The art of asking questions
In any and every study, elements of great research, creativity and innovation revolve around asking the right questions. Since the Fabric methodology is unique, below is a set of best practices for asking questions on the platform in order to reach the “unlock.”
Start broad, then get specific
We are big proponents of trying to understand consumers in the broadest possible context, including culturally. So beginning studies with a sense for how they think the culture is changing is a great way to anchor their later insights within a cultural context; so much consumer behavior is shaped by much greater forces than product features.
Ask specifically vague questions
It’s tempting to go straight at an issue or a problem. But often times, it’s best to understand where THEY will take the story. So, for example, if you ask whether they like cars – or not – you will understand whether they like cars. But if you ask them to explain their relationship with cars, you’re never sure where they will take that story. And understanding the broader context of their automotive relationship may be much more insightful than a specific like/dislike question.
Ask very pointed questions
Seemingly contrary to asking specifically vague questions is to flip the script and be VERY direct and pointed. Sometimes even revealing the real question at hand can help consumers provide highly pointed responses.
Video is the most emotional medium, so embracing what it captures best by provoking (without, of course, insulting) can be an effective tactic. Prompting them with statements, or published articles will allow them to react. For example, linking Millennials to an article about their perceived attitudes and behaviors and asking respondents to weigh in on whether they agree or disagree can provide deeper levels of understanding.
Use polarizing questions
Respondents are opinionated. Take advantage of their strong opinions by asking them what they love or what they hate, especially if an emotional response is what you’re looking for. For those who are less opinionated, forcing them to choose left/right or high/low – basically making them choose – helps clarify which side of the divide they are on.
The thought processes behind the decisions that people make are perhaps even more important than the decision themselves. Have the respondents explain their perspective and why they do things. Asking “why” seems perhaps too elemental sometimes, but by asking the obvious why question, it can help unearth new ways of understanding consumers (e.g. why do you run? Why do you shop?).
Get respondents into relevant space
The big advantage of using mobile video (and webcams) is that you can be in the respondent’s space. Have them bring you to the environment that makes the most sense for your mobile video survey. We have had respondents record from their kitchen, bathroom (for a shaving study), garage, pantry, bedroom (for a closet dive), den (for home entertainment studies), and more.
Don’t cram 5 questions into 1
Imagine we toss you a tennis ball. Easy enough to catch, right? But what if we toss you three? Not so easy. Stick to one question (or tennis ball). At Fabric, respondents have one minute to respond, and you have 200 characters to write your question. You don’t want respondents to spend the entire minute just listing off things or juggling their focus. A good stress test is to make sure you are only using one question mark – at most, two.
Tug at respondents’ emotions
The best insight comes when people talk about things that they really care about, whether it is something that they love or a secret pet peeve of theirs. Ask questions that aim at eliciting these emotions. To that end, for a pet food study, we had consumers introduce us to their pet in the first video; people projected voices, personalities and deep emotion in the first response. Similarly, for a study about Millennial women and cleaning, we had them hold up a photo of their mothers in the first reply, and it choked some of them up!
Use their language, not yours
Use language that the respondents are comfortable with, and would use if they were talking to a friend. For instance, a respondent might not know what an “asset” is.
Allow for open-ended questions
We’ve found that respondents usually have some additional thoughts at the end of the survey that haven’t been addressed by any questions. Giving them the freedom to share these thoughts with you can lead to even more novel insights.
Refine on the fly
Time permitting, what we like to do is have the first few participants respond to see how they interpret the questions. Questions can be amended as the study progresses, so sometimes even slight alterations to questions can be help drill down to a deeper level.
Put your respondents in hypothetical situations, use similes and metaphors, or ask a question that is completely “out there.” The more creative your question is, the more creative (and interesting) your responses will be.