In-depth interviews (“in-depths” or “one-on-ones”) are a special type of qualitative research and are an outgrowth of techniques used in clinical psychology.
In-depths are conducted using a one-to-one (respondent-moderator) format and thus generate highly detailed, qualitative (i.e., non-projectable) feedback. (“in-depths”, or “one-on-ones”) are a special type of qualitative research, and are an outgrowth of techniques used in clinical psychology. In-depths are conducted using a one-to-one (respondent-moderator) format and thus generate highly detailed, qualitative (i.e., non-projectable) feedback.
Surveys & Forecasts uses in-depths at any point in the marketing process when a particular topic (1) needs to be explored in great depth or detail, or (2) in situations when focus groups are neither appropriate nor practical for the audience of interest. In general, they may be used for the same purposes as focus groups. Most often, they are used to develop a detailed look at consumer attitudes, motivations, and buying behaviors. For example, they are often used in areas of personal hygiene, or among sufferers of an embarrassing condition, who may withdraw in a focus group setting. They are valuable in understanding the purchase decision-making process, as well as purchase influence (e.g., husband-wife “dyads”, or family “triads”). They are commonly used with physicians, pharmacists, attorneys, or direct competitors since focus groups among these types of professionals often create a self-conscious, posturing environment. The in-depth format eliminates these distractions, letting respondents focus on the issues at hand.
Materials & Stimuli
Like focus groups, the primary stimulus for in-depths is the moderator’s guide. However, the discussion guide is often much more detailed and specific, with lines of questioning that might be glossed over in a focus group. In some cases, it may contain a specific question-answer format, but more typically will follow a choreographed sequence of discussion areas. As in focus groups, the guide reflects input from both moderator and client (MRD, Marketing, agency researchers, external consultants, etc.). And, while the same types of stimuli used in focus groups can be used with in-depths, the following also apply:
- With consumers, there is a heavy reliance on psychological, motivational, and projective techniques to help ‘peel back’ the layers of an issue and to get past initial consumer resistance.
- Medical, pharmaceutical or other technical information may need to be presented in great detail, such as with specific modes of action, indications/contraindications, uses, dosing, or administration information.
- Depending on the category, moderators may be specialized (or trained in the specific area of interest), as the in-depth discussions can become highly technical.
In-Depth Interview Types
In-depth interviews consist of two types: full in-depths, and mini-depths. The primary distinction between the two is length: in-depths last 1½ hours, while mini-depths last 45 minutes to an hour. In-depths are better-suited for discussions that require a highly detailed exploration of an issue, while mini-depths are better-suited to less technical topics. In most situations requiring an in-depth technique, mini-depths are preferred over full in-depths for cost and efficiency reasons.
In-depth interviews often take place at a focus group facility, but in-depth interviews can take place anywhere that respondents are (for example, at medical conferences in a hotel suite). In-depths are usually, but not always, audiotaped or videotaped. Written transcripts of in-depths are commonly provided (more so than for focus groups) given the richness of verbatim responses, and a better ability to follow lines of questioning.
The same guidelines for focus groups apply to in-depths. In addition:
- Do at least 10 one-on-ones with the same audience and same sequence of questions to provide a starting point for hypothesis development. Also, conducting one-on-ones in at least two geographically-dispersed cities is recommended.
Pros & Cons
Pros: Are a fast, direct feedback tool for obtaining consumer insights.
Cons: Expensive on a per-interview basis; time-consuming; as with focus groups, there is a very strong tendency to run with preliminary findings, and bypass subsequent quantitative stages.
Cycle time (excluding stimuli preparation) from field start to an initial presentation is typically several weeks, although this varies with the number of interviews, screening requirements, facility availability, etc.
Additional qualitative research may be indicated. Otherwise, in-depths are usually followed by quantitative evaluation (concept screening, concept testing, copy testing, product testing, or strategic research).