The Market Researcher’s Starter Guide to Transcriptions

The Market Researcher’s Starter Guide to Transcriptions

Market researchers deliver a key component to the fuel of corporate business engines. Their work includes analyzing market trends, accurately segmenting customers, uncovering consumer preferences and needs, and assessing customer satisfaction, all help businesses and organizations fine tune their strategies and realize better outcomes.

While market researchers help fuel new business processes and strategies, transcriptionists provide some oil to the system. Market research transcriptions ease the process of analyzing respondents’ reactions and they help researchers derive greater insights from their studies.

In this guide, we will explore the basics of market research transcriptions and how they can add value to your work. Feel free to read along or skip to the sections that interest you most:

What are Market Research Transcriptions?

Market research transcriptions convert recorded audio or video files of market research studies to text formats. The audio or video files could be of in-depth interviews with single respondents, focus groups with multiple respondents, respondent-recorded audio diaries, mobile usability tests, and much more. Once in text format, these studies can be accessed and analyzed more easily (e.g. search interviews via keywords or phrases) or re-purposed in other ways (e.g. sent to video captioning or subtitling services).

Market researchers rely on accurate transcriptions of respondents’ feedback to effectively serve their business clients. The nature of their work typically involves many hours of recorded content. This audio/visual content is challenging and time-consuming to skim, analyze, and draw conclusions from. Transcriptions simplify the processes of search, documentation, review, and reporting.

Types of Market Research Transcriptions

In-Depth Interview Transcriptions

Interview transcriptions are the most common form of market research transcriptions. An audio or video recording of a one-on-one or group interview between a moderator and respondent/s is converted to text. Interview transcriptions may use recordings of either an online, phone, or in-person interaction.

Focus group transcriptions are also commonly used by market researchers. This type of setup typically consists of 1 moderator and 3-10 respondents. Focus group sessions can be more challenging to transcribe because they require greater attention to speaker attribution; transcriptionists must carefully delineate one speaker from another. In the same vein, focus groups usually require verbatim transcriptions to ensure that no thought or idea expressed by a respondent is lost. Focus groups may necessitate transcription in smart verbatim or pure verbatim, depending on the topic. Like in-depth interviews, focus group transcriptions may use in-person, phone, or online recordings.

Usability Session Transcriptions

The field of user experience or UX has become increasingly important as people routinely interact with companies via computers, televisions, game consoles, and a host of mobile devices. Usability session transcriptions take the audio or video footage of respondents testing websites and mobile applications and convert these to text formats. Usability session transcriptions can include just dialogue or additional notations on users’ platform, website, and/or app navigation.

Video to Text Transcriptions for Subtitling

Market research companies may request video to text conversions for other reasons too. Video to text transcriptions can be used for subtitling or closed captioning video content used as research stimuli. This can address language barriers or be used for respondents who are hard-of-hearing.

Alternately, video recordings of interviews or focus groups could be subtitled for researchers. For example, a U.S.-based company expanding its product offerings in Mexico would want to conduct market research with Spanish-speaking Mexican respondents. Focus group videos could be transcribed and translated so that the video is then subtitled in English. Researchers would not only have a transcription they could understand for search and review, but they could observe respondents’ body language and non-verbal cues as they communicate their feedback.

Audio/Visual Mobile Diaries and Mobile Insights Transcriptions

Market researchers can also conduct qualitative research with respondents remotely. Respondents can upload audio diaries or video clips of themselves cataloging daily reactions to a product, doing a series of tasks, or responding to a set of questions. For instance, respondents might upload audio responses about how they feel each day while taking a particular medication. These snippets could then be collected and transcribed for easy review.

Mystery Shopping Transcriptions

Another type of market research involves gathering feedback from mystery shoppers who go to a designated store or service provider and catalog their experience and reactions in real time or immediately afterward. These recordings can also be collected and transcribed for a more straightforward analysis.

Recording Telephone and Online Interviews for Transcription

The quality and accuracy of market research transcriptions are highly dependent not only on the expertise of transcriptionists but on the quality of the audio or video being transcribed as well. In order for transcriptions to be useful to researchers, there cannot be frequent breaks in dialogue such as unintelligible words or phrases and audio statics. Therefore, ensuring proper recording methods is key to transcriptions’ usefulness. Market research companies may invest in high-quality recorders and microphones of their own. Others use market research facilitation services to provide audio or visual recordings for them.

Recording Phone Interviews and Focus Groups

One-on-one interviews are the most straightforward type of data gathering session to record for transcription. In-person interviews could be recorded in a quiet place using just a mobile device microphone and app. However, a digital recorder will guarantee greater accuracy, especially when ambient noises are present at the time. For larger groups, microphones and digital recorders are a necessity to capture audio with enough clarity for transcription.

When conducting phone interviews, moderators and researchers have a wide range of options depending on the clarity of the phone call, their budget, and comfort levels with different devices. Researchers can use market research facilitation services for hassle-free, high-quality recordings. In these cases, services typically provide a number for all parties to dial in and then a pin to join the call. DIY options include apps such as Android’s Record My Call, recording on Skype, recording to voicemail, or using a digital recorder connected to landline.

When recording a focus group on a multi-way call, it can be helpful to have participants state their names or another designation before they speak so that speakers are better differentiated in the transcription. Encouraging participants to avoid talking over one another also makes the recording less cluttered and more easily transcribed.

Recording Online Interviews and Focus Groups

Web-based interviews and focus groups operate like their audio-only counterparts but with the addition of a visual component where moderators and participants can view one another in real-time on a split screen. In these cases, both audio content and the visual of the screen must be recorded.

As with phone interviews and focus groups, market research facilitation services can provide recordings as part of their existing offerings of coordinating online interviews and focus groups. Alternative researchers could create their own recordings using a service such as Skype. Particularly for focus groups, having a visual component increases a transcriptionist’s degree of accuracy with speaker attribution. It is far more challenging to delineate speakers in a focus group on a phone call.

Recording Web and Mobile Usability Sessions

Web and mobile usability sessions incorporate video not only of participants and the moderator but also of a participant’s screen. Through screen sharing, video should be able to capture what is spoken in addition to a visual of the moderator, the participant(s), and what is occurring on a participant’s desktop computer or mobile device screen as he or she navigates an app or website. With each addition in complexity—from phone to online to usability study—it becomes far more challenging for researchers to capture sufficient audio and visual quality on their own without some type of facilitation.

Market researchers could have just the audio content from these sessions transcribed or they could request that the details of participants’ actions also be noted among dialogue. For example, transcriptions could include details such as, “[Participant navigates to the dropdown menu]” or “[Participant hesitates and then uses search function to locate the product]”. Having high quality audio and video recordings of these sessions makes their transcribed versions feel more unabridged and far more valuable.

Uses of Transcriptions in Market Research

  • Market Research Stimuli
    Market researchers may use transcriptions within their research in the form of stimuli. For example, video to text transcriptions can be used to subtitle advertisements for respondents who speak another language or have limited proficiency in the researchers’ language. Different customer segments can then respond to the same set of advertisements.Researchers could also transcribe an in-depth interview, clip the moderator’s questions, and then use those questions in a survey format, in a forum, or within an online bulletin board.
  • Accurate Speaker Attribution
    Accurate speaker attribution is particularly important in focus group transcriptions where many respondents are interacting. For instance, in a focus group discussing vehicle features, it would be important to distinguish between a single, college-aged male’s response and a middle-aged father’s comments. Transcriptionists can simply denote speakers by role, such as “moderator” and “respondent” or they can identify speakers by names, titles, or any client-chosen labels.
  • Documentation and Tagging
    Once transcripts are created, researchers can add documentation to the text that will assist them and their colleagues’ further study. For instance, researchers can add descriptive markers such as, [Respondent describes favorite product features here], [Respondent describes frustrations here], or [Respondent offers suggestions for improvement here]. Alternatively, researchers can tag speakers by name or number, (e.g., Speaker 1, Speaker 2, etc.). They may also want to document where different activities occurred or where stimuli were shown. These types of additions allow researchers to reference particular sections easier later.Another type of tagging involves timestamps in transcripts. These allow whoever is reading the transcript to quickly identify its corresponding time in the audio recording. This makes playback of particular sections much easier than starting at the beginning of the audio recording and searching for certain references. Timestamps can be placed at specific time intervals (e.g. per minute), at speaker changes, or customized to a researcher’s needs.
  • Contextual Analysis and Review
    While respondent clips can be a useful reporting tool later - timestamps, tagging, and additional documentation allow researchers to understand the original context of what was said in a clip and refer to the source material at the appropriate juncture. This feature is particularly helpful if an outside moderator or colleague conducted the actual research and the person reviewing the files is unfamiliar with the dialogue. Clips can be good for highlighting and condensing material, but they may be confusing or misleading without the option for contextual analysis.Perhaps the greatest benefit to transcribing market research source material is improved searchability for superior review. Rather than skimming audio or video, pausing, and taking notes, researchers can search transcriptions for particular words or phrases, documented events, or selected tags. Review becomes more efficient and researchers can spend more time uncovering relevant insights than listening to hours of irrelevant audio.
  • Reporting
    Market researchers gather a substantial amount of material, but most know that their end clients only want to hear the highlights to understand how their strategies, goals, and actions should change. Transcriptions allow researchers to easily copy and paste key quotes into reports for their clients. While paraphrasing and summarizing what respondents said is also necessary, using quotes strategically can be very impactful.The searchability of transcriptions also enables faster data gathering to report statistics. For instance, researchers can note how often certain descriptive words were used (e.g., “hip,” “boring,” “fast,” “frustrating”), how many respondents preferred one type of packaging over another, and additional details that could be transformed into charts, graphs, or infographics. 

Things to Consider when Getting Market Research Transcriptions

Transcription may sound like a simple, straightforward task to do independently or internally. However, professional transcriptionists may require 5 to 6 hours to accurately transcribe an hour-long of clearly recorded audio. Given the volume of audio and video footage generated by market research projects for just one client, it isn’t surprising that most market research companies outsource this work. Following are some factors to consider when selecting the best transcription service for market research:

  • Transcription Turnarounds
    Transcription services often have 24/7 availability and are more responsive to rush requests. However, a major component of transcription costs is turnaround time. The sooner a market researcher needs his or her transcriptions created, the more the service will cost. If researchers can give greater advance notice, they will save substantial costs.
  • Bulk Transcriptions
    Another way to save on transcription costs is to look for a transcription service that can cater to high-volume requests. Market researchers typically require bulk orders because the nature of their work demands a large sample size. While some studies might have just 12 interviews, others could require close to 100 usability sessions. In either case, services that can transcribe in bulk will be able to save time and money.
  • Translation Capabilities
    Companies target a wide variety of different consumer groups, and many of them speak accented English, a limited amount of English, or an entirely different language. While automated transcription software and services may do an acceptable job with clearly spoken English, many cannot accommodate heavy accents or different languages. Transcription services can help bridge different language barriers and provide transcripts in English or a local language. For example, a consumer goods company studying laundry detergent usage and preferences could submit audio diaries in Spanish to a transcription service and receive English transcriptions back. Or an English transcription of a moderator’s questions could be transcribed into Spanish to be used by a Spanish-speaking moderator. Using transcription services for translation often saves time, money, and potential logistical frustrations of using real-time interpreters.
  • Privacy and Security Measures
    Clients are rightfully protective of their intellectual property, marketing ideas, business strategies, and other metrics when they conduct market research. To uphold their obligations and commitments to their clients, market researchers must select transcription services that have a comparable level of privacy and security. Privacy and security measures should encompass multiple levels, including employee processes, technological security, and legal safeguards. Transcriptionists’ access to files should be limited to only those they are actively working on. Transcriptionists should have signed confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements that are legally binding and allow for litigation in cases of intentional violation or gross negligence. Technology should be up to date and include secure file deletion, secure storage, alerts about unusual access, and required data protections. Some services may voluntarily have a confidentiality compliance audit by an independent firm.
  • Template Requirements
    Interview transcription services generally have their own standard transcription format which they follow, but many can tailor them to meet clients’ specific formatting needs. Market research companies may have a preferred transcription format they use for all their clients or end clients may have unique templates themselves, like customization of timestamps.


Market research transcriptions have a wide variety of sources and applications. Once you begin using them, the chances are high that you will keep finding new ways in which they can streamline your work. To deliver greater value to your clients, allow transcriptions to improve your efficiency, methodology, creativity, and degree of discovery.

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