WELCOME TO OUR BLOG!

The posts here represent the opinions of CMB employees and guests—not necessarily the company as a whole. 

Subscribe to Email Updates

Eliza Novick

Recent Posts

Move Over Cupid: A Qualitative Researcher’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

Posted by Eliza Novick

Tue, Feb 09, 2016

eliza_blog_image.pngAs Valentine’s Day ticks closer, I’m reminded of my best and worst dates over the years. At best, I’ve enjoyed rosé, cheese, and interesting conversations; at worst, I had a beer spilled on me and endured lots of awkward pauses. Through all the ups and downs, I’ve perfected a few tricks that can help make a date a great success and avoid your typical first date pitfalls. Best of all, these are tricks that I can apply to my work as a qualitative researcher!

Moderating a focus group is kind of like going on a blind date with eight people at once while your boss watches. Yes, it can be awkward, but it’s critical that respondents really connect with the moderator to ensure that our clients get reliable findings. With that in mind, here are my top three tips for making it through a first date and for wow-ing clients by getting the most out of your qualitative research:

  1. Ask open-ended questions: Nobody likes stilted conversation, but sometimes it can feel hard to avoid. Rather than asking close-ended questions that end in one-word answers, try asking people to describe an experience. “What kind of things have you been cooking recently?” tends to get a lot more traction than, “Do you like to cook?” Likewise, “Tell me about a time you paid for an unanticipated medical expense” can take you (and your clients) much further than “Have you ever had an unanticipated medical expense?” Putting the emphasis on sharing a story encourages people to give detailed responses and speak genuinely about their interests and experiences.
  2. Don’t try to cover too much ground: Meeting new people can be overwhelming—there’s a lot to digest. So, I’ve found that it’s best to keep the conversation simple. Unlike the unfortunate fellow who asked me rapid-fire questions for two hours over drinks, try asking follow-up questions on one topic. This lets you get to know someone better and discover interesting details that you wouldn’t uncover if you were speeding through topics. It also works in qualitative since your respondents are coming into the conversation with virtually no context. They weren’t privy to the hours of client calls, discussion guide revisions, and marketing materials like the research team was. While it’s tempting to cram as much content as possible into the discussion guide, nine times out of ten, clients find more value in clear, detailed findings than high-level, scattered anecdotes. Besides, speeding through different topics makes it difficult to identify patterns. So, do everyone a favor—slow down, and see where the conversation takes you.
  3. Trust your gut: If something doesn’t seem right, trust yourself. If you’re on a date and things aren’t going well, it’s ok to leave early. Likewise, if your carefully laid research plans are not panning out as you had planned, it’s ok to take a different route. Try phrasing a question a different way. Or, if you have a sense that someone in the group disagrees with a point but is too shy to say so, ask them if they’ve got anything they’d like to share. Not only will this show your respondents that you’re listening and care about what they have to say, it will also elicit more honest responses that lead to better findings (and happy clients).

Qualitative research, like dating, is really about connecting with people—we get the best results when respondents feel they can relate to us researchers on a personal level. So, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Take your time, listen to the data you’re getting, and trust yourself. Easy!

Eliza is a qualitative researcher at CMB. In addition to applying her dating life to her work, she likes to be outside, read books, and cook. 

For the latest Consumer Pulse reports, case studies, and conference news, subscribe to our monthly eZine.

Subscribe Here!

Topics: qualitative research, research design

Better Demographics = Better Insights

Posted by Eliza Novick

Thu, Jun 25, 2015

There is a strong belief that gender identity can be used to predict behavior in the marketplace, and we see evidence of this belief in advertising every day (and we also regularly poke fun at this idea - see the video below). Despite this, the standard approach to collecting information about gender and behavior often lacks the depth and complexity necessary to reach the meaningful insights around gender identity. How can we fix this? One way forward is to incorporate social science into our questionnaire design. 

 

There’s a large body of evidence from social science research that indicates social identities, like gender, can have concrete economic implications for people belonging to certain groups. Gender is not only an expression of individual identity, but is also negotiated on a group level as we practice and enforce patterns of hierarchical social, political, and economic relationships (including work and family life). So, while one woman’s social, political, and/or economic profiles may deviate from the profiles of women as a group, she’s still subject to the systematic opportunities and barriers that these group profiles represent.

At CMB, we often leverage social science in questionnaire design to elicit responses that most closely reflect the market. As an industry, we could (and should) go further in the way we collect demographic information. For example, respondents are typically allowed to select only one employment status from a list of several options: employed part time, employed full time, full time homemaker, full time student, retired, or unemployed. From the social science perspective, this question is problematic because it ignores the fact that respondents may fall into more than one category and that women are more likely than men to experience overlap in these categories in their lifetime. A question like this might produce compromised data, particularly for respondents who are young, female, and/or low-income. Another example is marital status: is the marketplace behavior of a same-sex unmarried couple categorically different than that of a couple in a traditional marriage? Depending on the industry, the answer may vary, but with a few easy questionnaire tweaks, we can capture that information.

From segmentation to optimization, demographic information is often a critical part of the analyses that solve our clients’ business challenges. But our answers to their problems are only as good as the questions our surveys are asking. Revisiting demographic collection is an easy update that goes a long way towards generating higher quality data, making better evidence-based recommendations, and pushing businesses forward.  

Eliza Novick is an Associate Researcher at CMB. Her favorite Boston attraction is the New England Aquarium, particularly the Edge of the Sea exhibit where you can pick up clams and starfish. 

Want to know the latest on barriers and opportunities for the next generation of mobile payment providers?

DOWNLOAD THE FREE REPORT

Topics: data collection, research design