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The days of practicing a single method of inquiry (either qualitative or quantitative) or one methodology (e.g., concept testing, ethnography) are long over. Researchers must be both creative in solving client problems and versant in as wide as possible a set of tools and techniques to deliver data-driven and human-centric results that get clients close to what drives growth: their customers.
For an experienced researcher, there are two fundamental components of insights generation: 1) crafting a solutions-oriented approach tailored to—and driven by—the client’s objectives, and 2) leveraging every possible tool and technique to fulfill those objectives.
The natural and valuable foundation of this approach is the combining of multiple methodologies to get clients closer to their customers while providing a big-picture view of growth.
Just like people rely on a mix of right and left brain activity in order to navigate their worlds, marrying insights from both ends of the analytics spectrum will inform a more holistic growth strategy for businesses.
Primary + Secondary Research
Why reinvent the wheel? Researchers are already generating intellectual property of all kinds. The strategic use of existing research studies is a great way to gain a better understanding while identifying the gaps in knowledge that will require new, primary research to fill.
Qualitative + Quantitative Data
The voice of the customer has immense value, and working it into research methodologies grounds the insights in the perspectives of actual people. There is no substitute for hearing their experiences in their own words, and qualitative research is your best source for this first-hand, human data.
Just as valuable are the broader learnings to be gained from quantitative research, that can be applied to detect and proactively address market shifts. The projectable and precise numeric data gathered from intelligently conducted quantitative studies generates big-picture insights from significantly larger groups of customers. We can begin to understand macro trends and differences between customer segments behaviorally, attitudinally, demographically, etc.
A mixed qual-and-quant approach provides the best of both worlds, delivering both granular and trend-level insights into customer behavior.
Digital + Analog Insights
Technology, when leveraged correctly, can bring people closer to a brand, and offer deeper insights on your business. As digital behavior becomes synonymous with customer behavior, it is easier and easier to supplement primary research with data from digital sources. The ubiquitous use of search and social channels further deepens and broadens analysts’ understanding of customer behaviors.
However, despite all of the varied ways to blend, gather, and analyze information, the key challenge for practitioners is distilling all this information in a manner that will best lead to insights.
The answer is to employ a mix of left and right brain thinking—using human intelligence to interpret or supplement different types of data and information.
The solutions generated from varied methodologies should logically be grounded in the client’s objectives: Are those objectives exploratory—is the client trying to learn something new about their audience? Or are they evaluative—is the client attempting to identify an alternative approach that resonates most with customers? They could be both evaluative and diagnostic, seeking to not only identify the strongest alternative, but to get input on how to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses. Understanding the objectives in these terms will help guide the process of crafting the best solution.
Equally important to client understanding is the art of knowing the unique value of all the varied methodologies at your disposal. Knowing which methods are most effective allows you to target the information needed to unlock the human, brand, and marketplace insights that help a client flourish.
Combining methodologies generates insights that are holistic, customer-centric, and ultimately actionable. This unique approach—supported by a broad set of skills, experience, and creativity—generates the most powerful potential to keep companies ahead of change, and growing into the future.