Qualitative methods collect data about the quality of a product or service, rather than numerical data. It is one of the most popular methods of research and can take place in a variety of settings, from the participant’s home to events or retail environments.

Face to face qualitative allows the interviewer to interact directly with the participants and gauge their emotions. The participants can also test out products, watch videos and are more likely to keep focus than they would over the phone or online. Face to face research allows for a more in-depth collection of data and allows the interviewer to ask further questions if they are interested in certain answers.

How we can help you

At Spark, we have the knowledge and resources to be able to craft bespoke market research methods to enable you to find out exactly what you need to know about consumer behaviour, from their habits to their likes and dislikes. For conducting effective face to face research, working with an expert agency such as Spark allows you to make the most out of the data and ultimately grow your business.

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Spark Market Research Products

Our methodologies are perfect for gaining a deeper understanding of your brand positioning, help create new products or understand the psyche of your customer base. Face to face research features in the following Spark products:

Types of face to face market research

Face to face research interviewers capture all sorts of data about participants including everything from new products, to TV advertising and events. Our experts at Spark can help you decide what methods would work best for you and your business.

In home surveys

In-home interviews allow you access to real-world context and feedback. They are a form of qualitative market research and involve a single moderator or team visiting a participant’s home to have a discussion about a particular topic. The participants will always be recruited in advance and the date and time is agreed upon by both parties. In-home interviews are often chosen for product development products, as the moderators can ask to see the product being used in the domestic environment. We find these work particularly well with new parents, where we can work to their schedule. They also work well when we are working on food brands – who doesn’t love a good deep dive into our participant’s kitchen cupboards?!

unconscious bias

Exit surveys

Exit surveys involve participants being interviewed with a structured questionnaire after they leave a specific location or event, for example a coffee shop or a restaurant. The interviewer will stand in a specific place and aim to speak to a range of people of different demographics as agreed with the client. They are usually no longer than 5-7 minutes as people are busy; we can get a lot in that time though. It reduces the length of time between the participant brand interaction and the survey meaning their memory is more reliable. It also works well if a test scenario has been created in store. Don’t be surprised if you find a Sparkie lurking near a fixture in your local supermarket.

Conversation taking place outside

Street Interviews

Street interviews are often used where a large sample needs to be surveyed in a specific location. The interviewers will position themselves in busy areas such as high streets and shopping malls and ask passers by to participate rather than pre-agreeing to take part. Location can be used to target certain demographics, for example speaking to animal lovers outside a pet shop; or students of a certain university in that city.

Car Clinics

Car clinics are utilised by automotive manufacturers; test vehicles are presented either in a studio or test track for participants to use. The test car will often be a prototype and allows the manufacturers to receive feedback before the final model is created. On occasion, we take the new car out for a test drive. As any “petrol head” (should that be Electric head now?) will tell you – they need to feel the car to really be able to talk about it. Of course, we are mindful of all necessary traffic regulations when conducting these interviews.

CAPI Surveys

CAPI stands for Computer-assisted personal interviews. This technique involves using an electronic device such as a laptop or device, to assist with answering questions. The questionnaire is within an application that takes the participant through the questions, often using colourful imagery or videos to help them comprehend the subject matter. The days of pen and paper are almost done – although we do use this method in markets where literacy may be an issue.

Person in a store

Instore Interviews

Instore interviews can be conducted at any point during the consumer’s visit to retailers or hospitality venues. Another form of qualitative research, it is useful as having mediacy (so the shopper doesn’t have to recall details from days or weeks before), and they are amongst the displays, products and anything else they may be asked about.

Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping is undertaken by the researcher undercover, posing as a regular shopper but instructed to review various aspects of the staff, company and general shopping experience. This can be anything from staff knowledge to retail displays or how many tills are open at one time. And yes, employees do need to know there is a potential that they will be “mystery shopped” and we encourage all of our clients to share the results once they are available, even at aggregate level.

Advantages and disadvantages


  • Accurate Screening: Interviewers are able to accurately screen participants as they can see them. This is, of course, in theory, true. However, it is essential that the interviewer has the experience to do this properly.
  • Capture verbal and non-verbal information: Participants can be observed when showing emotions reacting to questions or giving answers. For example, if they are particularly uncomfortable or are showing enthusiasm, or attempting to be deceptive. This is particularly useful when “door stopping” people at a new fixture / in relation to a new product.
  • Keep focus: In person, the interviewer is able to control the interview and keep the participant on track. In some subjects, we may see high drop off online for instance – face to face can help manage this effect.
  • Observe emotions and behaviours: As with capturing verbal and non-verbal information, interviewers can capture the raw emotions of participants, something that cannot be observed in telephone and is more difficult online.



  • Cost: Depending on the number of interviews required and the type of participant needed face to face can be an expensive method. For that reason, we will only recommend face to face if we are certain, it is the best method.
  • Quality of data from interviewer: When you have humans conducting research, there will be some margin of human error. Some interviewers will be able to capture information more effectively than others, and some will have unconscious biases that could affect the way they record data.  For this reason, the training of the interviewer and also ensuring the right interviewer for that specific project is important. For instance, younger interviewers would work better if conducting face to face interviews at a music festival.
  • Manual data entry: Human error is at play again here: details may be captured accurately but then will need to be collated. Data entry can also prolong the analysis process if it cannot be done by technology e.g., a scanner. We would always include a data quality check phase in face to face data collection projects.


Work That Works

Research shouldn’t be boring. We believe that fun breeds creativity, which in turn, delivers better results. And that’s why collaboration is core to Spark projects. We work in partnership with our clients, creating the insight which turns customer understanding into strategy.