Frankly, we’re not convinced. I’ve seen a bunch of headlines like New Technology Achieves The Same Results As Focus Groups In A Fraction Of The Time And Cost, and have even had a comment left on the Dimensional Research blog from a vendor who offers similar solutions.
This strikes us as so much nonsense. It’s not that these couldn’t be great products – we’re quite sure that these tools can be very useful, and give valuable insights when used to answer the right types of questions. Our beef is the claim that they can produce the same results as focus groups. To assert that any tool can replace qualitative research seems to demonstrate a clear naiveté about the power of having a well-moderated conversation. One of the things we’re quite sure these tools cannot do is ask a really great follow-up question.
Qualitative research – whether focus groups or in-depth interviews – is not about listening to a group chatter about whatever they want, or giving them a topic then letting them have at it. It’s about really listening to participants and asking the question that gets them thinking. Often it’s about guiding the conversation to get at those insights that are just below the surface. The best researchers have a knack for understanding what is NOT being said and finding out why.
What do you think? Have we missed the point of these new tools? As usual, I’ll point out that our business is technology market research – we work with vendors who sell to corporate IT, which is primarily B2B. Perhaps these tools offer more value in consumer research. Either way, we welcome insights from anyone who has gotten good results from a solution like this. If I’m an old fuddy-duddy (and perhaps my use of the phrase fuddy-duddy is proof that I am one), go ahead and tell me.
Or possibly the problem is that these tool providers have a messaging problem? I’m assuming they have NO plans to sell their product through traditional market research providers if their press releases are so dismissive of the work that we do. Perhaps they needed to do some qualitative research on their messaging with some of us? 😉