How to use In-Depth Interviews to Discover Consumer Preference
by Chris Clegg
Interviews are important in the data gathering process because everyone sees the world differently. Yet, some common threads bind us together into distinct groups. These groups can be consumer segments. Each group contains people with a common worldview that, when understood through interviews, can be used to determine what drives our decisions and predict our future behavior. Analysts identify, measure, and model consumer categories and their predictive power with scientific rigor.
Scientific rigor starts with an hypothesis.
We all have an opinion about how the world works for one group or another. That’s not enough. We need something to test and verify. We can use our own experience or a time-tested hypothesis, but at other times we simply don’t know.
What to do when we know that we don’t know.
When we know there are things we don’t know, we need a discovery process. We call this process, “Qualitative Research Methods.” In-depth interviews are an example of a qualitative research approach.
The in-depth research interview process begins with screening and recruiting. Think about the groups you want to understand and how you can clearly define them.
- Are they over or under a particular age?
- Do they live in a particular region?
- Do their career histories classify them into meaningful groups?
Define criteria in a way that will provide actionable insights.
- Are you trying to pinpoint a higher-performing media buy?
- Should you focus your tour on a specific geographic region?
Define your screening criteria in a way that the results will provide clear direction for effective action.
How to know what we didn’t know.
The in-depth interview is a structured conversation with individuals or groups of individuals (eight to twelve per group is fine) to learn how they consider, relate to, and engage with the subject of interest.
- How has their perception changed from the time they first engaged?
- How has their perception changed over the span of their experience?
- Why do they believe their perception changed?
Each of these contributes to understanding their preferences and the underlying reasons for them.
When we know what we didn’t know.
Following the qualitative research, you have a bunch of loosely-organized information that describes the perspectives and attitudes of each group. Organize this information for validation and its comparative importance relative to desired outcomes. The validation process is accomplished through “Quantitative Research Methods.” We’ll discuss those in a future post.
Not sure where to go from here? Contact us!
If you have been considering the role in-depth interviews should play in your marketing communications, please connect with us. We’d be happy to talk to you about the benefits of discovering consumer preferences with in-depth interviews.