From focus groups and surveys to mobile apps and online communities, it can be a challenge to find one market research tool that’s a perfect fit for your project. But here are three examples of how multimodal research helped generate positive results for these online communities.
“Multimodal” is the concept of bringing together multiple research methods to accomplish your research objectives. In addition to giving you higher quality insights more quickly, it can also maximize your dollar.
This sounds good in theory, but how does it happen in the real world?
We spoke to moderators, including Casey Bernard of CB Research Services in Austin, to bring you three examples of multimodal research, and how each can produce exceptional qualitative research.
1. The Frozen Food Study: How Casey paired a traditional focus group with an online community
The objective of this study was to analyze participants’ frozen food shopping habits at a grocery store.
Participants were first required to document their thoughts and individual habits in an online community. After several weeks of journaling and conversing online, contributors participated in a traditional, in-person focus group followed by in-store shadowing.
This type of online/offline strategy can be used both ways. For example, you can start with a focus group to test out a product, then lead a discussion in an online community in the weeks after to continue assessing participants.
Because she communicated with her participants in an online community before shadowing them in the grocery store, Casey started asking questions right off the bat, reducing the time-consuming small talk that usually accompanies this type of research.
For example, when she met up with the participant in the grocery store, Casey already knew the woman had three children. Because a relationship had been established, Casey was able to more deeply connect with the woman and receive higher-quality answers.
Benefit: Time to think
Questions about individual behaviors such as “how do you shop in the frozen food aisle?” are challenging for participants to answer on the spot. Casey says behaviors like shopping are habitual, so it can be hard for participants to deliver insightful answers on a moment’s notice.
Prefacing in-store intercepts and in-person focus groups with interaction in online communities gives participants the time to think about answers to tough questions, especially ones about habitual behaviors.
In turn, you will capitalize on those pricey but important in-person interactions by receiving deeper insights from participants.
Benefit: Pinpoint the “bad apples”
Another benefit of this strategy is being able to detect what Casey refers to as “a bad apple” – someone with very strong, negative opinions — before meeting in a focus group.
The bad apple has the potential to spoil it for everybody and encourage a groupthink scenario.
Recognizing this person online allowed Casey to go into the situation with a game plan. She broke up the group into smaller circles, preventing the bad apple from spoiling the bunch.
2. The Multiple-Layer Study: How Casey used different platforms at different stages
For this project, Casey executed a three-layer study to create a “full picture” of how a sports retailer’s clientele uses mobile phones in the store.
In the first stage, Casey gathered quantitative data about the size of the market. This helped Casey decide the type of person she needed to talk to for the study.
For the second stage, she created an online community to discuss general experiences with participants and to further refine the focus of the study.
Casey used the online community to narrow down questions for the third stage, which involved in-store intercepts. The random intercepts validated the main concerns, topics and questions participants discussed in the community.
You often enter focus groups assuming you know which questions to ask. This strategy, which Casey calls “great exploratory research” allows you to be certain. Exploring online ahead of time instead of assuming saves you time and cost.
Benefit: Bigger footprint
The online community’s component allowed Casey to tap into urban populations that, due to expenses, she would have normally skipped over.
It’s a bigger footprint that can generate more quality data, provided the study includes numerous participants from different locations and backgrounds.
3. The Selective Shopper Study: Using online communities to identify best candidates
Another moderator worked on a project to pinpoint shoppers’ behaviors and attitudes toward fast food.
First, she recruited numerous fast food consumers to join an online community. Here, she proposed discussion topics and questions, and gained invaluable insights from participants within a couple of weeks.
Then, based off of participants’ answers, the moderator selected a small subset of the community who she felt was particularly articulate and insightful.
She conducted follow-up interviews and shop-along studies with this smaller group.
Choosing a select subset of participants made the moderator’s in-person research segment more productive.
Knowing the participants’ initial thoughts in advance also allowed her to ask deeper, more specific questions during in-person interviews and shop-along studies.
Benefit: Ensured Cooperation
There is certainly a time and place for randomly selecting participants to conduct research.
But selecting people you already “know” from an ongoing community will save you time (and not to mention, patience) by ensuring the group of participants you work with is cooperative and the best suited to your research goals.
You already know that in-person time is expensive. So why not wring it for all it’s worth by going multimodal?
Doing so can enhance your business by ensuring your research will still excite clients, but for a lower cost.
For a savvy moderator accustomed to change and transition like yourself, experimenting with multimodal research should be interesting. Time to let your creativity soar.
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