How to master qualitative research with gen AI

Editor’s note: Jim Longo is the co-founder and chief strategy officer at Discuss.

Businesses are recognizing the importance of understanding consumer behavior on a global scale. Human centricity, a philosophy placing consumers at the heart of business strategies, has shifted the focus from quantitative data to the nuanced insights provided by qualitative research. However, conducting qualitative research on a global scale presents unique challenges. 

Yet, with rapidly evolving innovations in technology, particularly gen AI, conducting next-gen qualitative research on a global scale has become not only feasible but also essential for businesses striving to stay competitive.

How gen AI is revolutionizing global qualitative research 

Gen AI serves as the cornerstone of next-gen qual on a global scale. It’s the unlock for scaling unstructured data, extracting meaningful insights efficiently and enhancing consumer understanding. By accelerating insight generation and improving accuracy, gen AI empowers businesses to make informed decisions swiftly, seamlessly and globally.

As businesses expand their global footprint, the ability to conduct qualitative market research on a global scale becomes imperative. By embracing human centricity, leveraging advanced technology like gen AI and implementing comprehensive strategies, businesses can navigate the complexities of global markets with confidence, empathy and agility.

Enhancing consumer empathy on a global scale

Consumer empathy transcends being merely a function; it's a strategic mind-set woven into the fabric of organizations. It requires strong partnerships, advanced technology and comprehensive services to drive empathy initiatives forward effectively.

Cross-cultural training

Cross-cultural training is pivotal in enabling researchers to conduct research on a global scale. Understanding cultural nuances and sensitivities is essential for designing research methodologies that resonate with diverse audiences. Without adequate cross-cultural training, researchers risk misinterpreting consumer behaviors and preferences, leading to biased or inaccurate insights. By investing in cross-cultural training, organizations will ensure that their research efforts are culturally sensitive and relevant across various markets. As stated by Erin Meyer, author of "The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business," "Without proper cultural understanding, your good intentions may be misconstrued."

Cross-cultural training fosters empathy and cultural competence among researchers, enabling them to approach their work with a genuine understanding of and appreciation for the perspectives of others. This empathetic approach is crucial for building authentic connections with consumers and gaining deeper insights into their needs, preferences and behaviors. 

Multilingual research materials

Language diversity is a defining feature of many markets today, and ignoring linguistic differences can lead to overlooking valuable insights and perspectives. Translating research materials into local languages ensures inclusivity and accessibility, allowing all consumers to participate in the research process and share their experiences in their native language. This not only demonstrates respect for cultural diversity but also facilitates deeper engagement and understanding among participants.

According to a report by CSA Research, "72.4% of consumers are more likely to buy a product with information in their own language." By catering to consumers' language preferences, researchers can enhance the relevance and impact of their research efforts, ultimately leading to more informed decision-making and customer-centric strategies. By breaking down language barriers, researchers can foster trust and rapport with participants, leading to more open and candid responses during interviews and focus groups. 

Gen AI tools

Gen AI tools represent a game-changing technology that empowers researchers to conduct research on a global scale with unprecedented efficiency and depth. There's a growing recognition of AI's pivotal role in gaining insights into consumer behavior and preferences, especially in the qualitative research realm. These AI-powered tools, such as gen AI summaries and thematic analysis, offer a never-before-seen capability in analyzing consumer interactions. They provide researchers, regardless of their qualitative analysis expertise, with a means to uncover key trends and themes from diverse consumer conversations.

By automating repetitive tasks and streamlining the analysis process, gen AI tools free up researchers' time to focus on more strategic aspects of qualitative research. This not only enhances productivity but also allows researchers to deliver more value to their organizations by uncovering nuanced consumer insights that drive innovation and competitive advantage in global markets.

Virtual workshops and sessions

Albeit obvious, virtual platforms offer a convenient and efficient means of engaging global teams in empathy-building workshops and sessions. These virtual gatherings provide an opportunity for researchers to immerse themselves in diverse consumer sentiments and preferences from around the world. Through interactive discussions and activities, teams can gain valuable insights into the varying needs and aspirations of consumers across different regions, fostering a culture of empathy and understanding within the organization.

Digital platforms for collaboration

Digital platforms play a crucial role in facilitating collaboration among global teams. By leveraging digital tools, researchers can easily share insights, collaborate on projects and communicate with colleagues across different time zones. These platforms enable seamless knowledge sharing and foster a culture of collaboration, driving innovation and creativity in empathy initiatives. Whether it's sharing research findings, collaborating on strategy development or discussing consumer insights, digital platforms provide a centralized hub for global teams to connect and collaborate effectively.

Additionally, digital platforms enable researchers to overcome logistical challenges associated with traditional in-person collaboration, such as travel restrictions and scheduling conflicts. This ensures greater participation and engagement from team members across the globe, ultimately leading to more comprehensive and nuanced insights into global consumer behavior and preferences. Digital platforms provide a centralized repository for storing and accessing research materials, ensuring that global teams have easy access to the latest insights and data, further enhancing collaboration and decision-making processes. Digital platforms foster a culture of collaboration and innovation that transcends geographical boundaries.

Continuous feedback loop and regular updates

A continuous feedback loop enables ongoing improvement and refinement in empathy initiatives. By gathering insights, sharing best practices and adapting strategies based on real-time feedback from global teams, researchers ensure the relevance and impact of empathy programs in an ever-evolving market landscape. This iterative approach fosters collaboration, continuous learning and swift responses to emerging trends and consumer preferences on a global scale. Additionally, it promotes transparency and accountability within the research process, fostering trust and engagement among team members while driving innovation and creativity in empathy initiatives. By incorporating feedback loops into their methodologies, organizations identify and address potential blind spots or biases, ensuring robust and actionable insights across diverse cultural contexts.

Regular check-ins and updates play a vital role in supporting global qualitative market research by providing a structured framework to monitor empathy programs and align them with organizational goals. These meetings serve as essential forums for sharing insights, discussing challenges and celebrating successes, fostering a culture of collaboration and accountability among global teams. Transparent communication channels keep team members informed and engaged, reinforcing the importance of empathy initiatives and driving momentum across the organization.

By staying agile and responsive to feedback, organizations adapt and refine empathy strategies to meet the evolving needs of global consumers, ensuring continuous improvement and innovation. 

Navigating the landscape of global qualitative research

  • Cultural sensitivity and context: Understanding the intricate nuances of cultural norms, customs and values in each target region is fundamental to conducting meaningful qualitative research. Businesses must invest in gaining cultural sensitivity to ensure their research resonates with diverse audiences worldwide.
  • Translation and localization: Accurate translation of research materials is crucial for maintaining cultural relevance and inclusivity. Leveraging gen AI tools that support multiple languages ensures seamless communication and understanding across global markets.
  • Local expertise: Harnessing the knowledge of local researchers or marketers who possess a deep understanding of the culture and language can provide invaluable insights and facilitate smoother communication with respondents.
  • Diverse sampling: Ensuring diverse representation across regions and considering demographics and cultural differences is essential for capturing the full spectrum of consumer perspectives and behaviors.
  • Virtual research technology: Embracing video conferencing, online communities or mobile apps for remote interviews and focus groups in local languages, with live translation capabilities, facilitates real-time interaction and engagement.
  • Time zone considerations: Flexibility in scheduling research activities helps accommodate different time zones and ensures broader participation and comprehensive insights.
  • Ethical compliance: Adhering to ethical guidelines and regulations specific to each country is paramount to maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of research activities.
  • Data security: Partnering with vendors that prioritize data security and compliance with international data protection laws is essential to safeguard sensitive information. When utilizing a vendor that uses gen AI, ensure they employ a closed-loop system to ensure that any data sent to the engine for processing is not shared or accessible to any entity. No outside data should be introduced, and none of OpenAI's learning models should be informed by or utilizing that data in any way.

The key to improving qualitative marketing research

Mastering next-gen qualitative research is imperative for businesses seeking to understand and connect with consumers on a global scale. Technologies like gen AI revolutionize insight generation by scaling unstructured data efficiently, empowering swift, informed decision-making on a global scale. Digital platforms facilitate seamless collaboration among global teams. Regular check-ins and a continuous feedback loop are integral for monitoring empathy programs, ensuring alignment with organizational goals while driving ongoing improvement. 

By embracing human-centricity, leveraging advanced technology and implementing comprehensive strategies, businesses can elevate the quality and relevance of their qualitative research efforts, ultimately gaining a competitive edge in global business.