• Robert Walker

Pocket Guide Chapter: In-Depth Interviews

Updated: Jan 21


As the name implies, in-depth interviews (“in-depths”, or “one-on-ones”) use a single moderator-single respondent format, and are designed to generate highly detailed feedback at the individual respondent level. In-depth interview techniques vary, but they are grounded in social and clinical psychology.

When Used

In-depths can be used for similar reasons as focus groups, and at any point in the marketing process when a topic (1) needs to be explored in great depth or detail, or (2) in situations when focus groups are inappropriate or impractical.

Most often, they are used to develop a detailed understanding of consumer attitudes, motivations, and buying behaviors. Sensitive topics (e.g., finances, relationship issues, personal hygiene) might only be approached on a one-to-one basis. In-depths are valuable in understanding the purchase decision-making process, as well as purchase influence (e.g., husband-wife “dyads”, or family “triads”).

They are used with physicians, pharmacists, attorneys, or business competitors or when focus groups among these types of professionals create a self-conscious or adversarial reaction. The in-depth format eliminates these distractions, letting respondents focus on the questions being posed.

Materials & Stimuli

Like focus groups, the primary stimulus for in-depths is the moderator’s guide. However, the discussion guide is often much more detailed and specific. The guide may contain specific question-answer exchanges, and follow a choreographed sequence of discussion areas.

As in focus groups, the guide reflects input from the moderator and client, as well agency researchers and external consultants. And, while the same types of stimuli used in focus groups can be used with in-depths, the following also applies:

  • With consumers, there may be use of psychological, motivational, and projective techniques to help ‘peel back’ the layers of an issue, and to get past any initial reluctance to share deeper feelings.

  • In technical categories (e.g., medical or pharmaceuticals) information may need to be presented in detail and studied by the respondent. For example, in the case of pharmaceuticals) the modes of action, indications/contraindications, uses, and dosing or administration information.

  • Depending on the category, moderators may be specialized (or trained in an area of interest), as in-depth discussions can be highly technical.

For more information on in-depth interviews, download our free section, from the Pocket Guide to Basic Marketing Research Tools here.

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