Right out of the gate: I’ll likely get heat for this blog post. So as a pre-emptive measure, here’s some background.
Over the past couple of summers at Qualvu we’ve sourced some very talented and motivated college-level interns. We’re a great gig for them to gain experience in a high growth start-up that blends Internet technology with the qualitative research industry – and who can beat summertime near the Rocky Mountains. When the interns arrive I’m always anxious to give them cool projects that the full-time employees are usually too busy to tackle with a workload up to their eyeballs.
One project this summer was to informally answer a question I had:
What if you compared a typical Qualvu project to a typical Focus Group project in terms of minutes of feedback per participant? In an apples-to-apples comparison, which one generates more human feedback data; and ideally, more feedback specific to the actual research topic?
Certainly there are more angles – like which generates richer ethnographic feedback, or which one delivers more insightful content, etc. But I’ll leave those to our clients to decide. This investigation was simply the math: How many minutes for each?
My “research brief” was not the stuff of academic rigor, mind you. No broad, statistically significant sample, no hiring a bona fide quant firm. I can however tell you the analysis our intern did was careful, accurate, and meticulous – and we were careful to set up the most compelling study possible given the circumstances. My instructions went like this:
“Hi Scott, you busy? See this cardboard box? It’s full of focus group DVDs. And see this spreadsheet with categories listed on it? I want you to take this spreadsheet, and this stopwatch, and watch every second of this project, and carefully code the focus group data. Next I want you to do the exact same thing for a Qualvu project – here’s the web link to the Qualvu study. Then I want to see the minutes, side by side in a grid.”
A couple of weeks later Scott showed me the interesting results, and I thought to share them with you:
Intros & Warm-up
The first thing that stands out is the time allotted in a focus group for introductions and warm-up. This is not surprising, as in a group setting among strangers, warm-up is crucial to getting people as comfortable as possible, and ideally in the right frame of mind to give feedback on the research topic.
The problem is that an average focus group session is about 2 hours long – and while introductions and warm-up are certainly important exercises, they bite dearly into the ‘high value’ minutes, or those when deep inquiry into the topic takes place.
On the other hand in the Qualvu project, introductions and warm-up are minimal. The very nature of the Qualvu collection technique is that people are already comfortable – they most likely at home, or perhaps work or shopping, at a time that works perfectly for their schedule, and they are completely alone. From a moment already relaxed and free of peer pressure, they simply jump in – right from the normal rhythm of their day.
Participant Insights to Research Objectives
This is the money shot – where virtually all project value is created. These are the precious minutes when participants are responding to research-specific questions to generate the insights for the client. This is the data researchers are paid to generate. Within these minutes inherently lie the “ah-ha!” insights that drive client decision making, and create meaningful competitive advantages for brands.
Intuitively, the bigger the number, the better. And this is where the Qualvu project set itself apart from the focus group sessions, generating 135% more minutes of feedback per participant (about 7 minutes per participant in a focus group session vs. 16 minutes on average via Qualvu).
Even when bundling the introductions and warm-up minutes from the focus group data with research-specific feedback, the Qualvu project proved to be a raw data mine 84% greater, or about 9 minutes total per focus group participant vs. almost 17 minutes per Qualvu participant.
So what have we learned from this informal comparison of a typical focus group project to a Qualvu project? Simply stated, the Qualvu project generated a whole lot more human feedback – particularly when we focused on the feedback that was directly related to the research objectives.
So is bigger necessarily better? Unfortunately that was beyond the scope of this inquiry, and as I’ve mentioned above, I believe the ultimate judges are the clients who hire us to conduct qualitative research using the unique Qualvu platform. However I would consider the odds.
If you depend on rich consumer feedback to help your brand make critical marketing or product decisions – picking a platform where those consumers are likely to share significantly more of their thoughts seems like a good bet. Throw in the fact that you’ll be watching that feedback coming directly from within consumers’ private settings, and absorbing the rich, non-verbal ethnographic feedback that comes as an added insightful bonus – and the case for Qualvu is a pretty good one.
I figured there might be some folks who take offense at my informal project this summer, particularly given we are, after all, all about research. If nothing else, consider this inquiry some “mind food” (and more than twice as much!) for thought.