As Strategy Director, Taylor Standlee is an expert at identifying business challenges, creating strategic solutions, and driving business growth. Taylor offers thoughts on the changing landscape of good research for B2C businesses today.
How is consumer research evolving?
Businesses are constantly looking for new ways of understanding, reaching, and connecting with the people important to their success. This includes customers, consumers, investors, and employees. And we’ve never had so many tools or so much data at our fingertips. The challenge, as always, is to be smart about how we go about gaining the information that will help a business make better data-informed decisions.
Data is an essential requirement for successful business today – but not all data is created equal. It’s about getting research right.
So how do you get it right?
Getting research right means meeting the research objectives in the most efficient and effective manner available. This begins with clear, focused research objectives. The objectives dictate the methods, not the other way around.
There’s a tendency to obsess over the growing streams of real-time data – coming from sales, CRM, social listening, and customer satisfaction surveys – that help businesses identify patterns indicating what’s happening. However, these largely quantitative streams of data are just not as good at answering the critical question of “why”. In the famous words of sociologist William Bruce Cameron:
“Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.”
Smart businesses are coming to understand the strengths and limitations of these quantitative tools and we’re seeing a revival of interest in modern qualitative methods as a result.
Can you talk more about the resurgence of qualitative measures happening in research today?
I think we are in a classic ‘lurch and learn’ moment. We see a resurgence of interest among our clients in qualitative methods that are designed to get at the ‘why’. This means depth interviews, ethnographies, and even focus groups that capture rich data on people’s behaviors and emotional needs. These methods help us come to terms with the ‘why’ – generating an understanding of the emotional and rational drivers of engagement, connection, and the behaviors those quantitative measures are so good at tracking. Since people now demand brands to act more humanly and authentically, while seamlessly integrating into their lives, qualitative research holds profound value today. This is why there’s increased interest in taking new-school informed approaches to old-school methods like ethnographies, focus groups, shop-alongs, and IDI’s.
So what we advocate for is approaching research holistically. Using all available methods in order to achieve your specific objectives in a way that empowers decision making and coordination with the organization.
What are some best practices for good research?
1) Use research to help align your organization.
Make the findings accessible to non-research experts. When only specialists see it and understand it, you undercut the value of the research. By being transparent and open, findings can help create a shared understanding of the situation. They can also fuel both creativity and collaboration.
2) Socialize the findings in an immersive way.
Research is most valuable when businesses build a living way for people to interact with the data. The experience has to be authentic and as real as possible. At Emotive Brand, we are creating highly immersive environments for presenting research findings. These environments allow people to interact with those findings in meaningful ways. Decks and reports just don’t cut it. By allowing people to really immerse themselves in the data, they are better able to embrace the findings and apply them to their own work. They can grasp brand moments, and get into the hearts and minds of the consumers they are building and designing for, marketing towards, or working to connect with and reach. This means higher functioning marketing materials, better designed products, and a business and brand tailored for growth.
What’s the overall payoff of good research for B2C companies?
Good research is efficient, accurate, and acts as an aid to decision making. It captures the essence of both what’s happening in the market and, critically, why it’s happening. Success hinges on a rich understanding of people’s lives and decisions. You can’t get around that. Smart businesses are constantly thinking about how and why they matter to the people who matter to their business, specifically consumers. Businesses need to embrace a holistic approach to research that includes qualitative measures and a heightened emphasis on how they present and share findings in order to find success today.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy agency.