23 August 2013
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New approaches to customer research

Consumer relationships with brands are constantly evolving, yet traditional customer research methods often lag behind. According to Amsterdam-based MARE research, dynamic new approaches are called for to gain better insight into customer behavior.

Writing in “MYcustomer”, Marlise Huijzer, Pernille Kok-Jensen and Daniella Roymans have taken a look at how customer research is typically conducted, and found that it doesn’t account for the new, dynamic interactions between customers and brands. Recognizing that the consumption of material goods is being overtaken by new business models and sharing and giving activities, the authors propose that customer research can’t rely on the the old methods of surveys and questionnaires.

Instead, new insights come from new ways of asking questions, and looking beyond direct customer feedback. “More and more often,” they write, “we find ourselves looking sideways to a more interdisciplinary and co-creative approach in which we join forces with trend professionals, über-experts and style leaders from a broad range of disciplines. In effect, this entails moving beyond merely asking questions into a realm of connecting the dots between insights, trends and brands – a more 360° approach to research.”

To provide a view into these new ways of workings, the authors present two case studies. The first, with the Irish Food Board, was a project aimed at determining the attitudes of Dutch consumers towards beef. Traditional focus groups were initially used, but later followed up by role-play, projective techniques and individual exercises. Then – using their “360° approach” – they introduced trend analysis and expert advice. They even went as far as commissioning a short film with topical experts providing their insights:

“After fieldwork, trends, expert opinion and qualitative research were carefully weighted. Where the focus groups merge with the trend based theoretical framework, combining both form of raw data to a vision that is aspirational for the future as well as tangible now. Here we benefit from a team of differentiated researchers: a trend researcher to focus on trends alone and a field researcher that keeps the voice of the consumer close.”

A second case study covers their work supporting the launch of a women’s lifestyle magazine, and explains how an assembled panel of experts provide insights which complemented more routine research.

So when it comes to really getting to know customers – a crucial ingredient in delivering successful experiences with products or services – these new research methods provide insights that might otherwise be missed.

“As qualitative researchers, we find ourselves looking sideways to a more interdisciplinary and co-creative approach in which we join forces with clients, experts and target groups,” they write. “Moving our focus back and forth between strategic, conceptual and executional questions, we believe that traditional market research needs a new approach and that incorporating trends and expert insights on demand are a good way to go about it.”

Source: “How can we adopt a more co-creative approach to customer research?” (Huijzer, Kok-Jensen, Roymans; MYcustomer)

Customer experience (65), Customer research (1), Methodologies (11)

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