Meet the Expert
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
- Consumers have more choices and easier access to their choices than ever before.
- In a fast-changing world, consumers are more vocal about their brand experiences than ever before. They are also faced with more choices and are quick to jump from one company and brand to another if something comes along that is new and exciting, or appears to be more relevant to their needs.
As a result, companies have to become more nimble so that they are able to detect and then react quickly to shifts. People are bombarded with messages and media all day long – more than ever before. As a result, it's more important than ever before to have a consistent and appealing message that can cut through the clutter. The world is moving faster and so the need to find quicker ways to check in with your consumer is necessary.
In the old days, the whole focus group process could take six to eight weeks. But who has six to eight weeks to wait for an answer these days? No one. Qualitative research has to be done in ways that can give companies an answer in two to three days. Speed and agility are everything. The need to have answers fast is a must. And companies want to explore, understand and unearth insights as quickly and effectively as possible.
- Consumers have become increasingly “wise” to focus groups.
- Focus groups have been around a long time and more people are familiar with how they work and what is expected from them. Consumers who are the respondents in a focus group are often a member of a "panel" and can be called on to provide input to many different studies. Some consumers almost see focus groups as a steady way to supplement their income.
Many focus groups where respondents are pre-recruited from a panel are therefore not as objectively effective as they used to be – and this is a trend. Companies can counter this by enlisting the help of live recruits to take part in research immediately. When you ask people for just 30 minutes of their time, right there and then, to take part in a qualitative research study, they are "fresher", less like a "professional" respondent and will happily share their honest opinions about the topic.
Focus groups traditionally have gone on a lot longer, sometimes for up to 3 hours, and have involved 8-10 people at a time. Respondents can grow tired. They have to wait their turn to speak and listen to everyone else's views, which are generally of no interest to them, and it's easy for them to hide behind other people and barely contribute, or to be swayed by the opinions of others.
That is why there is a trend towards shorter discussion sessions, with less consumers per group. The idea is to talk with two or three people at a time for 30 minutes instead of eight to 10 people for two hours. This allows for much more in-depth discussion, focused on the specific and unbiased views and opinions of just those few consumers. Opinions are more personal and objective this way, and usually more honest as there is less impact of group dynamics to influence what they say.
- Consumers want to be heard, but are increasingly fed up with being asked to complete endless surveys after every interaction with a brand
- One bad experience can spread like wildfire and influence countless other consumers before a company knows what hit it. Consequently, shared views about brands that are no longer relevant or are not staying current can influence other people's perceptions faster than ever with the advent of social media.
Companies have to find ways to counter this with a more consistent and frequent "check-in" with their consumers, and to be available to respond the moment they detect a shift in their brand's relevance. They need to be aware of and in tune with their brand's relationship with its customers on an ongoing basis, to be confident they are continuing to meet their needs better than their competitors. This is part of the reason why there has been a trend towards online surveys.
Consumers, however, are feeling bombarded by them as they are asked to take a survey following every move they make – they are expected to complete sometimes lengthy questionnaires about the service they just encountered, the booking they just made, the item they just bought! However, often the questions aren't asked in the right way, they do not allow for follow-up questions, they are not tailored to the individual or personalized in any way, and can even be completed by anyone who uses the same computer!
They allow companies to say "we listen to our customers" or "we do endless consumer research." But they are also time consuming and are fast becoming an annoyance that damages the consumer's perceptions of the brand or business, and they are not able to reflect the "whys" behind consumer attitudes or experiences.
- Big data is in danger of taking over meaningful data
- Big data is getting bigger, but sometimes bigger is not necessarily better. Although it can be a rich source of information for what has happened, and can even identify broad topics and opinions that are trending, or broad truths about a certain brand or product, it is dangerous to think that this can replace the "small data" that is traditionally collected through qualitative research.
It is "small data" that unearths nuances and small changes in consumer behavior and attitudes. It is from answering the "whys" within qualitative research that we can understand the causes or motivations behind trends and to add color and context for the facts that can be harnessed from quantitative data and big data.
- More companies are relying on qualitative research and there is a growth in qualitative research overall.
- This growth has occurred as online research approaches make direct access to consumers more feasible and sometimes more cost effective. Examples include live chat, market research online communities (MROCs), bulletin boards and online groups.
It's become increasingly important to stay connected to the needs, attitudes and perceptions of a brand’s core audience and to be the first to detect shifts and stay ahead of competitors. It is this qualitative understanding – whether gained through online sources or in-person qualitative (ethnographies, focus groups, in-depth interviews, etc.) – that is allowing companies to stay in touch with their customers' needs.
- User experience research is growing and is more important than ever.
- User experience research has always been a fundamental role for qualitative research. In the past, it has referred to any user interface with a product, brand, pack, and particularly for multi-sensory products where touch, taste, smell, and sound are critical to explore. Food and drink are perhaps the ultimate "user experience" candidates.
More recently, this term is used for research specifically around the user interface with technology – in particular website design, smartphone usage and the design of apps. It has always been a big part of in-person qualitative research, but with the huge growth in the need for well-designed websites, it has become even bigger.
Market Research - Qualitative Consumer Insights: Key Trends