Since we know autumn is a key time for campaign and marketing strategy, we are publishing a 3-part series of blogs about considerations for being ‘Digital from Start to Finish’ with market research so that the research is better designed to support marketing strategy development. This series started with Part 1: Integrated digital strategy and continues with Part 2:

Making the most of digital research tools

In 2011, a patient named Emma* who was suffering from Scleroderma (a rare, autoimmune disorder, affecting skin and internal organs) took part in an HRW study. Sitting in the interview room, she smiled and was relaxed and talked about how, other than a bit of unsightly skin, she didn’t feel her condition really affected her everyday life, that there was nothing she couldn’t do. But unlike most interviews, this one was different; you see, Emma had been wearing a small digital camera on her shirt for a week and this camera had captured her making significant adjustments to her movements to account for and avoid the distress caused by her disease. And when we showed these outputs to her, she got a bit emotional and said she hadn’t realised how much she was still compensating.

Digital technology is pervasive in everyday life and new innovations are constantly being revealed- It has become a real buzzword in market research. And indeed, digital methods opened a world of possibilities that all researchers have enjoyed for so many years that it seems impossible to imagine being without them; online surveys, remote streaming of in-person interviews, and online communities.

But this rapid proliferation has also turned up a lot of new technological approaches (designed for research or designed as consumer technology); each calling itself the next big thing. At HRW, we’re passionate about unearthing new approaches that can augment our toolbox but sorting through the new digital approaches requires real through validation and hands-on experience with our specific healthcare audience of patients, physicians and payers. We’re a science-based business, so what better way to assess it than the scientific method?! We never take claims at face value, and instead formulate hypotheses and conduct self-funded studies to really put the technology through its paces and see whether it delivers on its promises under our rigorous scrutiny.

Through our history of taking this approach we have had the chance to experiment with a lot of exciting technology, including; gamified online or mobile approaches, life logging cameras, social media analytics, smart watches, facial coding, implicit association tests, and heads up displays (like Google Glass).

From our experience we have learned a lot of things. These methods each offer different benefits and limitations, and because we’ve invested in these pilot studies, we can better advise on which method works best to address different types of objectives and recommend how to best apply it to get the most out of the research. But overall, these digital methods as a group also offer robust benefits that mean we can be even more confident in the value of the insights we collect, namely:

1. Overcome Hawthorne effect- by choosing methods that are already an integrated part of participant’s lives (e.g. Mobile and increasingly, smartwatches) or methods that don’t rely on self-reporting (like life logging cameras or heads up displays) we can be even more confident that our research isn’t drawing attention to or affecting the behaviours we’re trying to observe

2. Getting below the surface – arguably the greatest value of digital approaches is that they can get deeper emotional insights through capturing feedback implicitly, quickly, and in the moment. This gives us another lens to look at the way participants think and feel besides what they tell us on reflection and in direct questioning. And best of all, the proliferation of digital technology is making collecting these data more accurate, more accessible, and more cost effective.

3. Passive and biometric data – a happy side effect of many of these methods is that they are capable of capturing many different types of data, and often are capturing data points passively, like GPS location, galvanic skin response, and heart rate, which means that we can include an analysis of these additional data points and triangulate how these points add value.

Digital media and digital tools are an ever-increasing part of life for us and our customers, and will continue to develop and become integrated, and the more this happens the more there will be opportunities to utilise them for research.

For more information, get in touch and stay tuned for part 3: digital outputs.

*Names have been changed

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