Here’s a fun set of polls Accelerant Research recently conducted among members of its Agora USA online insights community.
Most consumers consider themselves pretty rational. It follows they also feel that they make their product and service choices accordingly. Ask them why they chose Product A over Product B, and most will offer a fairly rational answer. But these tangible reasons are only part of the story; underlying preferences, personal values, and emotive factors often contribute to consumer decisions as well.
While the goal of qualitative research is always to understand the customer better, what happens when a consumer doesn’t have a full grasp of their below surface motivators or, is aware but has difficulty articulating them? In cases like these, it’s worth taking a page from the playbooks of clinical psychologists and psychoanalysts everywhere. Projective techniques, paired with traditional discussion, can be an invaluable tool for peeling back layers and getting at deeper, and sometimes seemingly less rational, motivators for behavior.
Accelerant Research has a full-time staff of moderators with extensive experience in moderating and analyzing qualitative data across a wide range of topics, audiences, and qualitative research methodologies. This series will introduce some of our moderator team’s favorite projective exercises, along with situations in which we’ve used them successfully. So, read on for some ideas that might add a couple of fresh techniques into your qualitative toolboxes. (We promise, no inkblots).
Dear John: It’s Not Me, It’s You
Lost customers are a frequent recruit target for high impact insights, including former customers who have gone on to do business with another brand or prospects who decided to go with a competitive product. When asked directly about their reasons, initial responses tend to be fairly high level: Better service, better price, I just like Product Z better. Any skilled moderator will dig into these responses for deeper context, but a projective exercise adds some real value and helps make the terrain here a little easier on the shovel.
For lost consumers in particular, asking the participant to write a one-page “Dear John” break-up letter addressed to “Brand Y,” as if the brand were a person, outlining reasons things didn’t work out, can add real value. The task is fun and therefore easy to pay attention to; role-playing can loosen up respondents and get their creative juices flowing. Who among us hasn’t fantasized about writing such a letter when a company fails us, let alone ensuring that someone is actually going to read it? Not getting asked why you’re going somewhere else makes it feel like you’re undervalued.
The “Dear John” assignment itself is specifically designed to help consumers tap into their emotive sides as they frame their letters. No one wants to admit they broke up with someone simply because the price was off, even if that someone is a fictional personification. When participants imagine the brand as a person, they are encouraged to explore underlying personal motivations, beliefs, values, and attitudes toward that person; things that they may not be consciously aware of until they try to articulate them on the page.
Having an outline on paper not only creates an excellent exhibit for later analysis and a rich source of verbatims, but also serves as a spring-board stimulus during active discussions. Once the group’s collective big takeaways are shared, moderators can pose the question “What else is in your letter?” It’s a great way to get quieter participants to open up to the group; they don’t need to think of something new on the fly, it's all right there on the page for their reference.
If the exercise is assigned as pre-session homework, there’s upfront value as well. Reading through these responses prior to a focus group will give you a sense of topics any given participant will bring up, how strongly they feel, and how much they have to say. It can aid in the final decision when choosing which of your over-recruits in the waiting room you should pay and send and which you should invite in front of the mirror for the richest, most productive discussion.
We invite you to reach out to us for more information about conducting qualitative research. Simply give us a call (704-206-8500) or send us an email (email@example.com). With our support and guidance in participant recruiting, technology/logistics management, and even moderating/full-service support, Accelerant Research can provide you with successful and impactful insights.
For those brands that leverage retail channels, in-store displays can represent among the highest impression messages and be a foundational cornerstone to marketing success. Goals for these displays can vary quite a bit: generating awareness, building brand equity, gaining entry into a consumer’s consideration set, or educating about products, to name just a handful. Ultimately though, the end play is often conversion to purchase.
Given their potential impact on both the brand and the bottom line, inviting consumers to provide feedback on displays during the design phase makes sense. Displays are, after all, created specifically for consumers, to catch their eye and help make their shopping easier. Why not let your customers offer their two cents? Early-stage feedback from target consumers before final forms are locked in can yield a wealth of high impact insights that can improve in-store appeal of your displays, refine the brand-story they convey, optimize their shop-ability, make navigation of their featured products more intuitive, and yes, improve their ability to convert browsers to buyers. Below is a rundown of qualitative research approaches that Accelerant Research has found to be especially impactful when it comes to retail prototype testing.
As with any qualitative work, setting the stage is key to a productive discussion, and this means engaging your participants before you invite them into a discussion. When it comes to display prototype research, a good first step is a self-guided shopping trip assigned before the core research event even takes place. During this self-scheduled “homework,” recruited participants are tasked with shopping your specific category and your specific products at one of the retailers that carries your brand and features your displays.
Such exercises allow for a natural shopping style without imposed time constraints and provide a wealth of information for your insights and marketing teams – photographs of displays, comments on packaging, videos of product selection, and collection of exhibits such as brochures and samples. Most importantly, they set the stage for a productive discussion: how well are your current displays working, what have your competitors got going on, and, from the perspective of your target customers, what are problems not yet solved and opportunities not yet realized in the aisle?
Following in-store shopping, your customers will then participate in moderated qualitative discussions where they share not only their thoughts on your current displays but then provide feedback on your new design prototypes with all that recent experiential context in mind. There are a few flavors to how these follow-up discussions can be designed depending on timeline, budget, stimuli available, and your team’s specific insights needs. Some of our preferred approaches for display prototype discussions are listed below:
If you’re considering conducting consumer listening on display prototypes your team is building, and we think you should, we invite you to reach out to us for more information. Give us a call (704-206-8500) or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’d be happy to talk through your specific insights needs and make a recommendation tailored to fit. With our support and guidance in participant recruiting, technology/logistics management, and even moderating/full-service support, Accelerant Research can provide you impactful insights from your customers that will help you tailor your in-store presence to meet their needs best.
Using its proprietary Agora USA insights panel, Accelerant Research polled 1,081 Americans about their streaming service usage.