Posts Tagged ‘consumer insights’

ROACHES AND WET SOCKS. WHAT I DID FOR LOVE…of Qualitative Research

Posted on: March 26th, 2018 by doyle

From the desk of Carole Schmidt

One of the coolest things about being a qualitative practitioner and strategist is to observe humans in all their idiosyncratic quirks (often unbeknownst to the respondent) and to carefully listen to the unique and impactful stories that led to those behaviors.  One of the coolest things about being part of Doyle is our unparalleled commitment to doing what is needed to surface those latent, below-the-surface motivations and beliefs. We are willing to get our feet wet–and literally have done just that—to develop the critical empathy for our customers that leads to impactful insight.

Sometimes these “deep dive” experiences are amusing.

In one case, we all removed our shoes as was the norm in our consumer’s home. Our ethnographic teams crammed into the tiniest bathroom to observe and listen to consumers show their cosmetic stockpiles and to tell their stories. Did you know that most women who wear makeup have three levels of cosmetic sets? “What I’m wearing now” (10-15 products), “what I was wearing that I’m bored with” (often 30-40 products), and “what-I-used-to-wear-but-don’t-like-anymore-but-can’t-bear-to-part-with-just-in-case” (dozens to hundreds of products). Interestingly, the inventory of that revealed that consumers heavily favored only three brands. Why so many products? Insights! Self-blame: “I must have chosen wrong.” And, Familiar + Foreign = Hope. Smart brands constantly promote twists on versions of the same products, leveraging that exact belief and behavior into strong sales. It wasn’t until we returned to the car that someone mentioned our collective soaking wet socks; our consumer had just showered and her bathroom floor was still puddled.

Sometimes our commitment to rich behavioral understanding takes us to heavy, emotional places.

The one-on-one intimacy of online interviews can be extraordinarily revealing.  One late evening we listened as a consumer described her painful feelings of romantic rejection, these deep-seated emotions driving her consideration of –but not action for–dermatologic procedures and skin care products. We had designed time and daypart into projects like this to create a productive environment for sensitive discussions. Yes, it’s hard working the guide topics through the tears and emotional tensions. Exhausting, yes, but through our fastidious listening, emerge patterns. Insight! A take-charge, self-worth positioning that motivates action.

Sometimes our commitment to discovering those rich insights has meant some outrageous experiences along the way!

On a lighter note, we have taped off rooms to observe consumers’ roach-killing solutions, chased down elusive car dealers for 4 weeks to complete 9 interviews, performed 24 interviews about the nuances of successful global currency exchange, followed the granular paper trail in engineers’ workflows, and noted specific consumer needs behind what we’ll call the results of “poor knife skills.”

We know that real insight comes from immersion into the experiences we seek to understand. So, even when it is discussing cat litter cleaning preferences, ahem, in the moment, we will go the extra mile to observe and probe the emotions and influences affecting customer decision making. Because we truly love what we do–yes, even getting our feet wet–to help YOU make smarter business decisions.

 

The Importance of Conversational Intimacy for Qualitative Insight

Posted on: November 29th, 2017 by doyle


From the desk of Carole Schmidt

Observations and insights are not the same thing. Observations provide us with behavioral thematic “buckets” of potentially meaningful fodder. Observations can be visual, auditory, tactile, and even latent in form, e.g., witnessing compensating behaviors.  Envision multiple customers each unconsciously biting open a package and spilling the contents because they didn’t understand they were holding the packaging upside down.

Genuine insights, on the other hand, don’t roll off the customer’s tongue. Insights emerge from thoughtful review, deep analysis, creativity, and persistence.  We love supporting brand teams by discovering those underlying, emotion- and value-driven motivations and barriers, those personal, deep-seated beliefs that consciously—or, more often, subconsciously–influence customers’ decision-making. Where do her confused beliefs about hygiene come from? Why is he so focused on fuel economy? What makes the association with “professional” so compelling in this category? Why doesn’t she trust our brand like she does our competitor’s?

Just like the developing romance of a couple, you can’t get a full sense of either partner’s underlying motives from simply observing them or reading texts. Insights are realized by creating an environment conducive to intimate conversation with the customer–whether at home, in the car, or on the worksite. Then, the participant has to be nurtured, sensitively guided using active listening and precise, skilled probing. This tango of comfort and trust is essential for a rich and revealing exchange.

So, how do you achieve conversational intimacy in qualitative research?

Champion the value of quality time with your customer. Latent beliefs, perceptions, and values do not surface in 20 minutes, nor on a mobile survey. The “why’s” that exist below-the-surface require hours with each participant to explore for underlying emotions and covert beliefs. Yes, it’s labor intensive, but there is good news: all of that time doesn’t have to come in the form of a single long interview.

  • Best practice: Implement a series of three touchpoints with each participant, to encourage a speedier development of a moderator-participant partnership. Three touchpoints can provide a surprising level of comfort to the participant because of the accumulated familiarity and trust with the moderator, leading to evocative dialogue.
    1. Conduct a 10 to15 minute pre-call for introductions, Q&A, establishing legitimacy, setting expectations, and calming fears
    2. Assign the participant a brief but relevant activity, then discuss it together by phone before the home interview
    3. Conduct the main interview at home (whether online or in person) at the easiest time of day for the participant (often mid evening), which further makes the conversation feel like old friends reconnecting.

Avoid the fishbowl. Just because research participants may permit a 4-5 person research team to come inside and chat doesn’t mean we should. Could you share your cleaning idiosyncrasies, the struggles in your family relationships, or bare your honest financial picture for buying a new car–with 4 to 5 faces staring at you? Social anxiety may not always be visible to the research team excited to see “real customers,” but we certainly can tell when it blocks intimacy and inhibits emotionally charged conversation.

  • Best practice: Research has shown that respondents feel most accepted, flaws and all, when engaged in one-on-one conversations. We suggest including only those members of the research team who are truly vested in the customer’s experience. We also suggest that you limit viewers at each interview–to one team member. Simply rotate team members across interviews. We’ll optimize that team member’s role so they’ll blend into the background enabling intimacy to bloom. As the only viewer, your team member will be fully engrossed as the sole interview witness, keener to identifying insight territories as they surface.

Surrender to the quiet. Closeness is the ability to let down the inner barriers that allow the moderator and viewer to see the customer as s/he truly is. When you feel close to another person, you don’t mind if that person sees you without your normal defenses—psychological and otherwise. This is where meaningful insights are born. According to the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, “even the most autonomous of individuals needs the kind of human contact that intimacy can bring.” This intimacy sometimes calls for patience and silent, contemplative moments that lead to participants exposing important emotional vulnerabilities. These silences feel unfamiliar and even uncomfortable to some team observers, who tend to fill these audible vacuums with the impediment of small talk.

  • Best practice: We are trained to communicate positively in an intimate relationship by being both active and empathic in probing our participants’ experiences. But we also practice being comfortable with silence. This is important for in depth exploration. For example, we may encourage a participant to wander into another room as s/he thinks about a particular query before answering. We find that many times, that momentary “silence” causes a participant to return to the discussion “dance” with an even richer, more revealing story to tell!

Strategize the seating. We request in our pre-talk conversations with participants that our chats and meetings occur from the most physically-comfortable hang-out spots at home, leveraging what already makes our participant feel relaxed and naturally contributory.

  • Best practice: Encourage participants to sit where they typically do. Create an “intimacy triangle” by sitting 90-degrees from the participant, with the observer at the far end of the triangle, observing from afar. This encourages one-on-one dialogue with the moderator, allowing the team observer to discreetly take notes or photos.

As your moderator, it is my job to carefully guide conversation with skilled, active listening and gentle probing. Your commitment to an environment of intimacy will optimize the participant’s psychological comfort and trust, making the qualitative exchange ever more productive and valuable, money well spent.

I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE…8 easy ways to get closer to your customer on a tiny budget, or less!

Posted on: October 2nd, 2017 by doyle

 

From the desk of Carole Schmidt

Steve Jobs famously quipped: “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need, well before they realize it themselves.”  

We understand that budgets are tight and time is pressured. When full research projects aren’t in the mix, here are 8 underutilized ways to engage with your customer for depth and breadth and possibly your next “big idea”:

  1. Do the CX “presearch”/ Observe your customer in situ, where decisions are made. Get out of the office. Ask 3 customers if you can shadow them for one morning each. Whether it’s a business customer who owns a busy distribution center, or a single dad juggling his job, the kids, the shopping and the transport for his husband, or a construction worker on the site, most people are happy to have you walk in their shoes if you just ask. Take pictures. Take notes. Pin them up in front of you.
  2. Check the mail / Read unsolicited customer emails, letters, contact comments. There is a wealth of product or service refinement opportunities over in the PR department, underutilized by insights teams. Tap into this rich resource. Then move it to your department. Then post it on your walls.
  3. Explore the buzz / Conduct qualitative social media analysis of your customers’ category, brands, competitors to see what’s being said behind the trendlines. It’s not expensive, and there’s likely to be a trove of fodder there. (See http://doyleresearch.com/digging-behind-social-media-trendlines-matters/)
  4. See it to believe it / Ask for customer-generated video: Everyone’s carrying a smartphone these days, making your customers’ experience—including those small annoyances or pesky tasks–easier than ever to capture in the moment. Ask your customers to do a 30-second video about…insert topic (complaint, excitement, process need, etc.)…and have them send it to you. Today. Then watch it. Have 20+ of those? We’ll watch them and tell you what they mean and what you might do about it!
  5. What you already know may help you—again! / Discover new insights from old research using Meta Analysis! If you have research reports less than two years old, get some coffee and settle in to read them again, cover to cover. Have dozens? We’ll help you tap your customer’s voice by reviewing your existing research with fresh eyes and a different objective, so you get more out of the research dollars you’re already spending. Bosses love the efficiency, and you will love the “aha’s” buried inside.
  6. Become your competitors’ good customer. / Conduct the intelligence for smarter business decisions. Eat their pizza. Install their app. Test drive or rent their cars. Open an account at their online store. Understanding your competitors’ CX instantly makes you sharper about what distinction and benefits you should be promoting, and what refinements you should be considering.
  7. Ask for specifics. / Pay for more open ends and analysis on your customer satisfaction surveys. Then personally read the responses so you can hear the ideas, but also gauge the more subtle tone and feel and particular language your customer uses.
  8. Invite ideas and suggestions. / Create a formal channel or forum for customers to share ideas and creativity. Then reward them for it to keep the pipeline full! Whether its gamification or simply thanking customers with an inexpensive sampling of free product or discounted service, these efforts go a long way to encourage a customer partnership.

What’s on your qualitative wish list? How can Doyle Research do a better job for you?  We welcome your input! cschmidt@doyleresearch.com

 

Advertising Communication Checks: Valuable or a Necessary Evil?

Posted on: July 26th, 2017 by doyle

adcommchecksFrom the desk of Kathy Doyle

I’ve been conducting advertising communication checks for over 30 years, and one thing has not changed…   most of the parties involved dread them. The agency doesn’t like seeing their creative work questioned based on input from a small number of research participants in an artificial setting.  The client does not like navigating the politics of getting the job done, all the while knowing the agency is less than thrilled. And no one really likes sitting in a back room, or in front of a computer screen, for hours on end listening to the same questions being asked every 20-30 minutes.

Yet there are some very compelling reasons why we continue to conduct communication checks:

  • To make sure we haven’t lost sight of who the target is, keeping our finger on the pulse of how best to communicate with them, and mitigate coming across as pandering or tone deaf
  • To make sure we haven’t missed the mark on messaging, and mistaking what we thought was crystal clear for a totally unintended meaning
  • To make sure the visuals support the message, rather than conflict with it
  • To make sure that brand/product recall is strong. It’s great if people love the ad, but if they don’t know what it’s advertising, what’s the point?
  • To optimize (or eliminate) executions prior to quantitative testing and/or final production. Why not find out if there are ways the execution can be tweaked to strengthen it before spending large sums of money?

Clearly, I’m coming out on the side of considering communication checks valuable.   To maximize their value, here are Six Tips for More Productive Communication Checks:

  1. Limit exposure to three executions per respondent, to prevent fatigue from clouding candid feedback
  2. Video storyboards with audio are acceptable; a complete video (albeit rough cut) is better; don’t make the consumer work too hard to see the idea
  3. Consider exposing the ads in a clutter reel to more closely simulate a real viewing experience and more accurately assess breakthrough
  4. Keep them 1:1 for the most honest commentary. People rarely watch programs or web surf with others, let alone strangers!
  5. Keep them short (20-30 minutes) to prevent over-thinking and to be efficient. We often do 12-18 interviews per day!
  6. Consider conducting the interviews online rather than in-person. When people are at home, they are more relaxed and more likely to provide candid feedback.  Use a platform built for research for the most problem-free experience.

One rule to keep in mind: Avoid using communication checks to kill a creative concept. Not only is the sample size too small, but the research is designed to assess communication not the core concept, so elimination is incongruous in this research context. Follow this one simple rule, incorporate some of the tips above, and the needle can easily be moved from “necessary evil” to truly advantageous!

Garbage in. Garbage out. The Need for Concept Optimization.

Posted on: June 1st, 2017 by doyle

From the desk of Carole Schmidtsusana-fernandez-56313

I’m just going to say it. We see a lot of bad concepts.

Look, we fully understand that it’s not easy to create a compelling new product and seemingly impossible to carve out real brand distinction in crowded categories. And rocket speed-to-market means you’ve got six months to get this thing on shelf!  But, sheesh, too often we are handed concepts that are still being written as we’re performing participant introductions during the research.  In other real world scenarios, waves of team review, and legal’s approval, have created some real concept doozers, delivered to us researchers either diluted to mush, with the core idea buried in euphemisms, or wholly lacking a reason for being.

I’m just going to say it. Spending time getting the “test” concepts right is worth its weight in gold.

Checking in with your customer along the way, while you’re crafting those concepts, reduces the misses on the back end, saving valuable time and money. Several “presearch” avenues are inexpensive and fast and they will help you get to great concepts, faster.

Relate to a need: The most successful concepts address a real customer’s unmet need or compensating behavior. How do you discover those? Get out of the office to observe your customer in situ by going in-home or in-car.  Tap mobile journals or geofenced intercept interviews to capture and understand the customer experience at the point-of-purchase or use.

Reflect the language of the target to increase relevance: Yogurt eaters are particular about thick vs. Greek. Gearheads know what a four-banger is. Tap qualitative social media analysis to get a handle on the language your customers speak.

Understand concept-product fit: When you have a product in mind as well as a concept, go both ways. Explore your concept first among some and probe for product expectations. Investigate your product first among others, then probe how to communicate about it.  This is where your internal employees/staff can be of great help, formally, with a series of moderated on-site or webcam interviews, or informally, discussed around the water cooler or lunchroom at the office.

 Consider exposing the concept unbranded, too: Probe, “Is there an idea here?” independently of revealing the brand behind that idea to better assess the concept’s strength and the power of your brand as part of that concept. Branded and unbranded concepts can be rotated in online boards just as readily as they can be in focus groups.

Communicate as intended: “Gives you energy to take on the day” was meant to be a sustaining and satiety benefit, but in research it was also incorrectly perceived as a telltale sign of high carbs or sugar to many. Communication checks for concept clarity are efficient and inexpensive; they can be done in a day, in–person or online.

 I’m just going to say it again. Take your concepts as seriously as you do the rest of your research spend. Get your customer involved in optimizing your concepts before testing them. We look forward to your future successful concepts!