What’s next? That’s the question on everyone’s lips, isn’t it? With the pace of change growing ever more rapid, uncertainty is everywhere. What’s the next great idea? What’s going to sell this product? What’s my competitor coming up with now?
At InsightFarm, we’ve developed several ways to get to what’s next quickly, while still understanding the critical why behind consumer behavior that can make or break a brand. By employing dynamic research methods, we’re able to help our clients use insight to not just respond to the uncertainty in today’s world but to also lead with more certain understanding.
When it comes to truly understanding the why driving consumer behavior, employing mixed modes can help you deeply understand your consumers and act with impact on behalf of your brands.
One way InsightFarm helps brands be more nimble with their dynamic learning is through real-time testing. We combine quick, surgical, online qualitative sessions with iterative ideation – or brainstorming – in between them. We then test the resulting hypotheses, generating tangible, quantitative results.
An immediate market condition arose for a client – this happens every day doesn’t it? It could be a new competitor or rapid shift in consumer interest.
In one particular case, we recruited a dozen consumers for four separate, one-hour online triads (like a video conference call). The client team observed the first consumer session from their offices and when it ended we all discussed what we learned, ideated and built new stimuli for the next session. We repeated this for each session.
After the final session, we developed several strong outcomes to move forward. Because we used qualitative to build the ideas, we then tested them overnight with a pre-selected quantitative panel that was waiting for our questions. By the next day, we had both fully built and measured outcomes ready to deploy in the market.
Using this iterative, dynamic learning method we were able to set constructive, strategic actions in motion – IN TWO DAYS. It doesn’t get more real-time than that.
In today’s rapidly-changing marketplace, A/B testing with Google Ads can appear to identify the most effective option between two simple, comparable choices. And it feels like “working dollars” because it’s advertising in the real market. But often A/B testing carries more risks than brand teams may realize.
First, consumers may be completely turned off by the choice, position, idea, product or concept you introduce. You’ve just lost everyone who saw B and tells their friends about it, too.
Second – and worse yet – there is a huge opportunity cost. A brand has lost the opportunity to understand the why behind the choice, missing the drivers of customer acquisition and the pipeline to future customers.
Instead of first launching an A/B test into the live market, InsightFarm has found more success taking a step back and deploying test-learn-loop. After creating a basic strategic framework, we conduct a simulated A/B test in order to test consumer feedback. Then, we’re able to launch a real A/B test and loop back to check our results.
A simple segmentation and equity study reveals the basis for a strategic framework. From this, many A/B scenarios can be developed. One recent study began with a framework that suggested five possible product benefits and 20 or more potential aesthetic choices to support the benefits. This could have been used to build a ridiculous number of A/B choices launched all at once and measured for response.
Instead, we created a qualitative simulation, sharing benefit statements and support statements with aesthetics in a choice-based exercise. By sharing all the different combinations with consumers in a testing environment first, we were able to home in on which ones resonated the most. We also knew, from a target standpoint, which stimuli was likely to drive more enduring customer acquisition.
With this in hand, an efficient and productive A/B stimulus was built. The tracking results of A/B were then pressure-tested against our original hypothesis to make sure we were on track from a strategic perspective and able to adjust as the market changes (the loop).
By creating a qualitative simulation with a dynamic discussion, the brand team was able to gain insight without exposing themselves to disappointment, negative feedback or even demonstrating a weakness that could be exploited by competitors.
Dynamically deep funnel
In this method, InsightFarm recruits consumers to take part in a multi-phase, in-depth workshop along with a brand, R&D or cross-functional team. But they aren’t just any consumers: they are specifically selected because they either work in creative professions or pursue creative hobbies, such as photographers, stand-up comedians, pastry chefs or clothing designers. They also lack extensive experience in the product category we are exploring, such as taking care of children. We like to call them “creative novices.”
For one of these workshops, InsightFarm selected 20 to 30 creative novices for an audition phase through video submissions. From these videos, we invited a dozen to participate in the next phase, which included conversations about the product, their perceptions of consumer needs in the space and analogues (other products that fulfill similar needs in other categories or to other consumers). For example, if you want to build a new vacuum that “drives” itself, maybe you need to study how people drive cars – the car is an analogue to the vacuum.
Creative novices who succeeded in this discussion – interacting with creative energy and an ability to think outside the box – moved to the next phase. With each phase, we winnowed the field, inviting only the most creative participants dynamically deeper into the co-creation process. Only four to six creative novices were invited to participate in a vivid experience phase: going on shop-alongs, conducting in-home visits and other creative activities.
Finally, during the last phase, we asked three of the creative novices to help us co-create the future. Following that, a professional illustrator/designer and writer brought the rough concepts to life in storyboards for the entire team to review.
Depending on the client’s needs, a workshop like this can be run in one day, with the professional creative team working on the concepts overnight or over the course of several days.
The results of combining fresh yet imaginative perspectives with the category expertise of the client team led to dynamically deep thinking. New ideas were explored that would not have occurred without this process. New appreciation for what was possible permeated everything. Tangible output was built that could be tested and launched.
Finding certainty in uncertain times
Uncertainty may be everywhere. Change may be running at a breakneck pace. Pressure to perform may be at an all-time high. But at the same time, by not understanding the why behind their consumers’ behaviors or pushing straight to A/B without strong understanding that leads to strategy, brands run the risk of following a path that only leads to a dead end or worse, failure.
At InsightFarm, we believe research needs to be dynamic to be responsive to the uncertainty of today’s world. With consumers changing so rapidly and the pressure to demonstrate results immediately, we have found that using several research methods in combination with each other helps our clients quickly identify what’s next.
It’s also about shifting your approach to more than two dimensions. A wise friend once told us, when given a choice, take both. You don’t have to just pick A or B. You don’t have to select fast over good. You don’t have to choose tangible outcomes over deep learning. You don’t have to give up qualitative to do quantitative because it seems faster and more definitive.
By choosing a dynamic approach to learning, one that incorporates multiple modalities and clever pre-planning, you can find more certainty, more strategy and more success than you thought possible. And then you can recognize and be ready for what’s next.