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Using Consumer Research to Gain Competitive Advantage

‘Focus groups’ are often the default consumer research method yet in today’s highly competitive environment relying on groups alone is blinkered, if not blind. If everyone is just using the same technique how can anyone possibly gain an advantage over a competitor? So how can you gain new insights and an edge?

First, as insights can come from anywhere, it is vital to look in different places, and view and explore consumers in different ways. Use mixed methods to push the boundaries, dig deeper, and look into the future.  We advocate using three consumer research strategies to gain an edge; we call them the three Cs: Context, Challenge and Collaboration.

Get up close to understand the consumer context

Who consumers are, their needs, behaviour and influences are seldom what they seem. Sometimes consumer preferences and reasoning is beyond imagination.  So we need to understand who consumers are, how they live their lives, what’s important and why.  So by getting close up, and though observation, it is possible to truly understanding the decision making context.

Provide challenging experiences

Consumer  thoughts and feelings come from their own frame of reference i.e. experiences, prejudices and memory.  By provoking consumers, it is possible to reveal what is unconsidered, hidden or perhaps forgotten. So take them out of their comfort zones and provide new experiences. For example, giving consumers a new or different product to try can reveal insights on current product deficiencies,  on new or unmet needs, and also on barriers to overcome. Conversely, combining loyal and lapsed consumers in a ‘conflict group’ can reveal drivers and barriers to usage. Also to cast new light on the strength of attitudes, and whether, and how, to change attitudes.

Involve consumers as collaborators

Today we live in an increasingly connected and savvy society with greater free-flow of information and collaboration. In IT collaboration and ‘open-source’ software is common-place. Consumers are also very familiar with advertising and brands. able to discourse in ‘technical’ terms. This is a boon for researchers and marketers.  It therefore means that consumers able to discourse in ‘technical’ terms and also create as well as assess communication and product ideas and solutions. The concept of collaboration applies all aspects of research. The only limiting factor is our imagination! For example, by including specific technical experts in research, brings leading-edge insights and ideas, and potential glimpses into the future.

Marketing Inspiration

For market research to probe for new insights and give you an edge consider the 3 Cs : Context, Challenge and Collaboration.

What do you think?