Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Why do research?

It is ridiculously cold at the moment... really has me questioning why I put myself through these early mornings! I promise you that there is nothing glamorous about leaving home before the sun is up. On the upside, thinking about my motivations for doing this got me to pondering the value of market research?

A basic premise of research is that you're going in with certain hypotheses about your audience or the market, which you then prove or disprove through your work. For me, the core reason why research is and will forever be valuable lies in how often these 'assumptions' prove to be somewhat or even totally  inaccurate.

This is where I feel we need to remember a couple of important truths:

  1. I am not the target audience - it is very easy to attribute my beliefs to the market, but if I'm talking to pensioners about their travel preferences or pregnant women about their impending motherhood, I need to learn enough to understand it from their perspective.
  2. I am generally not the typical consumer - despite wanting to feel like a 'man of the people', the truth is that neither a research nor client team are typical of their entire market. Yes, I can probably make valid comments about my own or similar segments, but I can't apply those across the board!
This was perfectly illustrated for me by a recent project into category purchasing behaviour. Both my boss and the client team were convinced that there were segments of people who followed clearly defined patterns. Completing the research, we realised however that my bosses hypothesis was based on his own attitudes and preferences, with this segment being very limited in size and that the segment described by the client just didn't exist...

This brings me back to my initial question. For me, the crux of research is that it allows us gain access to the wider population. As such part of the planning for any project should be questioning ourselves and our beliefs by asking:

  • "How might people be different?"
  • "Why am I not typical?"

PS. I'm still learning how the blog site works, so didn't finish this on the bus, but ended up typing the second half from the comfort of a nice warm office... :)

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