The Future of Research: Harnessing Technology and Asking Better Questions

The Farnsworth Group is always looking for better ways to deliver valuable market insights to our clients in a fast-moving, information-dense world. To this end, we attended Quirk’s market research conference in Chicago this past week. Many fellow researchers are concerned about the vast amount of data available and the breakneck pace at which we must analyze data in order to stay competitive. Others brought up the need to interpret data at a deep level, and how this is difficult to accomplish with limited time and virtually limitless information. To gather and interpret data quickly and meaningfully, market researchers are:

  • Harnessing an array of technologies

  • Asking better questions

Harnessing Technology

Smartphones are a convenient way for consumers to share qualitative information through photos or videos of shopping experiences and product usage in the home. This eliminates the time and expense of travel for focus groups and offers more visual detail than an in-depth interview. Even when conducting traditional qualitative studies, researchers leverage advances in machine learning to do away with the labor-intensive task of hand-coding hundreds or possibly thousands of open-ended responses. AI programs can now auto-extract themes from text and interpret emotions in visual media, making qualitative data much easier to collect and analyze.

VR technology can also be a cheaper and faster alternative to physical shopping simulations in a lab. While physical shopping simulations provide richer data than online surveys, they are time-consuming and expensive. In contrast, once a VR store is programmed, researchers can swap out products and in-store signage at a minimal cost and test a multitude of options in a short amount of time. Eye-tracking software in VR goggles automatically documents and analyzes where subjects’ eyes move on the shelves, offering a wealth of valuable information in real time. Skeptics might ask whether VR data resembles physical shopping lab data, and the answer is yes.

Asking Better Questions

Much like physical shopping simulations in a lab, focus groups and in-depth interviews are costly and time-consuming. These projects are big investments for both research companies and clients, and it’s disappointing when participants fail to provide substantive responses. It’s been found that memory reconstruction techniques can draw more thoughtful responses from subjects. Memory reconstruction is an interrogation method used by police in which they ask witnesses to relax, close their eyes, and fully recreate a given scene in their mind’s eye. In a market research context, respondents might be asked to conjure a memory of the first time they saw a certain product or when they last bought that product. These indirect questions about memory can provoke respondents to share more about their thoughts and emotions compared to the direct questions in traditional IDIs or focus groups.

In terms of quantitative research, asking fewer, more targeted questions can help to clarify and enrich the data. This requires clients to identify specific research objectives and remain focused on those objectives, yielding higher quality data that’s more useful. This method also promotes research activities that can build on themselves rather than isolated studies that may cease to be utilized in future research.

As a custom market research firm, The Farnsworth Group incorporates various methodologies to deliver the insights that address our clients’ critical needs. Contact us to discuss your specific needs and identify research methods that best suit your company.