Skip to content
Visit our COVID-19 Response Center for all our updates Read more

Becky Mills, our Business Analyst in our specialist global market research team within Ashfield, discusses the focus of gathering insight to inform brand decisions and the team’s passion in finding the right solutions for the ‘insight-gathering’ part of our service to allow us to find more ways to engage with our respondents.


Over the last few years, the needs of our customers have changed significantly. Two things have caught our attention the most: our clients want answers faster and our respondents’ attention span is shorter. These were problems for us; we needed to get results quicker but, response rates on our projects were dropping. We also noticed that enthusiasm had dipped, so it was clear that our respondents demanded new, more exciting ways to interact with us. Time for a change!

We reviewed our traditional methodologies – face-to-face and telephone interviews – and debated whether we were using these approaches out of habit or, dare we say, comfort. We decided that although traditional methods are ingrained, it’s because they’ve proven to be instrumental in the development of successful brands. They are fantastic for digging deep, co-creating and building on ideas; however, these projects can take longer (than online surveys) and in the face of a growing need for iterative, agile testing, we needed to broaden our offering. We did this by bridging the gap between traditional and online, which resulted in our new online qualitative technologies.

Our online qualitative technologies are a collection of bespoke tools, scripted in-house. They go beyond a typical survey because we use clever techniques to bring to life the objectives of the research. Examples include:

  1. Our heat-map tool can uncover the likes and dislikes of a concept.
  2. Our text highlighter tool unpicks messaging so we understand what keywords/data motivates the doctor to find out more.
  3. Our video clips are great for producing a short reel about the impact of a new treatment in depression.
  4. Our ‘pop up’ communities are useful for exploring unmet needs – we pose a few questions and then let the respondents discuss as a group.
  5. We love running patient diaries as they capture ‘in the moment’ experiences e.g. Morning symptoms in RA.

As we are experts in all aspects of compliance and GDPR, we can assure our clients that adverse events are handled appropriately, regardless of the method we use.

Overall, our journey has taught us about the importance of posing questions to our respondents in the right way. Here’s a few of our online qualitative design principles:

  1. Understand the business need so that you can focus on a couple of objectives and keep questions minimal
  2. Style of questions is short and direct, with no room for misinterpretation since most online research is completed on-the-go via a smart device
  3. Design needs to mirror how we interact with the world around us so that questions feel natural and hold attention span for longer
  4. Real World Evidence (RWE) is king so our surveys focus on stories and patient data collection, anchoring respondents in a specific moment, rather than asking for a generalisation

These tools have improved customer experience. We have fewer dropouts and the level of detail we receive back is much more meaningful. Since these tools provide instant analytics, our outputs are delivered to clients at a quicker rate. It’s always a great feeling when we can get a top-line summary and a few snapshots of a patient’s life, across to a team ahead of their 10am meeting.

The impact is happier respondents across the globe, which in turn affects the answers we provide to our clients.

If you’d like to hear more about the work we do or, what the outputs from these projects look like, please contact for more information.

Receive all of our latest blog entries straight to your inbox!