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Don't Forget About Observable Research

iMedia Mikael Greenlief, Online Media Planner, Red Door Interactive Having been entrenched in some aspect of online and digital marketing since the start of my career, I have heard countless times from clients and colleagues, “show us the numbers,” “show us the analytics,” “show us the stats”.  These requests are valid and quite important.  The data often help us glean insights upon which we can develop strategies and execute them. However, there is another reference point that is of equal importance; unscripted, observable research. Most traditional forms of research are typically conducted with a few premises that present some gaps in understanding human intention and behavior, including:

  1. Asking a select group of people to provide their true opinions about a brand or product.
  2. Surveying a large sample size of randomly-selected people a large volume of questions, hoping to get a “true” understanding of their behavior.
  3. Posing real-time questions about their experience post interaction or purchase (in-banner surveys in web forms).
Looking at some of the principles of psychology and sociology, people often don’t know why they do what they do, or say what they say and find it difficult to answer such questions in a group setting. Most times they act on feeling, impulse or habit.  It’s the way they’ve always done it or what they’ve always thought. To provide some context, think about the last time you brushed your teeth. Did you think through the process of getting your toothbrush, rinsing it off, grabbing the paste, opening the lid, putting it on your brush, closing the lid and then start brushing your teeth? It’s safe to say that you probably did not. It was habit, instinctual. Another good example might be the last time you went to a restaurant, had a wonderful (or awful) experience and wanted to share it with your friends on Facebook. Did you put a lot of thought into what you said then wrote and rewrote it while fine tuning your position throughout? Most likely you wrote what came into thought, shared your true and honest opinion as a result. The unaided, unbiased, qualitative information provided from watching consumers in action in their own environment can be extremely useful – sometimes more so than web analytics – in driving both online and offline marketing strategy. Brushing your teeth may seem like a mundane, habitual act, but for companies that are able to watch, it can offer numerous insights that can drive product design (how do they hold their brush), packaging (is the tube easy to open) and product type (is there too much foam in the paste, do we need to alter the ingredient mix) just to name a few. All forms of research are valid and can provide brilliant ideas. That means organizations can’t become narrow-minded in their approach and not see the bigger picture that comes from getting too mired in digital numbers and prompted questions. In order to fully understand the consumer, marketers must also observe actual behaviors, listen to their unaided opinions and understand the context of the situation. Taking this into account along with the more popular forms of research (survey, focus groups, statistics) will help companies understand the complete picture of human behavior in order to develop the most effective plan. Read article on iMedia here>>> 

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