Quantitative research data gives us the facts; qualitative builds the wisdom to use those facts. Nearly eight years ago Kirk Ward, VP of Consumer Information at Hershey Foods, and I sat at the local bar over an end-of-day beer.
Beer One – We saw a world where qualitative “experiential knowledge” was becoming increasingly scarce and quantitative data was becoming increasingly available. The old guard is dead! Long live POS, Data Mining, Online Surveys, etc…! We asked ourselves, “What is our job in this new world?” We decided it was to, “Help these new managers by building a deep consumer connection and understanding through qualitative research experiences.” Then we considered, “Yes, BUT… it is just too expensive in both time and money. A newly minted brand manager doing e-mail while watching a focus group helps, but what about the other 99 people who need to touch the consumer?”
Beer Two – So we brainstormed, “How could we do for qualitative research, what Stat Packs did for quantitative research? What if we took a focus group, divided it into 100 segments, coded each one and then did quantitative data mining on the qualitative data with easy access back to the video. Could we marry qualitative and quantitative? Could we put the Voice of the Customer at every desk? Could we make qualitative data as easy to use as quantitative?” (And yes, we wrote this beginning idea out on a napkin.)
Beer Three (maybe it was a soda) – it seemed simple enough and Kirk agreed to moderate a test focus group.
After years of development and experimentation, and frankly waiting for the internet to grow up a bit, we now have LIFEbytes Online. Every second of customer video is recorded, transcribed and coded. A “Google-like” search is easy when research is up on a secure company site. In twenty minutes anyone can knit together a montage of video clips and drop them into their own PowerPoint. For the first time we can do simple qualitative data mining across studies, or create whole new studies based on previously unconnected research projects. We are no longer dependant on just a moderator’s report to deliver insight to the other 99 employees who could not get out into the field to do the ethnography. And what about that closet full of absolutely wonderful qualitative video we are going to get back to someday? Today is someday. In the words of Ben Bluml, the VP of Research for the American Pharmacists Association Foundation, “LIFEbytes Online brings us the unvarnished truth.”