Tamworth, Staffordshire, 14th May 2008. Xtraviews Ltd have just completed a significant piece of research that analysed the validity of consumer responses given during face to face interviews. They compared what consumers said in interviews about shopping with how they actually behaved in the shops. The project involved recording the behaviour of more than 2,000 shoppers in a number of different retail scenarios. Participants were then questioned about how they shopped, what aspects of the process they recalled and why they did or didn’t buy. The researchers subsequently compared the observational information with the interview responses of each participant Market research.
Managing Director of Xtraviews Ltd, Mr Phillip Adcock comments: “We’ve been analysing consumers and their behaviour for more than 8 years now and never cease to be amazed by how much their account of shopping differs from the process itself. In part of this latest piece of research, we studied shoppers’ reactions to a new packaging solution for beauty products. The entire category had been remerchandised within card outers known as Retail Ready Packaging (RRP). Shoppers were observed and then interviewed both before and after the changes were made to the merchandising. Sales of products altered dramatically after the implementation of RRP with a single brand increasing its share by 31% and another dropping by an even larger percentage. During interviews, shoppers were asked a number of times and in a variety of different ways, whether they noticed any different cardboard or packaging on shelf? Only a single respondent out of nearly 200 said that they did so. If a Brand or Insight Manager had relied on this interview data alone to determine the success or failure of the initiative, then they would have been completely misled.”
“In another example during the project, there were numerous POS and other display devices for a particular FMCG category within a number of convenience stores. We asked consumers as they were leaving the stores, what displays they recalled seeing in that store, on that day? 89% said none at all. Yet when asked to rank brands in terms of their awareness of them, the brands supported by POS were recalled twice as much as those that were unsupported. This is another good example of the mismatch between interview data and reality.” face to face interview research.
Adcock goes on to state, “Don’t just take our word for it or the findings of this latest research project. In his book ‘How Customers Think’, Gerald Zaltman states that 95% of thought, emotion and decision making occurs without people’s awareness. J Kalet, writes in ‘Biological Psychology’, that the human brain only processes 5% of what the eyes see. Add to this the fact that Albert Mehrabian is credited with identifying the fact that words themselves represent just 7% of human to human communication.” and it becomes obvious that answers that people give, may be somewhat different to what they meant or what they actually did.
“Either ‘the right answer to a question’ or just any answer to the question, but right now!”
“So why is it that when there is so much evidence proving that interview data in isolation is less than 100% reliable, researchers continue to invest and rely so heavily in the methodology? It is my personal belief that professionals are just too busy to seriously question which are and aren’t effective research tools. Another common problem is that in today’s fast moving society, clients need instant answers. As a direct result of this, I believe there are 2 basic types of research answers most commonly sought. They are either ‘the right answer to a question’ or just any answer to the question, but right now! For those in search of the latter, there are numerous research tools that will comprehensively meet their needs.
As recently as May 1st this year, Market Research Society spokesman Paul Smith comments in Marketing Week that ‘To enter the (market Research) industry, all you need is your brain, access to a PC and a voice recorder’. And I fully agree that, armed with these assets, you are perfectly equipped to go out and get answers to questions. However, having both bought and sold research firstly as a client and then a research supplier, getting the right answer is not always that straightforward. This is where I believe the industry has maybe got its priorities wrong. There has been and continues to be too much emphasis on getting ‘instant’ answers to questions. What is lacking or at least appears less prevalent is the focus and regard to the authenticity and validity of individual interview responses.”
“There’s no getting away from the fact that interviews form an integral part of much consumer and business to business research. Based on this fact, and as a direct request from clients, we have developed a new and powerful research methodology that addresses some of the traditional limitations associated with interviews. This new research technique is called Xtraviews. In essence, the process works by capturing and analysing not just what respondents say, but also, how they speak, and what else they communicate. As a result we are able to uncover more of what they really mean. Precise details of how Xtraviews work are confidential, but I can reveal that the process combines no less than 4 different analytical tools ranging from bespoke software based through to highly specialised behavioural expertise. This new research methodology has been thoroughly developed, tested and refined during numerous UK projects as well as in mainland Europe and as far afield as in the streets of Moscow.
To paraphrase John Wanamaker who famously said: ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.’ So, assuming that the same can be said of research, we have developed the Xtraviews technique in order to greatly improve our ability to accurately identify which is meaningful interview data and what is rationalised ‘ear candy’. To give a perfect example, during our research project we asked shoppers how often they visited a certain store, then immediately afterwards, how often they bought something from that store. An interviewee incredibly stated that he visited the store a couple of times a week, but bought something from it every day of the week. Xtraviews were able to immediately identify which was the really meaningful response.”
To finish with, Adcock defends his comments by saying “This isn’t meant to be any sort of tirade against what is a good and for the most part, trusted research methodology. More a suggestion to all those out there who invest in asking face to face questions as a means to fulfil their research needs: If you want better answers to your research questions, then why not start by simply analysing more of the information interviewees provide by way of the responses they happily give you.”
For more information about Xtraviews, visit www.xtraviews.com or call Phillip Adcock on 01827 56970
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