How to Gain Competitive Advantage via Research

An Expert's View about Online Marketplaces in the United States

Posted on: 31 May 2012

Focus groups’ are often the default for researching consumers yet in today’s highly competitive environment relying on this single method can be competitively disadvantageous. If everyone is just using the same technique how can anyone possibly gain an advantage over a competitor? So how can you gain new insights and an edge?

As insights can come from anywhere it is vital to look in different places, view the subject matter from different angles and explore it in different ways. Use a mixed methodology to push the boundaries, explore beyond the here and now and uncover insights on new or unmet needs. At The Market Researchers we use three research strategies to gain an edge; we call them the three Cs: Context, Challenge and Collaboration.

1. Get up close to understand the context in which consumers make choices

Who consumers are, their needs, behavioural influences and the processes involved in choosing to buy or consume a product are not always what they seem. Sometimes consumers will prefer an alternative to your product or service and understanding what this is and why this is chosen can reveal previously unconsidered product, positioning and promotion issues and opportunities. Quirks in the way products are used can also point to product limitations or misconceptions. So a thorough understanding of who consumers are, how they live their lives, what’s important to them and what influences their choices is required. This can only be revealed by getting close up and through observation. For example, in food markets, not just by gauging reaction to eating the food but by understanding the social context. Also by exploring what happens when choosing, storing, preparing and clearing away the food and its packaging can other considerations such as convenience, ease of use and sustainability be revealed.

2. Provide challenging experiences to go beyond the obvious

What consumers think and feel is based on their own frame of reference ie historical experiences, prejudices and memory. This means that consumers often need to be provoked to reveal what is unconsidered, hidden or forgotten. To do this they need to be taken out of their comfort zones and given new experiences. For example, giving consumers a new or different product to try can help reveal insights on new or unmet needs, or barriers that need to be overcome. Conversely, combining loyal and lapsed consumers in a ‘conflict group’ to debate what’s good, bad or plain indifferent about a product or service can reveal new insights on triggers and barriers to usage. It can also cast new light on the strength of these views and whether, and if so, how these can be overcome.

3. Involve consumers as collaborators

Today we live in an increasingly connected society with greater free-flow of information and collaboration. In the IT world this has led to the development and increasing popularity of ‘open-source’ software. Consumer’s familiarity with advertising and brands means that they are more ‘savvy’ and able to discourse in ‘technical’ terms. This is a boon for researchers and marketers as it means that consumers can be co-opted not just as evaluators but as co-creators of new marketing solutions. The concept of collaboration can be applied to both who, how to and what to research. The only limiting factor is our imagination! Not only can consumers and experts by engaged to help develop new products and services and brands but also a myriad of forms of communication.

For bespoke ideas to address your research and marketing challenge please get in touch!

Posted: 31 May 2012

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Expert Views    
How to Gain Competitive Advantage via Research   By The Market Researchers