Research recruitment strategies: Finding research participants without driving yourself crazy

How far would you go in an effort to finding research participants? This real-live example from Basel Fakhoury, now CEO at User Interviews, might top the list. He needed to connect with travelers to get their input on a new product. So he bought refundable JetBlue tickets to get airside at Boston Logan International Airport and talk to travelers while they were traveling.

Another time he wanted to find out if Airbnb hosts would store items for a fee. So he reached out to Airbnb hosts through the Airbnb app, stories he shared on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

Finding the right consumers

Basel had his audience for the research nailed. Finding research participants for him meant to go to the airport. Before ever starting, be clear of who we are trying to reach, why we’re trying to reach them and where do they hang out – so to speak.

This could be a simple as just declaring which one of our Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) we’re trying to connect with.

Be clear about the goal

Are you just trying to understand a few use cases? Are you trying to make big changes in the company, with the product or something else?

Sebastian Schuliaquer, insights director at Kellogg, said on a “Reel Talk” episode that he is trying to make complicated business decisions based on the research he conducts. So it’s necessary to keep in mind how to reach the insights that you need to make those decisions.

Also, he reminds, know what insights already exist within the organization. The wheel does not need to be recreated if it already exists.

Read next: Why you need centralized data to help your brand be more customer-centric

Determine the type of research study to perform

Different research studies work well in different situations. It all depends on what you need to find out. As we mentioned before, quantitative research will get you the what and qualitative research will get you the why. There certainly are a number of options:

Just to name a few.

Read next: How Faurecia determined how to research the future of communication in cars

And sometimes, unfortunately, it’s not as simple as picking one type of research over another, said Raj Manocha, CEO of Methodify, on an episode of “Reel Talk.” It’s not uncommon that you need more than one source of feedback to solve your problem which means you might have to do a combination of these. Of course, finding research participants will be on the list for all those types as well.

“You have to mix those panels up to solve different things,” he said. “You have to be okay with multi-panel approaches because people aren’t answering the exact same way. And then it comes back to the quality of your survey.”

What will be the length of the research?

Basel, just like we have discussed in our design – thinking article, said research should happen on an ongoing and iterative basis. If you think of research as a data point in your decision-making there are plenty of ways you can insert it along the way, he said.

What’s the incentive to participate?

Then let’s figure out what’s in it for the participants. That could be a monetary reward. But depending on brand it could also be some kind of brand experience. To answer that question it really comes down to what motivates the specific people that you’re trying to reach.

Do they prefer a gift card or do they prefer a discount or do they prefer some other kind of brand experience? Some people might see it as an incentive that they can help their favorite brand. Others might find that rude if you even mention that as the only incentive to them.

Either way there has to be some kind of incentive for people to participate.

“It is the Wild Wild West right now,” said Raj. “The challenge right now is what’s the value back to the consumer to give feedback?”

Also, keep in mind what are the participants preferences. Would they rather answer a video survey, hop on a call or answer a text-based survey?

"Be open to change. That's going to be interesting to see in the future - how panels adapt."

Recruitment strategies to finding research participants

Talk to who you already know

Sometimes we can make research recruitment strategies too difficult. Why do I have to find any new participants if I really should just be talking to my current customers? It’s something to consider and of course it does depend on your project. If an intimate knowledge of the product is necessary really only customers can help you there.

Working with a recruitment agency

You could consider working with a recruitment agency that can find the right type of participants for your study.

Software solution with built-in audiences

Market research software platforms like Voxpopme have built-in audiences that allow you to quickly get useful and usable feedback from consumers.

Read next: Technology needs assessment: How to pick the right tech for your market research

Use the right technology

Reach people where they are – that’s likely their phone. The collection might also become more in the moment. For example, a quick video survey pops up after you took a specific action. Then it will ask you “why did you just take that action?”

“That will resonate a lot more with consumers and is much more profound for marketers and insights professionals,” said Raj. “You are asking the exact question that you need. It’s not 1,000 questions of fluff and becomes a lot more powerful.”


Which way is best for you to build your market research project is a personal choice. I hope the options that I outlined are helpful and give you some ideas on making the recruitment process easier and get you the insights you need to make the right decisions.

As Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of the podcast, said:

“Even if you have the wrong data available somebody will still make a decision. They’ll just base it on the wrong facts. That’s why it’s so important to commission the right study with the right people.”

Read next: How to conduct remote research with the right technology

Impactful storytelling in market research gets the Voice of the Customer to the table

We live in a world that’s full of data. And the amount of data is increasing.  Author Anthony Tasgal believes it’s because we live in a system where we worship numbers strongly and above all else. Some of us are afraid to make decisions without data. People want facts. So they say. But data alone doesn’t give the whole picture. I use data, too, but for great storytelling in market research we need the customer to appear as the main character. That means we need to hear from them. Directly.

People can also be unpredictable and things change. If researchers really want to start understanding why people behave the way they do, we need to  start looking at the people behind the data.

Choosing insight over information

In this data-heavy age, it’s easy to think that the world revolves around numbers. Numbers matter. But, it’s also about insight. And stakeholders sometimes don’t remember data. They remember stories.

We should focus on unlocking insights and understanding what drives behavior. Be in the business of constructing and delivering meaning. Not just data points. Deliver insights.

Nothing beats truth, especially when it comes from a genuine person. It is an in-depth insight that allows researchers to unlock and share powerful customer stories that have real impact.

Read next: How stories influence leaders

The importance of storytelling in market research

Tas writes that if numbers numb us, then stories stir us. They translate information into emotion – and it is that reason why storytelling in market research makes your findings and conclusions more impactful and memorable. It’s all about finding the people behind your data and unlocking the story behind your statistics to engage and excite your executives and shake up your stakeholders.

Read next: Building teams that work to understand your customers better

Stories are patterns with meaning that the brain is hardwired to respond to. In fact, neurochemically there is evidence that stories make us care, create empathy and build trust by producing oxytocin.

Unfortunately, today some researchers are data rich but insight poor. It’s the story that trumps information by turning information into emotion to create empathy. Empathy is the single biggest thing that can drive decisions. That means that in order to unlock real meaning, we need to start telling stories – and fast.

Tas said on “Reel Talk” that it really comes down to grabbing the attention span and not be attention spato stakeholders.

We have to find ways to craft stories using something human and looking at the emotions.

When we tell a human story with real emotions, we have a chance to make an impact with the information we want to convey. That’s why storytelling in market research matters.

“Nobody has ever said ‘I wish that meeting had more PowerPoint slides,” Tas added.

“The facts might be true but they don’t cut through or are absorbed,” said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.” “When you hear somebody’s story, people do remember that.”

The influence of big data

Let’s talk about the influence of big data a bit.

“When I talk with executives, they often don’t leave the office or talk with customers,” said Graham Kenny, a speaker, consultant, strategy expert and regular Harvard Business Review contributor. He joined us on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “That alerted me to the need of executives needing to get out of the office and talk to customers. There’s an absence of that in most organizations.”

Much of the decisions are based on insights gleaned off big data in these cases. How customers interact with a brand, where they buy and other relationship points that can be collected by data without having to speak with people.

“I can understand that it’s hard for time-starved executives,” said Jenn. “I don’t have enough time either for all the things I need to get done. But how can we run successful businesses if we never hear from the actual customers? I think it’s impossible.”

If executives can’t get out of the office, at least they can hear from their customers through video surveys.

In many companies, Graham said, the executives get isolated away from the customer experience. On the other hand, he’s seen a push toward big data.

Can one work without the other and how successfully would that be? Let’s discuss that topic a bit more here. Fittingly, we are starting with a lake. Dive right in.

The data lake

All the data goes into a “data lake” and you can then fish out what you want and when you need it, Graham said. Certainly, analyzing user behavior can help us understand some things about our customers. Let’s take the example of banking. Tellers can see your information when they talk to you and get instant recommendations on potential upsell opportunities.

What comes up in front of that teller is a profile of the customer that can include:

  • Potential interests based on previous behaviors
  • Situational-based recommendations – like what other similar customer have bought in similar circumstances
  • Interests based on demographics, time of the year, etc.

It’s really no different from what Amazon does online. When I buy something new, Amazon immediately recommends something else that I might be interested in and want to buy right then. Judging by the amount of Amazon packages on my door step this seems to work. Given that the Prime truck seems to be driving up and down my street all day, my neighbors seem to agree as well! So big data can help us!

“Relying on big data only or the end-all, be-all is just going to be a disaster,” said, Graham, stressing that big data is one piece of the puzzle to understanding our customers.

Data needs to be centralized and analyzed correctly. Silos in different departments won’t help. Some data is precisely inaccurate, Graham said. Those data points hide biases. With that in mind, a lot of data companies have can also be wrong.

Read next: How to spot and use new trends with consumer insights

The so what!

Sebastian Schuliaquer, insights director at Kellogg, chimed in on another episode of “Reel Talk.”

“Today, we spend too much time focusing on the facts,” he said. “We need to transcend a little bit. We need to evolve from the ‘what’ to the ‘so what.’ It’s in the ‘so what’ where we as insights professionals should concentrate.”

Storytelling in market research - Sometimes we devote too much time to the what and not the so what.

Strategy design and execution

To understand your customers start with a well-designed strategy, which is then followed by execution.

“Different people get involved and they have different challenges,” Graham said. “Big data is very helpful in the execution phase.”

Execution – everyone has to be involved. All the way from the CEO to the people in creating the products and working directly with customers. That can also make it difficult. Many organizations struggle with ensuring everyone understands their important part in the execution.

Strategy design – doesn’t include everyone and should fall to the executives, Graham said. The insights team can help here as well.

Read next: Building teams that work to understand your customers better

The implementers shouldn’t create the strategy: They focus on the implementation, efficiencies and often look at it from that lens. Graham also mentioned that strategy off-sites with everyone involved don’t work. Many people in fact, say nothing has changed after those sessions.

A better solution to doing an isolated off-site strategy session, which could include a visit to customers to hear from them. Or to run a video survey research product and hear from customers what they have to say.

“Don’t do what you’ve been doing all these previous years,” Graham said. “Don’t do what most organizations do. That is look inwardly. And try to come up with an outside view.”

He calls that process “strategy discovery.”

“Strategy discovery alone implies that you are looking elsewhere,” said Jenn. “That’s where the role of talking to customers is so crucial.”


And the voice of the customer matters

When teams bring the Voice of the Customer to their daily tasks and decision making a better customer experience can happen. But VoC programs don’t happen overnight. They take time, effort and a deliberate strategy. Storytelling in market research helps here as well.

What is the Voice of the Customer?

The Voice of the Customer refers to hearing from and implementing changes that are being shared by your customers.

That can be easier said than done. You want to listen to them, understand them and of course make sure they know that their feedback mattered. Many companies have started VoC programs and that’s a great start. But to make it truly work customers need to be heard and that’s often done through storytelling in market research as part of your overall process.


How to leverage storytelling in market research

1. Bring your research to life

The research doesn’t come to life by just presenting – or dare I say dumping – facts after facts after facts. You have to find the thread, the story that binds the facts together and makes them interesting, relevant and memorable.

“You need a thread that the brain can hold onto,” Tas said. “A thread the brain can latch onto.”

The story also doesn’t need to be unnecessary long, he said.

“Anyone can write 5,000 words, but 5,000 good words, that’s the thing,” Tas said. “For every fact, ask yourself, is this true but useless? If it isn’t it has to go. That’s the secret of storytelling.”

You can collect videos from consumers by adding open-ended video questions to your surveys. Elisabeth Trawinski, an insights pro at Reckitt, mentioned how showing videos to stakeholders can have more impact than PowerPoint.

2. See real people’s responses

Video feedback can help you see and understand genuine customer interactions. That helps you get to the bottom of what customers really think. People share their thoughts in their own words and in their own environment.

People – including stakeholders – relate to stories from customers. And the best way for those stories to be memorable is by hearing them directly from customers.

3. Tell the story behind your results

You can collect videos during or even after your research to boost the impact of your results. By supplementing your quant study with scalable video feedback you can add real weight to your research, find the golden thread and make everyone in your organization sit up and take notice by sharing impactful stories that drive change.

Jenn reminds us that a lot of stories can come out of one research study. But not every story needs to be shared to get the point across.

“A lot of times we want to tell all the stories because there’s a lot of interesting stuff,” Jenn said. “Being able to have a single, common thread that takes you through the whole story is a great tip to think about. Even if there are multiple findings that we want to tell, but how does it all connect and what does it mean?”

Storytelling is as much about editing as it is about anything else.

4. Find the insights you’re looking for

Once uploaded, videos can be searched by keyword or filtered by additional data such as age, gender or other customer tags so you can easily find the insights you need to tell customer stories. Additionally, because all videos are theme and sentiment coded you can easily discover what your customers are thinking and why – so in just a couple of clicks you can bring a topic to life and tell the story behind your scores.

“I think what you are doing as an organization is quite interesting,” Graham said referring to the Voxpopme online survey platform, which:

  • Allows brands to ask questions to consumers and customers through an online platform.
  • People can then answer the questions directly on video with their smartphones – on their own time.
  • Responses are transcribed and analyzed for sentiment and key topics.
  • Highlight reels can share the most impactful responses quickly and concisely. That works especially well for those busy executives.

“I think that’s a good approach,” Graham  said. “We are getting people talking about their experiences.”

Hearing from customers directly is the only way to understand how the product or service works for them.

“That’s emotion and you can’t get that from a written document,” he said.

5. Use proven storytelling strategies

Tas mentioned the importance of using proven storytelling styles and techniques on “Reel Talk.”

For example, follow the rule of threes. When you give examples, share them in threes.

Customers said the product is cool, useful and beautiful.

That’s a simple example. It’s a cadence that works and that keeps the consumer of the content engaged. From the perspective of the researcher who is putting the report together, it also helps us focus the message. What are the three most important things to mention here? Not the nine most important, but three!

Another proven strategy is to draw out emotions. People don’t make decisions purely on numbers. Many decisions are drawn out by emotion. Seeing a powerful story does that. Focus those emotions on the audience’s pain points. What’s the problem the story is trying to address?

How to start with better storytelling in market research?

Practice telling better stories. If it’s through the written word, write, write and write some more, Tas said.

“Every writer says, the more you write, the clearer it becomes in your brain,” he said. “When you got your data and your charts, keep working on it, keep reducing it.”

Keep in mind that your first draft might not be perfect. Some writers call their first draft the “vomit draft,” Tas said. It’s not that good and shouldn’t be shown to anyone. But it’s a draft.

Don’t be shy about collaborating with others on the team to determine what the best story is. What are others seeing? How can it be told in the best way?

Be very clear about who your audience is and produce the content with them in mind.

“We are trying to understand our consumer but we also need to understand the audience we tell that story to,” said Jenn.

Challenges talking to customers

Graham said a lot of people agree hat they should talk to customers.

“But people say ‘we don’t know how do to that,'” he said. It’s really about these prioritization steps:

At the end of the day, the answer is probably a mix of using big data and talking to your customers so you can understand them and build even better relationships.

Read next: How you can secure buy-in for market research

Also keep in mind that sometimes you want to consider behavioral economics. What are people doing in the real world with your product and why? One you can observe, the other needs a follow-up question.

Please don’t overdo it either, warned Melina Palmer of The Brainy Business on an episode of “Reel Talk.”

“Somebody says ‘well, we are doing the survey anyway. Let’s just ask these 25 other questions,'” Melina said. “‘We are sending the direct mailer. We might as well put all this other stuff on there.’ That just doesn’t work very well with the brain.”

Have a single goal you are trying to figure out.

“What’s the most important one and how can you put all your eggs in that basket?” Melina said.

Using video for storytelling in market research

Agile video market research can help companies get to the bottom of what drives customer decisions. It’s the single most powerful way to deliver real human feedback, giving researchers unbeatable access to how customers truly feel about different brands, products, and services. Using video to uncover real human stories means you can give context to your data, get closer to what people think and make informed customer-centric decisions.

A typical, consumer-recorded video response is 6-8 times longer than a response to a text-based open-end. That means that in just a few clicks, video enables you to see what your customers truly think, feel and do by revealing real consumer responses. It goes beyond the information and data provided by scores and scales and unveils the true voice of the customer, unlocking real insights and telling the story behind the scores. The result? Multi-dimensional layers of insight and true customer stories that just aren’t achievable with scores and statistics alone.

Who has used video surveys well? These companies!

Video cuts through the noise to obtain raw, unfiltered context. You can better understand your customers’ true feelings and build a deeper understanding of your consumers across your entire organization. Not only that, but it also increases customer closeness by allowing you to add depth, emotion, and authenticity to your data. That means instead of sharing yet more statistics with your stakeholders, you can humanize and add context to your data and deliver impactful, convincing and memorable stories that drive change.


Let’s tell better stories to drive results

At the end of the day, researchers want their insights to have an impact. Of course, that’s done by finding good insights that can have a business impact. To make sure stakeholders and executives hear the insights, good storytelling in market research can help us accomplish the goal of being heard.


Read next: Customer health: How do you measure relationships with your customers?

Consumer survey: Would you purchase the new Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses?

Ray Ban StoriesRay-Ban Stories are new smart glasses that just launched in partnership with Facebook and can now be purchased. You can take photos, record videos and can make phone calls, Facebook announced. You can basically wear Facebook on your face, is as The Conversation describes them.

They definitely look better and less intrusive than Google Glass from a few years ago and are also cheaper. Google Glass was $1,500 while Ray-Ban Stories cost around $300 and about $600 with prescription lenses. But would people buy Ray-Ban Stories? We asked 100 consumers through asynchronous video surveys for their opinions about them.

The methodology

A few hours after the release announcement, we launched our survey to consumers in the United States. A few hours after that we had our responses.

We showed consumers in Voxpopme’s Influence app the Ray-Ban Stories promo video.

We asked:

Would you consider purchasing the Ray-Ban Stories sunglasses? Why or why not? If yes, how much would you be willing to pay and how do you envision using this product?

Here’s  quick highlight reel of responses, which we created directly in the platform:

The results

In all, the automatic sentiment analysis showed that almost half had positive feelings, while just shy of a quarter had negative thoughts and the remainder were neutral opinions.

 

The automatic theme explorer and Word Cloud gave me an idea what some of the most mentioned topics were. About a third, mentioned that the glasses are “cool.”

The purchase price was also a topic discussed by about a third of the responses, according to the theme explorer.

Ray Ban Stories word cloud

The analysis

I like to review the theme explorer first to get an idea what trends I’m seeing. Here, I saw the “cool” trend.  The Word Cloud is my next step. Then I like to skim through the automatic transcripts and each response.

Sometimes, I click and watch a video. Highlighting text in the transcript, I can easily add snippets to my highlight reel – the one above.

So what did I learn about consumer opinion about the new Ray-Ban Stories?

They are cool

A lot of people did say they are cool. But cool doesn’t mean they’ll buy them. I think it’s cool to travel in outer space, but you won’t see me there anytime soon.

“Honestly, I would not use this product,” said Heather, 30 of Birmingham. “I mean, it’s cool and it seems really easy to use. Easier than pulling out your phone and using the camera. But because I do have a phone that does the same thing, I don’t see the need to buy a separate product just to take pictures.”

“I would probably want to buy the Ray-Ban Stories because they can take pictures, which I have never seen before,” said Melissa, 26, of Albuquerque. “And I think that would be pretty cool because I wouldn’t have to pull out my phone every time I want to take a picture.”

How much would people pay?

“It’s definitely something I’d be willing to pay, even pay premium for,” said Amy, 33, of Gainesville.

What price is acceptable depends on consumer. The survey heard a wide range, from $50, $100, $150, $200, $250, $300 to $400

“I would consider purchasing them,” said Brandi, 36, of Lexington. “They are a good brand, although they are really, really pricey.”

Staying up with trends

Atira of New YorkThere is something to be said about keeping up with trends. That’s one reason why years ago I got Google Glass. I wanted to stay up with trends. Atira, 21, of New York, also mentioned this.

“I would consider purchasing them only because I like to keep up with the latest trends and technology, like to feel the technology out for myself.”

Ray-Ban Stories are not for all

Andrew, 40, of Morrice, said he wouldn’t buy them because they are “massively overpriced.”

“I’m about simplicity,” he said.

“Those sunglasses are probably not something I would consider purchasing,” said Mark, 38, of Austin. “I do like the fact that you can just take take photos by pressing your glasses, but typically with sunglasses, I’m just looking for basic simple something that’s going to protect my eyes and protect my vision.”

Some respondents said they have a different style of sunglasses they like.

“I would not consider purchasing the Ray-Ban sunglasses because I don’t believe in wearing glasses and taking videos and photos at the same time,” said Natalie, 26, of Lafayette.

For creators

I’ve shared how Gen Z is the generation of creators. Edgardo, 26, of Collingdale, mentioned how Ray-Ban Stories can help with content creation.

He said the glasses allow him to enjoy food and then make easy food videos with them on.

“I am willing to purchase the Ray-Bans sunglasses, said Francheska, 33, of New York. “I think it’s very creative. For $299, it’s not bad and it would be nice to share family events and things like that.”

It might be quicker to use the glasses and hands-free is a plus! But Josh, 32, of Port Clinton, questioned the necessity.

“I feel like you just pull your phone just as quick … and I like Ray-Ban branded sunglasses,” he said.


Read next: Getting leadership support — and keeping it — for internal market research

Building teams that work to understand your customers better

Building teams that work well together and make customer-centricity a priority benefits the customers. But how do you build those teams, and how do you make sure you have the right players?

Building an insights team that offers a glimpse into what customers currently feel and what they might like in the future, is often also accompanied by a certain buzz around the company.

“You can sense there’s a lot of excitement coming from all parts of the company,” said Maher Beltaifa, human insights manager about building the insights team at Faurecia, on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “And people have always wanted to do that and be intimate with their users and know what’s going through their mind whenever they are using the products and services and how they can improve on those experiences.”

A lot goes into building teams. Let’s dive into that topic in this article. We’ve interviewed a number of experts from the industry who have built successful teams to share their wisdoms with you here.

Collaboration

Building teams that work together can help us understand our customers and continuously improve the customer experience.

“It’s really regardless of what teams you have,” said Tara Robertson, chief marketing officer at Teamwork, on an episode of “Reel Talk”.

“I will lean on my statement that I’m allergic to silos,” she said. “If you are a customer-driven business, customer insights needs to be sitting at the foundation of what you do.”

In some companies, that’s an insights team. In other companies, another team might be leading the charge, Tara said.

“That doesn’t mean you can do it in a silo,” she said. “There’s all that heavy lifting going on to make sure we are aligned with our customer experience team, our customer success team, the product team.”

Read next: Customer health: How do you measure relationships with your customers?

The alignment is necessary so teams:

  • Don’t recreate the wheel.
  • Are aligned on the things they are asking for from customers in surveys.
  • Get the insights from the internal team before anyone puts a survey out into the marketcustomer insights at the foundation

You can get more buy-in when other departments understand what’s going on and how it can benefit them, said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme. “We are on this journey together instead of us saying, ‘Hey, we’ve done this research.’ “

Tara added: “I’ll even go so far and say that the customer experience becomes so much better.”

Working collaboratively helps you build something that every department can benefit from. Surveys and questions that are asked of customers at different touchpoints can be aligned when teams work together.

“We are doing a survey in marketing right now, and we will share feedback with product if we are getting feedback on the product,” Tara said. “We are going to want that and put it into our product road map.”

The same goes for customer experience.

“If we have an unhappy customer or a thrilled customer, we have that opportunity to create an even better experience,” Tara said.

Speaking up

Team communication is essential to make it work.

At PepsiCo, everyone should feel like they can give their opinion fearlessly, said Jennifer Saenz, global chief marketing officer at PepsiCo during her chat with Zappi President Ryan Barry, at the 2021 Virtual Insights Summit.

“When you see an outage you have to speak up,” she said. “I wouldn’t hold it in and let it fester because you can make an impact.”

Thinking like an owner can help with speaking up, Jennifer said. When there’s a problem or an idea owners certainly would speak up. Anyone should feel empowered to do that.

“There are things about an organization that implies,” she said. “One, are we willing to listen? Or are we so hierarchical? Our hope would be that those cultural values showcase that we want to listen and want you to state your opinions – act like an owner.”

But also voice your opinion with purpose.

“Saying something is a problem is a step, but I also think it’s important that people take the responsibility trying to solve things,” she said.

Creative excellences

Jennifer’s teams focus on creative excellence to improve.

That includes:

  • How to manage the agency
  • The way the team learns
  • How to brand position

“Creative excellence is where we spend a lot of time and energy to make sure we have strong brands that resonate with consumers,” Jennifer said.

Testing

Testing is also important, but perhaps more important is why A won in an A/B test than that A won.

“So the next time you can do an even smarter version,” Jennifer said. “Make sure you are doing that reflective exercise. And that you go in there intelligently. Being constantly learning helps you.”

Understanding where your brand can go and where it shouldn’t is also is important to know when evaluating trends, strategies, and the next campaigns.

As you are experimenting make sure you understand the scope of what’s being tested. Also, make sure you are involving the right people in the company. Who is closest to the customer.

Consider which market is the best for a pilot.

“Figure out who is the best partner to start,” Jennifer said. “It’s a bit of shopping it around. There’s an aspect of change management.”

Diversity

Kalil Vicioso, a board member at Insights in Color discussed the importance of diversity on insights teams on this “Reel Talk.” In a multicultural America, it’s important to reflect society in our research. In part, that can be accomplished by having the right team in place.

“The important piece in this is to identify and find talent,” he said.

Consider visiting the Insights in Color career corner. 

Tasks that teams need to consider in their analysis

Tara said in a clip played on the show that teams should analyze the right amount of answers from surveys.

“You have to understand how many responses you actually have to read to get to some form of significance,” she said. “Reading and digging into those answers is what creates empathy.”

That takes a team approach: Who is doing what, what information gets shared, and when, to drive the best results, while keeping the team on the right forward path together.

For example, one team member can take the analysis in the Voxpopme video survey platform. They can read the automatic transcripts of responses and find answers by topic or sentiment. With the click of a button, a highlight reel can be created to share with your team and executives.

understand your customers better now
“You really want to understand what people are saying,” Tara said. “Yes, you can run it through a tool but spending the time to go through it, whether it’s an hour or a day, gets you those insights.”

From there, you can use what was learned and add it into your campaigns, talk tracks and product updates to create value for the customer.

What does it mean to drive value?

“My belief is that marketers shouldn’t just create demand, but create value,” Tara said. “Yes, I do have to care about the demand funnel, acquisition and growth. And everything in between. But what I care the most about is that value.”

Think of value as something that is useful to the customer.

“What is it that people are hiring us for?” Tara said. “They have a pain, and they need to solve that pain. So when we think about value, we need to think about how do we make this person’s life better?”

Demand rooted in value creates lifetime value. 

"My belief is that marketers shouldn't just create demand, but create value"

“That’s where I think customer research becomes so important,” Tara said.

In addition, this is where qualitative methods — like video surveys —  become essential. Data can tell teams a certain level of information, but data can’t tell why a customer feels a certain way.

Companies will be most successful when they understand:

  • the customer’s problem.
  • what the customer’s motivation is to buy.
  • what the customer’s dreamer state is.

Understanding customers’ personal problems can help us create more personalized experiences.

“Personalizing is a huge challenge,” Jenn said. But it’s one that can be overcome by understanding your customer through surveys that tell you the “why.”

You also can personalize experiences by thinking about how personas are alike. Which ones overlap? In essence, you are personalizing for a group of similar people.

“Where are the similarities in the problems they are trying to solve?” Jenn said. “And then work from there to personalize.”

Mimi Swain of RingMimi Swain, Ring’s Chief Revenue Officer sits right at the center of marketing, sales, and customer teams, and said teams can be successful when they see things from the customer perspective.

“Try to understand the levers of the customer,” she said during an interview with Jenn during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit. “What’s a motivator for them?”

When customer preferences change

As Voxpopme CEO Dave Carruthers mentioned in this article, some consumer behavior changes are knee-jerk reactions to a current, time-limited situation. Others are more long-term and evolving. The trick is to figure out what’s what, which can be done by staying connected with your customers.

“I’m definitely a fan that a survey isn’t one and done — you get the results and then you go and build,” Tara said. “Customer insights should be an always-on thing. It should be something you are constantly looking at, improving on and iterating on.”

To have insights always on, ask customers in the moment or right after an experience. James Dodkins discussed this concept in this article.

Also look at changes in your NPS score, but not just to be able to say you got a certain score. Look at it to see who the happy and unhappy customers are, Tara said. You can reach out to each for different reasons:

  • Happy customers: Perhaps they’d leave a review or would let you create a case study.
  • Unhappy customers: Find out what they would like to see improved.

You  also can think of the NPS as the quantitative (the what) piece of your insights analysis. Then you’ll have to figure out the qualitative piece (the why customers are feeling one way or another).

With an always-on approach, there should be little to no surprises in customer behavior, Tara said.

Where does customer research fit in terms of priorities?

“It’s probably one of the most important priorities,” Tara said about where it fits in her first 90 days in a new CMO role. “I can’t make an impact on the organization if I don’t understand what I need to be looking for, and that means getting on the phone with customers, looking at the customer journey, understanding our drop-off points”

And sometimes you just have to listen and let the customer feedback and thoughts sink in.

“That can be hard. … I’m a very action-oriented person,” Tara said.

What skills and what mindset should people have?

“I take functional skills off the table for this,” Tara said. “If you are hiring somebody for a job, you have to assume that they can do the job at a functional level.”

Then soft skills come to the table:

  • Do they have a growth mindset?
  • Is there empathy and the ability to listen?
  • Are they customer-driven?
  • Do they leave their ego at the door?
  • Will they contribute to team camaraderie? Chemistry matters.

On the hard skill side: Are they analytical, which doesn’t mean they have to be an analyst but they do need to understand the data.

Looking at the data helps us understand whether an effort is worth it.

We are all just human and want to work for companies or buy from companies that listen to us,

“I think it’s the mix of functional expertise, soft skills, analytical and willingness to learn,” Tara said.

But you also don’t want to be too robotic in your decision-making, Tara said.

“I still do believe that those risks are grounded in insights,” she said.

Insights executive Khary Campbell stressed the importance of high-performing teams on this episode of Reel Talk.

Performance comes out in the metrics, but also the behaviors of team members, Khary said.

“Where it came out to me was when I joined a disruptive innovation team at General Mills. They said we are going to give you a different business model,” Khary said. “We don’t want you to bring us another cereal in a box. Other than that you are free to create new approaches, new methods and new ways for us to assess it.”

And the team realized they had to operate outside of their titles.

shared consciousness“We realized we had to assume each other’s responsibilities in some places,” he said. “So our behaviors changed. It was no longer a conversation of ‘I don’t know. I have to wait for our finance person’. And it goes to ‘I know they are busy and why don’t you and I get together and take our best shot at it’.”

Of course, still doublecheck it with that person, but give it your best shot.

“And what happened was we kind of forgot our titles,” he said. “And we started operating as a team with one shared consciousness.”

Clarity of roles

Khary’s team had a very clear understanding of their combined goals and how they would operate together to reach them.

When it comes to having the right people in the right seats, it’s important to communicate why a seat exists. What problem is that particular seat solving?

“It’s important to give people clear alignment on what their role is,” Tara said. “And what is the role clarity that they need to be successful? That’s equal responsibility for the manager and the employee, working together and defining Key Performance Indicators.”

The KPIs for some roles can be soft, and for some roles, they are more direct.

For example, a demand generation marketer has very direct goals while a designer has less direct goals.

“Regardless of role, I’m a believer in putting a number around what people are responsible for,” Tara said. “And then building in the right performance review cycles. I don’t think once or twice a year is enough.”

When something isn’t going great, bring it up right away. And when they do something well, “shout it from the rooftop,” she said.

Accountability

David Cancel, CEO of Drift, said during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit, that autonomy and accountability are linked internally.

“Are we getting better at servicing our customers?” he said. “Are they happier? And we are seeing that in them buying more over time. Then we can give more autonomy.”

Working on making customers happier can also be achieved by reinventing processes when it helps be more customer-centric.

“That’s simple but it’s not easy,” David said. “It’s simple conceptually but it’s not easy to do because most of the processes we are taught are company-centric.”

This can also include finding new opportunities in existing markets.

“You always want competition, you want demand,” said David. “That means that there are customers. That means there’s money there.”

Read next: How to spot and use new trends with consumer insights

Understanding the history

 

Everyone wants to make their mark, but learning the company history is important before jumping in, said Vice President of Global Insights at McDonald’s Michelle Gansle on an episode of “Reel Talk.”

“One of the first tips and advise I was given is that McDonald’s has been around for a long time so respect the culture and history,” Michelle said. “Before you make your mark learn what’s working and what’s great in the system already.”

Michelle said that at the beginning of her tenure at McDonald’s she talked to hundreds of people to understand the current situation, which can also help with prioritization.

“Where should I focus my energies?” she said. “It’s been fun. McDonald’s calls themselves McFamily and it really has been a family.”

Unlearning together

As strategies and tactics that work evolve and change in markets, it’s also important to understand what works currently and with that what should be focused on today!

Sometimes teams have to unlearn tactics and practices. And sometimes they have to relearn them in a different context, David said. Keep in mind that many product features and offerings can be easily copied so you have to build a brand to stand out.

“Now as we are scaling the company we are re-learning some of those things slightly differently,” he said. “It’s all about applying the context of when to apply lessons.”

Many people have experiences throughout their careers that were applied to specific situations in specific companies. But can they be applied to similar but not identical situations in other companies? Not always. Plus, customer behavior may have changed since the first experience.

“It may have been a different time, different size company and things like that,” Dave said. “The only thing that’s universal is how you treat people and lead people. That part is pretty universal because we are all humans and have the same basic needs.”

Culture as teams grow

Unlearning and re-learning also includes the right culture. Admittedly, it’s hard work – especially as companies grow. Drift, which launched in 2015, currently has around 500 employees and is already looking to grow to 750, Dave said.

“That’s where I spend all of my time,” Dave said. “We’ve had a culture of teaching from the very beginning.”

As new employees come in make sure you share how the company thinks about:

  • Building a brand
  • Writing
  • Communications
  • etc.

“It paid off for us as we scaled pretty quickly,” he said.

Also consider how you are empowering teams to share back successes with the wider company. For example, Drift has a weekly game-show type even every Friday where different teams can share successes.

Voxpopme has a Slack channel called #boom where employees give high fives to others to highlight internal successes.

Collaborative leadership

It’s also good for leaders to ask for feedback. And to understand that leadership isn’t a license to disregard feedback.

“When you are put into a leadership role there’s a natural inclination to double down on that your decisions are correct,” said Rand Fishkin, CEO of SparkToro, on an episode of “Reel Talk.” “So you seek out information, data and stories that put you in the best possible light.”

It’s okay and necessary for leaders as well to own up to mistakes, but some leaders double down on mistakes and claim it was intentional.

 

“A lot of this also comes back to those soft skills,” Tara said. “I want people to feel comfortable failing, and failing forward is so critically important.”

And sometimes a situation doesn’t work out, which can be for a variety of reasons, like a bad hire, the person isn’t a good fit with the team and so on.

But make sure there are no surprises and that communication channels are open and transparent, Tara said.

While we mostly discuss customer feedback on the blog, getting feedback from employees is also important.

“Use these same approaches with your team and follow through,” Tara said.

“We are all just human and want to work for companies or buy from companies that listen to us,” Jenn said."When you are put into a leadership role there's a natural inclination to double down on that your decisions are correct."

Prioritization

Good teams also prioritize well together. Not everything has to be a full-blown project. And not everything has to be scrappy. It’s OK to find the right level of effort for any project.

“At the end of the day, there’s only so many people on the team and only so many resources to put against a project,” Jenn said. “So it’s important to identify efforts that have a high impact and low effort. Let’s do those first.”

To be truly customer-centric and do what’s best for our customers, we need high-performing teams. Building teams around functional and soft skills can help them work better together and constantly improve the customer experience.

Khary on his podcast episode talked about risk versus rigor. How much risk is involved in a project and how much effort do we truly have to put into it.

“That’s a nice way to frame it up,” he said. “You need to look at the priorities of your business and the priorities of your team and see what realistically can get done. And you need to look at what can potentially move the needle.”

Be clear about what your north star is and then have that ongoing conversation of what can make an impact and how you can tackle those projects in a realistic order.

it's tough to deprioritize," Khary said. "For somebody on the other end that was very urgent for them."

 

Impact

“What can we control today and how much value is that going to add?” Khary said. “My team can deliver these five things this week and these two will bring real value.”

Jenn added that she loves the idea of deprioritizing tasks that don’t appear to bring value.

“Or find a way to make them more valuable,” she said.

She uses four quadrants to evaluate tasks and projects:

  • Urgent
  • Important
  • Not urgent
  • Not important

Be clear on if something is urgent and important, for example. When something is urgent but not important does it even need to get done? Those are conversations to be had in the prioritization.

“You want to do your due diligence because it’s tough to deprioritize,” Khary said. “For somebody on the other end that was very urgent for them.”

Also, keep in mind that some things are urgent but not for the right reasons. “You have to build that rapport and trust to be able to talk about it,” he said.

“You can’t just tell somebody you deprioritized the thing that’s most important to them,” she said. “Talk about it.”

understand your customers better now

Jean-Michel Hoffman, vice president of brand marketing at SoFi, said during his interview during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit that people also get much more invested when they own the brand.

“You are much more focused on performance,” he said. “Owning the equity for the brand that you own – making sure the brand is set up that you are protecting its reputation and building its value.”

 

How to spot and use new trends with consumer insights

Brands must grow and evolve or risk getting left behind. But how do you maintain your brands while taking advantage of new trends? And some new trends aren’t really long-term changes in consumer behavior while others are.

So which new trends are worth following and which ones aren’t can be a challenging question for brands. What kind of trends are we seeing?

“There are so many,” said Jennifer Saenz, global chief marketing officer at PepsiCo during her chat with Zappi President Ryan Barry, at the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit. “There’s some trends that are ever lasting and we don’t want to forget them. For example, there’s a need for indulgence, fun, entertainment and enjoyment across food and beverage. When people are eating and drinking they want to enjoy it. It’s silly to classify that as a trend, but it’s not going away.”

And with the COVID pandemic people have needed an uplift more than ever, she said. Also, some new trends aren’t truly new, but the pace of change is faster than it was before.

“You cannot forget the basics,” Jennifer said. “It is dangerous as you get pulled toward new development or new technologies you forget those basics.”

Those basics include to know your audience and understand what do they want to hear from you?

“It’s harder and harder to get the technologies to work for you if you don’t know the ‘why’ behind it,” Jennifer said. “There should be a lot of humanity in data-driven marketing.”

Don’t just chase new things to chase new things. Keep in mind how they are going to help you and how they fit in or replace what’s currently in play.

Consumer insights can help us figure out what trends are worth pursuing and which ones aren’t.

Consumer insights must be useful

“Ultimately, we are looking for these insights to help us build better brands and better experiences,” said Dave Carruthers, Voxpopme founder and CEO on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.

Making the process easier to spot new trends

Dave mentioned that people sometimes make consumer insights harder than they need to be.

“The insights should literally be able to be explained in one sentence,” Dave said. “It should be something that should be succinct, but it should surprise you.”

That also makes understanding new trends easier.

Inefficiencies in internal workflows also can present a problem. Somebody has a PowerPoint somewhere that shares consumer insights. Then somebody else comes up with the same insights, confirms what’s in that PowerPoint — a PowerPoint they didn’t know anything about.

Read next: The importance of centralized data

“It needs to be simple and surprising but also needs something you can make decisions on,” said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing and host of “Reel Talk.” “It’s got to be actionable. It’s not just information for the sake of information. You have to do something with it. I think that’s really crucial.”

How has the global pandemic impacted customer insights?

Certainly a lot happened in 2020 and 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic keeps raging, Texans lost power after a snowstorm, and other disasters have impacted consumer behavior, which, of course, impacts businesses.

“The industry was already in a fairly aggressive stage of transformation,” Dave said. “You were seeing us adopt technology, both on the quantitative and qualitative side of consumer insights.”

Dave reports seeing businesses increase their investment in categories like experience management. Also, “listening to customers certainly is gaining traction.”

COVID and social distancing have pushed advances, especially in qualitative research, Dave explained. Before, you might have been able to go into somebody’s home or meet in-person. But now, much of that contact has moved online.

“It’s funny when people talk about ‘mobile research,’ ” Dave said. “That’s the medium now.” It’s no longer a standalone strategy.

Jenn added that the insights function has become more important in companies, in part because of recent events.

“Understanding a brand’s customers has been an ever bigger challenge than it had been,” Jenn said.

Read next: Technology needs assessment: How to pick the right tech for your market research

Before the pandemic, market research was seen in some companies as a support role, Dave added. “Market research had kind of lost its seat at the boardroom table.”

That changed with the pandemic, and “things aren’t just rolling back into where we were,” Dave said. “What we’ve seen is insights teams inundated with requests by executives.”

Uptick in use of market research technology and results

Rick Kelly, chief product officer at Fuel Cycle – a Voxpopme partner, said that his market research technology platform saw an immediate upswing in usage starting in March 2020.

“The realization that customer insights is essential has become more and more apparent,” Rick said on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

Bianca Pryor, vice president of insights at BET, added that insight teams now are asked to help drive business decisions and results and can’t just function as a librarian that reports back data.

Understanding the person

To truly understand trends and customer behavior we have to understand the person as a while.

Megan Kehr, analytics insights associate manager at PepsiCO, mentioned that insights professionals have talked about understanding “the person behind our consumer.”

“For example, take somebody like me and not just seeing me as a Pepsi drinker… and while my consumption behavior is part of who I am; I’m also a wife, a sister, a daughter, I’m a cat mom,” she said. “There are all these other aspects of my life outside of the beverage I drink that make up who I am.”

She said the idea of getting closer to the consumer isn’t new, “COVID has accelerated it and in the last year everyone’s lives have basically changed overnight. And what better way to do that than hearing from the customers?”

Read next: How Megan and her team use video surveys to understand the customer and the person 

“To that end speed is super important,” she said. “Keeping our ears to the ground to understand what’s shifting and changing in our consumers’ lives.”

Truly understanding the customer also goes deeper than demographics, she explained. Megan called that the gift analogy. If you were told to buy a gift for a mom of a certain age group, that’s not highly useful information to get them a meaningful gift, she said.

“But then if you consider buying a gift for somebody much closer to you, it’s much easier to pick a gift that they really like because you know them on that deeper level,” Megan said. “Applying that analogy to a brand, it’s the same. If we don’t know our consumers at that deeper level then how are we going to do marketing campaigns or make brand decisions?”

Read next: Marketing teams: Who owns customer insights?

Understanding the customer’s life tensions

Megan gave the example of a mom who wasn’t taking her medication because she felt that was tainting her picture of “Super Mom” in her children’s eyes. Once you understand that you can consider product updates.

“Maybe a patch would be better here,” Megan said.

But how do you get to that level of depth?

“There are so many layers that you can peel back,” Jenn added in her podcast chat with Megan. “So many stop at that first layer. What’s the best approach to peel back those layers and best understand the drivers and motivations?”

There certainly is value in asking specific questions about the products and the experience, Megan said. But also consider asking about family, lifestyles and tensions.

“When we do certain qualitative work, don’t just focus on the tactical,” Megan added. “We are putting blinders on when we do that.”

Consumer behaviors change

Things have changed so much. When the pandemic shut downtown metro areas, people weren’t working downtown, which affected bars, restaurants, all businesses in the area.

“It impacts snacking behavior, how people aren’t commuting, sports,” Dave added. “All of that is having an impact on clients. Many of our clients are seeing this as an opportunity to reinvent their business.”

Consumer insights can help them enter into and innovate in those open areas.

“This innovation shouldn’t happen in a silo,” Dave said. “The customer needs to be front and center in that change.”

React to what consumers are doing

Can Cheetos be stretched into Mac and Cheese, for example? Yes and consumers were already mixing the two, said Jennifer, the PepsiCo CMO.

“There was a pull for it and there was permission from consumers,” Jennifer said. “There was a need in the market to infuse this tasty treat into a product. A great place for a brand to stretch.”

Sometimes the answer is yes to try new things. Sometimes it’s no and sometimes we may have to readjust.

Always listen to the customer base and its mood.

“What are people feeling?” Jennifer said. “That’s really important to brands like ours. They move with culture. We have to understand and also look to the future.”

Understanding new customers

Sometimes new customers are buying your products. I still remember when Under Armour was really just for professional athletes, then other athletes started wearing it. Today, I sit here wearing Under Armour shoes and pants. So now writers wear high-performance gear, too. Don’t forget about all the kids wearing the brand now. So brands and their customers can evolve.

Ross Wainwright, CEO at Alida, one of our partners, mentioned the story of Red Bull on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

Red Bull was focusing on high-energy type sports and experiences in their marketing and then they realized that another group drinks Red Bull energy drinks as well: Moms. Ross said moms were drinking several Red Bulls to get through the day.

“If you listen to your customers they will tell you what they want.”

Personalization at scale and data privacy

Understanding our customers also means that companies know more about them.

“We always see these articles that consumers want personalized messaging but also want their data protected,” Ryan said.

That can be a challenging balance.

“Consumers do want to see things that are relevant,” Jennifer said.

But, that also means companies know a lot about their customers.

“There’s definitely a tension,” she said. “And it’s also what people feel comfortable with. There might be some data that some people have no issue sharing and others want to keep it quite close.”

Be transparent how you’ll use data and share that, Jennifer said.

“With personalization there’s a lot of opportunity but there’s also a great responsibility,” she said. “The best thing is that we can just be transparent in what we are doing and what safeguards we have in place.”

So much data

Certainly consumer behavior is changing but the amount of data available to researchers has changed tremendously.

“Today we have evolved to more sources of connection and understanding of these consumers,” said  Sebastian Schuliaquer, insights director at Kellogg, on an episode of “Reel Talk. “To make that matchmaking possible that’s the role of insights professional and that role has evolved.”

We've had never had this much data available - to a point where it can be overwhelming. (1)

Of course, that’s the role of the researcher to bring all that data together and make sense of it. Sebastian also mentioned that humans contradict themselves. And sometimes data contradicts itself. So all those nuances need to be considered as we are looking at presenting an insight.

“For example, there’s never been a time where people are more concerned about personal privacy but at the same time they’re posting everything to social media,” he said. “How do you reconcile both of those points of view?”

With all this data available, qualitative research is becoming even more important, he said. Ask people why they’re doing something.

Sometimes we devote too much time to the what and not the so what.

How can consumer insights help brands adjust to new trends?

“Brand loyalty has been under attack, in my opinion,” Dave said. “We just have an abundance of brands, and the cost to switch for consumers is so easy. In this kind of time period, we – consumers – are open to exploring new opportunities.”

You have to look at the signal-noise ratio, Dave explained.

“What’s a temporary change, and what is a trend that we can actually see?” Dave said. “That’s been a focus for our clients. What’s a knee-jerk reaction to a situation we are under … how can I really understand what’s happening?”

Good consumer insights come back to being empathetic to consumers.

“What are people going through, and how can we help them?” Dave said. “We certainly have seen a quick move to technology. How can we still stay in touch with others during the pandemic?”

  • Come up with a hypothesis
  • Quickly test it with customers
  • Evolve

product timeline

Some businesses even pivoted completely in a short time.

“Had they not been able to bring the customer into the process, they would have gotten it wrong,” Dave said. “They would have made assumptions. But now with the plethora of marketing research tech, … I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s easier than before all this technology existed.”

Read next: How to use video surveys for market research

“A lot of the trends we are seeing are just an acceleration of what’s already in place,” Jenn added. “It’s interesting to see that from necessity we need to build more empathy with people,  and now we have the technology to help us with that.”

Before the pandemic, there were basically two cohorts:

  • Traditional methods businesses used
  • Outliers trying some new things

“Now we have more people moving into the future,” Dave said. “Like with anything new, people at first can be skeptical. Remember the first time you got into an Uber? So I’m just going to get into this random guy’s car? He drives me where I want to go? And that’s safe?”

And now we don’t even think about getting into an Uber.

What does the future of consumer insights look like?

“What this pandemic has done is re-establish the importance of the market research industry,” Dave said. “Now we have to build upon that momentum we’ve created for ourselves. That’s about understanding the consumer and creating that bridge to the customer. We also don’t want these insights to live in eight different places.”

Brenna Ivey also discussed how to create that bridge in this episode of our podcast.

The pandemic also has reminded us how quickly things can change and how long those changes can persist.

Take March 2020 when the pandemic took off in full swing in the United States. “We said ‘things will be back to normal in September,” Dave said. A year later, COVID-related issues still are top of mind.

“Even with the rollout of the vaccine, the effects of it will still be felt for the next 12 to 14 months or so,” he added.

In the future, technology will continue to help brands have the voice of the customer at the table.

Technology now allows us to turn consumer insights around in 24 hours or less. For example, in a 2021 Valentine’s Day campaign, we gathered 100 love letters from consumers to brands in just a few hours.

“There will be opportunities for brands that are listening,” Dave said. “And to take market share away from their competitors.”

Added Jenn: “Understanding customers, consumers, people is no longer just an important thing. It’s an essential thing. Businesses will not survive without being really connected with consumer needs and empathizing with them.”

How to make consumer insights more of a priority

Review some of the examples of people who already do insights well. That includes:

Then look at what your tech stack looks like. What tools do you use internally that can help you be more successful?

Companies that do consumer insights well have their plan together. They use the right tools internally, with a mix of outside help, with the right people, with the right mindset, in place.

“Change management can be a big hill to climb, but there are a lot of examples of people that have done it well,” Jenn said.

“It’s not easy to drive forward, but if you get it right, the results can be exponential,” Dave added.

Consumer insights also have to be presented in a “snackable” way to decision makers.

“There’s no reason insights can’t be presented in a two-minute clip,” Dave said. “And if you can’t, it’s not an insight. It’s data, and people don’t care about data. We are just overwhelmed with data. We need to deliver insights, data and value.”

Insights for non-insights roles

Ryan, the president of Zappi, mentioned that other roles are now also being are being asked to do a lot more when it comes to customer understanding.

Read next: Marketing teams: Who owns customer insights?

“Do you have any advise for those people on how to cross that and to maybe even unlearn some skills they’ve already developed?” Ryan asked.

“The most important characteristic a marketer and insights professional needs to have is curiosity,” Jennifer said. “A curiosity for the world. Curiosity to learn.”

Read books, learn the skills and keep growing, Jennifer said.

Read next: Building teams that work to understand your customers better

“Learn the fundamentals,” she said.

When marketing roles use insights to drive results the rest of the company is also seeing the investment and how strategic marketing can pay off.

 

“It allows people to see that we are building our brand and build those connections with our consumers for the long-term,” she said. “And that it’s very much worthwhile.”

Also, be sure to really need to consider your options when testing.

“If you are only testing to get to ‘yes’ you are only looking for that, but if you are taking a moment to be reflective and understand the ‘why’ and pour that into all the work you are doing,” Jennifer said. “It’s a very different mindset if you are testing to learn versus testing to check a box.”

Look at the data you already have

Keep in mind the amount of data your organization already has as well. Keep an eye on trends in there. What can we see from the insights that have already been collected?

“The best predictor of the future still is the past,” said Michelle Gansle, vice president of global insights at McDonald’s.

But remember the basics…

Even though behaviors and industries change quickly, Elisabeth Trawinski, an insights professional at Reckitt, reminded us on a “Reel Talk” episode that yes, things are changing, but the purpose of customer insights is not.

Essentially customer insights is about understanding people and turning that insightfulness into a competitive advantage, she said. 

“That’s always been the role of insights and in some ways becomes more and more critical each year as the world changes,” she said. “But there are so many different ways to understand our customers now – like video surveys – that didn’t exist years ago.”

Essentially customer insights is about understanding people and turning that insightfulness into a competitive advantage.

Some things don’t change

 

Talking and listening to customers remains important.

“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of substitution for talking to a respondent and seeing their reactions to concepts, ideas … being able to see people’s facial expressions,” said Kristin Luck, founder at ScaleHouse.

Of course, it’s so much easier to spot trends when companies actually talk to and understand their customers.

The need for information, the need for insights will not change, which means that role of the researcher will always be there,” said Babita Earle

Technology needs assessment: How to pick the right tech for your market research

Technology has ramped up to connect with consumers

Technology, in general, has made connection easier between brands and customers. As new platforms emerge and grow, the ways you can connect with your customers have exploded. To make the best use of technology for your company, it’s important to run through the appropriate technology assessment.

“Gone are the days when there was just one mode of communication – whether it’s a print ad or a commercial,” said Khary Campbell, an insights professional, on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “People couldn’t go there and give feedback. Now it’s just wide open.”

That openness can help you hear directly from customers, Khary said.

The evolution of technology also has ramped up the need to connect with your consumers. And there’s an expectation that connection is easy.

“If I don’t know where to go, I’m likely to just tag them on social media,” said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.”

Why the right tech is a must-have for brands

Khary mentioned it’s hard for mature brands to differentiate on product alone so they need to understand their customers at a deeper level and understand what:

  • they want
  • they don’t want
  • their desires
  • their future needs

“How well do you understand them, and can you anticipate what they will need next?” he said.

Technology can help you make that process easier.

How to prove the value of your tech stack

Some technologies are basic infrastructure tools. They are a must-have, but sometimes the revenue can only be indirectly associated with it. These must-haves include:

  • A chat system – like Slack
  • Email
  • A CRM
  • Research tech
  • Etc.

Chief Mar-Tech Officer Scott Brinker shared with us on an episode of “Reel Talk” that teams need to set aside a part of their budget for those infrastructure-type software platforms. You need them to even do the work and help drive results.

I liken it to: What’s the ROI of my keyboard or the monitor I’m currently using to write this? Without them, I couldn’t even do my job. They are must-haves. A good technology needs assessment will help identify those as well.

Also consider comparing notes, Scott said. What percentage of their budgets are peers spending on technology?

At the end of the day, you want to figure out what problems you’re trying to solve and how are you going to solve them with your market research tech stack. Raj Manocha, CEO of Methodify, on an episode of “Reel Talk” mentioned the importance of picking something that can show quick results and get the buy-in from internal stakeholders.

Every time, you add new technology you have to make sure it’s easy for people to use. That could include integration and even single-sign-on with existing technologies, Raj said.

“How do you make it super simple?” he said. “As a team you need to check how you use them all together.”"Think about smaller tech stacks and then mapping them to bigger goals."

Small wins can then lead to bigger increases in budget and resources, Raj said.

Approaches for your technology assessment

I like to break these approaches down into two areas:

  1. A new technology solution comes along that solves a problem I didn’t know I had.
  2. I have a specific problem I’m trying to solve with a technology solution.

The first example that comes to mind happened when Voxpopme launched “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

We wanted to share useful information around insights, and we also realized that professionals are busy and use a variety of networks. We kind of stumbled across technology to livestream our podcast to YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn before publishing the podcast version. Problem we didn’t know we had – solved.

“My mind is constantly going to how can I apply this. How can I maybe use this?” Khary said of how he approaches assessing technology he didn’t know existed. “What is maybe the value here versus things we are currently doing?”

But then the technology has to add value.

“As much as technology can help, it can also disrupt your ecosystem as well – especially if it doesn’t fit in with things that are already there,” Khary said, stressing the importance of getting technology assessments right.

For example, if new technology creates another data silo, that could create more problems. But new technology also could create a solution to silo problems if it becomes the place to house your centralized data.

At the end of the day, whatever technology you use, it needs to make it easier and more cost efficient for you to provide the products to people that they are willing to pay for.

Why is a good assessment necessary?

The biggest reason is that there are just a lot of potential technology solutions that teams can use.  For example, Scott told us how the mar-tech landscape has grown from hundreds of solutions to about 8,000 in a few years.

“Most marketers have probably seen your map of the landscape and have experienced the shock of how technology has grown over the years,” Jenn said.

With so many options to consider, it’s essential to know how to evaluate what you need and why.

“It’s not about how big your tech stack is but about having the right pieces in place,” Jenn added.

How to run your technology assessment

Involving the right people

In your technology assessment, be sure to keep in mind who will use the product. Also, understand the problem the technology will solve.

“It really becomes a group effort,” Khary said. “When I want to learn something more, I look for people smarter than me.”

In addition, look for others who have experience with a particular technology.

“I start asking questions, whether that’s people internally or connections I’ve built externally, and picking their brain,” he said.

Then, Khary said, you want to get really close to the technology and see if the technology can help with your specific problem.

“Really share what the problem is that you are trying to solve,” he said. “I find that when you do that, it opens up a lot of new doors because, at that point, you are bringing that potential partner into the conversation. You build solutions together.”

Read next: Customer-led product development through design thinking

As you consider technology, keep these pieces in mind:

Ease of use

Is the technology relatively easy to use? Also, can it be accessed on the variety of devices the teams use and in specific regions of the world? For example, with global teams, some tools can’t be used in some parts of the world.

Fit in tech stack

Many companies already use a number of tech solutions for various needs. This especially came out when we talked with insights expert Brenna Ivey about centralizing data. Many companies have data in so many different locations that it’s difficult to ever turn the data into insights.

Consider how this new technology fits into the overall ecosystem. Also, keep in mind how much technology you actually already use, Scott said. Most companies are surprised at how many tools are part of the tech stack and some aren’t even getting used much.

“The next thing you know there’s like 20 tools on the table,” he said. “And now there is a whole new category out there called SaaS Management Platforms.”

They basically manage all of your tools. Nonetheless, is it important to  consider how new tools either replace or complement what already exists.

Talk to current users of the technology

Consider talking to peers who have used the platform you are considering, said Scott. You can ask them:

  • What they like about it
  • How it solved their problems
  • Ease of implementation
  • And more…

“Just going out into the world,” he said. “Talk to people you know and trust.  I’m going to tell you what really happened. This was the good. This was the bad and this was the ugly.”

Partnerships

It’s also good to see how well the tech solution’s sales and customer success teams partner with customers.

  • Do they listen?
  • Are they asking good questions?
  • Do they see you as a partner?

Jenn said she especially likes to see open dialogue between a customer and technology provider because other clients already may have solved the same problem the potential new customer is facing. How companies communicate is an important part of a technology assessment.

“And they might be solving it in a way you hadn’t thought of,” Jenn said. “That also helps technology providers to understand what your big challenge is and help you get to that solution.”

Implementation and pilots

How hard is it to implement the technology? This also is a good place to start with a pilot project.

"It can also take an ornate amount of time to perfect what the pilot might look like," Khary said. "That's very counterproductive to what a pilot can actually do for you."

Once you see the potential, Khary said he’s a fan of running a pilot project.

“Start something small,” he said. “Something where we are not going to spend a large amount of time and resources.”

You also could start with a scaled-down version of another project to get a taste of the new technology and see if it would work.

Be clear with your pilot projects:

  • What do you want to get out of it?
  • How will you measure success?
  • Start.

“It can also take an inordinate amount of time to perfect what the pilot might look like,” Khary said. “That’s very counterproductive to what a pilot can actually do for you.”

A pilot project can help you quickly figure out what’s right, what’s wrong and what you want to do next, Khary said.

“And it allows you to build that communication with that partner,” he said.

Think of your pilot as an experiment, Jenn said.

“There’s an expectation of the word ‘pilot’ that people want to perfect it,” she said. “There’s an expectation that a pilot is going to work, whereas there’s an expectation that an experiment might fail and that’s OK.”

Pilot projects are about “trying it out and proving it right or wrong,” Khary said. “And then how do we roll into the next experiment? Just because it didn’t go right or the way you would have liked it to go the first time, that doesn’t mean you should pull away. What did we learn from this?”

How to ensure technology usage during the pilot

To get the most out of pilot projects, people within the company need to use the technology that’s being evaluated.

The important step here is to determine how to integrate the pilot into existing workflows.

“If that doesn’t happen, it can quickly come in and be placed to the side,” Khary said, adding that especially is true for teams in a high-pressure environment. “When pressure builds, a lot of us default back to our typical way of working. Which means if I default, I’m going back to the things I know and that I’m already comfortable with.”

While you want to iron out the process ahead of time, stay flexible, Khary said. That’s the point of the pilot -— to figure out what works, what doesn’t work and where you might be able to adjust something. Keep your mind open to possibilities.

Make sure people understand the goals of the pilot project and how it will help them. For example, many of us never have enough time, so time efficiency can be a huge motivator to participate in a pilot.

Using technology to move more quickly

“Technology is absolutely an enabler and sometimes an illuminator,” Khary said.

“Sometimes illumination comes from the fact that you can speak with more people than you physically can in person in a shorter period of time -— physically speaking to people in five different cities or five different countries. You just couldn’t do that in, let’s say, a one-week period.”

Easier technology or not, we still need to evaluate what technology to use, when to use it and how to use it.

Read next: How to use video surveys for market research

Khary said technology has helped him in countless ways run better projects, especially early in product development.

“How do we get these prototypes into settings where people are actually using them?” he said.

In the retail location is one way. Another way is to create a virtual reality environment where you can observe consumer behavior. A third way is to use video surveys to ask consumers specific questions after – or before – an experience.

“And now I’m not just restricted to where our office is,” Khary said. “Now I can conceivably do this in any state or city.”

Then you build the product and customer experience as you go and as you are observing and understanding customer reaction.

“We are still creating the prototype, but we are more informed,” Khary said. “We have a better chance of being successful when we get the feedback we need from consumers.”

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Timing: Emerging technology assessment 

Jenn mentioned that people have said virtual reality will be useful in five or ten years but that the technology isn’t quite there yet. Figuring out when the time has come to jump on new tech can be a challenge.

“I think it’s much sooner than that,” Khary said, noting some teams are already using VR technology. “How do I validate virtual reality to be useful? But it doesn’t have to be useful for the same thing as something that’s existing. It’s going to have its advantages and disadvantages. And then you take it back to your fundamentals – risk to rigor.”

Figure out what the levels of your risk and effort are. If the levels are on the low side, it can be easier to run a technology assessment of emerging technologies.

It’s also good to remember what different technologies are best for. Some are better for some uses than others.


More about risk and rigor

“What’s the risk if we don’t get the learning right on this?” Khary asked.


The team’s mindset

Technology can make things easier keep up with new trends is easier with the right team – especially as things are changing quickly. As part of your technology assessment keep in mind what is and isn’t changing.

“The basics aren’t changing,” said Jennifer Saenz, global chief marketing officer at PepsiCo during her chat with Zappi President Ryan Barry, at the 2021 Virtual Insights Summit. “We still need to be amazing strategists. That’s why we are here. We are trying to drive a return for the business; trying to drive growth in the marketing place; trying to win.”

Now more than ever, marketers and insights professionals need to understand what unmet need a company can help consumers with.

Also keep in mind the ever-increasing technology stack that teams can use. Team members need to learn those skills as well.

“I need to now understand a lot of the technology and analytics that historically in many places has been siloed or kept at arm’s length and potentially even outsourced,” Jennifer said. “The marketer and insights professional – they need to own the data. They need to own the analytics. They need to understand it.”

And then you can get very quickly from looking at the data and creating a hypothesis. That also means we need to look at roles like data scientists, data anthropologists, financial, etc.

“You need a whole range of talent to build out a team that’s going to have diverse perspectives and really go after opportunity in a different way,” she said. “How do we make sure that the knowledge we are creating is really created to to create an impact.”

You can also drive impact by making positive changes in your employees’ experience, she said.

“When you can democratize that information all of a sudden the amount of impact that you can make with so many people having access to it … now my every-day marketer on the team can work with an easy user interface and have the benefit of that data in front of them,” she said. “That’s also impact you can make.”

Technology assessment wrap

The biggest advantage I’ve found in assessing technology is to truly start with the problem you are trying to solve. For example: The market research reports I’ve been getting aren’t that helpful to me. They aren’t comprehensive or clear enough for me to take action.

So my problem is: My market research process isn’t helping me make meaningful changes for my customers.

Then I can start looking for the right technology to help with that.

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How to conduct remote research with the right technology

We can’t always be in the same room with consumers but still need their feedback and the ability to ask follow-up questions. That’s where remote research comes in. 

What’s remote research? It’s basically any research that is done with the respondent being in a different location from the interviewer. 

Interviewing customers – especially at scale – through remote research helps product and marketing teams understand how their product fits into their jobs to be done and daily activities, said Niamh Jones, director of product at Voxpopme, on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

In this article, I discuss:

  • How to make remote research as easy as possible, including through technology and time management
  • The importance of historical data
  • How to structure remote research conversations
  • The feedback loop so customers understand the results
  • Using Zoom for interviews
  • How to analyze and share highlights of those Zoom interviews

Making remote research easy

When remote research is easy for employees as well as customers it’s more likely to happen. That includes:

  • Making the time with consumers as meaningful as possible
  • Using the right technology

Being efficient with time

“I look for those organic pauses in the customer journey,” said Voxpopme Product Marketing Manager Betsy Nelson on an episode of “Reel Talk.” “There’s a lot of times when Customer Success is already talking to customers and I like to tap into those moments.”

That process takes into consideration customer’s time and they aren’t asked to set aside more time.

“We try to add value,” Betsy said. “So it’s not just them giving and giving and giving but we are providing something for them as well. We want to make sure it’s a give and take.”

Added Vice President of Marketing Jenn Vogel: “You really want to make sure that we aren’t asking the same question more than once or try to capture information that they’ve already shared with us. That allows us to be closer to our customers while also

Using the right technology

Different parts of the customer relationship can use different technologies for your market research:

Read next: Even more ways to assess customer health!

The pieces of remote research

The system of design thinking applies here as well. Ask consumers questions throughout the process – and doing it remotely can help you talk to them at scale.

“We get feedback through the different iterations,” said Niamh. “And with some things we do a beta testing phase as well. Then post-launch of new features as well.”

Then know when you dive into specific problems like why is something specific not working. And when to ask broader questions about overarching business problems.

The importance of historical data

All remote research at Voxpopme is documented and referred back to when the team wants to connect with specific customers that use the product one way or another.

“You are a little bit more informed that way,” said Betsy. “It’s not just ‘hi, how is it going?’ but rather ‘I’ve seen you use this section of the product, tell me about that experience.”

That also helps move a conversation forward quickly, added Niamh.

“We aren’t spending the first 10-15 minutes and you can tell us things we may or may not already know,” Niamh said. “That way we can go in with more informed questions. We have such precious time with customers so want to get the most out of it.”

Read next: How to get centralized data in your company

At the end of the day, the conversation should be mutually beneficial. For the customers it can be highly beneficial when products are improved based on their feedback.

How to structure a remote research conversation with customers

Conversations do include a time to discuss the customer’s current pain points and what they are trying to accomplish.

“Just to get us up to speed,” said Niamh. “We have a very structured document but also give them that space to see what they want to talk about.”

The team wants customers to be honest and give their full opinions.

“Set the scene that our feelings won’t be hurt,” Niamh said. “Be as brutally honest as you want because that’s going to help us.”

Have prepared questions but also see where the conversation goes and ask good follow-up questions.

“You never know what you are going to learn jumping on these calls,” Niamh sad

Also have examples ready. Sometimes, customers don’t have an answer to a open-ended question so you might follow up with something more specific:

  • Do you need help with training the team on xyz?
  • Would something like xyz help solve that?
  • Do you want to see some examples of xyz?

The team adds value for the customer, even when they are asking for things.

Feedback loop

Whenever possible try to circle back with customers that offered feedback that led to product updates.

“I know a lot of companies are struggling with that,” said Jenn.

“Sometimes we even get to do that in person but a lot of times we use the systems we already have in place to automate the experience,” added Betsy. “So we have a list of customers that mentioned a certain feature or area of the product. We know they’ve contributed and send out an automated message from the product team.”

Read next: Use this to know which customers are talking about what topics

That email can be as simple as:

Thank you for your feedback. It was super helpful. We made these changes: <list of highlights>. <Link to more.> 

The team uses the Voxpopme search functionality to find trends and also uses ProdPad where one person on the call takes notes while the other interviews.

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Setup for remote research with Zoom

It’s important to make use of the technology you already use and like. For many of us that includes using Zoom for the calls and then importing those calls into your Voxpopme account for analysis and more.

Importing Zoom videos downloaded to your computer

There are two ways Zoom users save their meeting videos. One is to their computer. The other is to the Zoom cloud. To import the video saved to your computer, simply upload it to your Voxpopme account from your computer.

Importing Zoom videos from the Zoom cloud

Record your Zoom interviews to the Zoom cloud and then import them to the Voxpopme platform using the Zoom-Voxpopme integration.

Once the connection is authorized, you can import the videos directly in your dashboard.

voxpopme zoom integration

Download link: Zoom – Voxpopme integration in the Zoom Marketplace

The importance of the right tech

Talking with customers through Zoom can make everyone’s life easier. They are already used to using it. So are the insights professionals.

"People sometimes frantically take notes. Benefits of the Zoom integration is the transcript and the cutting and sharing of the videos is easier."

From there, remote research should be easy. That includes the initial interview to analysis and sharing of results. Betsy recounted the story of a customer who used to spent a lot of time editing interviews into clips that could be shared internally.

“He said ‘with Voxpopme I literally just highlight the transcript and add it to a clip. It’s so much easier.'” Betsy recounted the customer’s story.


“We use Zoom for our calls, but then also use video surveys,” said Niamh. “It all goes into the same account in the system so we can layer learnings.”

Sometimes it might be necessary to add new technology to your market research tech stack, but if you are already using Zoom for customer interviews, it’s an easy integration into Voxpopme, the No. 1 qualitative software platform, according to GRIT.

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The speed of online focus groups is how fast?

It’s just efficient on all fronts to conduct focus groups online. And it’s yet faster to do them in an asynchronous manner, meaning that:

  • you ask questions on your time.
  • consumers answer on their time.
  • you’ll get the analysis – including sentiment, key topics and more right there in the Voxpopme video survey platform.

I get that there’s a time and place for in-person focus groups. But the advantage of online focus groups can’t be denied.

  • You can reach a wider group of consumers, no matter their location or availability.
  • Responses are truly personal. You can see their facial expressions as they share their authentic feedback.
  • The analysis is easy and already in a digital format, which makes all aspects of analysis and sharing quick.

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The emergence of video

Mobile and video technology have been changing the way people interact and the way we research.

Read next: What market researchers need to know about Gen Z!

More people are working with video than ever before. Even before COVID-19, a total of 93 percent of companies were using video for multiple use cases. A year into the pandemic, video communication has become even more prevalent.

Rick Kelly market research technology speedAdvancements in technology mean there’s no longer any need for research to take weeks or months to generate insightful results. In fact, today’s technology advancements mean researchers can uncover complex thoughts and deliver compelling insights faster than ever.

Read next: Getting leadership support — and keeping it — for internal market research

Using online focus groups allows you to uncover customer stories and get closer to what people really think. From there you can make informed customer-centric decisions.

Not only that, but video for the consumer is fun, quick and easy to use. It allows users to show emotion and express how they feel.

Video research can also fit in around respondents’ busy lives, which means there’s less need for time-consuming traditional research methods. Instead, customers can now share their thoughts and feelings easily at a time that suits them, giving you the data you need to deliver in-depth insights across your entire organization.

Capture online focus groups in a way that is convenient

Today’s technology and capture solutions of our online focus group software allow you to create the group on your time. From there consumers can answer on their own time. In theory, that could mean they’ll take their time, but they don’t.

Take this online focus group survey I ran for a Valentine’s Day campaign. It took just a few hours to get all the responses I needed. The next day we shared the results with the brands.

Analyze data instantly

There’s no need to wait weeks or even days for videos to be analyzed. Today’s technology means that responses are transcribed within minutes of being recorded and video can be delivered and analyzed shortly thereafter.

Not only that, but your videos can also be filtered and easily searched with interactive charts and word clouds, making it easier than ever before to analyze and explore your online focus group.

Using Zoom for your in-depth remote interviews you can also now use the Voxpopme platform to analyze the feedback automatically.

Download link: Zoom – Voxpopme integration in the Zoom Marketplace

Share powerful customer stories

There’s no need to worry about lengthy editing processes because it’s so easy to create your own showreels and share your results.

Today’s technology means that it’s easier than ever before to unlock and share powerful insights.

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What market researchers need to know about Gen Z!

Gen Z is ready to buy from brands that align with their needs and values. Of course, that means market researchers need to understand this generation and what their needs and values are. Even when Millennials still sometimes hog the headlines. Understanding different generations at the right time for a business can be a challenge. But certainly it’s a challenge that can be overcome. When done well, it can be a dealmaker.

Hana Ben-Shabat, author of “Gen Z 360: Preparing for the Inevitable Change in Culture, Work, and Commerce” told us she saw many clients over the years struggle with understanding Millennials and wanted to help them get ahead of understanding this new generation. Gen Z are people born between 1998 and 2016

“In 2018, when Millennials were 38 years old I still encountered clients who were telling me they needed to understand Millennials better,” she said, sharing why she is focusing on explaining Gen Z to businesses now. “I realized this has been going on for 20 years and we are still struggling. There must be an opportunity to do something very differently with Gen Z and not make all the mistakes that were made with Millennials. Mistakes that were pretty costly.”

Brands that understand consumers – of any generation – can build stronger products, services and relationships with those consumers.

With that in mind, this article covers:

  • What’s the definition of a generation anyways?
  • Who is Gen Z?
  • What can we learn from mistakes made understanding Millennials?
  • The Gen Z consumer
  • Why are brands struggling to understand Gen Z?
  • The four characteristics of Gen Z

What is a generation and why this is important to understand for researchers?

In broad terms, a generation is a group of people, born in specific years. For example, Gen Z was born between 1998 and 2016. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996.

But generations are defined by much more than that, Hana explained. That includes:

  • cultural events
  • the political landscape
  • social influences
  • and more that happens during their formative years – the first few years of their lives.

“That context has significant influence on the beliefs and then behaviors of a generation,” Hana explained. “What happens during your formative years that shapes your view of the world. In the past it was very easy to define a generation by a few landmark events.”

For example, the Baby Boomers were defined by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Gen Xers were influenced by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Stock Market crash of 1987 and the AIDS epidemic. Millennials grew up in the shadows of the Sept. 11, attacks and everything that came after.

Reach Gen Z on their smartphones

How is Gen Z different from previous generations?

“Gen Z is a very different story,” Hana said. “Think about all that has happened since 1996. They have witnessed so many events that you would consider landmark events.”

Those include:

  • The 2008 recession
  • Barack Obama becoming the first Black president of the United States.
  • Gun violence and school shootings in the United States
  • The election of Donald Trump as president
  • Black Lives Matter movement
  • The COVID-19 pandemic

“This is the thing that makes this generation different,” she said. “They grew up in a period of constant change. And that has a huge effect on their psyche, their values and their behaviors.”

Millennials in general are risk-averse. They save more in cash. They delayed home ownership, children and other such life experiences that other generations dealt differently with.

Gen Z on the other hand is active in investing, buying homes and some are already saving for retirement, Hana said.

“That’s astonishing if you think how young they are,” Hana said. They save and put their money into things that can secure their future.

Their spending is often very pragmatic.

“It’s not about not spending money,” added Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.” It’s about being smart.”

What can we learn from mistakes made understanding Millennials?

“When Millennials arrived they presented a shift in thinking and aspirations to the previous generation,” said Hana on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

Millennials started talking about work-life balance, for example, something the Baby Boomers didn’t talk about at all.

“There was just that misunderstanding of who they are and what they really want,” Hana said. “That kind of shift created a lot of confusion. They simply did not fit what the previous generation expected from them.”

I think we run the risk of repeating those mistakes with Gen Z. if we don't take a different approach. (1)

Who is the Gen Z consumer?

They started early, Hana said. They didn’t wait until age 18 or 20 to start consuming.

“This is a generation that grew up with technology,” Hana said. “And they started making purchasing decisions at a very young age. Downloading apps. Downloading games. Paying for small purchases on the internet. They are already from a very young age making purchasing decisions.”

Gen Zers don’t know a world without mobile phones, search engines or social media.

“Eighty-seven percent of Gen Z had access to a cell phone by the time they were 18,” she said. “As a result, Gen Z – at a very early age, started to question things. They want to take action, which makes them more activist than generations before.”

With their knowledge to find information, products and even organize online, Gen Z could become one of the most disruptive generations, Hana said.

Diversity and struggles

Hana explained the way Gen Z consumes is a direct result of their upbringing and the context of their childhood.

“First and foremost, this is the most diverse generation to live in this country,” she said. “Forty-eight percent are minorities. And this is something that has had a huge influence on how they view the world and also what they expect from companies and brands.”

Read next: How to integrate multicultural research into your insights strategy

Many Gen Zers saw their parents struggle during the 2008 recession and that affected them.

“How do I secure my financial future and how am I making sure not to end up in that scary place?” Hana said.

Why brands struggle understanding Gen Z

“To many marketers, what Gen Z wants seems contradicting, which is not always the case,” Hana said. “It’s really important to understand the main characteristics. The attributes sometimes require drastic changes from how business was done traditionally.”

The four characteristics to understand include:

  • Authenticity
  • Individuality
  • Value and values
  • Navigating seamlessly the online and offline experience

Authenticity

“This gets thrown around so often that it has become kind of meaningless,” Hana said. “But it’s important to remember that this is an important concept for Gen Z.”

Gen Z believes that you have to be true to yourself and this is a reaction to the world around them, which includes social media influencers and connections.

“They basically reject the overly polished and overly idolized images,” Hana said.

Gen Zers question the portrayed success and realness of how people portray themselves on social media.

“The Gen Z mantra is ‘be yourself,'” said Hana. “If you are true to yourself and trustworthy it means that I can trust you. And I think they bring the same expectations for brands.”

Individuality

Members of the generation want to stand out rather than fit in.

“That’s also a reaction,” Hana said.

Life is competitive and there’s so much going on. Standing out can be a competitive advantage in being successful.

“To some extent they see themselves as brands,” Hana said. “Which now brings another question: Are brands marketing to people or to mini-brands? That requires completely different thinking on how we actually do marketing.”

But it’s not just about themselves either, Hana quickly added.

“The ‘we’ is just as important as the ‘me,'” she said. “They believe that everyone should be individualistic and everyone should be celebrated. And then we recognize the ‘we.'”

Find out if your brand is authentic enough for Gen Z!

Value and values

Gen Z is cost-conscious and is looking for affordable products, Hana said.

“To provide good value for money is key to attract these consumers,” Hana said. “But I also think Gen Z will pay and support brands that align with their values. Brands that are doing good in the world. And take a stand on issues that matter.”

Read next: Is brand activism right for your brand?

Gen Z might even ask brands what their stand is and expect an answer. For some brands, that can be a difficult conversation as they traditionally didn’t take stands on certain happenings in the world.

We are reaching an era where it's going to be difficult to not take a stand on issues that matter.

“I think that’s going to be challenging for marketers who want to stay away from that sphere,” Hana said. “But I think this is something that Gen Z will continue to demand.”

Also keep in mind to not just take a stand on anything and especially if you don’t believe in that stand. You have to believe in the publicly stated opinion.

“Unless it’s aligned with your brand values it’s better not to do it,” Hana said.

Navigating seamlessly

That includes offline and online. Previous generations lived without the internet and then the internet came around. Hana explained that for Gen Z it’s much more seamless. Online and offline all go together.

“That separation just does not exist for them,” she said. “There is one brand and they access that brand through all these different touchpoints.”

With Gen Z you have to win in all the different channels.

“If it’s more fun to scroll and shop in an Instagram feed why would anyone go to a store?” Hana said. “You have to make sure your store can deliver that kind of discoverability and excitement that you get when you are on social media. That also includes personalization. And that’s easier said than done.”

How can researchers understand Gen Z better?

Hana said that one of the biggest things might be to mirror how they currently engage in their daily lives. That includes reaching them on their cell phones. That includes making it easy.

“You’ll get their responses and a good level of engagement,” she said. “Surveys that are designed in short bursts work.”

Keep in mind that Generation Z likes to share. They are after all a generation of creators. But you do have to dip into that in a way that they want to participate.

Video surveys take less than 2 minutes to complete for Gen Z - or anyone really

At the end of the day if your brand is trying to reach this generation they have to understand them. Hopefully this article shines the light on some of the issues affecting Gen Z and how market researchers can reach them in a better way. One final thing to remember is that Gen Z might also influence other generations. Understanding them helps us understand the context of the entire consumer base.

How to overcome common accessibility issues in research

Accessibility issues in research can happen for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t mean they have to. In this article, I’m going to tackle this topic in an attempt to raise awareness around accessibility in the insights and market research community.

“We can’t continue to do things the way we’ve always done them,” said Regine Gilbert, an accessibility expert, on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” We have to think differently. You know your target market and then who is being left out? It’s often people with disabilities.”

When you exclude people you are making sure you are not growing your business.

What is accessibility in market research?

In the simplest terms, accessibility in market research means research projects are designed with people with disabilities in mind. Can people with disabilities take the surveys as they are designed?

“We all know people that have a disability,” Regine said. “In the United States 1 in 4 people have a disability. A lot of times when I say the word ‘disability’ people assume It’s someone in a wheelchair. Or something visible. Something you can see. But the truth is people are color blind and you can’t see that. People are dyslexic and you can’t see that. You can’t see when people have ADHD. Or when people have depression. These all fall under the umbrella.”

Usability of digital platforms

kristina podnar
Kristina Podnar

Accessibility issues stretch across many digital forms of communications and I found this context from Kristina Podnar, a digital policy expert, eye opening:

“Unfortunately, only about 2% of the world’s websites are genuinely accessible to those with one or more disabilities. Suppose your organization doesn’t fall into that small percentage of fully accessible websites (not to mention social media, mobile applications, and other channels). In that case, this is the time to revisit your efforts. While it is essential to comply with accessibility laws across the globe to stave off lawsuits, the growing number of disabled persons represents a growing segment. By not addressing it, you are foregoing a great opportunity.”

Kristina shared on her podcast that people with disabilities have $645 billion in disposable income.

In market research, projects should discuss how to accommodate a wide variety of disabilities, including, but not limited to:

  • Color blindness
  • Dyslexia
  • Depression
  • And others

And some forms of research surveys are easier to use than others. For example, here’s a consumer that has dyslexia talking about the ease of video survey market research.

Internet access

Accessibility can also mean how easy is it to access the survey in a person’s current environment and access to the right devices or technology.

“For example, high speed internet,” said Regine, adding that a certain percentage of U.S. households don’t have high-speed internet. “So if you are making things that are super heavy or are big downloads those may not be as accessible as they could be.”

Listen next: How DISH Network uses video surveys to reach rural customers

Device access

During the COVID-19 pandemic the headlines reminded us that not everyone in the United States has a home computer or even internet at home. That presented a problem for school-aged children who then had to be taught virtually at home. It’s also something to consider for market researchers when you require an actual computer for remote research or an online focus group. On the flip side, 85 percent of adults in the United States do have a smart phone.

Why do accessibility issues in research exist?

Usually, it comes down to not including the right people, said Regine. For example, a person that uses a screen reader will notice every digital interaction that doesn’t work using a screen reader. It has to come back to involving people with disabilities to understand how to make sure our research is accessible.

“That’s in the process of creation, project planning and all of that,” Regine said. “There’s a phrase that’s often used in the accessibility and disability community which is ‘nothing about us, without us.’ The reason so many things are not accessible is it’s either an afterthought or people don’t think about it at all.”

Take the example of Zoom, which our team often uses for remote research. She said it didn’t used to offer captions, but why not? That topic became ever more important as more people worked remotely. Today, Zoom allows one participants to handle the closed captioning. Other software solutions, like Otter AI, say they add automatic captions to Zoom meetings.

Read next: How to add automatic captions with Voxpopme to Zoom recordings

Part of the problem with accessible research has been that not many even talk about it. But, Regine said she’s already seen a positive shift there in the last five or so years.

“My hope is that 10 years from now we’ll see a lot more accessible,” she said.

Making your research accessible

It does start with the awareness. Researchers need to be aware of the need for accessibility. And not just as an afterthought but as a part of the process. Regine said there are also organizations that companies can partner with.

“Hey, we are working on this project and we’d like some help with this,” Regine shared how easy it is to approach them. Being proactive can help researchers reach their entire audience, she said.

Also consider working with people who cannot come to your office, Regine said. It’s possible today with all the remote-working tools available.

“That really gives us an unique opportunity to expand a bit more and not be limited by location or really anything to hire people,” added Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme. “Companies are pretty divided right now and are trying to figure out work from home or work from office. But I haven’t heard much as part of that conversation of what opportunity does that create? And how advantageous it is for a business to have a more representative workforce.”

Making your research accessible means to integrate solutions to the different hurdles that people with disabilities face. That can include alt text for your images. Describe what’s in the image.

Consider the colors that are being used as well, Regine explained. Close to 10 percent of people are color blind.

“Make sure that it’s high contrast,” she said. “We’ve all been outside and have looked at our phones and can’t see what’s on the screen. A lot of times it’s because the contrast isn’t high enough.”

Read next: Getting leadership support — and keeping it — for internal market research

Research reporting and accessibility

Accessibility issues in market research can also pop up on the reporting end. For example, captions, which are included in Voxpopme highlight reels, can make the consumption easier for stakeholders. Instead of listening to the video, they can read the captions.

“It’s so much more inclusive and making sure we are accommodating for everyone’s abilities or disabilities,” Jenn said.

Executives prefer video highlights over PowerPoint (1)