360 & VR For Better Insights

We’re increasingly adding 360 and VR to our toolkit - here’s some best practice advice from Crowd DNA director Anna Chapman...

Many of our projects at Crowd DNA involve helping our clients to understand consumer needs and behaviour. And as consumer culture adopts new ways of doing things, we bring these trends into our work. That’s why last year we started to explore virtual reality and 360 cameras for insights work; after all, 89 million VR headsets were sold in 2016 (many of them in time for Christmas).

Consumers have an appetite for VR because it allows them to learn and experience the unusual in the comfort of their own home. From self-development to gaming to shopping, they’re keen to explore these opportunities. Who wouldn’t want to be on stage with their favourite band or fly around the moon without having to spend $150mil? Clients are keen to step into this virtual world too, exploring consumer lives through 360 footage and immersive experiences.

We’re using VR in two ways – as a tool for gathering insights (eg. using 360 cameras) and as a content format for immersing clients in the consumer world and socialising insight. Below are some thoughts around best practice for both.

– Google Cardboard is the go-to device for consumers – it’s inexpensive, easy to use and compatible with most smartphones.

– 360 footage is great for exploring spaces eg. if a client wants to look at the layout or products in a participant’s home.

– Keep VR experiences short (definitely under 15 minutes) – some people suffer side effects like tired eyes and dizziness. Not something you want a client to feel.

– Wearing a VR headset is more fun – and engaging – than looking at a powerpoint deck. Make this an activity at a client debrief or a workshop if you can.

– Think about how the content will be consumed – a 360 photo shot on a smartphone is much cheaper to produce and can be hosted on YouTube (see the Crowd office example above). At the moment this is more impactful and easier to send to a client than creating a bespoke headset experience.

– VR isn’t going to replace real life, it just adds another layer. Similarly, use VR to add an extra dimension alongside other methods and outputs.

Of course, the world of VR is changing rapidly and as it does, so will our methods for gathering and socialising insight. Microsoft’s HoloLens is calling out to developers to get involved in Mixed Reality or MR, which will merge the best bits of VR with Augmented Reality. Once this becomes more affordable, we’ll be able to offer headset-wearing clients even better experiences for exploring insights.

Looking Good!

From narrated galleries to 360° cameras, here's six ways to gather and share visual insights...

Visual communication is taking over the world. That goes for the world of insight, too. Our \Socialise team have put together this handy little guide to some of new and exciting ways to gather and share visual insights that we’ve been experimenting with at Crowd DNA. Find out more here


For the third episode of our Keeping Company series, looking at innovative and exciting businesses, we meet designer Laurie Nouchka, who creates art you can wear...

Keeping Company is Crowd DNA’s short film series, in which we search the world for inspiration from innovative, disruptive, culturally switched on and just plain unusual businesses.

This episode we meet Laurie Nouchka, an artist and designer whose vibrant, wearable artworks have taken the sportswear world by storm. Manufactured here in London, Laurie’s leggings take inspiration from the architecture of global cities. Legs become canvases for towers of glass and steel, rendered in vivid colour palettes and contemporary designs, all coming together to make dazzlingly unique, timeless pieces made for movement.

We talk about creative vision and the fine balance of maintaining your artistic integrity in the world of business.



The second instalment of Crowd DNA’s series on exciting and innovating businesses investigates bio-bean, a London-based clean technology company turning waste coffee grounds into energy…

Keeping Company is Crowd DNA’s short film series in which we search the world for inspiration from innovative, disruptive, culturally switched on and just plain unusual businesses.

This episode we chat to Arthur Kay, founder and CEO of bio-bean – the world’s first company to process waste coffee grounds into advanced biofuels on an industrial scale. In just two years, bio-bean has raised several-million pounds in financing and grown to a team of 25 people.

Based in London, with an industrial factory in Cambridgeshire, the company processes 50,000 tonnes of waste per year – equivalent to one in every ten cups of coffee consumed in the UK. Outputs include biodiesel, biomass pellets, and briquettes.

In the first of Crowd DNA’s new series on exciting and innovative businesses, we head to Rio De Janeiro and chat to Hamilton Henrique, founder of salad delivery service Saladorama

We’re excited to bring you the first episode of our new short film series, Keeping Company, which will see us searching the world for inspiration from innovative, disruptive, culturally switched on and just plain unusual businesses.

Our first episode introduces Saladorama – a salad delivery service based in Brazil. Founded in 2015 by Hamilton Henrique, it aims to democratise access to a balanced and quality diet – particularly among poorer communities. In just over a year, the business has grown to multiple locations and now serves 160,000 people.

Not only does Saladorama improve access to healthy eating, it also benefits local communities by generating employment, training residents, and providing much-needed experience. Enjoy!

As the smartphoned world continues to go crazy for messaging apps, Anna Chapman, associate director in our business and strategy team, looks at how WhatsApp can power research...

At Crowd we’re always keen to work with new methodologies – and have a particular fascination with trying to appropriate the myriad, UX-lovely platforms and services that exist outside of the insight industry. Recently we’ve found ourselves using WhatsApp on a number of projects. So what’s so great about using a messaging app for qual?

Since we’re in the business of capturing natural responses, it’s a no-brainer to meet people in an environment where they feel at home. And people feel very comfortable using WhatsApp, because many of us are on it a lot of the time. The usage stats show that globally it’s trumping more conventional social platforms, with one third of WhatsApp’s 990 million users chatting on it daily and the average user sending 1,000 messages per month (42 billion per day, apparently). What’s more, WhatsApp is growing faster than its prodigious parent company Facebook did, even in its heyday.

WhatsApp is rather large...
WhatsApp is rather large...

Cost, or lack of it, is one of the reasons that WhatsApp is so popular. What’s not to love about an app that allows you to chat with your friends for free, wherever they are in the world, in a private space? And, the good news is that it’s also a free platform for research – at least for now.

WhatsApp beats using a community for a number of reasons, primarily because it’s far less hassle for everyone involved. Members don’t have to make an effort to register and recall a password, meaning dropout rates are much lower. Moderators can easily nudge people into action when they’re hanging out right there in the space (rather than having to prompt them with an email and redirect them to an unfamiliar community). One of our team admits to having a ‘chat’ from the gym on his phone. This accessibility is definitely a benefit for the client, if not for the time-poor researcher…

WhatsApp is highly adaptable and has worked for us across diverse projects, from celebrity futureproofing with 35-55 year-olds in the UK to a hefty global piece on childhood. Across the board, we’ve been impressed by the quality of responses. Communities can sometimes feel impersonal, causing nervous participants to hold back, wary of the strangers in the room. But people are used to sharing information with their friends on WhatsApp so they tend to be chattier and give bolder answers, smattered with emojis.

Increasingly we’re using images and video to communicate with our audience and it’s second nature for people to share short form media and links on WhatsApp. What’s more, screenshot conversations look great in presentations. Of course, much of the above can be applied to using social media in general for research and we’ve also had great results with Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest. Suitability is uppermost – it’s important to use a platform that resonates with your target audience in each case.

When you’re planning a global project, you need to consider market and audience variations. In the US, for example, Facebook messenger dominates for adults and teens use Viber. But in Latin America and the Middle East, two thirds of internet users are WhatsApping. Of course, it makes sense to use native platforms wherever possible, so in China choose WeChat, or Kakao Talk in South Korea. It’s also easy to use different messaging apps in one project.

Naturally, there are downsides (and we’re not about to completely ditch the more research industry-specific online tools we also often use just yet) – it can be overwhelming trying to maintain conversations with numerous people across the world at once, so we recommend using WhatsApp as part of the project; in a smallish diary task, for example. We tend to use it as one element in our overall approach, supporting it with more in-depth interviews, expert opinion or workshops afterwards.

As messaging apps continue to flourish, WhatsApp – plus no doubt future offerings that will emerge – will become an important methodology, offering us an alternative to more conventional communities and other mobile research tools, and a fluid, credible way into the conversations that get us to the heart of contemporary culture.

...a thousand words 'n' all that, as we get set for another breakfast session at Crowd DNA HQ. Find out more here and get in touch if you'd like to attend...

Date: May 19, 2016

Time: 8.15-9am

Location: Crowd DNA, 5 The Lux Building, 2-4 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NU

Get set for our next Rise breakfast session on May 19. Titled ‘A Picture Paints…’, we’ll be taking a look at how visual platforms and new ways of analysing images help us gain a deeper understanding of consumer culture. More photos were produced in the past year than ever before in history, and images, videos, emojis and GIFS are becoming the cornerstone of language, changing the way we process, navigate and think about the world. In this session, Matilda Andersson and Laura Warby from our qual, trends and innovation team will discuss how best to go about using social platforms and visual analysis to make sense of it all, and ultimately how brands can create impact from visual insights.

This is perfect for those who are looking for a more immersive way to understand consumer culture, those with an interest in visual vocab… and those who want more from qual work than just what people say with words. It’ll be colourful, instructive and to the point. After all, we’ll all need some time for scoffing pastries, coffee and juice, too.

Contact Jason Wolfe if you and/or colleagues would like to attend.