When talking marketing research, the term “qualitative” often evokes the thought of a moderator leading a conversation with one or more participants, either online or in person, resulting in endless pages of transcripts. While these exchanges do take place and offer value, qualitative can be so much more. Taking a more creative approach to qualitative marketing research comes with numerous advantages, from getting an intimate look at your audience, to pepping up your deliverables, to making research more fun for your participants.

Here are our five ways that you can supplement your one-on-one consumer conversations and enliven your qualitative research.

1. Pinterest: Ask consumers to build a Pinterest board around a central idea or question. Pinterest allows users to be creative, visual and hands-on, without actually having to create any of their own content if they don’t want to.

  • Best use cases: Getting consumers to visualize and employ blue-sky thinking to inspire product innovation or design changes.
  • Pro tip: Give it a try yourself prior to fielding, and ask one or two others to do the same. Do you need to simplify the questions? Ensure that you’re leaving room for creativity; otherwise, you may get a fleet of homogenous boards in return.

2. Photo uploads: Consider the fact that nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smart phone. Combine that with our willingness to share (and overshare), and it’s clear why consumers are so comfortable supplying photos today as part of research exercises. Ask consumers to submit pictures that they’ve taken of themselves, a product, a room, an experience, etc. This is very low-stakes for the consumer, but allows you to get a visual into their daily life. We’ve done everything from a picture of your clothing drawers to a selfie in your office, and always benefited from the snapshots we’ve received.

  • Best use cases: Could be anything: in-store shopping (product placement), selfies or rooms in a house
  • Pro tip: Keep in mind that we, as smartphone-wielding humans, aren’t generally easily embarrassed. Be creative with the photos that you ask for – consumers will happily take a selfie in the aisle with your product.

3. Video uploads: Videos are an outstanding way to get to know consumers on another level. It gives you the chance to watch them in action as they complete a task or explain a concept, providing an additional layer of insight into the steps they take and their rationale.

  • Best use cases: Observing a process such as cleaning, cooking or building from start to finish, either with or without narration.
  • Pro tip: A little video goes a long way. Keep in mind that you’ll want to watch all of the video that is captured and supplied, so ask for only as much as you’re capable of or willing to watch and analyze.

4. Journaling: This tactic might not feel groundbreaking, but it’s a surefire way of keeping in touch with participants over a period of time and collecting feedback at regular intervals. Journaling permits them to keep a detailed record of their experiences, thoughts and perceptions in a reflective and introspective way, without the interaction of a moderator.

  • Best use cases: Observations from trying a new product, keeping track of opinions and experiences and how they change over time, collecting unbiased and unadulterated feedback up front that can be used to fuel a follow-up research initiative.
  • Pro tip: Don’t go overboard with the required amount of entries or the participants may become fatigued. A general rule of thumb is no more than five. That said, if you can do it in three, do it in three.

5. Assignments: Ask your consumers to complete a task prior to your research initiative. That way, they’ll come in ready to discuss an experience, whether it be cooking a new dish, trying a beauty routine or living without one of their favorite products.

  • Best use cases: When you want to tap into particular behaviors or routines, especially those that involve a product. Exposing customers to a new product and asking them to live without a well-loved product can be incredibly interesting and insightful exercises.
  • Pro tip: Be as direct as possible with your instructions, leaving little room for misinterpretation.

Putting some of these methods to work can enrich your qualitative research initiative and provide a much more complete picture of your consumer. Plus, they’re more engaging for your respondents. By being creative and thinking outside of the box in what you’re asking them to do, you’re giving them license to do the same.