Matt Warta of GutCheck and Katy Thomas, PhD, of (R)evolution presented at TMRE 2011. Matt says that we are in the “early innings” of online qualitative research. The intersection of Internet adoption and affordable technology leads to incredible innovation:

  • In 2000, there were 250 million Internet users worldwide and in 2011 there are now over 2+ billion Internet users.
  • Software development has evolved to open-source solutions such as Java, Linux and MySQL. “When I started my first company,” Matt said, “our first server cost $250K. In 2011, you can buy a more powerful server for $2.5K. It is much more affordable today to start a company and innovate.”

Many long-term changes are affecting qualitative research. Social networking is commonplace: In 2004, Facebook had a million active users, where today there are 750 million. Video is becoming ubiquitous: 79% of 160 million laptops will ship with a webcam in 2011; with 80B video minutes a year on Skype compared to an estimated 1.2B minutes spent in focus groups. Mobility too: 82 million U.S. smart phone users this year, rising to 150 million next year.

Technology has enabled changes in qualitative research: only 15% of qualitative work is online now, compared to 42% of quantitative work being online. When will this gap be closed and how?

GutCheck’s focus is on solving qualitative recruitment, offering time-savings, cost-savings and flexibility through automation. “We can recruit participants in 4 minutes.”

Katy Thomas of (R)evolution wanted to create an innovation pipeline for their client’s liquid dish soap category. Concepts had a name, lead claim, bottle shape, package label, color of the liquid and two other attributes. (R)evolution was developing the concepts; in the past, the company did fieldwork in multiple cities and in-store, developed concepts, took the refined concepts out to repeat fieldwork, then revamped the concepts one last time and took them to BASES testing.  Using GutCheck, (R)evolution instead iterated concepts throughout the development process. The key questions asked of consumers:

  • Does the insight resonate? Does it feel like something you experience?
  • Are the benefits compelling? Is it believable?
  • What language do you like or dislike? 

For instance, (R)evolution found that consumers didn’t want to talk about the soap fighting bacteria on the dishes, for instance, as that was too gross. “We then workshopped the concept and submitted it back to qualitative research,” Katy said, “yielding results in a couple days to each concept.”

Three fragrance houses provided 30 fragrances. A packaging firm and a graphic designer iterated on packaging designs. “We did 48 GutCheck studies in 48 hours to evaluate these,” Katy said. “For the fragrance work, given that people purchase at shelf without sensing the fragrance, we tested the descriptions of the fragrances online, finding out which fragrances imply clean in the kitchen vs. clean in other rooms vs. body clean.” (R)evolution was able to do the 48 studies for just $2,000 with GutCheck. The qualitative research deliverables had wide use with the packaging firm, the fragrance firms and the client’s internal research department. All 10 concepts that (R)evolution produced were in the top range for purchase intent.

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.