific way and, in addition, meet a host of other criteria. This means that the “perfect target” is indeed perfect on paper in the segmentation report, but not when it comes to who they want to actually attract in the marketplace.

Issue #2: A national incidence does not always equate to a specific market’s incidence.

Segmentation surveys are typically fielded with a broad geographic scope. This produces a national incidence or incidence rate. For example, if a company determines that the incidence to find a Savvy Saver is 20% nationally, that means that if 100 people across the country were called and screened, one should find 20 people who can be classified as Savvy Savers.

This seems reasonable enough. But qualitative research is not based on national representation. For the most part, qualitative research is conducted in 1-3 markets. This makes it harder to find and recruit the desired target group.

Issue #3: Qualitative research may be completed at a fixed location.

In some Qualitative research methodologies, it is necessary for participants to come to a specific location to participate, which further limits the number of potential recruits because respondents must be within a certain radius of the facility. Couple the limited location with the need for consumers to attend the research on a specific date and at a specific time and the pool of potential Savvy Savers to recruit may have dropped from 20 to 3.

Issue #4: The algorithm may be outdated.

Segmentation studies can be expensive and time consuming. So it is understandable that companies may only conduct a segmentation study once every few years. This may be acceptable for items that take more time to change such as attitudes and beliefs, but things such as needs and usage can change dramatically in a short amount of time. Circumstances can create lower incidence, which means less potential respondents for the qualitative study being recruited.

Issue #5: Algorithms can increase costs and may reduce the number of willing recruiters.

Recruiters dislike algorithm recruits. Seriously, dislike them. This disdain can result in higher per recruit costs or recruiters flat out refusing a project.

One of the reasons recruiters dislike segmentation algorithm screeners is because the algorithm “key” is a huge secret known only to the client and the supplier who conducted the segmentation study. This minimizes the ability for recruiters to “pre-screen” their databases.

Without the pre-screen option, Maya Middlemiss, the Managing Director of research recruitment consultant Saros Research Ltd in the UK and Casslar Consulting in Spain, warns recruiting costs could resemble that of cold calling. In Middlemiss’ article, Recruiting qualitative participants research using quantitative algorithms, she  explains,

If we are provided a locked tool, the only thing we can do is apply it after the event during the telephone interview stage – this is more cumbersome and expensive, because it does not enable us to rule out people who are not a fit before the calling stage.  Depending on the expected incidence of the desired segment(s), the strike rate – and therefore costs involved in recruitment – may even approach that of cold-calling. That is often a surprise to clients, but it is a consequence of trying to use quantitative tools in qualitative research (April, 2016).

We’ll continue this discussion in part 2 of our post on the use of a segmentation algorithm screener next week, where we will discuss solutions and the value that this type of methodology can provide.

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