Perception Mapping in F2F and Online Qualitative Research
A look back at the challenges of face to face research in comparison to new forms of online qualitative research.
While it feels like 100 years ago, the past is not so distant when I used perception mapping in focus groups that I have moderated. The objectives then are still relevant today to many organizations seeking a marketing advantage in understanding how consumers conceptualize the competitive landscape in a particular industry.
In this project, my main goals were to reveal how a particular brand was perceived amidst its competitors and where there may have been “white space” unoccupied by any existing brands which, if found, represented the site where a meaningful value proposition and distinctive positioning could be born.
It was definitely one of the more interesting studies I had done in a while, but that may be because I am partial to more foundational research work…the kind of study whose results can have ramifications to many areas such as customer experience, ad testing, and product development. It was also a phase of qualitative research meant to inform subsequent quantitative research that would follow, namely an attitudes and usage study whose data I would use for identifying patterns that emerged in a segmentation analysis.
I don’t recall the particular brands, or even to the cities where I traveled over the period of weeks that were allocated for the data collection period in this initial qual phase. However, what I do remember, distinctly, were the “arts & crafts” tasks that I had to perform each night for each group, the hand tallying that I had to do on logo placements, the piss-poor attempt I made at trying to be able to sort those data by gender and city, and generally what a gigantic pain it was to do this work in-person at each facility. Of course, at the time, I did not know any better – the only methodology that could be used for this was F2F. In fact, the thought of doing something other than F2F did not even cross our minds. So I plowed through it with some knuckle-scraping activities (several of which were never taught to me in grad school) in order to best serve my client and substantiate the relatively high cost of the study itself.
I recently finished up a study that involved, among other things, 6 separate perception mapping tasks in a qualitative study that was done online, using our own platform, BlogNogTM (http://www.blognogresearch.com). Sets of logos representing the client’s competitive landscape served as the test stimuli and were presented to study participants. These individuals were instructed to drag and drop the logos into the space provided which was comprised of 2 axes arranged perpendicularly with poles labeled as high or low on quality and price.
Needless to say, everything went smoothly. Participants understood exactly what was required of them in these exercises. The data were collected straight away. Afterwards, I was able to easily generate the aggregation of all data into a single perception map based on all participants’ responses, and then push a button and create separate maps for particular subgroups of interest. Bada boom bada bing! It was so easy, so clear, and so insightful. Within a few minutes I could create maps and paste them directly into my PowerPoint report that served as the main deliverable of the study phase.
Of course, I was also able to see each participant’s own perception map, and was able to read their explanations for their actions, thus drawing a line between their reasoning and their visual conceptualizations. Again, the online method made this such a piece of cake, especially compared to the “not so good ol’ days” when we had to use special office supplies that we had to schlep to each facility without fail, lest the project bomb.
While I do not recall the exact cost of the old study, I know that the recent online study we just completed was a fraction of the cost of the old one. Moreover, it only took us three weeks from the onset of the project until the delivery of the final report. The amount of data we collected, as well as the depth of disclosure of participants was much greater. All in all, less expensive, less time-consuming, more and better data, and a heck of a lot easier on everybody involved.