Qualitative Research & Focus Groups

Mystery Shopper Services had partnered with Threads which is a worldwide leader in qualitative research. Threads offers qualitative research through the use of in-depth observation and interviewing methods. The company was founded by Mark Michelson, a qualitative research consultant and consumer anthropologist with over 25 years of experience. Mark is an expert focus group moderator and ethnographer who have conducted thousands of studies worldwide.


Qualitative Research helps our clients with innovation initiatives. We help our clients:

  • Understand their customers and prospects, and the differences between what they say vs. what they do
  • Explore human behavior from an anthropological view – examining the culture, rituals and artifacts that make up the daily lives of people
  • Uncover needs and perceptions of shoppers and consumers in ways they can’t even express in words

Our qualitative research studies provide valuable insights that help clients understand what affects the emotional, physical and cultural motivations of their target market.

When to Use Qualitative Research

Our custom qualitative research services are the solution for clients seeking to:

  • Understand the complete customer experience
  • Uncover new product and service ideas
  • Create and test new product concepts
  • Ensure marketing communications are on target
  • Objectively assess and turnaround poor performing assets
  • Strategically position their company for success

Qualitative Research Methods

  • In Person Qualitative (Focus groups, IDI’s, Ethnography)
  • In-the-Moment Mobile Feedback
  • Online Bulletin Boards
  • Online Focus Groups/IDI’s
  • Customer Journaling/Diary Keeping

In-Person Qualitative

In-person qualitative research includes traditional focus groups, mini-groups, one-on-one in-depth interviews (IDI’s) and ethnographic research (shop-alongs, dine-alongs, in-home studies, etc.)

In-person qualitative research is ideal when input is needed from only select geographic areas or when there is a need to understand a sensory experience such as taste, touch or smell.

Focus groups and in-depth interviews are typically conducted at formal focus group facilities with mirrored viewing for clients. Closed circuit video allows clients to view live groups from anywhere in the world remotely as they happen, or archived for convenient viewing anytime.

Ethnographic interviews allow our clients the opportunity to “walk in the shoes” of their customer. Ethnography is rooted in anthropology and is a blend of observational research with interviewing. Ethnography helps clients to understand shopper and consumer needs as well as how social context and cultural relevance impacts their buying and consumption decisions.

Ethnography is carried out in many forms including:

  • Shop-alongs (Trained ethnographers accompany shoppers as they shop in various stores)
  • Dine-alongs (Ethnographers dine with consumers to understand their experiences and perceptions related to the environment, service, and meal/beverage quality)
  • In-situ (Ethnographers visit with study participants in their homes or at work to observe and record use of products and improvised solutions to provide input for product design and service development

In the Moment Mobile Feedback

Collect real-time data from shoppers and research participants using mobile devices with video, audio and text capabilities.

With the proliferation of mobile devices, smart phones and text messaging, we can engage participants in ways never before possible and collect real-time data of their experiences in the moment.

It’s Easy

Participants are recruited just like in other types of studies. Then, over a period of days or weeks, they receive your predetermined questions at specified times and simply text-back their responses. All responses are automatically gathered and sorted by question and participant. We do all the set-up, program the questions and e-mail your transcript to you daily.

It Opens Up New Research Ideas

With In-The-Moment Qualitative, there really is no limit to the kinds of studies you can create:

  • Conduct studies on shopping WHILE participants are in the stores
  • Conduct studies about eating habits DURING the lunch hour
  • Conduct studies on computer use at the office WHILE participants are at work
  • Conduct studies on TV viewing habits DURING prime time while participants are watching TV
  • The possibilities are endless

It’s Flexible

Our unique system was designed from the ground up to be flexible and accommodate most any study structure:

  • The system can send and receive text messages to and from any mobile phone in the world
  • Studies can accommodate up to 100 participants
  • Researchers can send out up to 10 unique messages per day (each with its own send time)
  • There is the opportunity for asking clarification of responses
  • Studies can last up to 30 days
  • Questions can be qualitative or quantitative in nature

Online Bulletin Boards

Online Bulletin Board Focus Groups give clients greater geographic reach and longer, more in-depth transcripts than any other qualitative methodology.

Online Bulletin Boards allow clients to conduct more research with hard to reach participants in less time and for less cost than traditional focus groups.

Online Bulletin Boards are highly involved discussions that unfold over extended time frames. Participants love the convenience and clients love the depth of information.

With traditional face-to-face focus groups, participants are limited to specific geographic areas – with Online Bulletin Boards, consumers and clients can participate from anywhere around the world.

Online Bulletin Boards take advantage of threaded ‘Bulletin Board’ technology that is commonly used in online discussion groups. Bulletin Board participants log in at times and from locations that are personally convenient, answering questions posted by the moderator while reading and responding to the other participants’ comments. All of the discussion is visible onscreen to the client observers in a “virtual backroom.”

An Online Bulletin Board Focus Group typically takes place over a 3-5 day period – with respondents participating 2-3 times each day. Because of the longer timeframe and the come-and-go nature of the discussion, most Online Bulletin Board discussions have 10-30 participants, rather than the 8-10 participants common with in-person or real-time online groups.

Projects take on a whole new level of interactivity with Online Bulletin Boards. With the ability to embed video and other multimedia with the click of a button, this media allows researchers to tap into the rich world of user-generated content and ethnographic activities. Projects can include a vast array of multimedia stimuli that keep participants engaged throughout the study.

Online Bulletin Boards can be completed within a matter of weeks from start to finish.

Customer Journaling/Diary Keeping

Our online journaling system is a secure online tool created to help clients understand the daily lives, shopping and consumption rituals of their customers.

This is the perfect tool for conducting home product tests or understanding how shoppers decide what and where to buy.

Built around a robust blogging engine, we provide participants with a secure, easy and fun way to journal their thoughts and experiences. To provide the most insightful information, our system includes a full-featured WYSIWYG editor plus point-and-click embedding of photos, videos and other user-generated content.

Our system has all the features of popular public blogging systems plus the security, confidentiality and analysis tools needed to ensure the highest quality information. With our system we can build a client focused blogging community far away from public view.

Customer Journaling can take place over a few days or a few months – providing clients with unprecedented insights into the everyday lives of their customers and prospects.

Online Focus Groups/In-Depth Interviews

Our innovative Online Focus Group solutions save our clients time, money, and provide reliable results from a broad geographic area. Using our trained and experienced moderators, we keep the human touch in the online environment allowing clients to communicate with customers and prospects in real-time around the world.

Available in over 13 languages, researchers can conduct real-time focus groups or in-depth interviews (IDI’s) around the world from the comfort of their office saving them time and money. With instant transcripts and reduced travel time, clients can receive their results in a matter of days.

Online Focus Groups/IDI’s provide fast, top-level reactions to concepts and media from geographically dispersed and hard to reach participants allowing clients the opportunity to gather intelligence from the global marketplace.

Advantages of Online Focus Groups

Fast: Book, recruit and run your groups in a matter of days. Perfect in a time crunch, online groups let you respond quickly to your client’s needs.

Honest: Capture the gut level reaction of your respondents while maintaining a personal rapport. Simultaneous typing eliminates the influencer affect, while common interest and moderator skill builds the group dynamic.

Global: Conduct multi-location groups in one evening or recruit respondents that cut across geographic boundaries. Our services are currently available in 13 languages.

See participants “Face-to-face”: Using enhanced webcam and streaming technology video, online focus groups and IDI’s provide the comfort of in-person interviewing with the convenience of online – allowing clients to talk to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Video Focus Groups enhanced features:

  • Multiple screen view with up to 8 participants
  • Written transcripts available upon group completion
  • Automatic Audio/Video Transcripts
  • Observer Chat Functionality
  • Teleconference Bridge Integration
  • Mark Up Features
  • Quick Polls

Our online qualitative research software was built for today’s social media culture. Our software’s vibrant and intuitive interface allows respondents to freely express themselves — so you get information you can trust and act upon with confidence.