Nowadays, global projects need agile movements. And the time pressure often has international projects employ standardized research tools, even for qualitative research operations. However, standardized research tools do not always capture subtle and non-verbal communications in a high-context culture like Japan. We helped a global research project capture insights from implicit consumer communications without slowing down the move for their project.
A global company wanted to conduct consumer interviews to get insights into how consumers use personal hygiene products. They have already undertaken consumer interviews in Europe and United States. They tried to understand the current habits of users and test the potentials of their prototypes.
#1. Global standardization versus local nuances
While the standard interview guide listed essential questions to meet the research objectives, the interview questions were too straight for Japanese consumers to respond honestly. For example, “why” questions sound pushy for some Japanese consumers because they cannot explain the why. Therefore, it was not a matter of translation quality; but asking the respondents questions to get the correct answers.
#2. Impossible to do face-to-face interviews during the Covid-19 pandemic
Usually, we conduct interviews in person. The in-person interviews typically give us non-verbal information such as facial expressions and body language. However, the covid-19 pandemic made it challenging to meet consumers in-person to avoid the possibility of virus infections.
The Solution Approaches
#1. Culturally-Tailoring Global Interview Guide
First, we had the client’s briefing to understand the research objectives and meanings behind each interview theme and question. Then, we tailored the standard guide having potential responses of the respondents in mind. For example, we rearranged “why” questions about the current habits to ask them about their daily life stories. In addition, to get the information that the client wants from the respondents, we put probing questions to guide the respondent to speak about relevant information by exploring key points. We confirmed such changes in adaptations to the client before the interviews.
#2. Attention to talks rhythms and tones in online interviews
We conducted online interviews by connecting the respondents in their houses to avoid any human contact. In the online discussions, we closely paid attention to the subtle non-verbal signals of the respondents. For example, when a respondent hesitated to answer negative responses, she giggled to hide her negative feelings against the prototype. In this situation, our moderator created a safe environment to say negative comments by giving a soft voice tone. Overall, respondents were more relaxed during the online interview from home than in-person interviews in unfamiliar interview rooms.
#3. Communicate findings and insights
In addition to gaining high-quality consumer insights, communicating insights to our clients is crucial for high-quality outcomes. Therefore, we debriefed the key insights and emotions of the respondents objectively and descriptively to the team. We gave both written reports and oral presentations in the end. Furthermore, we answered follow-up questions.
The project team incorporated the findings into their prototype improvements.