Big & Thick data 

We build solutions based on researched user behavior

When we create insights for our clients, it is always with a focus on delivering concrete and implementable findings, that create value and lift the user experience.

Although we often only apply one method - qualitative interviews, observations, or data analysis - we often strive to use a mixed-method approach. And in this post, I'll get into why that makes sense.

Big data

You’d have to have lived under a rock these past years, to miss that big data has picked up a lot of momentum. The main focus is on how it has the potential to create understandings of the general behavior of target groups. Often, Big data can eg. put a spotlight on where a digital product is underperforming. For this we apply Google Analytics and similar tools, to understand what happens.

But no matter how much we twist and turn the quantitative data - we will never know exactly why something happens. We might see a large number of users drop out of the purchase funnel just before making a purchase. But we can only hypothesize as to why.


Thick data

For this, we need Thick data. Thick data is a counter-notion to big data. Where big data tries to pin down something specific from general behavior, the Thick data rather creates an understanding of the general patterns by focusing on specific experiences and life-worlds. Thick data has many layers to interpret, and is often a combination of qualitative interviews and observation of behavior.


Lifting findings to Insights

And it is in this relationship between Big & Thick data (or Cold & Hot, Stats & Stories) that insights can become concrete and manageable. 

Imagine Big (quantitative) data as an ocean, where we monitor the waves and winds, and with this data can look to the future and provide an insight into how businesses should act to catch the next wave just right to push them forward.

In this analogy, Thick (qualitative) data is the deep dives. Where we go under the surface and into the seabed to investigate and to provide insight into what makes the waves roll the way they do. This way we can better solve complex problems, and think uniquely when creating new solutions. 

Because without hot data, which is concerned with people´s feelings, expectations and their placement of the product in their real-life - how would we know why they float to other companies, abandon a landing page or never finish that booking?


What is the mixed-method approach?

Hypotheses about user behavior can be created both within the big, quantitative data-sets or derive from thick, qualitative data collection. 

We might see unexpected motions in the data-traffic, and choose to explore the user’s experience in interviews or focus groups to diagnose the problem. Or we can choose to make an A/B split-test of a booking-flow to improve user experience and conversion, after finding multiple problems with the interface in a user test.

In both examples, we try to handle the potential blind angles of one approach, by applying another. Contact our Insights department if you want to learn more about the benefits of applying Thick data to understand your Big data points.


Nanna Gelineck
Senior Insights Consultant