Using Research to Revolutionize Innovation

A few days ago, I was in a meeting where someone defended a decision to cut Voice of the Consumer research before new product ideation sessions, citing a 1985 Playboy interview with Steve Jobs. To paraphrase, Apple wasn’t going to do market research on the Mac because they were the best judges of what’s great and what’s not. Jobs later added, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

For many marketers, the failure rate for new product introductions hovers around two-thirds. The inclination to drop research because discovery is not yielding new information is understandable, but killing consumer research because it’s somewhat costly and time consuming, or worse because the team thinks it knows better than its customers, is a perilous strategy.

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Two Common Product Development Mistakes to Avoid

Two Common Product Development Mistakes to AvoidEditor’s Note: Our qualitative researchers go beyond people’s words and actions to reveal the meaningful insights behind them. They have decades of experience across a myriad of industries and brands. But who are they? And what drives their desire to connect with others? Take a two-minute peek into today’s featured moderator: Rob Darrow.

When I first entered the field of market research years ago, the CEO of our small boutique firm routinely stated that “our greatest challenge doesn’t come from other research firms, but from prospective clients who feel they don’t need research.”  Thankfully, most companies recognize that market research plays a critical role in market success, but even that enlightened view is not sufficient to guarantee success.

After all, what does “market research” for any given organization actually mean?  When is it needed?  How should it be applied? Even those who are committed to better serving their customers can find themselves making some very basic mistakes when it comes to using or not using market research.  Following are two common mistakes that businesses make when it comes to market research and product development.

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Why talk when you can listen?

I have a summer cold. It’s cold #2 of the summer, actually (and it’s making me a bit grouchy—you’re not supposed to have a cold in the summer). I am losing my voice yet again. Losing one’s voice is never good, but when you are a moderator, an account- and team-lead, a talkative ENTJ, and an at-times-bossy mother, losing your voice is a drag. However, I figure there must be a bright side (yes, I’m also an optimist). So what is the bright side? What could one gain by talking less?

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Defining Consumer-Driven Value in Healthcare

2014-04-hc-valueThe word “value” can mean many things in healthcare. We hear about “value-based purchasing” (designed to increase the overall quality of care) or “value” as it relates to patient outcomes relative to cost of care (a payer-centric focus). In both of these examples, consumers are assumed to be beneficiaries of these system-driven efforts.

Yet, a third definition of value is garnering greater attention among health systems; value is consumer-defined. Instead of assuming a passive role, consumers are adopting a proactive approach when making healthcare decisions. Why? The increasing prevalence of high-deductible health plans (HDHP) puts a spotlight on out-of-pocket costs. When consumers spend money, they look for value.

Understanding how consumers assign value to their care is now a critical component of managing a successful health system. The simple question is, “How do consumers define value?” The simplicity of the question belies the nuances involved in learning how consumers assign value. Healthcare concepts like quality, price, advanced technology, reputation, and compassionate care drive perceptions of value. How consumers perceive these concepts is often different from how healthcare experts do.

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Tips for Executing Successful Global Qualitative Research

I have been conducting global research for more than 20 years. For the past 12 years, I have focused almost exclusively on global qualitative. Global qual is not rocket science, but it does require great attention to detail and an understanding of what does and does not work in various parts of the world. In the case of global qual, it’s what you don’t know that can really hurt you, and I have found that a lot of people who claim to know how to conduct global qualitative, really don’t.

So, for anyone about to embark on a global qualitative project—whether you are on the client side or vendor side—here are some quick tips for conducting successful global qualitative research:

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Beyond the Mirror: A Global Take on Qualitative Research

It’s an age-old, fundamental question in research design: Where should we conduct our qualitative research? Some would say the standard research facility is a no brainer. Or, is it?

We researchers tend to go to our stage, run the show and then sneak behind the mirror to point at a respondent and analyze for the clients why that quirky consumer likes to watch Korean TV dramas on her tablet. We all understand the abundant resources available in standard facilities–their raison d’être is qualitative research. However, they are not perfect. Just like one’s clothing can influence one’s behavior, in a business setting, respondents tend to create socially acceptable impressions or even business-toned responses.

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Bar Fights, Bird Attacks and Other Adventures in Ethnography

2014-02-angry-birdAs moderators, we often find ourselves asking respondents for the juicy details of their lives. Sometimes it feels like we’re the truth police, calling people in for questioning at some nondescript facility, away from their natural environment, and then expecting them to bare their souls. When we take them out of their comfort zone and away from the “triggers” that might reveal what they truly think and feel, respondents are often more inclined to filter, rationalize and over-intellectualize whatever they decide to share. Of course, a good moderator uses techniques to get beneath all of this clutter and find the truth.  But it’s not always easy.

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FreshMR 2013 Yearbook

2013-cloud-finalIt’s midday on December 30th. I just got back from my holiday in Ohio, and I’m wrapping up my year-end work while simultaneously watching “Reality Bites” at my office’s unofficial Movie Week gathering (note: being a market researcher can be exceedingly tough, but sometimes includes moments of levity). Perhaps the most important activity on my plate today is this year-end post—summing up 2013 as seen and heard in Market Strategies’ FreshMR blog. We blogged on a wide variety of research trends and topics and covered a lot of ground in the industries and research specialties on which we focus: Energy, Communications, Healthcare, Financial Services, Technology, Consumer Goods, and Qualitative Research. Continue reading

How 16 Countries in 18 Years Transformed Me

I’m turning 40 this year, and I’m also closing in on two decades in the market research field. As a primary market researcher, I have been fortunate to travel extensively for qualitative fieldwork and project-related meetings. I’ve been thinking a lot about this travel as of late—What have I seen? What have I Iearned? How has this helped to inform my view as a researcher and, perhaps more importantly, as a person?

I’m working on a separate piece with colleague and fellow blogger Adam Martin, in which we address business travel itself—the pros and cons, the risks and rewards, and how it’s instrumental to what we do as researchers. However, as I have been devoting time to omphaloskepsis[1], I wanted to share some personal insight regarding my world travel and how it’s transformed me in ways both small and significant.

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A Qualitative Research Journey

Many years ago, I worked for a research firm where the consultants did not particularly value qualitative research. It was foreign to them. There were no hard numbers, no statistics and no large samples. Qualitative was filled with emotion–it was too ‘touchy-feely,’ and they didn’t get it. So, whenever there was a qualitative study, they gave it to me.  Although I was a trained quantitative researcher, I was intrigued by what could be learned through qualitative research.

I learned a lot in those early days. But it wasn’t until the last 12 years of my career that I really began to understand the power of qualitative research and how to use it effectively. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to learn from some of the best qualitative researchers around the world.

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