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Out With the Old, In With the Heresy

The New World of Consumer Research

By Cliff Courtney

People make decisions on impulse. They decide what to buy with their hearts, not with their heads. So if you think for a second that you can quantify the emotional triggers of consumer behavior – the mysterious “why” people buy what they do – with traditional research, then perhaps it would be better to stand in a lightning field with a glass bottle and take your best shot.

The fact is, the only way to understand what makes people tick is studying them while they’re ticking, and that calls for dogma heresy. Specifically, in the same way that buzz or word of mouth is now an actionable media tactic, research, too, can integrate consumers and researchers in a more organic way.

Consider consumer hijacks, which allow you to take a customer who’s about to use your competitor’s brand – a restaurant or a store, for example – and incentivize that customer to sample your brand instead. Now you can capture real-time data from a rejecter. Or Red Light Project’s trademarked Ethnocepts, a hybrid of ethnographic research and intercepts that capture consumer insights from peer-to-peer dialogs instead of the more stilted consumer-to-researcher conversation. (The old clipboard has a nasty habit of turning into a barrier).

Also consider quality/quantity hybrids that allow you to collect real-time quantities in the file with tablets and smartphones. Finally, think differently about customer satisfaction surveys, where brands still rely on receipt-based web links – and yes, in some cases telephone-based systems – to gather data.

Data from consumers about meals they ate 30 days earlier are ineffective. Can you even remember what you had for dinner last night? The better way is real-time data collection, once again at the moment of truth, using SMS or QR codes for instant feedback and giving your customer an on-the-spot, redeemable incentive.

It is time to get heretical and demand more imaginative methods to research consumer behavior, because if you’re not measuring the moment of truth, you’re missing the truth altogether.
Cliff Courtney is currently the chief strategy officer for Zimmerman Advertising, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida. For more information, visit www.zadv.com.


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