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Co-Founder, Scoot Insights
- Leveraging 25 years of consumer marketing experience in the UK/Europe and in the US to reveal fresh consumer insights that are relevant and directional and inform management teams in making more valuable decisions.
- Focused on bringing rapid, in-person, qualitative consumer understanding to the client/agency team without compromising depth of understanding and ensuring immediately actionable results.
- In the past five years clients have included: 7x7 Magazine, Annie's, BevMo!, Birds Eye Foods, Brita, Cisco, Clorox's Fresh Step, d-CON, Dole, Ebro, facebook, Fleischmann's, Google, Hormel, IHOP, Kraft Europe, Kroger, LeapFrog, Milton's, Nestle, PepsiCo, PG&E, Quaker, Sabra, Samsung, TurboTax.
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Market Research - Qualitative Consumer Insights
Co-Founder, Scoot Insights
- Companies need to understand consumer attitudes toward a new idea – and sometimes have a hard time doing so.
- What are consumer attitudes and opinions about a new product or service idea? How, when and why will they use it and what might it replace? Any company who offers a product or service needs to understand the current or potential end consumer.
When companies are developing new ideas for the marketplace, they need consumer input and consumer feedback to know whether they are on the right track. They need to find out if it’s an idea that will resonate with consumers. If it's an idea that won't resonate with consumers, they need to know that too so that they can rethink and reshape the idea, or even kill the idea, thus saving time, money and energy. The challenge is finding the right way to harness the consumer insights.
Qualitative research is often the most powerful tool, throughout the innovation process, to really understand what consumers think of a new idea, how it can be made better or stronger, how it might fit in their lives, when they might use it, who is most likely to use it, what they might use it instead of, and the "why" behind these questions.
- Companies need to understand why consumers are behaving a certain way and, in some cases, why their behaviors are changing.
- If you want to brainstorm an opportunity area with consumers, a good moderator can encourage a group of 8-10 people to generate, discuss and build on each other's ideas using various exercises to encourage creativity. In this instance a focus group with around 10 people at once, as in most standard focus groups, can be a useful method.
If however, what you really need is to understand consumer behavior, attitudes and opinions, then moderating 8-10 people at the same time is not necessarily the most useful tool in the researcher's toolbox. What most companies really need, and what consumers are best at, is knowing their own, individual views, opinions and perspectives. Often, focus groups are "misused" to achieve this. With 8 to 10 people all at once, each person has to wait their turn to share their views and reactions, and sometimes participants are influenced by the opinions of others.
When you want to understand in-depth, the views, opinions and reactions of consumers, then talking with less people at a time, such as individual or paired interviews, or smaller groups or up to four people, is a much more powerful approach to adopt. This in-depth discussion allows you to really probe the reasons for any change in behavior or attitudes, and using appropriate projective techniques, can often unearth subconscious reasons of which even the consumer was not aware.
- When companies experience a drop in sales of an existing brand, they need to find out why this is happening.
- Trying to understand whether a sales drop is due to market dynamics beyond the brand owner's control, or is due to a more conscious shift in consumer attitudes away from a brand, poses a challenge for many businesses.
Companies need to try to figure out the reasons behind shifting consumer attitudes. Has there been a new entrant into the market? Is the company's brand doing something that is influencing people’s opinions? Has the brand become tired and is failing to deliver against today's needs prompting consumers to experiment and try something new?
Trying to understand consumer perceptions is a problem faced by many companies. Qualitative research is such an important tool in solving this problem because it can explore the "why" behind consumer attitudes and behavior. If the product provides a sensory experience (that is, it can be held, tasted, physically used), then in-person is the most powerful qualitative approach to fully explore each consumer's experience with the product.
Companies need to explore every aspect of consumers' tangible experience with a product. They need to see them hold the packaging or actually use or eat the product AND its key competitors. How well are consumers reacting to it? Is it easy for them to handle? Is there something new in the market that's offering a better alternative, and has thus become a competitive threat? How and why is it having an impact on sales of an existing product? What needs to be done to earn consumers' loyalty back to your brand?
- Companies serve a consumer base – and suddenly that base exhibits changing needs.
- When a company wants to maintain a competitive brand position in a fast-changing world, how is that company going to continue to excite its consumers in order to remain competitive? How do companies keep their fingers on the pulse so they have the foresight to act when consumer needs are changing – or even in anticipation of those needs changing? Sometimes consumers' fundamental needs can change, and in today's fast-moving, high-tech world, they can change faster than ever.
About 70 percent of qualitative consumer research is still carried out in person, as opposed to online. This can be an invaluable way to stay aware of how your consumers' world is changing, and how this has or might affect your brand or business, particularly if there is a physical relationship between a product and the consumer.
- Companies have a hard time understanding their white space opportunities and their brand positioning.
- Companies have to explore and understand the best development opportunities for a brand that will strengthen its equities and grow its consumer base. Taking the brand forward in the right way needs to be enough of a stretch to evolve or remain relevant, but not too much of a stretch that it undermines and weakens the brand's core values.
The answers are very different for each brand, because each brand has its own unique position in the market versus its competitors, and its own unique position in the hearts and minds of its consumers. Companies can struggle to create hypotheses about the spaces brands could grow into. Good exploratory qualitative research that fully interrogates the core values and strengths of a brand can help to fully understand what makes it better and different from its competitors and what motivates its consumer base to have a strong relationship with it.
Based on learning and insights from exploratory research, it is more possible to meet the needs of consumers in the future by identifying the right dig sites or platforms for brainstorming, and by generating hypotheses and ideas for the future that are truly rooted in consumer understanding. These ideas can then be shared with consumers during qualitative steering research to understand their relevance and points of difference – to "steer" understanding on how to best develop the ideas into more fully rounded concepts.
Often it boils down to the "fit" between the brand and how a new idea should be presented and communicated.
- Companies need to fine-tune new product or brand communication.
- For instance, if a company or brand is developing communication or pack design for a new product, there might be four or five different ways to communicate the new product or four or five different pack design routes. Each creative route might – initially – seem relevant to the brand and will have been generated to reflect and explore an area of strength for the brand.
But a company needs qualitative research to figure out and understand which would be the best fit for its brand and which would present the new product in the most positive and motivating way to be more competitive for the future.
Companies need to make certain they are communicating effectively the right features and benefits of a new product in the right way to develop the most compelling product proposition that will fully engage the potential consumers. They need to ensure the new creative ideas for ads are delivering the right messages in the right style to effectively communicate the core product proposition. And they need to be sure which of the new pack designs has the best imagery and communication hierarchy for the new product.
Qualitative research is the optimum tool to really understand why each route is delivering or not delivering what was intended to consumers, both in their own right, and in relation to each other.
- Companies sometimes have a hard time discovering the message that will most effectively communicate what their brand is all about across all elements of the marketing mix.
- When a company has different directions to explore, it needs to look at these different directions with its consumers and understand what impact each might have on their relationship with the brand.
Every brand communicates and operates in different ways. The challenge is making sure the communication message is relevant, motivating, different, AND integrated across all elements of the marketing mix. Is it cohesive? Does it make sense? In years past, this issue was more about the pack design, promotional material, advertising, in-store merchandising and the like. Now it's as much about these things as it is about the design and effectiveness of its website and online materials.
Qualitative research allows consumers to explore all elements of the communication mix whether it's design development, user experience of the website, or communication and promotional materials, alongside each other to ensure relevance of message, but also cohesion across all elements of the communication mix.
Market Research - Qualitative Consumer Insights: Common Problems