Many experts in qualitative research begin their careers in academia, science, or public policy. Katrina Noelle, founder and president of the qualitative market research consulting service KNow Research, came in via the entertainment industry. In addition to taking an unconventional path toward research, she’s driven to develop creative, innovative approaches to qualitative research consulting using qualitative data analysis methods.
In episode 60 of NVivo’s Between the Data podcast, host Dr. Stacy Penna sat down with Katrina to talk about the marketing research agency she founded and how it’s leveraging technology to develop new ways to reach customers and develop actionable insights for its clients. This article covers some of the highlights of their conversation – from focusing on inclusivity to integrating QDA research and AI tools into mixed-methods research.
More Than “Poking People with a Stick”
Katrina first became interested in qualitative research while working for an entertainment company. During a new channel launch, a colleague in the research department asked Katrina to take notes. Through this work, Katrina became intrigued by the process of capturing observations and data from customers.
Prior to that, Katrina noted that she hadn’t realized there was a way to do marketing that didn’t involve, as she put it, “poking people with a stick and telling them what they wanted and needed.” Instead, qualitative research was a way she could “pass the mic” to consumers and let them lead businesses toward better solutions.
KNow Research was born out of that excitement – the idea of using qualitative research methods to gain more authentic insight into what customers’ wants and needs. The female-owned, female-focused company based in San Francisco currently works mostly with clients in the financial and retail sectors.
Blending Traditional and Tech-Enhanced Qualitative Research
“The traditional methods are traditional because they work,” Katrina told Dr. Penna.
KNow Research offers clients tried and tested qualitative research services such as recruited focus groups, shop-alongs, and customer ethnographies. But Katrina is constantly looking for new avenues for connecting with customers.
“There are so many tools now,” Katrina noted, including mobile apps, message boards, and other digital interfaces.
KNow Research supports clients by using these tools, but also through innovative intercept methodologies — that is, stopping a customer just after they’ve interacted with a company or product and asking them for their opinions on the spot.
Booth Insights® is one example of this: it’s a pop-up interface that allows the KNow Research team to set up shop in physical or digital spaces. The Booth can be set up at a conference, in a customer’s store, in a temporary rented space, or on a website during the shopping or checkout process. With the Booth, the team gathers customer interviews with digital and video tools.
The team talks to 20 customers per day, then uses QDA methods to analyze the conversations for themes. Clients receive a daily video showing key excerpts of conversations with customers that allows them to gain quick insight into changes they can make, as well as a larger report of findings at the end of the pop-up.
“Booth Insights are just so human and so real,” says Katrina. “It's a great way of getting fresh people kind of in the moment, in a way that pre-recruited studies [can’t].”
Packaging Mixed-Methods Research for Informed Decision Making: The Scoot® Sprint
Katrina also looks for ways to combine qualitative research methodologies into research products that can be packaged for clients. A key example of this is the Scoot® Sprint.
Katrina worked with sister company Scoot Insights to develop the Scoot Sprint. It’s a one- to two-day process designed to facilitate immediate decision-making. It brings together client stakeholders and customers in a series of discussions and workshops managed by moderators.
The first part of the sprint may involve reviewing past research data and analyzing it or conducting new qualitative research with customers. The second part involves an interactive debriefing session with client stakeholders where they review learnings from the research and evaluate next steps. The result is a deep dive into qualitative research that leads to better-informed decisions.
Learn how to do mixed methods research with NVivo in our on-demand webinar.
Guiding Clients to Expand Their Horizons – and Audiences
One aspect that Katrina enjoys most is being able to interact with so many different businesses. She relishes “the nimbleness required to jump in and out of organizations with very different structures and politics and priorities” and help them find solutions to problems or new opportunities.
This ability to adapt helps Katrina tailor her services to each client — particularly with reporting which she aims to align with client learning styles. In the podcast, Dr. Penna was interested to learn that KNow Research doesn’t just present findings in deck form: deliverables can include podcasts, videos, presentations, or workshops.
KNow Research also aims to help clients look differently at their audiences. Katrina is co-host of The Research Inclusion Project podcast (TRIP) with Kristin Spraggins, president of The Band Consultancy, another marketing research firm. Their mission is to encourage businesses to look beyond typical groups for insights that can drive better decisions and messaging. Katrina and Spraggins understand that there will never be a perfectly inclusive society — instead, their goal is to help marketers understand “how you make your next project one tick more inclusive than the last one.”
This can be as simple as encouraging more geographic diversity in sampling customers.
“Convincing clients to go out of the main metro areas to the second- and third-tier cities was harder than it should [be],” Katrina told Penna.
Or it can be as ground-breaking as making it a habit to ask users how to better accommodate any disabilities they may have.
Investigating and Embracing AI
With her enthusiasm for using technology to enhance qualitative research methodologies, Katrina naturally has opinions about the potential role artificial intelligence (AI) will play in the field. “I am not in the fear camp on this,” she told Dr. Penna.
While Katrina acknowledges there are valid concerns in the industry about the potential for misuse of AI, she thinks it can be helpful with efforts to scale up and diversify samples for qualitative research. AI has the potential to increase the speed of day-to-day tasks like generating transcripts, summarizing reports, or conducting sentiment analysis in larger datasets when paired with qualitative data analysis software (QDA software) like NVivo.
Katrina also thinks that AI may have another effect — reinforcing how important good qualitative research is to making effective marketing and business decisions.
“I do think that qualitative [research] can answer a lot,” she said to Dr. Penna. “[It] can help stakeholders make the decision . . . not make the decision, but help them make the decision, which is a nuanced difference.”
Interested in hearing the full conversation? Episode 60 of Between the Data is available now. Learn more about this research by listening to the full podcast episode today.
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Unpacking and analyzing extensive amounts of qualitative data can be a time-consuming process. With QDA software like NVivo, you can leverage AI-powered autocoding to identify themes, employ powerful visualization tools for deeper insights, and conduct deeper analysis of your qualitative data. Explore how QDA software can improve your qualitative research by requesting a demo of NVivo today!