How can qualitative research help you understand retirees?
Qualitative research is conversation-based exploratory research. We use it to understand the deep psychological and emotional drivers of behaviour as well as social and cultural influences.
Methods include one-on-one interviews, in person focus groups, online focus groups, online communities, and ethnography.
In qualitative research we aim to understand someone in-depth, within the context of their lives.
Qualitative research project use small samples but deliver rich insights.
Qualitative research insights are expressed in language and visuals, not numbers.
Qualitative research reveals the human stories that shape retiree behaviour
Organisations who want to offer innovative products to this market need to think about retirees in new ways by asking some deep questions beyond the simple metrics of age, work status or superannuation account balance.
From the stories we have heard retirees tell, these decisions often come down to a sense of identity as independent people with social relationships.
Independence or a burden?
One premise behind the new Retirement income Covenants is that superannuation trustees should help members move away from a ‘nest egg’ mentality so that they spend more in retirement. When you listen to retirees’ stories a nest egg mentality is in many ways perfectly understandable as this is a generation that has seen its fair share of market crashes. Emotionally, a nest egg helps people maintain the independence that they have valued their whole lives up to this point. The fear can be that they will be ‘a burden’ on others if they run out of money.
Always a parent
Our culture places a high value on parents nurturing and protecting their children into adulthood. Because of these cultural pressures it can seem to some retirees that their primary obligation is to the children – to give them money now, and to leave a legacy for grandchildren. These are emotional decisions about a person’s sense of identity as a parent that can’t be easily countered by rational argument.
The role of money
Some retirees especially those over 70 tell us that they simply don’t need the money. They don’t need to spend money on the trappings that shored up their social identity as working people – the cars, and the new furniture and the clothes. They have a new social identity now and are ‘cheaper to run’ – and to some extent this becomes a habit.
For others though this new social identity is a new social group – perhaps new friends to travel with. Building and maintaining this identity may take money.
Why qualitative research helps
As I have suggested, the decisions that people make for and during their retirement sometimes have nothing to do with money. Instead, it is the deep social and cultural issues such as who they are as a person now they no longer work, what their relationship is like with their partner and family as they have aged, and indeed how do people feel about aging.
Qualitative research explores the social and cultural influences on behaviour. In contrast, survey research measures only individual behaviour. Surveys cannot reveal any of the social and cultural tensions that are such a driving force in this market.
What kind of qualitative research will work best?
Based on these insights, we recommend 6 different methods that allow people to express themselves in whatever way best suits them and which is able to uncover these complex issues of identity and the social and cultural tensions and challenges involved. Methods that allow us to understand couple and household dynamics are also useful.
In truth, it’s best to use a mix. Different methods have different strengths.
We have an ebook called ‘How to talk about retirement’. It is for marketing and communications professionals. Contact Sue if you would like a copy.
We are unique in that we understand the retiree market from a cultural, social and individual perspective. This is valuable and unique thinking. For more contact Sue.
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