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Research is the blueprint for a relationship…and is seen as a cost... or worse a gift to marketers!

November 02, 2020


Research Is The Blueprint For A Relationship…And Is Seen As A Cost... Or Worse A Gift To Marketers!

The year of new traditions! Fluid changes. We’ve all no doubt had moments that felt this, especially in the workplace. It seems like the office holiday party may be a thing of the past. The office itself might be a thing of the past for some businesses.

Another thing that’s changed a lot in the last few months? Consumer preferences. As consumer preferences change, we have to change our approach to consumer research.

Research is how Marketers learn to feel their customers

In the summer, it felt like many companies were trying to reset their understanding and seeking consumer research, typically quantitative to reach broad numbers. A survey was fielded, answers back and data crunched. 

There is always a role for quantitative research, but the more studies I was involved with, through Clients the plainer it became that marketers needed to feel their consumers and this tool was coming up short. Breakthrough strategies will come through Marketers who can feel their consumers and that means good qualitative research is also important.

With quantitative research, we can only learn the answers to the questions we ask. We ask a question, and customers click a button or check a box that best represents their reply. They don’t tell us much more than that. Occasionally, we’ll give them the option to give us something more substantial. But that’s usually elaboration on the specific question we asked.

Good qualitative research puts the customer in the driver’s seat. Especially research that allows the consumer to subconsciously take us through their decision making journey naturally, prior to asking to direct questions. Those insights are far more valuable, especially in the era of COVID-19.

Lots of research options and data points but be careful…

One thing driving this change is the availability of software platforms and competitive research houses. And AI availability is changing the face of research. AI can analyzehundreds or thousands of hours of interviews and identify patterns. Insights coming from patterns is good. But what I have learned, many, many times in past marketing lives… the big idea may not come from a mainstream pattern but is random and can be missed. A marketer who feels their brand, tunes into those nuggets even more so than the researcher. They just “feel” that it is significant and perhaps game changing. 

Another major change is that our customers are more willing to talk to us, on social media or via email. They want to be involved with our brands, and they’re more willing to carry on a conversation with us.  And this is an open access avenue to learn and create a dialogue but also has obvious downsides if communication is not handled properly. 

Too much data can drown or sit and never be actioned

Another driving force is the impact of consumer behaviour on many departments inside bigger organizations, not just marketing and the need for research. 

Some of the world's top organizations felt they were “drowning” in data about the pandemic. Every team, was trying to do their own research. Big data and little internal resources to analyze and apply it. Some organizations created an “insight team” that began to synchronize the data and sort it thematically. It was easier to streamline and discover how that data was relevant to any team or department and answer key behaviour questions.

This democratization of data means a few different things. First, it means being able to translate data into something anyone can use or understand. Next, it also means letting teams have access to research you’ve done or being able to access data from other teams.

·      This can create more complete pictures of our consumers and how they’re feeling in any given moment. It can also help us streamline the research we’re doing. We can then cut down on the volume of data we have to contend with.

·      This creates a team of experts who can understand all sides of the consumer and more effectively brief, guide internal teams on changes and opportunities.

·      This can help us focus research, while at the same time doing more in-depth and complete research. 

·      Helps put things into action quickly. If we can’t, we run the risk of it being outdated before the analysis reaches anyone’s desk. 

Consistency in research IS a customer relationship investment

Perhaps the biggest change is that we’ve recognized consumer research has to be ongoing. The world around us is changing so fast. 

Consistently speaking with your customers, keeps you at the forefront of change. Not just segmentation and other quantitative studies evaluating small overall shifts but consistent qualitative research talking to the lovers of your brands and categories to feel what is coming and planning forward. 

Brands that are disrupting mature comfortable categories are out there all the time learning. That is the thing that is so frustrating is how research is seen as a cost and not a customer relationship investment. And think of it this way, your competitors are getting to know YOUR consumers better than you in order to take your customer from you or at least occasions from you. 

And use your internal data. Your social media team is interacting with customers, gathering feedback from them constantly. Your returns department is dealing with what customers have sent back and why. They may be following up with customers. Your IT team has stats on your website usage, like shopping cart abandonment rates and more.

All this information can be the basis of consumer research. You might see website statistics and conclude people seem to abandon their carts when shipping fees are added. You might see if this theme has come up in customer interviews too. You could ask customers to talk about what causes them to walk away from an online store or what makes them want to come back.

Attitudes towards shipping fees might change suddenly too. As long as we’re doing constant research in one form or another, then we should be able to see these trends and changes.

Customer research is a tool that is incredibly important all the time, but especially this year and heading into 2021. Research is your bridge to best understanding your customer. Good quality qualitative research is your ability as a marketer to feel your customer. 

And as always, staying in sync with our customers means we need to start with the why!


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