From an interview with Perpetual Insights
Q. What’s your approach to market research, both customer and competitor focused?
Any successful research reflects the specific needs, issues, and opportunities of the particular brand and business, but broadly, in practice we believe:
As we’re all drowning in data, productive research needs to reveal insight, not simply regurgitate information.
The essence of rewarding research isn’t just reporting what one see or hears, but rather applying the intuition and understanding of people that sees patterns and connects the dots that can help explain and predict behavior.
Qual precedes quant as it’s richer and more instructive in resolving issues and planning next steps. There are a number of wonderful methods, on and offline, with and without software, in person and at home, ranging across ethnographies, narratives and personas, interviews, shop-a-longs, and sometimes even the time honored focus group.
While my purist research colleagues may disagree, as a marketer I know that good research proceeds from strong and solid hypotheses. Because regardless of where the research journey goes, while you need an open mind, you must also have a point-of-view, if not many, to prove or disprove, and push off from in forming new thinking. I worry when I hear “No, we don’t have any hypotheses yet because we haven’t seen the data…” If you’re not in a position to formulate the going-in hypotheses before fielding the design, how can you hope to intelligently conduct and evaluate the research and its findings?
Depending on the issues at hand, design thinking as a discipline is one of the broadest and best approaches available as it embraces empathy in a strategic and functional way to uncover the truth. While painfully obvious to many, the primary principle of design thinking puts the consumer first, not the company. To be in fact consumer centric and focus on fulfilling their wants and needs as the profitable path to product and brand development and marketplace success. As such, design thinking is a competitive advantage in producing products, differentiating brands, creating consumer loyalty, and commanding a premium price. (You can learn more and see how IBM’s adopted design thinking here Introducing IBM Design-Thinking.)
Finally, given where we find ourselves today, the very concept of research - as a separate event at a particular point in time - risks becoming a relic of a bygone era. We’ll always have consumer research and it’ll always provide value but the continuous disruption of marketing, media, content, and shopping, has taken a toll on the models of the past.
Things are moving very quickly. Speed’s more important than ever. And the brands succeeding today are in constant touch with their consumers, designers, and influencers in social and online communities across the brand experience. They encourage conversations and engagement with current and potential customers and harvest the continuous feedback, insight, and product iteration that are becoming the new ways of working.
Research is wonderful but it takes time in asking today’s questions, whose answers risk arriving months after markets have moved on. Increasingly, chances are what your traditional research is desperately trying to learn, Amazon and it’s acolytes already know - and are acting on at your peril.