Articles

Creativity comes in ones

In market research, product design on March 26, 2013 by sdobney Tagged: ,

The very obvious raison d’etre of market research is often to find out what the customer wants. The temptation for a business is to see the customer as the font of all knowledge and inspiration. If we’re looking at purchasers in businesses, these are professionals and are much more able to say exactly what they want and to write the specification and invitation-to-tender documents. Consumers on the other hand know broadly what they would like, but often struggle to articulate precisely what is needed. However, they know very quickly if something you show them is correct or incorrect and are very able to critique what they see.

The implication is that for consumer research in particular, having things to see and things to show are fundamental to the process of finding out what the customer wants. And in actual fact even in business markets, there are situations where the business needs expertise and guidance and factors off the tender document, such as the reputation of the company, the approachability of the sales rep may have more of an impact than the direct formal specification.

So research needs prompts and ideas to stimulate the consumers. The business can’t just ask the customer what they want, they have to test things and find out how customers react, and then modify and repeat. There is then a certain lack of creativity on the part of consumers which shouldn’t be a surprise. If consumers were able to redesign your products or services, wouldn’t you employ them as designers?

The most effective use of research is then almost as a process of dialogue. Your designers and planners build scenarios and propositions, and then research tests and takes these propositions down, but in the process they generate new thoughts and ideas among the designers as the designers understand different nuances and points-of-view and where critical problems lie.

A crucial part of this type of iterative design is in researching among key groups according to expertise and influence. The factors that an IT manager in a large company uses to judge how good software is, are very different from the factors a consumer would use. The manager would want to know about security, backup, service help, reliability and ease of deployment. A consumer might be more concerned with how it looks and what the main functions do. Great care is needed to define the right audience and to check that what is right for one group, is not a problem for another.

So this seems to suggest that research is just about testing and responding to reactions, and like all research we have to take a statistical or market view. But the reality is that within all the people who help out in the research, it’s very likely that you will get one or two absolute pearls of insight. Someone will write a comment or make a suggestion that epitomises what needs to be done. The problem is that this insight, but it’s rarity and importance, is not going to be statistical in nature. It will be a single comment buried in amongst all the other details of the survey and if all you do is look at the aggregates, these nuggets will be lost in the noise. The more automated and aggregated the survey, the temptation is never to look at individual responses. Yet each response is the considered opinion of someone. Some of these individuals can be inspired. If creativity comes in ones, it has to be looked for one by one.

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