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[GRIT COMMENTARY] Evolving with the Times: Taking Qualitative Research into the Modern Age

2017 Q1-Q2 GRIT Report commentary by Zach Simmons, Founder of, sharing his thoughts on the current state of the market research industry.

We’re living in an on-demand world. With the “Uberization” of technology, we have all grown used to instant gratification. While traditional methods of conducting market research at focus group facilities have worked well in the past, they can’t keep up with brands’ demands for agile market research today. When brands value innovation, software providers are encouraged to create technologies that enable brands to build and market better products.

What does a qualitative market research solution look like in the modern age? In order for brands to conduct agile market research and extract insights faster, qualitative solutions in the modern age have to be online, automated, and on-demand.

By harnessing the power of modern technologies, brands are now able to can gather powerful insights faster, at lower costs, through a flexible and iterative process. Leveraging ubiquitous technologies, like Internet browsers, webcams, insight communities, audio/video streaming, VoIP, and natural language processing, brands can still form human connections and gather rich insights, but with less friction in the research process.

In order to reduce the learning curve and increase adoption, new solutions have to be driven by simplicity. By automating parts of the research process, we can remove a lot of the friction that has made conducting research so complicated, frustrating, and inefficient to execute in the past. According to the GRIT Survey, about 10-30% of research buyers/supplies have already adopted automation in quant, with roughly the same percentage of brands exploring it as a possibility for the future. Many parts of the qualitative process can be automated, including: recruiting/screening, tech checks, ensuring participant attendance, incentives, among others. Because automation speeds up the research process, it can enable qualitative solutions and gathering insights to become on-demand. Traditionally, qualitative projects have taken a long time to execute, leading many to forego it altogether. This should be startling for us as an industry.

At, we’re fortunate that our customers encourage and challenge us to be innovative. From the very beginning, Unilever has been a key partner in helping us push the market research industry forward. Working closely with Unilever, we understand their desire to connect with their consumers globally. Increasingly, marketing and insights teams, at Unilever and at many of the other top 25 brands named in the GRIT Survey, are launching empathy-building “consumer connection” programs. With the speed of modern technologies, these connections can happen on-demand and are able to humanize the consumer in a way that is missing from quantitative market research.

Consumer-centricity is a core value at Unilever and, as a multinational organization, understanding a global consumer base can be a challenge. In one such example, Unilever wished to gain a deeper understanding of consumers across Africa. Because of their openness to using innovative approaches, they were able to connect with consumers who would have otherwise been inaccessible to them through real-time conversations online. Furthermore, by connecting online and eliminating the need for travel, they were able to reduce costs and time spent by 50%, while simultaneously reducing their environmental impact.

Online, automated, on-demand solutions will drive qualitative market research into the modern age. When brands, like Unilever, are open to experimentation, software providers are able to drive innovation by developing technologies that allow them to build better products, create successful marketing campaigns, and have the voice of the consumer at their fingertips. Together, we have a responsibility to bring market research into the modern age.

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