‘Focus groups’ are often the default qualitative research method yet in today’s highly competitive environment relying on groups alone is blinkered and disadvantageous. 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 subject matter in different ways. Use mixed methods to push the boundaries, explore beyond the here and now and uncover insights on new or unmet needs. We advocate using three research strategies to gain an edge; we call them the three Cs: Context, Challenge and Collaboration.
Get up close to understand the context where consumers make choices
Who consumers are, their needs, behavioural processes and influences are seldom what they seem. Sometimes consumers will prefer an alternative to your product or service and understanding what and why will show previously unconsidered product, positioning and promotion issues and opportunities. Quirks in product usage can also highlight product limitations or misconceptions. So we need to understand who consumers are, how they live their lives, what’s important and influential. This can only be revealed by getting close up and through observation. For example, in food markets, understand the social context in which food is eaten as well as reaction to the food. Understand selection, storage, preparation and clearing-up behaviour to show the importance of criteria such as convenience, ease of use and sustainability.
Provide challenging experiences to go beyond the obvious
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 forgotten. To do this they need taking out of their comfort zones and given new experiences. For example, giving consumers a new or different product to try can reveal insights on new or unmet needs. And also on barriers to overcome. Conversely, combining loyal and lapsed consumers in a ‘conflict group’ can reveal triggers and barriers to usage. It also casts new light on the strength of attitudes and whether, and if so, how to overcome potential usage barriers.
Involve consumers as collaborators
Today we live in an increasingly connected society with greater free-flow of information and collaboration. In the IT world this has led to the development and increasing popularity of ‘open-source’ software. Consumer’s familiarity with advertising and brands means that they are more ‘savvy’ and able to discourse in ‘technical’ terms. This is a boon for researchers and marketers as it means that consumers can create not just assess marketing solutions. The concept of collaboration applies to both who, how to and what to research. The only limiting factor is our imagination! It means consumers and experts can help develop new products, services, communications, brands and more.
To really probe for new insights to give you an edge consider the 3 Cs : Context, Challenge and Collaboration.
Watch our video on gaining competitive advantage from qualitative research on The Marketing Directors’ Channel.