Holism: An Important Edge in Market Research

Thanks for the pic, David Orban!

Thanks for the pic, David Orban!

Qualitative researchers concern themselves with the “why” of customer behavior. They must consider a range of factors that may affect participant answers: setting, scenario, and time of day are just a few. This is why a holistic approach can be integral for accurate insight. As behavioral economists are fond of pointing out, what people think and how they act never match 100%. Paying attention to the “big picture” can be integral throughout planning, execution, and analysis.

Conceptualizing Holism

Holism implies completeness: where, how, why, when, etc. all matter. Participant answers, for instance, may vary according to setting or an interviewer’s formality or informality. Considering such elements is critical when setting the direction of a study. Researchers most not only guess possible variables, they must also also decide to control them or not.

While sometimes used to describe a study’s broadness, holism does not inherently mean a project’s totality. Nor is a holistic approach exclusive from reductionist strategies or techniques.  Rather, it is the understanding of how details affect outcome. A qualitative study consisting of a half dozen focus groups benefits from holistic planning much as large scale project involving field research. Always remember to distinguish between a project’s holism and the content of its findings. For instance, a study that uses a holistic design may offer specific, rather than broad, insight.   

Research Practices Affect Insight

While important for design, holism is also crucial to practice. All team members conducting interviews or observation must adhere to the same guidelines. Those analyzing footage and notes must also follow set standards. Teams, of course, must also continue to mind possible variables affecting insight.    

Increase Accuracy and Feasibility

We can anticipate a slew of factors, but surprises still happen. How researchers handle new information or ideas is typically within the study design. Traditionally, the time research requires make studies very rigid: logistics and travel require time to organize, as does analysis. Pursuing new lines of inquiry, or even changing small factors of a study, are usually unfeasible.

Online, research can happen at a much faster pace. No longer subject to logistics and delays, researchers can quickly tweak ongoing studies with minimum hassle. How a study changes depends as much on its schema as circumstance. As with everything in research, such changes must be methodical. Considering all possible outcomes of an alteration is crucial. Such forethought helps researchers anticipate and prepare for new variables, as well consider the study’s scope and possible directions.   

Charting the Customer Experience

Online techniques create new possibilities in research. Agile, or iterative, designs enable businesses to maintain research and marketing campaigns indefinitely. Along with offering insight within a relevant window of time, such research also allows teams to better chart customer reaction and sentiment. Depending on the direction of inquiry, Agile projects offer far more potential for holism. Researchers can easily apply multiple methods, expand upon their insight, track fluctuations, and corroborate trends or reception. The possibilities are endless. Learn more by starting a chat with us or checking out our demo.


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