Market Research Trends: Using Online Qual for Customer Experience (CX) Studies and Longitudinal Research
Working with our brand and market research clients on hundreds of online qualitative market research studies over the past year, we have seen an increasing trend to use our insights platform for Customer Experience (CX) and other longitudinal studies. It makes sense. Brands are now more focused on understanding the journey of their consumers than ever before. They realize they must get beyond just the shopper experience to a more complete understanding of human experience to gain deeper insights into the decision making process as well as the human emotions and experiences that drive brand engagement. By creating and cultivating a large community of customer respondents you can strategically mine insights over longer periods of time (i.e. 3 months to a year or more), so you can truly build a relationship to get a deeper, more complete picture of their lives, feelings and behaviors rather than just a snapshot of a point in time.
Online Qual and Insight Technology platforms, like Aha!, are uniquely equipped to help market researchers and insight strategists illuminate the entire customer journey by leveraging diaries and journals, projective exercises, social forums, as well as in-the-moment mobile video and image opportunities. And with online qual you can be in multiple global markets simultaneously. While these types of studies are growing in popularity there are a few things you need to aware of to be successful.
Here are four key foundations of a long-term customer journey study that you need to consider:
Have a Clear Plan. Longitudinal CX studies need to have a plan. While you will have plenty of opportunities to do ad hoc activities, probes and exchanges with respondents, you must have an over-arching direction so you don’t stray from your strategic path. To start, you need to set a limited number of key objectives for your study. This should not be a committee-developed laundry list of everything everyone wants to accomplish. It should be a concise list of 3-5 very clearly stated (and agreed upon) goals that you want to address and understand. You need to be focused and stay on track. Again, the beauty of a longer term study is the ability to pivot in different directions as things evolve, but remember to stay true to your overall mission and consistently refer back your key objectives. Think of this as a long hike with a smart map allowing you to divert down different paths of interest while always remaining cognizant of your goal to reach a desired destination.
Understand the Investment. Long-term CX studies are expensive. Beyond the consulting and analytic costs, the recruiting and incentives required to keep customers passionately engaged is a significant investment. There are different methods to create these communities. You can contract with large scale community management companies, such as Qualtrics or Vision Critical, or you can build and manage your own custom panel. There are a lot of options available to manage cost, such as length of the journey, the number of customers actively engaged in the study and how much activity you require from each respondent. Net, you can shape the architecture of your CX study any way you want to fit your budget. More is not always better and these studies are not exclusive to Fortune 500 companies. It simply comes down to having the right budget to get the job done right.
Make it a Human. Respondents need to be engaged on a human level to continue on through the journey, otherwise they disengage and you’ll lose respondents which can be costly to backfill. Make no mistake… you will have attrition and you must over-populate your community to account for the loss. Not only will a human connection help retain your respondents it will also make them feel more inspired and connected to the cause. You should build this relationship with regular communication – what’s coming next and other updates – and a human touch, to foster a rapport that helps retention, response rates and quality of submissions. Thoughtful 1:1 probes with a personal touch also go a long way in creating a human bond – they know someone is reading their contributions, values them and wants to know more; this is particularly critical in the beginning of any study. The result is a more complete and energized study with higher retention rates delivering a more revealing treasure trove of insights.
Manage the Data Volume. This is dependent on point #1 (Have a Clear Plan) and understanding that a longitudinal study will generate a mountain of unstructured data. Think hard about your C-Suite audience and what they will expect to see when you deliver your analysis, findings and recommendations. A few of the keys to managing the data load are to eliminate any redundant activities or questions, make sure all activities are on strategy, and do not overload your respondents (or you) with too many activities. You may also want to use a few quant questions (rating scales, closed-ends) where applicable to provide some analytic sorting ability, making your data wrangling a little easier. And finally, keep up with the analysis as best you can as data comes in; this will help reduce the report writing stress and ensures that your respondent probes are timely.
If you want to talk about CX studies, or simply chat about online qual projects you may be considering, feel free to reach out.