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Open-Ended Questions: The Comeback Kid

Posted On  August 10, 2014

As researchers look for new methods to derive insights about consumers’ emotions and less-conscious thoughts and motivations – the current holy grail of market research – we should take a fresh look at the open end. Over the last decade, researchers have walked away from the time-intensive and relatively costly open-ended question. We think it’s time for the open-ended question to make a comeback.

Whether we want to explore unmet needs or emotional responses to environments and situations, open ends allow us to tap into consumers’ priorities, intentions, and thoughts.

Here are 3 ways you can capture more value from the open-ended question:

  1. Gain richer responses and greater insight by framing open-ended questions in a way that elicits detailed narratives. Abe Rutchick, PhD, senior scientist with LRW’s Pragmatic Brain Science Institute® shares this, “The words we use reflect what we are paying attention to, what we are thinking about, how we feel, and how we perceive our environment. It’s a lost opportunity to not let respondents use their own words to talk about the feelings and beliefs they have as a result of their experiences with products and brands.”
  2. Augment traditional coding with tools that enable the exploration of both explicit and implicit meaning in language. We can gain a more holistic view of consumers’ responses to brands, products and experiences by thoroughly analyzing their language. A deep analysis of word usage – including both content and structure – can increase our understanding of consumer priorities, intentions and thoughts. Further insights can be extracted from emotional tone and emotional associations, as well.
  3. Enrich your learning by gathering spoken responses to open-ended questions. ”People have been speaking to each other, telling stories, since the dawn of humanity; we have been writing for just a few thousand years. Simply put, we are better talkers than writers. Therefore, it’s logical that spoken open ends tend to be less filtered, longer, and more expressive than written responses, which can then provide us deeper understanding,” according to Rutchick.

Everyone loves a comeback story!  With fresh approaches and brain-science based tools, open ends can be the comeback kid.

Written by Joan Cassidy
Joan oversees a team responsible for developing LRW’s brand through a combination of digital, content, and event marketing. She is a catalyst for the company’s thought leadership initiatives, including her role as the editor of the LRW blog and producer for sponsored events such as the LRW Client Symposium. Joan also secures speaking opportunities, media coverage and awards for LRW thought leaders. Her expertise lies at the intersection of marketing, research and technology. Joan started her career at LRW working as a hands on researcher working with clients such as Disney, McKinsey. She went on to head up Global Research, then E-Commerce and Marketing for the U.S. division for Jafra Cosmetics International. She returned to LRW, where she led process improvement and software development and served as interim CIO. Joan has been key to the development on some of LRW’s biggest client relationships and engagements as an expert in branding, customer experience, tracking, and technology. She received her B.A. in economics from UCLA.


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