More Than a Platform: 3 Ways to Get More Out of Digital Research

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Our Thoughts
  • by Jordann Ndoye

At SEEK, we challenged ourselves to create a digital research study that both exceedingly human and yields extraordinarily high completion rates. We recently designed and conducted a multi-phase, multi-market project to understand the current perspective of the Black Man in America—a group of humans who are underserved and over stereotyped.

Setting out on this work, there were a couple barriers we knew we we had to overcome:

  1. The topic of the research was intimately personal, leaving the men being researched to be potentially hesitant in sharing their perspective—especially with strangers.
  2. Men (we hate to call them out, but we will) are historically not the most engaged respondents when it comes to research. And on a project with multiple phases, long term engagement is crucial.

We developed a research plan that would, from the very beginning, build rapport, establish trust, and feel incredibly human to these men. Ultimately, our plan (specifically the portion using a digital platform) yielded an astounding 90% completion rate with 44 men across 2 markets.

We identified three ways to increase digital research engagement and response rates:

  1. Meet them where they are—on their phones.
    Love it or hate it, phones are always in people's hands and when not in hand, they are almost never outside of hand's reach. The smartphone is ubiquitous. It is no secret that phones are being used for far more than phone calls. Smartphones are used to learn, to discover, to connect, to inform and to express. Data shows that, daily, more than 400 million Snapchat stories are created and over 250 million people use Instagram stories. SEEK set out to meet the men where they were and used a smartphone app-based platform that mimics these highly used means of expression and communication. The men in our study used this platform, which gave them the feeling of creating a story for their friends on either Snapchat or Instagram. It was as if they were giving updates on where they were and what they were doing. Though the prompts were short and to the point, the platform offered them room to give us a broader perspective from wherever they were most comfortable.

  2. Show them the faces behind the screen.
    At SEEK, we are firm believers in making empathic, human connections. Just because digital research isn’t in person or face-to-face doesn’t mean it can’t be human. We don’t believe that the ones doing the work must remain faceless and hidden. For this project, the SEEK Consultants recorded an introductory video that the men watched before starting the study. In the video, we introduced ourselves and shared as much as we could about the work, about our intentions, and why we wanted their perspective. We were open and honest with them, so they would feel comfortable being open and honest with us!

  3. Stay connected.
    Engagement and connection works as a two way street. SEEK believes that in order to keep people engaged with research, we need to stay connected with them. In this work with black men, we knew it was critical for us to check-in. Every morning began with an email listing the day's activities, as well as a reminder of the activities they hadn’t yet completed. The SEEK consultants stayed up to date on their responses and probed deeper with follow-up questions. These interactions showed that we were not only listening to them, but we were also interested in them and wanted to learn more from them. These small and consistent touchpoints created a connection allowing them to feel heard and appreciated.

Beginning this multi-phased research with a digital/mobile component and paying careful attention to the three elements above provided the team with inspiration and fodder that lived well beyond the initial phase of research. The 250 videos of the black male perspective were organized and stored, creating playlists and clips that the client will continue to reference.

The incredible response rate of 90% set up the remaining phases of the project for success. We had built rapport, a strong connection, and when we did move from the digital platform to the in-person work, it was as if we were meeting up with friends to catch up, allowing for an even deeper connection during our time with them.