Ethnographic Reflections from Qual360 Europe 2018

 In Industry News

At Verto Analytics, we are dedicated to helping our customers understand today’s online consumers. We collect and provide detailed data on consumer engagement with their digital devices, across all the apps and services they engage with throughout the day. For our customers, this provides an opportunity to derive a plethora of consumer insights by understanding the digital behavior of users.

A significant number of our customers sit in the research and insights departments of their respective companies. As a Verto data analyst, I work with these researchers and consumer Insights specialists on a daily basis, helping them gain a better understanding of their target subjects. And in order to improve the products and services we can offer now and in the future, I need to learn more about our customers, their motivations, needs, and pain points.

With this in mind, I participated in the Qual360 Europe conference in Berlin earlier this month. And as a quantitative researcher attending a qualitative data conference, it turned out to be a splendid ethnographic observational study exercise.

The event addressed several big industry questions, such as how to best capture and present findings by researching targeted moments in a user’s daily life to understand customer journeys around targeted subjects. Most of my fellow conference participants hailed from either the Behavioral Economy or worked in the experience economy fields, heading up product design, customer experience, and analytics and insights teams at companies ranging from Coca Cola to Procter & Gamble to Barclays to Babbel.

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A visualization of some of the themes and topics discussed at Qual360 Europe

Together, we discussed some of the insights industry’s best practices, such as the Agile Manifesto, Co-Creation, Scenario Building, and NPS, which are designed to help analysts meet the “faster, cheaper, better” requirements of projects in today’s increasingly competitive market – all without losing the quality or integrity of data. Another key topic, which elicited passionate comments from around the room, compared the changing research and insights landscape to traditional market research; the field is moving towards embracing new terms, technology, and methodologies, such as digital ethnography/anthropology, BigQual, artificial intelligence and machine learning, social listening, VR-assisted studies, and emotions research.

These conversations resonated especially strongly for me: I was interested to note that many of Verto’s products and methodologies are aligned with some of the biggest trends and technologies mentioned during Qual360: for example, we already leverage big data and machine learning-assisted market research into our products and methodology. And our Audience Profiles product is a great example of a digital ethnography, one of the buzz phrases I heard throughout the conference.

During an interactive roundtable discussion, I had the opportunity to speak with other conference attendees about the distinction between and the value of qualitative and quantitative research along with the acknowledgement that the lines are blurring; an increasing number of researchers are coming to agreement that combining these methodologies produces the best insights. It’s an apt case for our own Smart Poll, which uses quantitative methods to narrow down a target group and go for in depth interviews of select users from that group<.

One of the early speakers at the conference noted that market research professionals are the “voice of the customer” for any business. The value provided by these research and insights departments and agencies are immense and business success relies heavily on it. That sentiment echoed with me throughout the conference. While I had initially been concerned that I would be the only “quant” analyst in a room of “qual” people at the event, the conference discussions and panels revealed that Insights Specialists are combining both methodologies to produce even richer and more interesting insights. Flying back to Helsinki, as I looked into the snow covered fields down below, I felt much closer and in sync with our customer base.

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