5 Reasons To Do Market Research In a Big Data World Part 3
Data Can’t Measure What Doesn’t Exist Yet
By: Robyn Cauchy
In my last two posts about the value of market research in a big data world, I wrote about how going out and talking to consumers can help businesses understand why their customers are doing the things they are, and help to identify opportunities with new customers or in new parts of the value chain. In this post, I’ll expand on my writing about “new” to postulate on the role of primary market research in creating novel (and more importantly, valuable) things or experiences.
Even though I make it quite clear that I love primary and especially qualitative research, I also love data as a robust way to measure current experiences and identify areas for improvement. Why look at a sample of customer’s behaviours when you can look at them all? With all the enthusiasm for data-driven decision-making, some companies are measuring new experiences by building working prototypes, launching them into market, and measuring reactions. This method is definitely valid, but it has (at least) two challenges:
· If a new experience flops, it’s still hard to see why. Triage will still require research, after having spent time and money building something that in the end didn’t work or provide value.
· If a new experience is successful, a company can start collecting feedback data to make continuous improvements. But the company wouldn’t know whether some other concept could have been more successful.
Especially for brand new products, services and experiences, investing in a little feedback at the concept phase can have big paybacks or at least reduce risk. The Wharton School of Business’ publication Knowledge @ Wharton cites 3D-TV as an example of this phenomenon in this article.
New technologies will always present new possibilities. Research helps to understand what needs these possibilities can solve in order to do something relevant. GALE was recently asked by a client to help them build a native app that emulated technology they saw their competitors using: a consultation tool to help customers find just the right beauty / personal care product from their line up. Admittedly, this was not the most novel technology or idea ever conceived, but it was a capability that would be brand new to that company. They did not have any existing experiences for which they could gather usage and effectiveness data to help them evaluate the investment, or hit the right design notes.
We came up with many interesting concepts but before pitching and building, we wanted to make sure this would add value to consumers and our client. The client could see the front-end experience their competitors had created, but had no access to data about how these were delivering results for competitors or if consumers were even interested. So, we helped them ask those questions through a quick Ask GALE survey. As it turned out, existing tools were pretty effective at driving a purchase from the brand that made the tool…but awareness of the tools was low over all. Only about half of American women had ever used one of these tools! Our client also had brand awareness issues: fewer than half of surveyed women had heard of their brand. Building a mobile app for them would have created a double-whammy of awareness challenges and wasted precious marketing spend!
Through this quick survey we were able to understand some other more relevant digital sources of awareness of their target consumer: online product review sites, the brand/product website and social media. We also learned what kind of information consumers look for most on brand websites: mostly product effectiveness, followed by brand values. Because we knew that product consultation and recommendation tools were actually effective at driving purchase when people found them and used them, we didn’t want to throw that idea out entirely, we just needed to place it better. The end outcome was a recommendation to build an interactive rich-media unit that they could use for awareness and conversion. They could also use it to enhance storytelling about product effectiveness on their website.
Let me turn the page from these examples of how early research can help you avoid waste and tell a story about a time when research helped GALE develop something new and great!
An opportunity came up to help a client digitally market a new product launch. The product was a natural hydration and nutrition drink for children aged ~4–8. It offered similar health benefits to existing products of that nature, but also fun packaging and flavours that kids might actually get enthusiastic about. Of course we brainstormed classic digital marketing options like sponsored blog posts, display ads and SEM, but we were also inspired by how the product filled a real need: helping kids get more nutrition. We wanted to create a digital marketing solution that reinforced that strength of the product.
We brainstormed a bunch of concepts, got pretty excited about a few, and developed some beautiful, brand-aligned design comps to “sell” these ideas. The one we were most excited about was a healthy lunchbox-planning app for parents and kids to use together. It would let parents and kids drag items (including the hydrating, nutritional drink boxes) from a healthy menu into the lunchbox and then tell them how nutritious and balanced their combination would actually be.
Plenty of games that educate kids on nutrition exist today, and there are already several meal planning apps on the app store but we couldn’t find a single one that combined these experiences for kids and parents. It was something new.
Before we got our clients as excited as we were, we wanted to make sure this was something consumers actually wanted, that we were focused on the right messages, and that it could actually move product! And we knew that the best people to help us prioritize were prospective users. We fielded one of our signature Ask GALE surveys and within three days we knew:
o That parents’ biggest challenge was getting their kids to actually eat the healthy food they served them — our concept had to engage kids at least as much as parents
o That parents were most concerned that their kids get enough good nutrition — the best concept had to focus on health benefits vs. avoidance of “bad” foods
o It had to make planning and ultimately packing lunches simple — our concept needed to offer quick inspiration for healthy things that didn’t need a lot of prep
o That most parents would be interested in using an app that helped them solve these challenges, and many would buy the products it recommended — we were not crazy to be creating something useful and not just messaging!
Our final design was stronger because it incorporated these insights. We swapped out a calculator that showed sugar content piling up in a mountain for a more holistic nutritional values chart. We added an “inspire me” button for times when parents didn’t have time to go through the full menu of items to plan the lunch. We created a fun in-app “rewards program” to further motivate kids and parents to use the app and eat their lunches. If we had gone ahead and launched a prototype, it would have taken at least a few weeks to gather usage data, find opportunities for improvement, and make tweaks.
We’re really happy the concept tested strongly. Once the web app is developed, the client brand will benefit from an ongoing sales medium, not just a campaign. But of course, if we’d had different responses, we’d have had the opportunity to develop a different solution.
All three of these cases highlight examples of developing something new. In the case of 3D-TV, it was a brand new technology and in-home experience that hadn’t existed before. In the case of the personal care consultation tool, it was an experience that existed in the market, but that was totally new to a particular brand and company. In the case of the lunchbox app, it was something new that blended similar existing experiences together to create something unique. So “new” is a relative term; but, at least in the latter two cases, primary research helped make sure resources were invested in the right priorities.
Robyn Cauchy is a Sr. Manager of Marketing Strategy at GALE. She brings almost a decade of primary research experience to the GALE team and leads our Ask GALE survey and co-creation function. Her passion extends beyond marketing strategy and tactics into the realm of holistic customer experiences; she thrives on helping brands connect with and understand their consumers to create truly meaningful, relationship-building experiences.