At engage, we see a lot of market research – both shopper research and consumer research. Sadly, an awful lot of it is low value. As marketers we are always seeking insight yet often research efforts disappoint. A recent comment on a post got me thinking about this – in a nutshell the comment suggested that researchers must always understand the ‘why’ – why shoppers and consumers do what they do (or don’t!). There is a trend in research to want to dig deeper, and this is a good thing. Neuroscience is being used to understand what is going on inside shoppers’ brains. And this got me thinking – this desire to know the ‘why behind the buy’ is all very well – but do we always need to understand ‘why’? Is there a downside to our desire to understand ‘why’? Is understanding what, when, how – sometimes enough?
Shopper research – Understanding ‘why’ is tricky
Don’t get me wrong, I’m an inquisitive marketer. I love the ‘why’ question. I love the ‘why not’ question even more, but that’s another story! But understanding why can be expensive, difficult, and often the results are unreliable. You can’t just ask shoppers why they do things: oftentimes the shopper has no clue, and the answer given is merely post-rationalization. While ‘why’ and ‘why not’ are exciting and powerful, do we always need to know why?
Shopper research – Creating value without knowing ‘why’
Let’s consider an example. We’re testing a number of different point of sale solutions, with different messages, or different colors, even. One color works better than the other. We get a 10% higher sales uplift. Do we need to know why? Is it always absolutely necessary to understand which part of the brain was involved in processing this data? Do we need to understand whether the red color was preferred because it triggered feelings of warmth? Or do we just measure the result and roll-out the most effective solution?
Shopper research – Answering Why is can be high value
I appreciate that if we did understand why, it might yield more value. It may lead us to a new, deeper understanding of those shoppers, which might lead to even more exciting solutions in the future. But it might lead to red herrings and misleading data too. It would also lead to a much higher research budget, and a longer timeline for the research, delaying the implementation and potentially reducing the return on research investment.
Shopper research – Focus on answering questions that create value
Understanding shopper motivations can be high value, but let’s not assume that understanding why shoppers behave in the way they do is essential. Too many shopper research projects are cumbersome and bloated as marketers try and understand way too much. Focus on the answers that will create value, deliver that value, and you’ll get more budget in the future, perhaps enough to effectively answer some of those big questions.
I’m sure that some might find this post contentious – that’s great – I’d love to hear from anyone who has views on the topic, and examples to share too!
If you’d like to know more about how to get better value out of shopper research, check out these other posts on shopper research.