The Power of the Platform – getting closer to your clients

This post is from Dr. Nick Anderson, a psychologist at Dr-Groks, who has spent his career helping brands all over the world to understand the complexity and apparent irrationality of their consumers and apply sound psychological principles to create impactful product design and communications.



Qualitative research is about relationships.

In our research-lives the relationships we have with consumers and end-users is central to getting our jobs done. The better we can know them, and get them to share their lives, behaviours, and beliefs with us – the more astute our insights become and the better our work is as a result.

Lots has been written already about how online platforms can help us connect with our consumers, but there has been relatively little mentioned about how a well run platform like Recollective helps with client relationships too.

For me, the relationship I have with my client-partner is just as important as the ones I have with my consumers. The more honest and authentic this relationship is, the more we feel like partners, and the more focused (and fun) the work is.

Here are 3 ways an online platform is a great client-friendly approach to research.

1. There’s a role for every kind of partner

I have clients who have decades of research experience themselves – they want to be fully involved in research design and execution; I have clients who are relatively inexperienced, but want to take every opportunity to learn; I have clients who literally know nothing about the research process but know they have important questions they need answered.

The tangibility of an online platform facilitates all three types of relationships.

  • With experienced clients we play together with the tools available, thinking up new applications and ways of stacking method together to get us to new places.
  • For the learners, the platforms simple building blocks helps them understand how a study comes together, and how multi-method research works. We can run through a study in bite-size chunks that they can fully engage in and have input on.
  • Clients without a research background, can run through an entire study pre-launch in the role as consumer, and can give feedback on method and structure from their own unique perspective.

Everybody gets to feel completely involved in the full research process, and an add as much or as little as they want.

2. Everybody is invited

There is almost always an extended team of people with a vested interest in the kinds of product research I do (a lot of prototype and communications development for big global clients), and, while my key client is usually someone from an internal insights team, behind them there is a project team full of researchers, developers, designers, lawyers, marketers, packaging engineers who care deeply about what is happening in the research.

With more traditional qualitative research they might expect to get an invite to an ethnography and stand awkwardly in the background, not really sure what to do, or sit in a darkened room behind a 1-way mirror to observe focus groups, and end up checking e-mails and eating candy… but they never truly feel part of the research.

When I run a platform I have a meeting with the whole project team (or whoever wants to come) and take them through what the consumer will be doing online during the study. It is familiar and it tells a research story much more clearly than a 1-dimensional discussion guide. They get to ask questions – “what if…?”… “could we…?”, and the research is always stronger after these meetings.

They are then all given access as observers to the platform and can log in on their own terms. No eyes-rolling at the thought of an entire day spent in a backroom somewhere off-site, no sighs of frustration at the thought of the awkward in-home that makes them feel like a third wheel; instead I have a roomful of people thinking about how their commute home suddenly just got much more interesting.

3. It encourages healthy behaviors

I love my clients. When I get together with other agency friends and they tell me about the latest nightmare they’ve had with a client, I genuinely have no stories to tell. They find it very annoying.

However, there are a couple of behaviours that threaten to derail research from time to time that I could live without, and the platform is great at stopping them in their tracks.

Getting ear-jacked
Someone (probably someone very senior with a very clear point of view) jumps into the backroom while you’re running groups, hears… well… exactly what they want to hear and jumps back out, convinced that they have witnessed definitive support for their idea or point of view.

On the platform however everything is out in the open. If someone is selectively picking up the bits that support their own point of view it’s easy to direct them to other information that puts it in context, or refutes it, or gives you the opportunity to post a discussion on it to dig deeper. Whatever happens, it opens up questions that invite consideration and buys you all the time to do a full analysis before reporting back the real results.

Paralyzed by quant-creep
One of the biggest challenges I have with more “traditional” clients is a misunderstanding of what qualitative research is and how it should be run. They like a fixed discussion-guide, they get nervous if you veer away from it. They worry about “the n”, they want consumers to give things “marks out of 10” or “vote for the best”.

Great qualitative research is organic. It grows in the moment, we change what we do as we learn. It is not a static discussion guide – or a 2 minute conversation in a dark backroom 10 minutes before the end of a group – “can you just ask the lady on the end if she really really likes it?”. It’s about in-the-moment analysis, the freedom to change the whole set-up if that’s what’s needed; and, on the platform the organic nature of what we’re doing is a much easier narrative to follow for the uninitiated.

The surprise ending
Sometimes, a client will have a really strong point of view which they might keep to themselves because they “…didn’t want to influence the outcome”, or are unsure of its validity, or when to bring it up. This can be the kiss of death to a project when you find out at the end that a really promising route forward wasn’t followed up because it was assumed to be less important than other things that were going on.

The magic of the online backroom is that it’s open 24-7. Anybody can say anything at any time. They can send a task to you “just follow up on this thing that someone said”, or ask a question. All your clients can chat with each other or even send you a private message, meaning that the likelihood of that hidden gem of a point of view being shared at some time (actually, the right time) during fieldwork increases exponentially.

All aboard the research train
People care about the research you’re doing. They want to know what’s going on with it and that things are progressing well. Some clients like regular e-mail updates, some randomly phone you to chat through the latest findings, but many of the team members who are invested in the outcome are excluded from the consumer research. As one designer said to me recently – “usually I create the prototype and pack it up and then get called to a meeting a couple of months later to be told by someone I don’t know what consumers thought of it… but… with this I was in for the whole journey. It was really exciting!”

The platform gives autonomy to everybody to engage as they like. It not only excites and inspires them; it helps them do a better job. They get to watch and re-watch usage video, they get to ask questions pertinent to them and engage in the richness of the conversation that their creations generate. They get to feel the emotions that their work generates and they refocus on what’s important – the people they are working for in the first place: their consumers.

So we come full circle, I get closer to my consumers, I get closer to my clients, my clients get closer to their consumer, and the research grows and becomes better and better.

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Research on Research at IIeX

As always, IIeX was a great experience for the entire Recollective team and for me, personally.  We made some great connections, learned a lot and participated in collaborative problem solving.

Part of the experience for us was hosting a roundtable with people who participate in marketing research studies. We did this to further our ongoing conversation about what our industry is like for them. Our goal is to create a more open dialogue between our side of the industry and theirs; the hope being that we can work towards some foundational shifts in our thinking and find some solutions to our shared problems with quality and trust.

First, as a reminder, this wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of our industry. I’d like to give a personal thank you to:

While Jessica Broome and I conceptualized and brought this to life we never would have been able to do this without help…  lots and lots of help!

To bring you up to speed – we first conducted an online community among people who participated in multiple kinds of research. To read the initial blog posting about those findings, please follow this link.

Next, we ran a 1,500 person quant study to further explore and validate what we learned in Phase 1, but also to explore a few theories we came up with. Our thinking was that we might want to be considering or profiling things like creativity levels, empathy levels and learning styles of the participants as we are developing our questionnaires and think through how we recruit for different kinds of methodologies. We were fortunate enough to be able to present these findings at IIeX. If you missed our workshop, but would like to see the presentation you can read through our findings here.

The roundtable discussion, with actual research participants, proved to be as fruitful as the first two phases.  We had six participants recruited through a variety of sources and incentivized by Tango Card. Each of the participants was, again, recruited to have participated in multiple kinds of research. We learned so much from them, but there are definitely themes that have emerged across these three phases.

Some of them are:

  • They are all what we consider to be professional respondents. There is definite cause and effect going on, though. They do not feel informed or respected by the way we screen or the information we provide them around how we select them.
  • The screening takes up too much of their time – so, they feel misled and therefore they try to ‘game’ the system.
  • Additionally, they often feel in the dark about why we ask what we do, so they try to give us the answers they think we want. This creates an environment where, at the point of screening, they fudge…  not lie, but ‘fudge’.  Sometimes, though, this is because they can’t come up with accurate answers to the ‘impossible’ questions we ask.

It’s my fundamental belief that we, as an industry, already know this and just don’t know what to do about it.  So, I throw out a few thoughts and hopefully a foundation for some solutions..

If we can’t beat them, join them

  • Instead of trying to trick them through complicated and impossible to answer screening questions, can we be more transparent about what we are looking for upfront?
  • We know they don’t like to participate in exercises where they feel like they don’t have a lot to add, so if we told them what we need and why (as much as we can), maybe they wouldn’t feel like screening was a chess match and it was more of a conversation. We could, potentially, also avoid scenarios where they think we want an expert on a topic so they educate themselves before the research to be helpful, when we actually wanted a novice.
  • It’s also obvious that these aren’t inherently manipulative or dishonest people, they want to help – so let’s tell them how they can in a straightforward fashion.
  • While there are few things more important to them than the monetary incentives, there are some things that are equally as important – they love seeing the results, it doesn’t have to be the final results, but just enough to even know where they sit in the group or in the survey. We definitely could be doing more of this.
  • We need to talk to them more – about us; who we are, why we need them, why the truth is important…  we can do this in an automated fashion – embedding video into screeners or surveys. Let’s entertain them and help them understand us.
  • Ultimately – it comes down to respect, transparency and cooperation. These things are the foundation for all good relationships.  This is no different.

Jessica Broome will have more on this and we’ve got Phase 4, 5 and 6 in the hopper. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you about what you’d like to learn, so please reach out and let’s further the conversation.

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Symbiotic Trends at IIeX 2016

iiex-featured-image-largeA couple of weeks ago we were basking in the sunshine and heat of Atlanta, attending the Insight Innovation Exchange (IIeX) conference. Each year provides a fantastic opportunity to not only meet new and existing customers, but to also soak up some great presentations by speakers from North America.

This year three themes struck me as particularly prominent:

  1. Visceral visualization – Virtual environments and more robust media in general
  2. Interrogating respondent’s implicit motivations and feelings
  3. Automation of analysis

Continue reading

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Innovation In A Box: Recollective Case Study

We’re delighted to have Brent Schmidt, CEO of Strategic Fuel, contribute to our blog this month and share his case study of their very first Recollective-based project.

Clients: Juice Inc. and Strategic Fuel

Juice Inc:
Is a corporate training company that believes energized and engaged employees fuel great customer experiences and better business results. That’s why the organization places a focus on ideas, skills and tools people can put to use immediately.

Strategic Fuel:
Driven by the challenge of bringing leaders, teams and customers onto the same page, Strategic Fuel takes a creative and collaborative approach to craft an insight-driven shared focus and direction for organizations and teams. Juice Inc. is a client of Strategic Fuel.

There were a few different challenges in play. Continue reading

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Research Community: Build Meaningful Interactions with Younger Audiences

For interesting results, mix teenagers with a dash of alcohol in an online research community, garnish with lime (or the branding of your choice).

Recently, the team here at Recollective supported that kind of cocktail community and it highlighted several key advantages of communities and online qual in general. Namely:

  1. The Safety of a Virtual Environment
  2. The Value of Familiar Surroundings
  3. Respondent Attention Retention

The community ran over 2 weeks with 20 participants. It aimed to establish a comprehensive understanding of recently of-age participants’ relationships with various liquors and how these associations influence their in-store decision making.

Though these advantages were particularly evident given the unique variables at play in this study, these benefits can be found and exploited in a wide variety of industries and with a broad set of research objectives, regardless of the community’s size and scope. Continue reading

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Recollective Spring 2016 Update

Just in time for our appearance at IIeX 2016 in Atlanta, we’re introducing a major platform update for Recollective. The release starting rolling out on June 9th and will be available to all customers by early next week. We hope you enjoy it!

Major New Features

Advanced People Filtering

The process of searching for people (i.e. filtering panelists in Site Administration or selecting participants inside a study) has received a major update. Basic Filters have been improved and an Advanced Filters tab now appears.


The new Advanced Filters let you intuitively build up a set of filtering criteria. You can filter on any built-in field (like “First Name” or “Last Visit”) AND you can filter on any custom panelist profile field. Since every screening question in a study is also a panelist field, you can now easily find people based on their screening responses. You no longer have to connect specific choices to basic segments.

Attribute Selection

Continue reading

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The Recollective Team is Expanding!

What a month May was! We not only helped customers build a record number of new studies on Recollective, but it’s with huge delight that we welcome Kerry Hecht to Ramius, joining in a brand new position as Director of Research Services.

As many of you know, our company focus has been primarily on research software with (I like to think) some superb complementary services from our team of Implementation Consultants. Those supporting services have been limited to helping clients understand how to best use Recollective, prepare for launch and in some cases, to program the studies.

As we continue growing though, it’s become very clear there is demand to help researchers do even more with Recollective. So drawing on Kerry’s vast experience in the field of online research and services, we plan to implement several new service packages that customers can use to complement their own capabilities. Continue reading

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Recollective March 2016 Update

We recently released a new software update to Recollective with many new features and improvements (along with a variety of solved defects). Here’s what we’ve been up to:


New Self-Help Guide

  • The missing Recollective manual is here! Get help quickly with a new Self-Help Guide embedded directly within Recollective.
  • A new help icon now appears in the lower right corner of all pages to Analysts and Moderators (it will not appear to Clients or Participants).


  • The guide includes rapid keyword searching to help you find relevant articles.
  • Dozens of help articles exist already but we’ll be continuously expanding it.
  • The guide appears alongside our existing support system, a new feature request form and a live list of recent updates from our blog.

Continue reading

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My New Favourite Question

Not long ago I found myself in the midst of what was disguised as a quick online survey but proved to be a significant investment of my time. I opted in because I wanted to contribute; I opted out because I didn’t want to contribute that much.

Striking the right balance between workload and incentive is difficult.  When I’m working with a team that’s new to research communities I can, understandably, expect to hear at least one question dealing with this dilemma:

“How many questions should/can I ask in a day?”
“How much time can I expect participants to spend contributing to the community on a given day?”
“Is X enough incentive for Y time spent?”

I can provide some broad guidelines based on my exposure to other communities but I always conclude with a confident, “it depends.” The answers to these questions depend on a number of variables: demographics, subject matter, incentive offered etc. Continue reading

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New Feature: Study Home Page

In the latest release of Recollective, every study has gained the ability to display a highly customized home page to engage participants (and clients) with rich multimedia content. On this new Home tab, you can add multiple types of Cards and those cards can be easily updated, resized, repositioned and re-styled as needed.


A study home page might be used to welcome participants (with text, photo or video) but it can also be used to introduce moderators, feature participant responses, show off concepts, graphically link to important discussions and more. Although some moderators might be tempted to treat it like a static greeting, innovative researchers will treat it as an editorial space for the study. Ideally, the home page of a study delivers relevant news and interesting findings as they occur. Continue reading

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