The points below are not only predictions for 2017 – they are shifts and groundswells that we are experiencing right now and will only accelerate over the next few years. Challenges are most welcome!
1. Deep dives
Mobile ethnography/qualitative research without participant deep dives, is simply incomplete research; giving you a small fraction of the understanding you could and should be getting. There is nothing remotely naturalistic about asking people to complete tasks or filtering their replies with your questions. Combining participant observations with a subset of your mobile research sample will get you so much closer to the truths.
In the moment means nothing if you haven’t captured in the emotion. And emotion isn’t something you can probe once the entry has arrived on your project dashboard. Emotion is that random comment, unprompted thought or, as we like to call it, noise, which adds so much texture and colour to participant outputs. Be sure to encourage noise in your mobile research projects.
3. Wild apples
If you think communities are the future, think again. They may well be the present but wild apples will prove to be far more tasty than ones you pick in a orchard. And we are rapidly moving, technologically, to a place where communities (let’s face it, they aren’t communities, just assembled, incentivised groups of strangers whose numbers have to be replenished each year) can be observed in their real life settings, at the point of purchase and decision making and in appropriate moods and modes.
Keep asking all you like, consumers will never give you answers. Only understanding. You have to come up with the answers. Interpretation of data, as a skill, art form or even systematic methodology, is rapidly going out of fashion. As interesting and entertaining as verbatim quotes might be, sprinkled all over a powerpoint deck, without interpretation and meaning added to them, they are nothing much at all. And when I use the word interpretation, I mean something that’s based on deep understanding.
Don’t take the helicopter view at your peril. Ignore the cultural backdrop against which events unfold or systems and codes form a framework and you are blowing in the wind. Tether your findings to something bigger than observations and replies to questions.
6. Levelling the playing field
Incentive-less research will replace incentivised research. The moderator participant playing field will level out to the extent that participants will gain as much if not more than moderators from taking part in qualitative studies.
Emancipating participants and partnering with them as spectators and pundits has already begun in the world of quantitative research. Watch as it slowly comes into it’s own in the word of qualitative research. And all because we are all far better at predicting the behaviour of others rather than our own.