Steps to ensure good consumer research for your brand
Whether you belong from an FMCG environment, retail, or any other industry, doing good consumer research could be one of the most anxious tasks. But this task is highly crucial as it defines the next steps and your entire marketing strategy. So what should be the next steps to endure that you have good consumer research.
Form a hypothesis
It may sound like something you would do only when you can prove or disprove it quantitatively. However, it is very useful to form hypotheses even while doing immersions because as you meet more and more consumers you will be able to see a pattern and that will help you make better decisions in the absence of full-fledged quantitative research all the time.
Now it’s important to know what type of hypothesis one should form for immersions – they have to be around behavioral patterns and not exact or restrictive.
An example of a hypothesis that I can give you is from my experience when I was interning with Future group.
Since the brand was big and I along with my team was given the responsibility of working on the already existing loyalty programs, it was important to form a hypothesis to know where we stand and analyze the gap we needed to cover.
One of the insights was that we took a hypothesis that around 60% of the consumers in Big Bazaar use one or the other loyalty cards, but the result after surveying them was 40% which was a 20% gap.
What these hypotheses help in doing is help you structure your own thoughts when you talk to consumers a then you can veer your conversation to either prove or disprove your null hypothesis.
Sometimes it is also called defining the objective of the immersions. Also, even when you don’t want to deep dive into a specific direction and want to just acquaint yourself with the consumer it's useful to put down a hypothesis. It helps structure the discussion better and eventually also put a method to the madness that unstructured data can go to.
Define your recruitment criteria well
Basis of your hypothesis, know who you want to meet, and very specifically define them.
Giving my example, when my team and I were making a product market launch strategy for a yogurt brand, our target market was centered on health or gym fanatics. When do they eat a snack? What do they look while choosing a snack and how can we inculcate our product in their daily habit.
Then we moved into families who want to try new dessert but are very careful about their calorie intake. So on and so forth.
For a bigger brand, if you want to understand barriers to your brands then get aware not trialists recruited. Choose a definition that is easy to recruit & there is enough representation for such recruitment.
Make a rough discussion guide
As a beginner, preparation is the key.
Do make a list of the type of questions you will ask the consumer. Make sure not to treat it like a questionnaire that you have to go in order & tick mark each question but essentially as a guide for you to navigate your conversation around.
The person is likely to deviate and will go in different directions but you have to make sure not to become a prisoner to your own discussion guide. Be flexible and structured.
Make him/her comfortable
It’s true that you are meeting the consumer for a specific purpose but much like a conversation between colleagues, new people we meet in life some effort needs to be made to break the ice.
They will be as nervous as you and in fact are continuously feeling judged because in their minds you will be making an opinion on their life choices.
How do you go on about breaking the ice?
Start by introducing yourself.
Talk a little about what do you do. Don’t tell them where you work but stuff like your work for a market research company and just want to talk to them to understand their lifestyle. There are no right or wrong answers and you just want to talk. Adding some personal anecdotes helps in putting the person at ease.
If there are kids or elders, include them in the conversation.
Working under a brand consultancy on a project to redefine the branding of a gaming platform has helped me to understand this nuance. Getting to know the person’s life or how they spend their hours daily can lead us to an increase in sign-ups for an online game. You just have to make them comfortable.
The most important step to remember is not to judge.
Don’t let your personal ideologies and perceptions surface when you are talking to a consumer. You are there to know what he/she thinks, what are their realities, what are their motivators.
This exercise is not about making a difference in their lives or expressing your POV. Personally, it has been a struggle for me especially while carrying out surveys either during the brand consultancy work or working under Future group.
This affects how you do the next part that is unpeeling or getting insights out of the conversations. For example, meeting a lower income group consumer in a smaller town in India, male domination comes up as a way of life, and while you personally may like it or not it’s not our place to have an opinion about it.
Here the role is to understand what role such a social structure play in decision making, family structures, wants, and desires. And there will be many other such instances.
Meeting consumers who will not be articulate and who will not talk enough has a high probability. In these situations, try different approaches to make them talk but don’t lead their answers.
Don’t give them multiple choices from what you already know and then ask them to choose because they will choose one, but it will not make us any wiser about our consumers. In this case, it is better to cut short the interview instead.
New trends, new beliefs, new lifestyle, new social structures all come alive in a more concrete way than any amount of information & numbers present all around you when you deep dive into these conversations.
Get over your initial anxiety and you will get a chance to see the world from a different eye as you step in your consumer’s shoes.