One of the most exciting, innovative and promising trends on the market research landscape almost sounds like something out of a science fiction movie: qualitative facial expression recognition technology.
This technology provides penetrating and sometimes profound insights into how qualitative market research methodology participants (one-on-one interviews, focus groups, etc.) emotionally respond to various ideas, pictures, sounds, words and other stimuli. This information can then be used to develop products, marketing campaigns and other business strategies that increase sales, brand image and loyalty.
The idea of capturing and categorizing emotional reactions in market research isn’t new, and skilled researchers have been trained to pay careful attention to body language, tone, and so on. However, qualitative facial expression recognition technology has the potential to capture extremely brief “micro-expressions” at the point-of-experience — i.e. when respondents discover something for the very first time, and their emotional reaction precedes their cognitive reaction (albeit by nanoseconds).
With this being said, there are some issues with qualitative facial expression recognition technology that are still being developed, including a growing understanding within the professional market research community that this fascinating technology has some limitations that must be factored into its use.
The first understanding is that qualitative facial expression recognition technology should only be used with explicit permission from participants, regardless of whether the session is taking place in-person or remotely (through web-cam technology).
The second understanding is that emotional vocabularies vary based on nationality, culture, and even different facial structures. For qualitative facial expression recognition technology to generate valid insights, these differences must be appreciated and factored into the analysis.
The third understanding is that using qualitative facial expression recognition technology remotely can be more difficult to manage when participants are using mobile devices vs. desktops and laptops, since the device camera may not fully capture a participant’s face, or there may be lighting issues (especially if the participant is moving).
The fourth understanding is that qualitative facial expression recognition technology is not a magic wand, regardless of how much potential it holds. Just like all other qualitative market research data gathering methods, information gleaned must be controlled, tested and validated. In most cases, it should also be integrated with other methods to generate more robust results — especially since while emotions are indeed illuminating (and in many cases, revealing), they do not necessarily indicate precisely what a person will do.
To learn more about qualitative facial expression recognition technology, and how to exploit the advantages — and mitigate the limitations — for your organization’s market research needs, contact Communications For Research today. You’ll speak with co-CEO Colson Steber about your business goals and if market research can help you reach them.
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