qualitative research

Revitalised, dying, never been better? Discussing the state of Qual

As we gear up for Qual360 Europe 2019 we have asked our speakers to share their views on the state of qual. The good news is that the vast majority sees a very optimistic future for qual, with opportunities outweighing challenges and the right steps already being made towards a strong positioning of qual within a (continuously) changing research landscape.

Finally tuned into “innovation”

There seems to be a consensus amongst many quallies that their discipline took a little longer to fully embrace innovation. Chayenne Meers, Senior Qualitative Consultant at Haystack says:

It took a long time before qual innovated and we kept our dusty, traditional image for a long time. However, now qual is really changing and innovating.

Traditional methods and concepts were tested and proven and there wasn’t much drive to shake the tree. With a new generation of tech-savvy researchers and also the sophistication of tools, there is now a visible increase in new approaches, further development of existing methods or the combination of both.

In a second wave, the innovation momentum seems to have spurred a new set of “non-tech” methods, with researchers using improvisation theatre (see Qual360 EU 2018), deprivation, start-up pitch concepts, and other techniques. However, quality is still of great concern and some researchers are sceptical whether all these new methodologies and – probably even more so – technologies, can deliver the same quality. Qual isn’t easy and if its look too easy there is probably a flaw or shortfall somewhere.

Embracing technology and big data

A lot of innovation in MR is currently driven by technology – and qual has been slow to adapt. But fortunately, more and more researchers are embracing technology and starting to experiment with new, innovative tech tools that can help drive the discipline forward. From the use of mobile and video, the industry has progressed to experimenting with virtual reality environments for focus groups or product testing, artificial intelligence, chatbots, neuroscience and much more.

In addition, many believe that qual is uniquely positioned to provide quality control, context and deeper insights in the age of big data. “Qualitative is the appropriate tool to bring a real & deep understanding to data – regardless of where this data comes from. Thus, Qualitative will be the catalyst of the future development of our business,” says Kantar’s Alexandra von Crukowicz.

Sophie Davedau, Director Consumer Sensory Insights at Givaudan adds:

In the era of big data, the place for qual is getting smaller. I think qualitative researchers have to become the ones that understand what big data is providing, as opposed to the ones who dislike data.

Need for collaboration

One thing that stands out at each Qual360 conference is the strong community feels between qualitative researchers, the openness and the clear wish – possibly need – for collaboration. Analytic Insights’ President Amy Flowers put it this way: “I believe that collaboration is the key to the future and that the best, most interesting and innovative discoveries are those that cross disciplines to apply the methods of one discipline to the problems of another. QUAL360 makes an important contribution to this effort by mixing a variety of researchers and offering the opportunity to share methods and strategies across continents, disciplines, and industries.”

A flower in full bloom

So in conclusion, despite its (historic and present challenges) qual has a purpose and some may argue increasing importance in times of data overload and increasingly impersonal communication patterns. We leave you with the words of Amy Flowers:

“Qualitative research is a flower in full bloom. A heritage rose, long overlooked that is now experience resurgence in popularity. The conference is a way of extending the life of the bloom and making sure it opens to its full effect by tending the garden – fertilizing the minds of the delegates with new ideas and strategies for future research.”

Want to discuss more about the future of qual, network, and huddle up and learn? Join Qual360 Europe on May 15&16. Awesome speakers, learning and fun await!



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