W5 attended the last of this year’s three Quirks events, this time held at Navy Pier in Chicago. It was full of the standard long days, catching up with people, and giveaways. The authors of this post: Martin Molloy, Qualitative Practice Partner, and Kathy Justice, Qualitative Senior Consultant, were happy to be in attendance.
As part of the W5 qualitative research team, we were both keen on weighing the value of new research technology with traditional qualitative methods and research values. Could virtual shelf sets, consumer observation via smart home technology, and text interviews replace more traditional ethnographic and interview techniques? Well, yes and no. These tools are incredibly beneficial in letting us connect with consumers in their daily lives and allow for more natural, empathetic conversations. But, they do not replace the heart of qualitative research – consumer stories – in a world where it seems the big trend is faster and shorter insights, delivered at the speed of a text, there is a craving for deeper, richer consumer feedback.
In a nutshell, brands and market research suppliers are figuring out what W5 has known for a while – consumer stories matter. Consumers are more than the sum of their parts, demographics, household income, purchasing behaviors, etc. There is an inherent story behind how people live and think. They may not always neatly match a marketer’s vision or the desire of a market researcher to make sense of the universe, but the stories are there nonetheless.
One session that emphasized this point was Susan Fader’s Narrative Economics. Instead of looking at behavior or demographics, Susan encouraged researchers and clients to consider how individuals view themselves as a means of identifying and sorting them into groups. The idea that region, age, income, and a handful of other demographics alone make up one’s identify doesn’t always work. Connections via the Internet and general societal changes have made it just as likely that consumers view their people as others with similar tastes, lifestyles, attitudes, and/or behaviors. A cohort of similar consumers could be grouped by shared interests spanning a wide variety of communities from gaming to cosplay to sexual or political identities. As a result, when researchers sit down with a group of consumers who appear the same on the surface, they shouldn’t be surprised if attitudes and opinions vary widely.
Additionally, Susan said too often brands focus on their category and how they see it instead of how the consumer sees it. Do your consumers think of a food by flavors and brands or do they see different products having different jobs based on the time of day or their moods? Unlocking these ideas could be the answer to driving growth and innovation as brands look for new spaces as competition ramps up, whether you are asking them in-person or via video chat.