Six Ways to Enrich Your Qualitative Research

Six Ways to Enrich Your Qualitative Research

iModerate Author

Mar 16, 2016

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The term “qualitative” often evokes the thought of a moderator leading a conversation with one or more participants, either online or in person, resulting in endless pages of transcripts. While these exchanges are valuable, qualitative can be so much more. Diversifying your qualitative tool belt comes with a great deal of advantages, from getting an intimate look at your audience, to zesting up your deliverables, to making research more fun for your participants.

What are some of the ways that we can be creative and enliven qualitative research? Here are our 6 tried-and-true favorites to supplement our one-on-one conversations. Keep in mind: they aren’t mutually exclusive – we often find that a combination yields great results.

6 ways to enrich your qualitative:

  1. 1) Pinterest: Ask consumers to build a Pinterest board around a central idea or question. Pinterest allows users to be creative, visual, and hands-on without actually having to create any of their own content if they don’t want to.
    • Best use cases: Getting consumers to visualize and employ blue-sky thinking to inspire innovation or design changes.
    • Pro tip: Give it a shot yourself prior to fielding, and ask one or two others to do the same. Do you need to simplify the questions? Ensure that you’re leaving room for creativity, otherwise you may get a fleet of homogenous boards in return.
  2. 2) Photo uploads: Consider the fact that nearly 2/3 of Americans own a smart phone. Combine that with our willingness to share, and it’s clear why consumers are so comfortable submitting photos as part of research exercises. Ask consumers to send pictures that they’ve taken of themselves, a product, a room, an experience, etc. This is very low-stakes for the consumer, but allows you to get a visual into their daily life. We’ve asked consumers to take everything from a picture of their clothing drawers to a selfie in their office, and have always enjoyed the snapshots we’ve received.
    • Best use cases: Could be anything: in-store shopping (product placement), selfies, rooms in a house, etc.
    • Pro tip: Keep in mind that we, as smartphone-wielding humans, aren’t generally easily embarrassed. Be creative with the photos that you ask for – consumers will happily take a selfie in the aisle with your product.
  3. 3) Video uploads: Videos are an outstanding way to get to know consumers on another level. You get the chance to truly watch them in action. Videos can be great to watch them complete a task or simply explain a concept.
    • Best use cases: Observing a process such as cleaning, cooking, building, etc. from start to finish, either with or without narration.
    • Pro tip: A little video goes a long way. Keep in mind that you’ll likely want to watch all of the video that you capture, so ask for only as much as you’re capable of watching and analyzing.
  4. 4) Journaling: This tactic might not feel groundbreaking, but it’s a surefire way of keeping in touch with participants over a period of time and collecting feedback at regular intervals. Journaling allows them to keep a detailed record of their experiences, thoughts, and perceptions in a reflective and introspective way, without the interaction of a moderator.
    • Best use cases: Observations from trying a new product, keeping track of opinions and experiences and how they change over time, collecting unbiased and unadulterated feedback initially to fuel a follow-up research initiative.
    • Pro tip: Don’t go overboard with the required amount of entries, or the participants may become fatigued. A general rule of thumb is no more than five per initiative. That said, if you can do it in three, do it in three!
  5. 5) Assignments: Ask your consumers to complete a task prior to your research initiative. That way, they’ll come in with an experience, whether it be cooking a new dish, trying a beauty routine, or living without one of their favorite products, to discuss.
    • Best use cases: When you want to tap into particular behaviors or routines, especially those that involve a product. Exposing customers to a new product and asking them to live without a well-loved product have been incredibly interesting exercises in the past.
    • Pro Tip: Be as direct as possible with your instructions, leaving little room for misinterpretation.
  6. 6) Exploratory questions: Finally, you can enliven your qualitative without adding any extra steps or technology. Simply allow yourself to step outside of the box and think creatively about the questions you’ll ask. Take yourself out of the research context and think about the questions that you’d want to ask to get to know a person better. We’ve found that questions like Could you tell me a bit about your inner circle? and How would your closest friends and family describe you? yield rich results that get to the heart of who a person is.
    • Best use cases: Any time that you want to get to know consumers on a more personal and emotional level, such as building personas.
    • Pro Tip: Crowdsource internally before setting these live. Creative questions take a bit of finessing; you may have to tweak the wording a few times to make sure that the answers you’re getting align with what you wanted.


Employing some of these tactics will yield a much more complete picture of your audience. Furthermore, the variety of feedback will lend itself to much more compelling deliverables, that are sure to pique interest from stakeholders in all corners of your organization. Finally, these methods are more engaging for your respondents. By being creative and thinking outside of the box in terms of what you’re asking them to do, you’re giving them license to do the same, which never disappoints.

iModerate Author

Our relationship with iModerate has enabled us to quickly and efficiently seek the voice of the consumer or customer, and incorporate it into our business decisions, allowing us to become smarter and faster to market. The team iModerate is, in essence, a virtual extension of the Abbott research team – from them, I know that when I pick up the phone and call, on the other end will be someone who understands my business, knows my target consumer, and will always deliver high quality results.

Kristen McLane, Manager, Shopper Insights & Category Development, Abbott Nutrition