Get to Know Your Consumers in their Environment

In-Context Interviews (ICI’s) take place in the context of where a product or service is used or purchased. A key objective in choosing this methodology is to observe and understand the habits, practices and motivations of your target audience as they are using or choosing your product or service. They are sometimes called in-home interviews when they take place in a consumer’s home or in-store interviews when they take place in a shopping location. They can be as brief as a ten minute conversation at a store-shelf or as long as a three hour discussion in someone’s home. Learn More (Case Study)

Helpful Hints for Successful In-Context Interviews

  • Be curious –  don’t be afraid to dig around and ask the obvious question. A question to which you think you know the answer may uncover a valuable insight. Usually the individual you are interviewing wants to help you and is willing to explain their motivations, behaviors and rationale.
  • Video and audio tape the interviews –  this practice provides a record of the interview and allows you to go back and review. Be sure to ask permission before you start the cameras rolling. Having access to editing equipment can allow you to add video clips to your summaries and presentations.
  • Male / Female Teams – this is a good idea for in-home interviews. Two males entering a woman’s home could make her feel uncomfortable. Also, men and women approach situations differently; the diversity in the team can be helpful for uncovering insights.
  • Check directions and have a phone number –  facilities usually do a good job at providing accurate directions. However, in a few situations, we had trouble finding someone’s home and needed to call.
  • Be a good guest. Lastly, remember you are a guest in someone else’s home. Be kind, considerate and gracious.

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Listening and Communicating Well

“Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you.  Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.”  Anonymous


Much of my work depends on listening well, whether it be to a client describing a business need or to a consumer talking about their experiences. Over the years, I have learned about the importance of listening and how listening well can yield important insights, both professionally and personally. My favorite listening tip is to reflect back what you have heard. This forces you to make sure that you really hear what the other person is saying. Plus, this allows the other person to know that they have been heard or to clarify what they are saying if you have not heard them correctly. When someone is talking, resist the urge to formulate a question while they are talking. Then, your mind is not on something else while they are talking. Instead, listen to what they are saying and focus on being ready to reflect back.

As an insights provider, I try to keep abreast of recent articles related to listening and communication. Here are a few tips I have found useful:

  • Be truly present in the moment. Ask open-ended questions to more fully prompt open conversation. Be interested in other people.  Truly listen with the intent to understand, and really pay attention to what the other person is saying, instead of focusing on forming a reply. These are tips from 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation,” a TED Talk by Celeste Headlee.


  • When trying to convey a concept very familiar to you, remember that sometimes you are too close to your idea. You might communicate in a way that is too abstract and skip steps in explanations. I have seen this with project teams using jargon when writing concepts or advertising with which the consumer will be completely unfamiliar. Run your idea past someone removed from it to see if it makes sense. Choose your words carefully, trying to make them as simple as possible. From The No. 1 Communication Mistake That Even Smart People Make


Evaluating New Product Ideas

I am often asked to design qualitative research to provide my clients with insights about their customers’ reactions to their new prototypes or products. I enjoy designing and conducting this type of research because I am able to leverage my experience as a former product developer for a Fortune 100 company. I believe what sets me apart from other qualitative research consultants and moderators is that I have actually designed products that have gone to market. This issue of The Insight will highlight some of the ways I have used qualitative research to help my clients design winning products. 

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Understanding the Ideal Experience

Understanding the Ideal Experience

An understanding of your target audience’s ideal experience can set the direction for future marketing and product development efforts.

Throughout my career, whether developing products at P&G or helping clients gather insights about their target audiences, understanding what the consumer believes would be the ideal experience has been crucial for business success.

Begin by identifying and understanding the context in which your product or service is used. Continue reading “Understanding the Ideal Experience”

Delighting Your Customers

Consumer delight should be the driving force or the high bar that marketers and product developers strive to achieve. A delighted consumer is a satisfied consumer; a long-term consumer is a more profitable consumer.

Consumer delight is the moment that occurs when someone using your product or services finds their emotional and physical needs well satisfied and their expectations well exceeded. Delighting your customers usually requires doing something they did not think possible or delivering a level of service not expected. It will result in your consumers being so thrilled with your product or service that they may tell others about it.  Continue reading “Delighting Your Customers”

3 Ways to Get More Out of Your Online Research


Is it possible to truly connect with my target audience through online research?


When we say “connect,” we mean truly hear and understand the thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes of your key customers. We believe the answer is yes! You can get in-touch with your customers and gather deep understanding by using creative assignments to allow your consumer to take you into their world.

Creative assignments also make the experience more fun for participants. When respondents are engaged, they provide you with more information and are more willing to share more of their lives with you during the research, thus helping you gain deeper insight.

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Making In-Depth Connections with Online Research

We are experts at using online research methodologies to help our clients make connections with their target audiences in order to explore their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, habits and practices.

Sometimes clients unfamiliar with online qualitative research wonder if they can get an in-depth understanding of their target audience through an online bulletin board vs. in-person research?

In this newsletter I would like to share a case study of how we helped a clothing retailer get in touch with their target audience and uncover in-depth insights using an online platform and leveraging the video recording capability of mobile phones.

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Listening Better for Insights

Listening is a subject that we take seriously at Nobles Research. Insights come by way of listening. Without listening, it is impossible to obtain understanding. I once wrote, if a focus group took place and no one listened, did it really happen? Well, it might as well have not taken place. Yet as I work with clients, sometimes I see empty back rooms and unused FocusVision sessions.

One of the ways to get more out of the research is to listen better, to be present in the moment. It is a challenge to get team members to attend research, and even if they are there in body, it does not mean that they are present in mind. It amazes me how often people are occupied by answering emails, participating on conference calls, and schmoozing their boss while the research is taking place. However, there are ways you can encourage more listening participation among your team.

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Learning from a Dog


Recently I was conducting a series of focus groups for a new idea. At the start of a round of research, there was this wave of optimism on the client side. However, group after group of respondents from a range of target audiences rejected the idea.

In my career there have been occasions that an idea I was researching was a loser and somewhat affectionately termed a “dog”. If you work in the market research industry or in product development long enough, you will certainly see your share of them.

An Old Dog Can Teach You Some New Tricks

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So What Are We Doing Here?

The Cart Before the Horse

Just recently I had a potential client contact me about a research project. We briefly discussed my capabilities and what he wanted to learn. A few days later I received an email suggesting some activities to do in the group, and he wondered if they would be good to use.  This inquiry caused me to pause for a moment because I could not answer his question, as his research objectives were not clear. I could not assess whether or not the activities would be beneficial as clear goals for the research had not been established.

So, I sent him an email requesting his objectives for the research. I also thought since these were not clearly articulated, it would be good for his team to discuss them, so everyone was on the same page. Finally, I knew this would be critical for the ultimate success of the project.

Research Objectives Guide Research Design

Continue reading “So What Are We Doing Here?”