The in-depth interview (IDI) is a qualitative research method that utilizes a moderator to garner information from one respondent, either in person or over the telephone/Internet. Market researchers frequently turn to IDIs as a first step during business-to-business (B2B) research encounters. The one-on-one format promotes an intimacy that other qualitative measures (such as focus groups and surveys) can’t engender, making IDIs especially suited for gathering information on sensitive topics or when researchers want opinions from industry experts. The private nature of the setting allows the moderator to evaluate respondent behavior, including voice tone and body language (if they are face-to-face encounters and not telephone ones). He or she is also able to answer respondent questions and clarify their responses or probe for further information when necessary.
Typical IDI market research is conducted with a sample of 15-20 respondents who each sit with a moderator for approximately 30 – 60 minutes to explore one or more topics. As mentioned, industry experts are often approached in IDI market research because of the depth and breadth of their experience. The volume of data they represent is not efficiently mined by less personalized techniques. Instead, to fully penetrate their intellectual capital, researchers need to employ highly personalized communications only available when talking one-on-one. The ultimate goal is for researchers to bring forth insights concerning consumer motivation and/or business strategies by intricately dissecting dialogue and pushing individuals for specific details about a product (or service) and their relationship to it. Yes, there is a script of questions, but good moderators facilitate a relationship during the time they talk to the respondents, making dynamic conversation part of the process.
While IDI market research definitely has a place in many robust campaigns, both B2B and B2C, it is not always the logical choice. In-depth interviews can be time consuming; they have to be arranged, conducted and transcribed. They can be expensive to schedule, especially when orchestrating personal meetings rather than remote ones. And the results from them can be skewed due to moderator inadequacies and/or bias. For instance, a simple look from a moderator can alter a respondent’s level of honesty for fear of judgment. Finally, incentives or honorariums, typically given to respondents in exchange for participating, can create a bias of their own.
IDI market research is a great tool for businesses looking for highly specific information that can be acted on quickly. Just a few IDIs can often provide the data necessary to exact change immediately. Our team at Communications for Research (CFR) has over 20 years experience recruiting respondents for and conducting IDIs. Contact us to see how we can help you gain actionable results with our quality market research techniques.