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While shopping. Will this TV fit in my living room? Let’s place the AR version into the room to see.
And the latest now includes augmented reality in market research projects.
AR is so easy for consumers to use because it can be done right from their smartphones. For companies, it can help them get even better feedback because consumers can visualize the product in their surroundings.
In this article, I discuss:
How to use AR in market research
An AR market research project with a new leaf blower
Who should use AR in market research?
What’s the future?
The importance of internal partners to make your AR market research project a success
Behind the scenes: How we implemented AR into our video survey platform
Augmented Reality in market research strategy
Basically, AR works well in market research when your brand wants a consumer to view a product and place it into their environment without having to send the product to them. Doing that with AR is cheaper and quicker than shipping the product to the consumer or hosting a focus group.
“You still have to have a human being to think through these problems,” said Jude Olinger, CEO at The Olinger Group, which was the first company to use the new AR feature in the Voxpopme platform. “The technology is great but it doesn’t do it itself. Even when it’s a DIY thing. Somebody still has to do that. In terms of augmented reality, we are always looking for new and innovative tools to bring to our clients.”
In addition to the strategy, the correct images need to be uploaded. Of course, that’s really not that different from any other projects that need specific files.
Some examples of AR in market research include:
Early-stage product ideation
How The Olinger Group used AR with video surveys
Jude’s company worked with a global lawn care equipment manufacturer. They wanted to test a new concept for a corded leaf blower. Olinger ran two versions of the video survey:
With questions but without AR of the leaf blower
Questions with ARof the leaf blower
“So they were able to go into their back yard or front yard or their lawn and see this product and how it would look and how they would interact with it,” Jude said. “It made it a much richer experience to get feedback from people. Much more realistic than just looking at a picture or a diagram.”
Consumers could “place” the leaf blower into their surroundings, check its size different colors and more.
“It wasn’t just conceptual now,” Jude said. “What do you think of this leaf blower? They can see the size and if it’s too big or too small.”
What companies should use AR in market research?
“Any company that has a tangible product,” he said. “Anyone that wants to get a reaction to something. And not just showing them a diagram. Especially when it something new.”
Many consumer products can certainly get an advantage in their market research using AR to show their product enhancement or idea to consumers in their environment. Then get their feedback right there through a quick video response.
What’s the future of AR in market research?
AR certainly has been around for a few years and has evolved. Jude said on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show” that he sees potential for future use for market researchers, but he warns: “I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. Some things stick and some don’t. But I think AR has potential.”
AR is less cumbersome than VR
It can be difficult to get people to spend money on tactics that are not proven, Jude explained. For example, a few years ago virtual reality seemed on the upswing and potentially helpful in projects.
Instead of building a hotel or part of a hotel, you could build out a model room and create it in virtual reality.
“In that instance you needed very cumbersome equipment,” Jude said. “What we found was that it was hard to find somebody to spend money on something that wasn’t proven. It took a lot of time, money and wasn’t very practical.”
The potential of AR
AR on the other hand can be done on people’s phones and in their own environments – just like video surveys.
“That gives me a lot of optimism that this will be different,” Jude said.
Companies still have to produce files and materials that are different from what they might have today for the AR project, but it’s been easier to get started than VR, Jude said.
The technical stuff
The ideal file type for iOS Augmented reality is glLTF 2.0 (.glb/.gltf). Apple’s Reality Converter can be used to convert to Universal Scene Description
AR is being accepted by consumers
Certainly a lot has changed during the pandemic and new trends will continue to emerge. Gartner estimated that 100 million consumers use augmented reality while shopping in 2020.
In addition to the TV and furniture example, consumers can use AR to try on clothes, for example.
“People are becoming more used to that kind of technology,” said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”
AR is also easier to use, Jude said. VR requires you to wear a headset, like I’m wearing in the picture. AR can be done from your smartphone which many of us now carry around in our pockets.
AR is comfortable for consumers and it’s also comfortable for the brands, Jude said. What makes AR easier than VR, for example, is that most everyone carries a smartphone around with them. That’s really all that is needed for a consumer to participate in AR research.
The importance of internal partners
For really any project you’ll need internal partners that are bought in, interested and want to move the project forward. Leadership support certainly is important as well.
Using AR in market research is no different. The product owners need to be involved.
“You have to set it up in a way that is really usable and works,” Jude said. “The researchers themselves aren’t usually driving the bus on this. If it’s the R&D or product development team they’ll have to get their cooperation. Otherwise you are spinning your wheels.”
Perhaps, having an interesting AR video survey can also help battle survey fatigue. Making it interesting for the consumer, can bring better results for the company.
How Voxpopme started AR in market research
The idea came out of Product Innovation Summit. The product team met in the United Kingdom and got to work. The AR idea was presented by Mobile Engineer Blain Ellis.
“We believe that enabling respondents to interact with an augmented reality stimulus will increase engagement and improve the quality of feedback,” Blain wrote in his idea pitch. “This will also provide our customers with more opportunities to perform concept studies on the Voxpopme platform.”
Respondents have been able to interact with images and links up to this point. That works for some projects but AR can be better for others.
“The respondent experience will then be presented with the interactive augmented reality experience in the same way in which they would have been presented with an image stimulus,” Blain said.
Brands must grow and evolve or risk getting left behind. But how do you maintain your brands while taking advantage of new trends? And some new trends aren’t really long-term changes in consumer behavior while others are.
So which new trends are worth following and which ones aren’t can be a challenging question for brands. What kind of trends are we seeing?
“There are so many,” said Jennifer Saenz, global chief marketing officer at PepsiCo during her chat with Zappi President Ryan Barry, at the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit. “There’s some trends that are ever lasting and we don’t want to forget them. For example, there’s a need for indulgence, fun, entertainment and enjoyment across food and beverage. When people are eating and drinking they want to enjoy it. It’s silly to classify that as a trend, but it’s not going away.”
And with the COVID pandemic people have needed an uplift more than ever, she said. Also, some new trends aren’t truly new, but the pace of change is faster than it was before.
“You cannot forget the basics,” Jennifer said. “It is dangerous as you get pulled toward new development or new technologies you forget those basics.”
Those basics include to know your audience and understand what do they want to hear from you?
“It’s harder and harder to get the technologies to work for you if you don’t know the ‘why’ behind it,” Jennifer said. “There should be a lot of humanity in data-driven marketing.”
Don’t just chase new things to chase new things. Keep in mind how they are going to help you and how they fit in or replace what’s currently in play.
Consumer insights can help us figure out what trends are worth pursuing and which ones aren’t.
“Consumer insights, to me, is something that is useful, something that we can make decisions around,” said Dave Carruthers, Voxpopme founder and CEO on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “Ultimately, we are looking for these insights to help us build better brands and better experiences.”
Making the process easier to spot new trends
Dave mentioned that people sometimes make consumer insights harder than they need to be.
“The insights should literally be able to be explained in one sentence,” Dave said. “It should be something that should be succinct, but it should surprise you.”
That also makes understanding new trends easier.
Inefficiencies in internal workflows also can present a problem. Somebody has a PowerPoint somewhere that shares consumer insights. Then somebody else comes up with the same insights, confirms what’s in that PowerPoint — a PowerPoint they didn’t know anything about.
“It needs to be simple and surprising but also needs something you can make decisions on,” said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing and host of “Reel Talk.” “It’s got to be actionable. It’s not just information for the sake of information. You have to do something with it. I think that’s really crucial.”
How has the global pandemic impacted customer insights?
Certainly a lot happened in 2020 and 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic keeps raging, Texans lost power after a snowstorm, and other disasters have impacted consumer behavior, which, of course, impacts businesses.
“The industry was already in a fairly aggressive stage of transformation,” Dave said. “You were seeing us adopt technology, both on the quantitative and qualitative side of consumer insights.”
Dave reports seeing businesses increase their investment in categories like experience management. Also, “listening to customers certainly is gaining traction.”
COVID and social distancing have pushed advances, especially in qualitative research, Dave explained. Before, you might have been able to go into somebody’s home or meet in-person. But now, much of that contact has moved online.
“It’s funny when people talk about ‘mobile research,’ ” Dave said. “That’s the medium now.” It’s no longer a standalone strategy.
Jenn added that the insights function has become more important in companies, in part because of recent events.
“Understanding a brand’s customers has been an ever bigger challenge than it had been,” Jenn said.
To truly understand trends and customer behavior we have to understand the person as a while.
Megan Kehr, analytics insights associate manager at PepsiCO, mentioned that insights professionals have talked about understanding “the person behind our consumer.”
“For example, take somebody like me and not just seeing me as a Pepsi drinker… and while my consumption behavior is part of who I am; I’m also a wife, a sister, a daughter, I’m a cat mom,” she said. “There are all these other aspects of my life outside of the beverage I drink that make up who I am.”
She said the idea of getting closer to the consumer isn’t new, “COVID has accelerated it and in the last year everyone’s lives have basically changed overnight. And what better way to do that than hearing from the customers?”
“To that end speed is super important,” she said. “Keeping our ears to the ground to understand what’s shifting and changing in our consumers’ lives.”
Truly understanding the customer also goes deeper than demographics, she explained. Megan called that the gift analogy. If you were told to buy a gift for a mom of a certain age group, that’s not highly useful information to get them a meaningful gift, she said.
“But then if you consider buying a gift for somebody much closer to you, it’s much easier to pick a gift that they really like because you know them on that deeper level,” Megan said. “Applying that analogy to a brand, it’s the same. If we don’t know our consumers at that deeper level then how are we going to do marketing campaigns or make brand decisions?”
Megan gave the example of a mom who wasn’t taking her medication because she felt that was tainting her picture of “Super Mom” in her children’s eyes. Once you understand that you can consider product updates.
“Maybe a patch would be better here,” Megan said.
But how do you get to that level of depth?
“There are so many layers that you can peel back,” Jenn added in her podcast chat with Megan. “So many stop at that first layer. What’s the best approach to peel back those layers and best understand the drivers and motivations?”
There certainly is value in asking specific questions about the products and the experience, Megan said. But also consider asking about family, lifestyles and tensions.
“When we do certain qualitative work, don’t just focus on the tactical,” Megan added. “We are putting blinders on when we do that.”
Consumer behaviors change
Things have changed so much. When the pandemic shut downtown metro areas, people weren’t working downtown, which affected bars, restaurants, all businesses in the area.
“It impacts snacking behavior, how people aren’t commuting, sports,” Dave added. “All of that is having an impact on clients. Many of our clients are seeing this as an opportunity to reinvent their business.”
Consumer insights can help them enter into and innovate in those open areas.
“This innovation shouldn’t happen in a silo,” Dave said. “The customer needs to be front and center in that change.”
React to what consumers are doing
Can Cheetos be stretched into Mac and Cheese, for example? Yes and consumers were already mixing the two, said Jennifer, the PepsiCo CMO.
“There was a pull for it and there was permission from consumers,” Jennifer said. “There was a need in the market to infuse this tasty treat into a product. A great place for a brand to stretch.”
Sometimes the answer is yes to try new things. Sometimes it’s no and sometimes we may have to readjust.
Always listen to the customer base and its mood.
“What are people feeling?” Jennifer said. “That’s really important to brands like ours. They move with culture. We have to understand and also look to the future.”
Understanding new customers
Sometimes new customers are buying your products. I still remember when Under Armour was really just for professional athletes, then other athletes started wearing it. Today, I sit here wearing Under Armour shoes and pants. So now writers wear high-performance gear, too. Don’t forget about all the kids wearing the brand now. So brands and their customers can evolve. In
Red Bull was focusing on high-energy type sports and experiences in their marketing and then they realized that another group drinks Red Bull energy drinks as well: Moms. Ross said moms were drinking several Red Bulls to get through the day.
“If you listen to your customers they will tell you what they want.”
Personalization at scale and data privacy
Understanding our customers also means that companies know more about them.
“We always see these articles that consumers want personalized messaging but also want their data protected,” Ryan said.
That can be a challenging balance.
“Consumers do want to see things that are relevant,” Jennifer said.
But, that also means companies know a lot about their customers.
“There’s definitely a tension,” she said. “And it’s also what people feel comfortable with. There might be some data that some people have no issue sharing and others want to keep it quite close.”
Be transparent how you’ll use data and share that, Jennifer said.
“With personalization there’s a lot of opportunity but there’s also a great responsibility,” she said. “The best thing is that we can just be transparent in what we are doing and what safeguards we have in place.”
How can consumer insights help brands adjust to new trends?
“Brand loyalty has been under attack, in my opinion,” Dave said. “We just have an abundance of brands, and the cost to switch for consumers is so easy. In this kind of time period, we – consumers – are open to exploring new opportunities.”
You have to look at the signal-noise ratio, Dave explained.
“What’s a temporary change, and what is a trend that we can actually see?” Dave said. “That’s been a focus for our clients. What’s a knee-jerk reaction to a situation we are under … how can I really understand what’s happening?”
Good consumer insights come back to being empathetic to consumers.
“What are people going through, and how can we help them?” Dave said. “We certainly have seen a quick move to technology. How can we still stay in touch with others during the pandemic?”
Come up with a hypothesis
Quickly test it with customers
“We are seeing product life cycles being trimmed down,” Dave said. “What used to be 18 months is now two to three months.”
Some businesses even pivoted completely in a short time.
“Had they not been able to bring the customer into the process, they would have gotten it wrong,” Dave said. “They would have made assumptions. But now with the plethora of marketing research tech, … I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s easier than before all this technology existed.”
“A lot of the trends we are seeing are just an acceleration of what’s already in place,” Jenn added. “It’s interesting to see that from necessity we need to build more empathy with people, and now we have the technology to help us with that.”
Before the pandemic, there were basically two cohorts:
Traditional methods businesses used
Outliers trying some new things
“Now we have more people moving into the future,” Dave said. “Like with anything new, people at first can be skeptical. Remember the first time you got into an Uber? So I’m just going to get into this random guy’s car? He drives me where I want to go? And that’s safe?”
And now we don’t even think about getting into an Uber.
What does the future of consumer insights look like?
“What this pandemic has done is re-establish the importance of the market research industry,” Dave said. “Now we have to build upon that momentum we’ve created for ourselves. That’s about understanding the consumer and creating that bridge to the customer. We also don’t want these insights to live in eight different places.”
The pandemic also has reminded us how quickly things can change and how long those changes can persist.
Take March 2020 when the pandemic took off in full swing in the United States. “We said ‘things will be back to normal in September,” Dave said. A year later, COVID-related issues still are top of mind.
“Even with the rollout of the vaccine, the effects of it will still be felt for the next 12 to 14 months or so,” he added.
In the future, technology will continue to help brands have the voice of the customer at the table.
Technology now allows us to turn consumer insights around in 24 hours or less. For example, in a 2021 Valentine’s Day campaign, we gathered 100 love letters from consumers to brands in just a few hours.
“There will be opportunities for brands that are listening,” Dave said. “And to take market share away from their competitors.”
Added Jenn: “Understanding customers, consumers, people is no longer just an important thing. It’s an essential thing. Businesses will not survive without being really connected with consumer needs and empathizing with them.”
How to make consumer insights more of a priority
Review some of the examples of people who already do insights well. That includes:
Then look at what your tech stack looks like. What tools do you use internally that can help you be more successful?
Companies that do consumer insights well have their plan together. They use the right tools internally, with a mix of outside help, with the right people, with the right mindset, in place.
“Change management can be a big hill to climb, but there are a lot of examples of people that have done it well,” Jenn said.
“It’s not easy to drive forward, but if you get it right, the results can be exponential,” Dave added.
Consumer insights also have to be presented in a “snackable” way to decision makers.
“There’s no reason insights can’t be presented in a two-minute clip,” Dave said. “And if you can’t, it’s not an insight. It’s data, and people don’t care about data. We are just overwhelmed with data. We need to deliver insights, data and value.”
Insights for non-insights roles
Ryan, the president of Zappi, mentioned that other roles are now also being are being asked to do a lot more when it comes to customer understanding.
When marketing roles use insights to drive results the rest of the company is also seeing the investment and how strategic marketing can pay off.
“It allows people to see that we are building our brand and build those connections with our consumers for the long-term,” she said. “And that it’s very much worthwhile.”
Also, be sure to really need to consider your options when testing.
“If you are only testing to get to ‘yes’ you are only looking for that, but if you are taking a moment to be reflective and understand the ‘why’ and pour that into all the work you are doing,” Jennifer said. “It’s a very different mindset if you are testing to learn versus testing to check a box.”
Look at the data you already have
Keep in mind the amount of data your organization already has as well. Keep an eye on trends in there. What can we see from the insights that have already been collected?
“The best predictor of the future still is the past,” said Michelle Gansle, vice president of global insights at McDonald’s.
But remember the basics…
Even though behaviors and industries change quickly, Elisabeth Trawinski, an insights professional at Reckitt, reminded us on a “Reel Talk” episode that yes, things are changing, but the purpose of customer insights is not.
Essentially customer insights is about understanding people and turning that insightfulness into a competitive advantage, she said.
“That’s always been the role of insights and in some ways becomes more and more critical each year as the world changes,” she said. “But there are so many different ways to understand our customers now – like video surveys – that didn’t exist years ago.”
Some things don’t change
Talking and listening to customers remains important.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of substitution for talking to a respondent and seeing their reactions to concepts, ideas … being able to see people’s facial expressions,” said Kristin Luck, founder at ScaleHouse.
Of course, it’s so much easier to spot trends when companies actually talk to and understand their customers.
“The need for information, the need for insights will not change, which means that role of the researcher will always be there,” said Babita Earle.
Building teams that work well together and make customer-centricity a priority benefits the customers. But how do you build those teams, and how do you make sure you have the right players?
Building an insights team that offers a glimpse into what customers currently feel and what they might like in the future, is often also accompanied by a certain buzz around the company.
“You can sense there’s a lot of excitement coming from all parts of the company,” said Maher Beltaifa, human insights manager ahout building the insights team at Faurecia, on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “And people have always wanted to do that and be intimate with their users and know what’s going through their mind whenever they are using the products and services and how they can improve on those experiences.”
A lot goes into building teams. Let’s dive into that topic in this article.
Building teams that work together can help us understand our customers and continuously improve the customer experience.
“It’s really regardless of what teams you have,” said Tara Robertson, chief marketing officer at Teamwork, on an episode of “Reel Talk”.
“I will lean on my statement that I’m allergic to silos,” she said. “If you are a customer-driven business, customer insights needs to be sitting at the foundation of what you do.”
In some companies, that’s an insights team. In other companies, another team might be leading the charge, Tara said.
“That doesn’t mean you can do it in a silo,” she said. “There’s all that heavy lifting going on to make sure we are aligned with our customer experience team, our customer success team, the product team.”
The alignment is necessary so teams:
Don’t recreate the wheel.
Are aligned on the things they are asking for from customers in surveys.
Get the insights from the internal team before anyone puts a survey out into the market
You can get more buy-in when other departments understand what’s going on and how it can benefit them, said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme. “We are on this journey together instead of us saying, ‘Hey, we’ve done this research.’ “
Tara added: “I’ll even go so far and say that the customer experience becomes so much better.”
Working collaboratively helps you build something that every department can benefit from. Surveys and questions that are asked of customers at different touchpoints can be aligned when teams work together.
“We are doing a survey in marketing right now, and we will share feedback with product if we are getting feedback on the product,” Tara said. “We are going to want that and put it into our product road map.”
The same goes for customer experience.
“If we have an unhappy customer or a thrilled customer, we have that opportunity to create an even better experience,” Tara said.
Team communication is essential to make it work.
At PepsiCo, everyone should feel like they can give their opinion fearlessly, said Jennifer Saenz, global chief marketing officer at PepsiCo during her chat with Zappi President Ryan Barry, at the 2021 Virtual Insights Summit.
“When you see an outage you have to speak up,” she said. “I wouldn’t hold it in and let it fester because you can make an impact.”
Thinking like an owner can help with speaking up, Jennifer said. When there’s a problem or an idea owners certainly would speak up. Anyone should feel empowered to do that.
“There are things about an organization that implies,” she said. “One, are we willing to listen? Or are we so hierarchical? Our hope would be that those cultural values showcase that we want to listen and want you to state your opinions – act like an owner.”
But also voice your opinion with purpose.
“Saying something is a problem is a step, but I also think it’s important that people take the responsibility trying to solve things,” she said.
Jennifer’s teams focus on creative excellence to improve.
How to manage the agency
The way the team learns
How to brand position
“Creative excellence is where we spend a lot of time and energy to make sure we have strong brands that resonate with consumers,” Jennifer said.
Testing is also important, but perhaps more important is why A won in an A/B test than that A won.
“So the next time you can do an even smarter version,” Jennifer said. “Make sure you are doing that reflective exercise. And that you go in there intelligently. Being constantly learning helps you.”
Understanding where your brand can go and where it shouldn’t is also is important to know when evaluating trends, strategies, and the next campaigns.
As you are experimenting make sure you understand the scope of what’s being tested. Also, make sure you are involving the right people in the company. Who is closest to the customer.
Consider which market is the best for a pilot.
“Figure out who is the best partner to start,” Jennifer said. “It’s a bit of shopping it around. There’s an aspect of change management.”
Kalil Vicioso, a board member at Insights in Color discussed the importance of diversity on insights teams on this “Reel Talk.” In a multicultural America, it’s important to reflect society in our research. In part, that can be accomplished by having the right team in place.
“The important piece in this is to identify and find talent,” he said.
“You have to understand how many responses you actually have to read to get to some form of significance,” she said. “Reading and digging into those answers is what creates empathy.”
That takes a team approach: Who is doing what, what information gets shared, and when, to drive the best results, while keeping the team on the right forward path together.
For example, one team member can take the analysis in the Voxpopme video survey platform. They can read the automatic transcripts of responses and find responses by topic or sentiment. With the click of a button, a highlight reel can be created to share with your team and executives.
“You really want to understand what people are saying,” Tara said. “Yes, you can run it through a tool but spending the time to go through it, whether it’s an hour or a day, gets you those insights.”
From there, you can use what was learned and add it into your campaigns, talk tracks and product updates to create value for the customer.
What does it mean to drive value?
“My belief is that marketers shouldn’t just create demand, but create value,” Tara said. “Yes, I do have to care about the demand funnel, acquisition and growth. And everything in between. But what I care the most about is that value.”
Think of value as something that is useful to the customer.
“What is it that people are hiring us for?” Tara said. “They have a pain, and they need to solve that pain. So when we think about value, we need to think about how do we make this person’s life better?”
Demand rooted in value creates lifetime value.
“That’s where I think customer research becomes so important,” Tara said.
In addition, this is where qualitative methods — like video surveys — become essential. Data can tell teams a certain level of information, but data can’t tell why a customer feels a certain way.
Companies will be most successful when they understand:
the customer’s problem.
what the customer’s motivation is to buy.
what the customer’s dreamer state is.
Understanding customers’ personal problems can help us create more personalized experiences.
“Personalizing is a huge challenge,” Jenn said. But it’s one that can be overcome by understanding your customer through surveys that tell you the “why.”
You also can personalize experiences by thinking about how personas are alike. Which ones overlap? In essence, you are personalizing for a group of similar people.
“Where are the similarities in the problems they are trying to solve?” Jenn said. “And then work from there to personalize.”
Mimi Swain, Ring’s Chief Revenue Officer sits right at the center of marketing, sales, and customer teams, and said teams can be successful when they see things from the customer perspective.
“Try to understand the levers of the customer,” she said during an interview with Jenn during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit. “What’s a motivator for them?”
When customer preferences change
As Voxpopme CEO Dave Carruthers mentioned in this article, some consumer behavior changes are knee-jerk reactions to a current, time-limited situation. Others are more long-term and evolving. The trick is to figure out what’s what, which can be done by staying connected with your customers.
“I’m definitely a fan that a survey isn’t one and done — you get the results and then you go and build,” Tara said. “Customer insights should be an always-on thing. It should be something you are constantly looking at, improving on and iterating on.”
Also look at changes in your NPS score, but not just to be able to say you got a certain score. Look at it to see who the happy and unhappy customers are, Tara said. You can reach out to each for different reasons:
Happy customers: Perhaps they’d leave a review or would let you create a case study.
Unhappy customers: Find out what they would like to see improved.
You also can think of the NPS as the quantitative (the what) piece of your insights analysis. Then you’ll have to figure out the qualitative piece (the why customers are feeling one way or another).
With an always-on approach, there should be little to no surprises in customer behavior, Tara said.
Where does customer research fit in terms of priorities?
“It’s probably one of the most important priorities,” Tara said about where it fits in her first 90 days in a new CMO role. “I can’t make an impact on the organization if I don’t understand what I need to be looking for, and that means getting on the phone with customers, looking at the customer journey, understanding our drop-off points”
And sometimes you just have to listen and let the customer feedback and thoughts sink in.
“That can be hard. … I’m a very action-oriented person,” Tara said.
What skills and what mindset should people have?
“I take functional skills off the table for this,” Tara said. “If you are hiring somebody for a job, you have to assume that they can do the job at a functional level.”
Then soft skills come to the table:
Do they have a growth mindset?
Is there empathy and the ability to listen?
Are they customer-driven?
Do they leave their ego at the door?
Will they contribute to team camaraderie? Chemistry matters.
On the hard skill side: Are they analytical, which doesn’t mean they have to be an analyst but they do need to understand the data.
Looking at the data helps us understand whether an effort is worth it.
“I think it’s the mix of functional expertise, soft skills, analytical and willingness to learn,” Tara said.
But you also don’t want to be too robotic in your decision-making, Tara said.
“I still do believe that those risks are grounded in insights,” she said.
Performance comes out in the metrics, but also the behaviors of team members, Khary said.
“Where it came out to me was when I joined a disruptive innovation team at General Mills. They said we are going to give you a different business model,” Khary said. “We don’t want you to bring us another cereal in a box. Other than that you are free to create new approaches, new methods and new ways for us to assess it.”
And the team realized they had to operate outside of their titles.
“We realized we had to assume each other’s responsibilities in some places,” he said. “So our behaviors changed. It was no longer a conversation of ‘I don’t know. I have to wait for our finance person’. And it goes to ‘I know they are busy and why don’t you and I get together and take our best shot at it’.”
Of course, still doublecheck it with that person, but give it your best shot.
“And what happened was we kind of forgot our titles,” he said. “And we started operating as a team with one shared consciousness.”
Clarity of roles
Khary’s team had a very clear understanding of their combined goals and how they would operate together to reach them.
When it comes to having the right people in the right seats, it’s important to communicate why a seat exists. What problem is that particular seat solving?
“It’s important to give people clear alignment on what their role is,” Tara said. “And what is the role clarity that they need to be successful? That’s equal responsibility for the manager and the employee, working together and defining Key Performance Indicators.”
The KPIs for some roles can be soft, and for some roles, they are more direct.
For example, a demand generation marketer has very direct goals while a designer has less direct goals.
“Regardless of role, I’m a believer in putting a number around what people are responsible for,” Tara said. “And then building in the right performance review cycles. I don’t think once or twice a year is enough.”
When something isn’t going great, bring it up right away. And when they do something well, “shout it from the rooftop,” she said.
Everyone wants to make their mark, but learning the company history is important before jumping in, said Vice President of Global Insights at McDonald’s Michelle Gansle on an episode of “Reel Talk.”
“One of the first tips and advise I was given is that McDonald’s has been around for a long time so respect the culture and history,” Michelle said. “Before you make your mark learn what’s working and what’s great in the system already.”
Michelle said that at the beginning of her tenure at McDonald’s she talked to hundreds of people to understand the current situation, which can also help with prioritization.
“Where should I focus my energies?” she said. “It’s been fun. McDonald’s calls themselves McFamily and it really has been a family.”
As strategies and tactics that work evolve and change in markets, it’s also important to understand what works currently and with that what should be focused on today!
Sometimes teams have to unlearn tactics and practices. And sometimes they have to relearn them in a different context, David said. Keep in mind that many product features and offerings can be easily copied so you have to build a brand to stand out.
“Now as we are scaling the company we are re-learning some of those things slightly differently,” he said. “It’s all about applying the context of when to apply lessons.”
Many people have experiences throughout their careers that were applied to specific situations in specific companies. But can they be applied to similar but not identical situations in other companies? Not always. Plus, customer behavior may have changed since the first experience.
“It may have been a different time, different size company and things like that,” Dave said. “The only thing that’s universal is how you treat people and lead people. That part is pretty universal because we are all humans and have the same basic needs.”
Culture as teams grow
Unlearning and re-learning also includes the right culture. Admittedly, it’s hard work – especially as companies grow. Drift, which launched in 2015, currently has around 500 employees and is already looking to grow to 750, Dave said.
“That’s where I spend all of my time,” Dave said. “We’ve had a culture of teaching from the very beginning.”
As new employees come in make sure you share how the company thinks about:
Building a brand
“It paid off for us as we scaled pretty quickly,” he said.
Also consider how you are empowering teams to share back successes with the wider company. For example, Drift has a weekly game-show type even every Friday where different teams can share successes.
Voxpopme has a Slack channel called #boom where employees give high fives to others to highlight internal successes.
It’s also good for leaders to ask for feedback. And to understand that leadership isn’t a license to disregard feedback.
“When you are put into a leadership role there’s a natural inclination to double down on that your decisions are correct,” said Rand Fishkin, CEO of SparkToro, on an episode of “Reel Talk.” “So you seek out information, data and stories that put you in the best possible light.”
It’s okay and necessary for leaders as well to own up to mistakes, but some leaders double down on mistakes and claim it was intentional.
“A lot of this also comes back to those soft skills,” Tara said. “I want people to feel comfortable failing, and failing forward is so critically important.”
And sometimes a situation doesn’t work out, which can be for a variety of reasons, like a bad hire, the person isn’t a good fit with the team and so on.
But make sure there are no surprises and that communication channels are open and transparent, Tara said.
“Use these same approaches with your team and follow through,” Tara said.
“We are all just human and want to work for companies or buy from companies that listen to us,” Jenn said.
Good teams also prioritize well together. Not everything has to be a full-blown project. And not everything has to be scrappy. It’s OK to find the right level of effort for any project.
“At the end of the day, there’s only so many people on the team and only so many resources to put against a project,” Jenn said. “So it’s important to identify efforts that have a high impact and low effort. Let’s do those first.”
To be truly customer-centric and do what’s best for our customers, we need high-performing teams. Building teams around functional and soft skills can help them work better together and constantly improve the customer experience.
Khary on his podcast episode talked about risk versus rigor. How much risk is involved in a project and how much effort do we truly have to put into it.
“That’s a nice way to frame it up,” he said. “You need to look at the priorities of your business and the priorities of your team and see what realistically can get done. And you need to look at what can potentially move the needle.”
Be clear about what your north star is and then have that ongoing conversation of what can make an impact and how you can tackle those projects in a realistic order.
“What can we control today and how much value is that going to add?” Khary said. “My team can deliver these five things this week and these two will bring real value.”
Jenn added that she loves the idea of deprioritizing tasks that don’t appear to bring value.
“Or find a way to make them more valuable,” she said.
She uses four quadrants to evaluate tasks and projects:
Be clear on if something is urgent and important, for example. When something is urgent but not important does it even need to get done? Those are conversations to be had in the prioritization.
“You want to do your due diligence because it’s tough to deprioritize,” Khary said. “For somebody on the other end that was very urgent for them.”
Also, keep in mind that some things are urgent but not for the right reasons. “You have to build that rapport and trust to be able to talk about it,” he said.
“You can’t just tell somebody you deprioritized the thing that’s most important to them,” she said. “Talk about it.”
Jean-Michel Hoffman, vice president of brand marketing at SoFi, said during his interview during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit that people also get much more invested when they own the brand.
“You are much more focused on performance,” he said. “Owning the equity for the brand that you own – making sure the brand is set up that you are protecting its reputation and building its value.”
If you want to understand what someone is thinking, feeling or doing, chances are you’ll ask them a question.
How are you?
What do you think of this?
Why did you do that?
Expressing how we feel and our likes and dislikes is human. We do it every day in conversation and on social media. The how and why questions give us the answers we need to get to the bottom of what people think.
Open-ended questions are an essential way to uncover hidden truths that closed questions can’t. That’s why they are such an important part of market research.
It’s easy to get answers to open-ended questions through video surveys. People use video all the time already. To Facetime their friends and family. For selfie videos on Instagram. Slo-mo shots of their daughter playing softball.
Most of us now have smartphones in our pockets or our hands nonstop. So why not use video surveys to get feedback from your customers in a way that is easy for them and meaningful to you.
“Instead of answering checkbox questions, respondents can answer on their phone or desktop and really tell their stories,” said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “They can add additional context to their stories.”
explains how video surveys work in market research
shares how companies can implement video surveys
discusses how video surveys can be integrated into other platforms
gives examples from brands like Subway, DISH and more and shares how they use video surveys
unveils how augmented reality and video surveys can give you a deeper understanding of customers
shares examples of open-ends to use in video surveys
What are video surveys in market research?
Video surveys allow you to gather market research from your customers, consumers, users – anyone! Brands can ask questions directly to the people they care about most, and respondents leave their thoughts and feedback via video.
Video surveys are easy for brands as they are hearing directly from people. The software analyzes:
Consumers do video surveys asynchronous, meaning they answer your brand’s questions on their own time, and the brand can see the results as they come in.
“There’s no need to have a moderator on the other side, which helps get consistent questions to the respondents and eliminates biases,” Jenn said.
Video open-ends are just like text-based open-ends. But instead of writing down responses, respondents simply record a video. Videos are often more authentic than edited written copy.
It’s a win-win for everyone:
Consumers love it because they can express their opinions
Researchers love it because it delivers rich insights
Decision-makers love it as they get to identify actual customer stories
Video makes it easier for respondents to express themselves. It’s also much more personal, adding more of a human aspect to communication. They can portray emotion through body language and facial expressions. It’s an experience that’s simple and easy to use. It delivers spontaneous and honest answers.
How video surveys work
Video open-ends can be added to any survey. Video surveys are added by inserting a block of code to whatever platform you’re using for surveys.
For quantitative researchers, video open-ends can be integrated directly into survey platforms such as
Video surveys can also be added into communities like FuelCycle. Just imagine the power of your NPS, Brand Tracker and CSAT scores, for example, with real customer stories to enhance them. The ease of end-to-end video research means you could also capture video feedback pre or post-survey by recruiting an audience from on-demand video feedback communities or panel providers.
So whether you want to utilize video in a new or existing study or collect your videos alongside or after a survey, in just a few clicks, it’s possible. That means you can capture, analyze and share compelling customer stories across an array of quant and qual studies so you can boost the impact of your results without changing your existing program.
“I’m an evangelist for video,” said Kristin Luck, a serial marketing measurement entrepreneur. “The closer we can get to customers and potential buyers the better. And I think there’s no more powerful way than hearing it from them in their own words. I think it just resonates more deeply.”
What companies should do video surveys for their market research?
Video surveys can be used in all kinds of industries and verticals, Jenn said. From large brands to smaller businesses, video surveys are a way to understand their customers and hear from them directly.
“The real power comes in where it works alongside traditional methods,” Jenn said. “Adding a video layer to the quantitative data can help you understand your customers better.”
In 2021, in the inaugural Viddys – the Voxpopme awards, we recognized companies that have used video surveys to their competitive advantage. The winners received the news through a personal Facetime call from our CEO and Founder Dave Carruthers. These are their video survey success stories.
Mars video surveys
Mars has been using Voxpopme for years and has done more than 200 video survey studies, with more than 40,000 minutes of recorded customer insights.
“You truly are an industry visionary when it comes to pioneering research and the willingness you’ve shown experimenting with an agile research tool,” Dave told Michelle Gansle of Mars on their Facetime call. “The application across so many study types excites us.”
PepsiCo video surveys
“In this past year with COVID, the lives of our consumers have been impacted in so many ways,” said Megan Kehr, analytics insights associate manager at PepsiCo, adding that includes how they do daily tasks differently and even how they consume beverages. “Our brands need to be aware of that and be prepared for the future. Our partnership with Voxpopme was super instrumental in us being able to keep our ear to the ground to see what our consumers were dealing with and how they are navigating this new world. I’m super excited to get this recognition.”
In PepsiCo’s “Humanize” initiative the company was trying to get marketers closer to customers and understand them better.
“In the past we’ve done one-on-one immersions with consumers where myself and somebody from the brand marketing team would speak directly to the consumer to gather learnings,” she said. With COVID upending so many lives, the team didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask consumers to join meetings.”
Understanding the customer goes beyond “what flavor they pick up at the store and why,” Megan said on an episode of Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show. “But there’s also so much more behind the people who are drinking our products and what’s going on in their lives. And then figure out how our brands can help them ease the tensions they are dealing with. How we can fit better into their lives and what they are facing on a day-to-day basis.”
With Voxpopme’s video surveys “they could just do it on their mobile phones, pick it up whenever they feel like it. They are not put on the spot or speaking to somebody that they don’t know.”
Megan said that she was getting “more authentic responses because we met them where they were.”
Subway video surveys
Subway used video surveys to get quick feedback from its 2021 Super Bowl campaign.
“Literally, we had like a 12-hour turnaround,” said Wendy Semrau of Subway. “It was just amazing how many responses we were able to generate in that short amount of time. We went through the results right away on Friday and shared them right away with the team. There’s no other tool that we can do that with. Honestly, a lifesaver for us.”
Global video surveys in the London Underground
Global used video surveys to understand brand recall and sentiment for Old Spice.
A new Old Spice campaign in the London Underground put the Old Spice scent into the posters in the subway system, Emma Brett of Global shared on the Facetime call.
“That was something new. Something we didn’t know would work,” she said. “We didn’t know if the posters would smell, what people would think. We used Voxpopme to get a few opinions around the posters. If the scent was strong enough, etc. It was really good feedback for the client. It proved that the campaign was a success.”
Dave added that “we love how they are pushing the boundaries” and making it a success.
Maher Beltaifa shared how Faurecia wanted to find out how people want to communicate in the future in their cars. Do they want to move beyond touching screens and buttons? What does that look like?
“We were looking at the future of communications,” Maher told Dave on their Facetime call. “Maybe not tomorrow, but maybe the day after tomorrow.”
They wanted to find out the future of voice and “maybe there will be something different even,” Maher said. That could be gestures to communicate with the devices in our cars.
“Amazing to see how you are pushing the boundaries of the automotive experience,” Dave said.
Maher said on an episode of “Reel Talk” that the project started with a gut feeling.
“They knew there was just too much happening and wanted to make it more seamless,” Maher said.
Ideas were discussed on allowing people to communicate with their hands and maybe even gesture with their eyes. The video surveys helped the team stay grounded and find out what people were saying about the ideas.
In this clip, he discusses how the team decided to use qual and video surveys.
Reckitt video surveys
“We’ve had so much success inside the walls of RB,” Elisabeth Trawinski said to Dave on her Facetime call after she found out about the award.
Video surveys can help your brand understand your customers and make decisions to improve the customer experience. And as Jenn and Megan discussed on the podcast: Video surveys allow customers to answer your questions on their time.
“Just give people space to kind of talk about what’s important to them and what their lives look like,” Jenn said. “That’s where you can get answers to those questions that you didn’t know you needed to ask.”
The Reckitt team won their award for a program called “Outside In.”
DISH made the move to video surveys at first with a project where they needed respondents to pronounce the topic. Answers would be most beneficial when researchers could hear and see the respondents give them.
“They had to be answered with somebody actually giving us the response,” Ashley said. “We couldn’t do it in a quant survey.”
Video surveys also help DISH reach harder to reach consumers such as:
in rural areas
“Voxpopme has a great panel of older consumers as well,” Ashley said. “A lot of times somebody will come to me with a research question and I can say ‘I can get you some video feedback on that and it’s your target consumer.'”
And the process is quick. You can decide on a question in the morning, launch it that day and get answers by the following day.
“I thought I would have to sacrifice the integrity or the depth of the research,” Ashley said, about the perception when something can be done quickly. “How could it be so quick? For me, Voxpopme changed my mind about that. I feel like with video surveys we aren’t sacrificing anything.”
The speed also helps with influencing decisions, Ashley said.
“And my team is very passionate about that.”
In addition to making quick decisions, getting the quick video survey research also can inform further quant studies, Ashley said.
Augmented reality and video surveys
Talking about new concepts. Video surveys also can be used in conjunction with augmented reality, something The Olinger Group has done with the Voxpopme platform. Jude Olinger shared on “Reel Talk” how his team allowed consumers to view a new type of leaf blower with AR and then share their feedback via video surveys.
Using open-ended questions in video surveys
Open-ended questions open the doors to understanding what our customers are telling us. We can learn so much from asking open-ended questions. Responding to open-ended questions, customers can express emotions, likes and dislikes and everything about us. It’s human nature. Open-ended questions have been a major part of market research and, more specifically, surveys for many years. They are an essential method to unearthing hidden truths that closed-ended questions could otherwise miss.
As market researchers, we are all aware of the benefits open-ended questions, allowing respondents the flexibility to answer questions freely, without limits, could be the deciding factor between unlocking key customer insight and not.
What are video open-ends?
As the name suggests, video open-ends are just like text-based open-ends but instead require the respondent to record a video response as opposed to them typing/writing out their answer.
What are the benefits of video vs. text open-ends?
Video provides all the advantages of text-based open-ends, plus more.
Consumers love video because it allows them to easily portray their emotion, which in turn is valued highly by researchers for content richness and ability to drive action in the boardroom. After all, nothing is more powerful than seeing your customers face to face (digitally via video), sharing insight into their thoughts about your product, service or brand.
Consumers love giving feedback. Hear it from them directly…
At Voxpopme, we’ve tried and tested thousands of open video questions while collecting over a million consumer recorded video responses. So, we wanted to share our knowledge by offering some starter questions that have proven to deliver valuable, visual insights. We’ve put together a collection of simple, but effective open-ended questions you can use when you’re crafting your next video research project. These short-format templates will need adapting, combining or expanding to suit your specific needs but are here to get those creative juices flowing again.
We’ve segmented the question examples based on the various areas of a business to make them relevant to your particular research goals.
What would you change/improve about product X?
Why do you choose product X over Y?
What do you think of the taste/look/feel of new product X?
Any other products compare to this and how do they compare?
How does or doesn’t this product solve problem X for you?
What did you like most about product X?
Imagine and explain life without product X? (ethnography study)
Show us how you use product X? (ethnography study)
What are your expectations/requirements of service X?
Any changes you would most improve to the service of brand X?
How likely are you to recommend service X and why?
Where did you come across this service?
What was your primary reason for using/purchasing this service?
Any steps you took in your decision to use service X?
What did you think of advertisement X?
Your favorite part of ad X?
What emotions did the ad elicit?
Which ad was your favorite and why?
Are the claims made in the ad believable?
How does this ad fit with what you know about brand X?
How unique is this ad compared to others you have seen for similar products?
In what ways does the ad you just watched impact your purchase consideration for brand X (if at all)?
What makes a great ad?
What are your initial thoughts when you hear brand X?
In your opinion, what do you think brand X represents?
Is your perception of brand X positive or negative and why?
What traits are you looking for from a brand in category X?
How and where do you come into contact with brand X most?
What are the positive attributes of brand X?
Any negative attributes of brand X and what are they?
How was your last experience when visiting store X?
What did you think of the customer support in store X?
Why did you choose to shop in store X over its competitors?
Do you have an alternative to brand/store X and why?
Show us your favorite section/display in store X and tell us why it is?
When did you last go to buy a product/service but didn’t buy your intended item and why?
Please explain if you would return to this store and the reasons for your answer.
How was your experience shopping with brand X online?
Was it easy/difficult to navigate the site and find what you were looking for?
Did you experience any difficulties when trying to buy a product from mysite.com?
Explain your opinion of our website checkout experience?
How did online support work?
What don’t you like about your current service provider/product?
How does your online experience of ‘brand X’ differ across different digital devices?
What promotions come to mind when you think of season/event X?
Any seasonal promotions would you like to see product/service X offer?
What time of year do you begin looking for product or service X?
Any promotions stand out most for you in store X?
Please show us prominent category X promotions in store Y.
How do you prefer to discover promotions for product/service X?
What are your thoughts of our loyalty program?
How does loyalty program X compare to the loyalty program of competitor Y?
Would you say brand X provides value for your money?
What are your thoughts on product X’s quality for the price paid?
Does cost play a role when purchasing product/service X in category Y?
The cost of product/service give you a particular perception of brand X?
Wider brand exploration & personification
If Brand X was a celebrity who would they be and why?
Which make of car is brand X most similar to?
Brands are a party – what type of party guest would brand X be?
How has brand X changed over time?
Who do you think to be the leader in category X and why?
If brand X came to life as a person, what would they be like?
Where does brand X rank amongst its competitors and why?
Draw what you think X means and explain why.
Understanding the market
Video surveys can also be used to understand customer feelings about a current campaign. Here’s an example from Super Bowl ads and how viewers felt about them.
For Super Bowl LIV, we set out to find out which brands won and lost in the battle of the commercials. We asked a total of 150 North American consumers to tell us which ad was the most memorable one.
They each shared their most memorable Super Bowl ad during each quarter of the game in self-recorded responses to a single open-ended video question, in real-time. The study tested the unaided recall of the commercials, and scores were calculated based on the number of mentions for each ad across all video responses in less than 4 hours thanks to automated video analytics.
And now that the results are in, we can see who scored and who fumbled in the advertising game.
See what people said about our winner in the video:
Getting the most out of technology
Once you have technology in place, make sure you spend a good amount of time on making sure you are getting the most of out it, said Scott Brinker of HubSpot and creator of the mar-tech landscape map.
“It has to do with the strategy of how we are going to deploy them,” Scott said. “It has to do with how are we going to do enablement and training.” But also keep in mind that technology is updating and evolving quickly.
Doing what’s best for our customers certainly can help our brands be successful long-term. But what are the best strategies to help us get there? Design thinking is one and can make our products better for customers. In the context of design thinking, it also helps to think about the customer as a person with problems and needs that your product or service can solve and help with.
“It’s so easy for that to sometimes get missed,” said Voxpopme CTO and Co-Founder Andy Barraclough about thinking of your customers as people on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “In a tech business you refer to your users and the connection to the customer gets lost a little. So for me it’s really about who that person is that is interacting with that product.”
Then of course, you want to keep that focus and alignment going across all the teams.
“It’s so easy to look at a number, a user, a usage stat,” Andy said. “But it’s really about that person you are trying to empathize with.”
How important is it to involve customers in product development?
“It’s fundamental and it’s so key of what we do when we innovate on any product,” Andy said.
We go through stages and think about what stage we are in with a specific product. Let’s look at what is design thinking, and how do you bring customers into each stage. The stages are:
“And I think the real key is – all those stages feed into each other,” Andy said.
Rand Fishkin, founder of Spark Toro, mentioned on another episode of “Reel Talk” that a good number of target customers will judge a product on its first impression for the foreseeable future, which makes it even more important to roll out in a way that appeals to customers.
“If you launch a minimal viable product and many people see it for the first time they will remember their experience with that product,” Rand said. “They will not go ‘I see this is a promising product and some day it can be great so let me give the team time.'”
Rand said he took that to heart when they launched Spark Toro. They wanted it to be as close to perfect for an initial rollout as possible. They invited Beta testers and went from there.
“We did two rounds of that Beta and invited several hundred folks to play with and try the product for free,” Rand said. “That first version looked and felt completely different. And we got a lot of feedback about that.”
Let’s take the empathize stage. This is where you really need to understand the customer’s problems and how you are trying to solve them. This can be easier to do when you face the same problem as a consumer.
“This is where we need to immerse ourselves into the environment of our customers,” Andy said. “And then how do we socialize that internally.”
Then use the feedback you are getting to make improvements that are beneficial to your customers.
Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk” said that companies truly need to empathize with their customers. Companies can tell when empathy isn’t meant.
Defining a human-centered problem statement
From there, create a problem statement that focuses on the person.
“When you start with the empathize stage you can then think about that actual human at the end of the product,” Andy said. “What’s that problem statement we are trying to solve for that individual? And a lot of that is gathered from the empathize stage.”
This process helps the team analyze and synthesize observations.
The wording also matters here. For example, Voxpopme has a process to gather customer feedback and internal ideas. Years ago this was called “feature request,” a term that was abandoned because it wasn’t focusing on a human-centered problem, said Jenn.
“Using the term feature request or idea was skipping the empathy stage and it went right into ‘I have an idea’,” Jenn said. “It’s really important to understand the problem.”
Some internal teams don’t hear directly from customers which makes this approach even more important, Andy added.
If a product team gets asked to create features they can do that, but it’s also easy to miss an opportunity for improvement if they don’t know about the reason a feature should exist.
“You have to make a conscious effort to disseminate that information,” Jenn said.
“To get some understanding from people what the reality is,” she said. “Getting their language and understanding.”
Her team also uses video surveys to understand what else to dive into deeper as the process evolves.
“What are the questions we should ask,” she said. “Video insights have been quick and very consumer focused to start that learning process.”
David Kidder, CEO of Bionic and who spoke at the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit, said companies need to stop making things for customers but instead “solve with them. Shoulder to shoulder. With trust. And be with them.”
Ideas for product improvements
“From there we feed into ideation,” Andy said. “Ideation is also about volume.”
Brings lots of ideas, brainstorm and then also get feedback – for example through video surveys – form your customers. One way to come up with a lot of ideas is to have “Worst Possible Ideas” sessions.
“I first learned about Worst Possible Ideas sessions from you a couple of years ago,” said Jenn. “And I love doing them… even outside of product development.”
Since many great ideas, start with horrible ones this is a great way to get people to be comfortable, get in the right mindset and start sharing things that they may consider a terrible idea but that is actually a good one. Or could turn into a good one.
“We need to get our teams to put the customer at the forefront of these ideas,” Andy added. In addition to using video surveys, remember to talk to others in your organization to find out what customers are saying. That includes really anyone who talks to and hears from customers:
“All of those perspectives can really feed into the ideation of that idea,” Andy said.
Gia Laudi, co-founder at Forget the Funnel, says it’s important to give your teams freedom and “ironically you do that by given them constraints,” Gia said on another episode of the podcast. That can then help them understand the moment when customers take the leap of faith to buy your product.”
Create a culture of feedback
Take steps to create a culture where feedback isn’t just appreciated, but a part of everyday life. Create a culture that’s conducive to feedback and brainstorming.
You can go the route of an always-on video feedback channel using Voxpopme, or even have a brainstorming or feedback channel on Slack where people can freely throw out ideas and constructive feedback. This will help your team become more comfortable giving feedback and give them a chance to get to know one another better.
Work with outside help to uncover solutions
You likely have a number of vendors or agencies you work with regularly. Assuming you have a great relationship, vendors and agencies are a core part of your team. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they feel about a particular idea or solution.
Their experiences are unique and can yield original and often useful insights. And because they know your business well, their external feedback will come with the advantage of being reinforced with knowledge of your company.
Keep the feedback flowing
Continue to reach out to your audience and request video feedback on your ideas. Since consumer behavior is still changing as you go through development, there’s never a wrong time to ask for feedback. Even if you feel you’ve arrived at a great solution during the ideation stage, some last-minute feedback can help you make minor tweaks. All of this feedback will only serve to make your next round of product development even stronger.
If you’re noticing a theme during this stage, that’s great. Ideation is all about receiving feedback and taking it to heart. Once your idea is feedback-proofed, it’s time to prototype it.
That’s where we come up with inexpensive versions of what we think we want to do. For example, wireframes.
At the prototype stage, your focus is on creating your tangible solution to the consumer problem. You’ve gotten a ton of feedback and gone through ideation—now, it’s time to make a solution based on your feedback thus far.
Work with your team to create a minimum viable product (MVP) or rough draft equivalent, then reach out to your audience for feedback ASAP. You’ll want to ensure you’ve followed all MVP best practices, otherwise, the feedback will be for naught.
Once you’ve received feedback, it’s time to make sense of it. If feedback is negative, don’t fret. Instead, look through the other stages of the product development cycle and ask yourself where things may have gone wrong. It’s possible your prototype missed the mark, but it’s also possible you missed a vital data point during an earlier stage.
For example, maybe you missed feedback during the “Define” stage and wound up solving a problem that didn’t exist. By carefully examining each stage and reviewing the feedback you received, you can determine where things went awry.
Then in the testing phase we can see if it can work. “Are we accomplishing what we are trying to accomplish?” Andy said. “Did it meet our expectations with what we are trying to do with the problem statement?”
Getting customer feedback
A lot of times companies wait to the testing phase – or later – to get customer feedback. But as part of the design thinking process, getting feedback at different stages can help with making products better one step at a time, Andy explained.
“It’s also good to understand where to to get that customer feedback,” Andy said. “What best suits your customer to want to give you that feedback. It’s always great to see how many customers want to give feedback.”
It helps with the relationship, too, Andy added. They feel listened to and this can even impact positively the quality of their feedback.
“That’s a really good distinction – how does the customer want to be involved?” Jenn added. “What medium do they want to use and what’s the timing and really being conscious of that?”
It’s certainly a big win when a customer notices a new feature and mentions that the previous feature was a challenge for them.
“The customers saying ‘you solved my problem’ that’s the goal,” Jenn said.
Once that feedback comes back, make sure it’s shared internally to the right people. “That’s when you get that energy going,” Andy said.
Of course, we all have our own biases. That also applies to product development. The closer we are to the product, the harder it can be to spot some problems and perspectives.
“That’s really something to be conscious of,” Andy said. “Especially at the start of an idea. You want it to succeed. You want that to be the answer. It’s so easy to be blinded by that idea.”
Especially when starting a new company or a new product this can come into play. “You want that to be the answer, but you have to bring it back to reality a little bit,” Andy said. “You have to check yourself.”
It’s also helpful to have diversity on the team to and get different ideas and perspectives.
Look at the numbers. If changes lead to worse business metrics, that’s not a good way to grow the business, Jenn added.
“Be open to what the market is trying to tell you it needs,” Jenn said. “I know we think our ideas are the best ones but rooting them into customer feedback will help us continue growing and creating something better.”
Andy added that it’s important to be truthful with the data you are getting. “It’s so easy to just dismiss it,” he said. “And it’s so easy to twist data to twist your narrative.”
Many times that’s not even done on purpose, Andy said. “It just kind of creeps in.”
How do we know the roadmap is on the right way?
“I think it’s about getting to that next step where you can get some feedback,” Andy said. “We try to get things out to our customers’ hands to see it.”
Andy says he makes it a goal of getting the update to a 6 and not a 10 to get it out the door so that feedback can be gathered and the roadmap can be evaluated on a continuous basis.
“It compounds and compounds,” Andy said. “For me it’s about getting things into the hands of our customers.”
And as companies grow it does feel like your process is slowing down, but there are different expectations from customers once they have experienced your product, Andy said.
“The risk piece is a big challenge,” Jenn said. “Are we happy doing something 80 percent or 70 percent? As a smaller business you have a bit more freedom to do these things.”
“But bringing in the customer at every step can help you with that,” Andy said. “The risk isn’t about going to market. But it’s about where you could have been had you brought the customer in earlier.”
Getting customer feedback into your day-to-day
The trick now is to get the feedback process into your daily work.
“Many think of customer feedback as getting in the way,” Andy said. “At the start it feels like it’s something that’s difficult to do. But if you get into the habit of doing it at every stage I feel like it’s something you can do.”
Doing a study or getting feedback doesn’t really slow you down that much when the process is defined and part of the workflow.
What do consumers buy on Amazon Prime Day? In short: A lot of things! Amazon Prime Day – which actually stretched over two days in 2021 – offers even more sales than usual on Amazon.com. Consumers can buy those deals in a given time period. The countdown clocks are ticking – literally, on screen.
We took the opportunity to ask consumers around the United States what they got on Prime Day and what they love about the products. The answers ranged from moisturizer to electronics to books. Yes, people still buy books on Amazon. Responses were overwhelmingly positives but there were also some negative experiences.
Did you purchase something from Amazon on Prime Day and have you received your purchase?
If the answer was yes, we continued:
Show and tell us on camera what you purchased. Please tell us the brand, product name and why you wanted this item. What do you love about it? Please unbox the package while recording the video if possible.
We started the survey on the second day of the Amazon Prime Days and responses started coming in close to immediately.
Each consumer was able to answer the survey on their own time using their smartphone. The results were then collected and analyzed in one place on my Voxpopme dashboard.
From the dashboard I can easily flip through responses, review positive or negative statements and get a quick overview of themes.
The automatically generated word cloud gives us an idea of what people thought so far. Frequently used words included:
Purchases on Amazon Prime Day
Let’s look at some of the specific products and brands mentioned.
Mostafa, 32, of San Diego bought Cetaphil moisturizer.
“It has vitamins and good ingredients and I also saw a really good price on Amazon,” he said in his video response.
Lisa, 29, of Long Beach, bought a new Panasonic razer.
“It’s amazing,” she said in her video response. “What I love about it is I’m a lazy shaver and it just makes shaving much easier. I can shave my legs very fast with it. I highly recommend it.”
You might wonder what the yellow and green lines mean above Lisa’s video. They give you a quick sentiment analysis of what she’s saying. Yellow is neutral, green is positive, red is negative.
Svetlana, 44, of Grand Junction, ordered the Waterpik complete care electronic toothbrush and flossing system.
“This is very healthy device,” she said. “I love it because it helps with your gums.”
Darlene, 53, of Chester, ordered wipes and Pampers for her grandson.
Kiersten, 34, of Indianapolis, bought some couch cushions to finalize updating a couch that she was selling. I also appreciate how Kiersten, like many members of our consumer panels, invites us into her home. She apologizes for the “mess. We are moving.” It’s just like letting a friend visit. She continues sharing her latest Amazon purchase.
Adapters, smartphone cases, TVs and similar items were popular and consumers mentioned they purchased based on product reputation.
Jacobe, 40, of Hudsonville, got a Kindle Paperwhite.
“My wife recently lost hers and this was a nice way to replace it,” he said in his video response. “Pricing was great and they’re just nice systems. But yeah, we’ve had them for a long time, but it was lost recently, so good timing.”
Alex, 37, of Brookings, bought a Good Threads shirt and shared that he loves their products and a sale on Prime Day made the decision to purchase easy. Alex’s response is also a great reminder of how video surveys don’t just tell a story, but they show what’s going on. Alex shows off his shirt on the video. They look great and I’m tempted to check out Good Threads shirts now.
Stefanie, 39, of Secaucus, got Ray-Ban sunglasses.
“I purchased them because I really wanted Ray-Bans and they had a really good price,” she said in her video response. “They are my favorite sunglass brand. They look really good on, too. See…”
Georgie, 56, of New Orleans, bought a Rocketbook calendar for her daughter’s business.
Cindy, 43, of Ada, bought heart health supplements by Snap and magnesium from the Linoic brand. Unlike Lisa’s video, the sentiment analysis is also flagging negative comments. That’s the red line.
For April Fool’s, we said we would only show positive comments going forward, but that’s of course a joke. We can learn so much from the positive feedback we get from consumers and the negative comments as well.
Yup, people still buy books on Amazon. Manon, 28, from Boston, for example bought three.
The variety of offerings
But consumers also weren’t just shopping in one area of their lives. Take Jay, 30, of Edison. He purchased and quickly received three widely different items:
Crystal Light Fruit Punch – “It was available at an all-time low price.”
Luckyway drill bits
Unisom Simple Slumbers
Shopping events – like Amazon Prime Day – are just one way example to ask consumers for their thoughts and feedback. And video surveys make it easier than ever to be invited into their homes and find out what they love about your product and what they don’t love – even when it’s a bit messy.
I’ve been involved in brand activism for years. When I worked for United Ways years ago companies joined volunteer days that we organized. Employees worked together to help local nonprofits. Those days still exist today and are a great way for companies to bond, be present in their communities and help others in need.
With so much going on in the world, I wanted to take the opportunity to dive into the state of brand activism today and share tips on how companies can get involved.
In this article, I discuss:
What is brand activism?
How do you do you do brand activism?
The importance of brand activism.
How do you know what customers and employees care about?
What is brand activism?
At its core, brand activism means that a company (aka a brand) ties its business activity to a social cause. Sometimes it’s also referred to as being socially active or as social responsibility.
For example, before the pandemic many events added social responsibility components like collecting donations, a volunteer activity for attendees or something similar.
At the Virtual Insight Summit, Voxpopme and Zappi donated to nonprofits for every registration. The project was announced as follows:
Together we can make meaningful change within the research community surrounding the important topic of diversity, equity and inclusion! Your registration donates $1 to each of our community partners: Colour of Research (CORe) and Insights in Color. Register today and spread the word!
Conscious capitalism is another term, said Gilad Barash, vice president of analytics at Dstillery, on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” Dstillery is a data science company that creates audiences for market researchers based on digital signals.
“As a consumer I’m being a lot more aware of where I spend my money,” said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.” “It’s not just about the product or the price. It’s more about the brand ”
Oversimplified, brand activism means companies use their resources to help make the world a better place.
How do you do brand activism?
Today, brand activism can come in a number of ways:
Participation in events like the United Way one.
Donations to charitable causes.
Public stands on issues affecting our communities. This could come in the form of articles, livestreams/podcasts and ads, for example.
Tying in a new product launch to a social issue.
Hiring diverse team members and vendors/partners.
Some companies choose to not do anything, but depending on the severity of the issue in the community that might not be a good strategy.
“Some consumers will see that as being complicit,” Gilad said. “Silence is no longer a refuge.”
Years ago, in communications, we had rules: We get involved in this but not that. For some topics that’s fine, but when it comes to severe or dangerous situations that affect many people, brands likely have to consider taking a stand today.
Is doing brand activism a good thing?
Let’s just say it can affect business.
“There’s an expectation that the companies that are seeking their dollars should share their values,” said Gilad. “They want to see some involvement from the brands they love in the things they care about.”
Sticking with the United Way example, I know that some people choose the banks that participated in part because they stood for making the community better.
Why is brand activism important and why now?
Firstly, socially responsible brands can make our communities better. That can also lead to closer relationships with our customers. It’s so much harder to drop a brand if the brand also stands for what I stand for.
Gilad calls it a “social context” that now exists between consumers and brands. When values align, consumers are more likely to spend more, Gilad said.
In part, brand activism is top of mind now because it’s so much easier to connect with brands for consumers. They can easily tweet at their favorite brand, see what they post (or not post) and can easily send their feedback, including through video survey platforms.
“There’s just a lot more visibility,” Gilad said. “There’s more information on how brands spend their money and who they are contributing to politically. It’s become a bigger issue now especially with all the things going on in the world.”
“Patagonia or Ben & Jerry’s – they have a history of action,” said Jenn. “So when they do communicate something that they care about it is very authentic.”
Some brands might be cautious to start because of some of the negative examples they’ve seen. What happens if they appear performative but do actually mean it?
That’s why action is so important. Say something but then also do something!
Sometimes negative backlash doesn’t tell the whole story either. Think about Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign. It received a ton of negative press but Nike share of voice skyrocketed and so did sales. Some people complained. Some burned their Nike shoes in the streets. Others bought Nike products in response to the social stand.
After the George Floyd murder, Nike ran anti-racism ads that said “Don’t do it,” a play on its usual “Just do it.” In addition, Nike also discussed other steps related to the issue – like hiring for diversity, donations and internal communications.
“It wasn’t just a marketing campaign,” Jenn said. “It’s got to be more than that.”
2. Do it right
“Even if your intentions are good, it’s important that you don’t offend anyone,” Gilad said. “And the only way to do that is by having a diverse team of people at the company making those decisions.”
Diverse teams can bring their own viewpoints to collaborations. Team mates can then share their feedback and ideas based on their experiences.
“Don’t hurry just for the sake of doing it,” Gilad added. “Don’t just put up a statement on your website or a black square on your social media. Those things tend to be performative. I would recommend to stop, sit down and think what you want it to look like. What you want maybe a year down the road to look like. And then start implementing those things.”
Customer health is important. For the customers and for the business. When the relationship is going well, everyone wins. Hugs all around. Or fist or elbow bumps at least. But how do you really know? How do you measure customer health?
Well, first of all, you’ll need to keep a finger on the pulse. (I will try to keep my doctor puns under control here, but trust me, it’s difficult.) And like any good doctor talks with their patients, customer-centric businesses talk with their customers!
What’s the definition of customer health?
Let’s start with the basics. Before we can treat any symptoms we have to understand our health goals.
“At the simplest level, customer health is just trying to understand the state of your relationship,” said Braden Johnstone, senior vice president of customer success at Voxpopme on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”
And customer health and how it’s measured and looked at changes over time. Braden said that 20 years ago it was very different from today.
“Interactions with customers used to be pretty transactional,” he said. “Proposal, commissioning to execution. And then maybe at the end there would be some feedback.”
Some of that feedback and having a sales pipeline are all indicators for customer health.
Today, with subscription-models, for example, the life cycle of a customer relationship is different. Let’s say a customer signs up for a 12-month plan.
“A lot can happen in that time,” Braden said. “It’s just imperative for us to listen and understand the state of the relationship.”
Customer health is about that connectivity between you and your customers. Keep in mind that the landscape can change. New trends emerge and some behaviors stick around. All of them can impact the customer health.
“If you really want to understand customer health all those factors are very important,” Braden said.
How you measure customer health needs to be unique to your specific business as well. A subscription software business might have different measurements than a professional services firm or a physical store. But no matter what, make sure you are measuring it.
“For us, it was important that customer health is something we can measure and we can measure it in real time,” Braden said.
For that to work, it must be easy for customers to provide updates on how they feel about the relationship. Brands need to make it easy, which isn’t always the case. One way that I recently ran across that didn’t make it easy for me to share my feelings was this sideways survey:
Just like the doctor usually wants your pulse reading in the moment, so should companies. In this article we talked about how a Westin hotel uses text messages to get feedback during the experience. That’s helpful because companies can turn a potentially negative experience into a good one.
If the customer health check can’t happen during the interaction, it can certainly happen right after. For example, when I call American Airlines you just stay on the line after the agent hangs up and give feedback right then to the automated system.
Another way to get instant feedback is by following this process:
Customer engagement happens
Brand sends a video survey link to quickly get insights from the customer about the experience
While speed matters and we should be looking at customer health on an on-going basis, also look at trends over time.
“Everything is so fast moving but also realize that the change we are trying to achieve can’t always be done in a short amount of time,” Braden said.
Measurements of customer health
For software companies, user activity is one way to measure the strength of a relationship. After all, if customers aren’t using the platform how can it be a good relationship?
“We measure that usage against a perceived plan or desired outcome,” Braden said. “We always know where we would expect them to be – based on their lifecycle.”
Many people’s actions happen on “autopilot” as Melina Palmer, a behavioral economics experts, shared on an episode of “Reel Talk.” With that in mind it’s good to actually see how consumers are behaving. In the world of software, that comes in the form of usage.
It’s an indicator, Braden explained, of how the relationship is going. Makes sense. I spend my days in a variety of software platforms:
For the most part my usage does indicate that my heart skips a beat when I use these brands to create content experiences. I love them! they make my life easier.
“And when people aren’t engaging the way you thought they would what’s the reason for that?” Braden said.
In addition to usage, support requests might be an indicator of what’s going on and what customers are struggling with.
But, not all support tickets are a sign of declining customer health! For example, I recently opened a ticket with Switcher Studio – the platform we use to produce “Reel Talk.” I kept losing audio while screen sharing. Switcher quickly told me that Chrome was using too much bandwidth and caused the issue. Using Firefox for the screen share took care of the problem. Them responding quickly and with good information certainly helped us continue to have a positive relationship.
How good does all the listening do when it’s not addressed. When somebody shares their delight with your brand, thank them. When somebody has a problem, address it.
“Until you start talking to a customer and really start understanding what the barriers are it’s really hard actioning or solutioning anything,” Braden said. “That falls to the team and we try to make it as repeatable as possible.”
Keep an eye on what kinds of issues customers report and determine what is a one-off and what is a wider issue – which can be hard if your data is dispersed.
Once you have this information, start building playbooks that help teams address common types of issues directly in the moment.
“We try to make it as repeatable as possible,” Braden said. “Issues are also massive opportunities for us. Opportunities for us to help our customers overcome challenges within their own business while utilizing our tool.”
Internally, teams have to agree on what problems they are trying to solve for customers. That starts with:
Understanding the customer problems. (Find out more by asking).
Getting internal alignment.
Moving forward in an effective and efficient manner
Technology, in general, has made connection easier between brands and customers. As new platforms emerge and grow, the ways you can connect with your customers have exploded. To make the best use of technology for your company, it’s important to run through the appropriate technology assessment.
Chief Mar-Tech Officer Scott Brinker shared with us on an episode of “Reel Talk” that teams need to set aside a part of their budget for those infrastructure-type software platforms. You need them to even do the work and help drive results.
I liken it to: What’s the ROI of my keyboard or the monitor I’m currently using to write this? Without them, I couldn’t even do my job. They are must-haves. A good technology needs assessment will help identify those as well.
Also consider comparing notes, Scott said. What percentage are peers spending of their budgets?
Approaches for your technology assessment
I like to break these approaches down into two areas:
A new technology solution comes along that solves a problem I didn’t know I had.
I have a specific problem I’m trying to solve with a technology solution.
The first example that comes to mind happened when Voxpopme launched “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”
We wanted to share useful information around insights, and we also realized that professionals are busy and use a variety of networks. We kind of stumbled across technology to livestream our podcast to YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn before publishing the podcast version. Problem we didn’t know we had – solved.
“My mind is constantly going to how can I apply this. How can I maybe use this?” Khary said of how he approaches assessing technology he didn’t know existed. “What is maybe the value here versus things we are currently doing?”
But then the technology has to add value.
“As much as technology can help, it can also disrupt your ecosystem as well – especially if it doesn’t fit in with things that are already there,” Khary said, stressing the importance of getting technology assessments right.
For example, if new technology creates another data silo, that could create more problems. But new technology also could create a solution to silo problems if it becomes the place to house your centralized data.
At the end of the day, whatever technology you use, it needs to make it easier and more cost efficient for you to provide the products to people that they are willing to pay for.
Why is a good assessment necessary?
The biggest reason is that there are just a lot of potential technology solutions that teams can use. For example, Scott told us how the mar-tech landscape has grown from hundreds of solutions to about 8,000 in a few years.
“Most marketers have probably seen your map of the landscape and have experienced the shock of how technology has grown over the years,” Jenn said.
With so many options to consider, it’s essential to know how to evaluate what you need and why.
“It’s not about how big your tech stack is but about having the right pieces in place,” Jenn added.
How to run your technology assessment
Involving the right people
In your technology assessment, be sure to keep in mind who will use the product. Also, understand the problem the technology will solve.
“It really becomes a group effort,” Khary said. “When I want to learn something more, I look for people smarter than me.”
In addition, look for others who have experience with a particular technology.
“I start asking questions, whether that’s people internally or connections I’ve built externally, and picking their brain,” he said.
Then, Khary said, you want to get really close to the technology and see if the technology can help with your specific problem.
“Really share what the problem is that you are trying to solve,” he said. “I find that when you do that, it opens up a lot of new doors because, at that point, you are bringing that potential partner into the conversation. You build solutions together.”
As you consider technology, keep these pieces in mind:
Ease of use
Is the technology relatively easy to use? Also, can it be accessed on the variety of devices the teams use and in specific regions of the world? For example, with global teams, some tools can’t be used in some parts of the world.
Fit in tech stack
Many companies already use a number of tech solutions for various needs. This especially came out when we talked with insights expert Brenna Ivey about centralizing data. Many companies have data in so many different locations that it’s difficult to ever turn the data into insights.
Consider how this new technology fits into the overall ecosystem. Also, keep in mind how much technology you actually already use, Scott said. Most companies are surprised at how many tools are part of the tech stack and some aren’t even getting used much.
“The next thing you know there’s like 20 tools on the table,” he said. “And now there is a whole new category out there called SaaS Management Platforms.”
They basically manage all of your tools. Nonetheless, is it important to consider how new tools either replace or complement what already exists.
Talk to current users of the technology
Consider talking to peers who have used the platform you are considering, said Scott. You can ask them:
What they like about it
How it solved their problems
Ease of implementation
“Just going out into the world,” he said. “Talk to people you know and trust. I’m going to tell you what really happened. This was the good. This was the bad and this was the ugly.”
It’s also good to see how well the tech solution’s sales and customer success teams partner with customers.
Do they listen?
Are they asking good questions?
Do they see you as a partner?
Jenn said she especially likes to see open dialogue between a customer and technology provider because other clients already may have solved the same problem the potential new customer is facing. How companies communicate is an important part of a technology assessment.
“And they might be solving it in a way you hadn’t thought of,” Jenn said. “That also helps technology providers to understand what your big challenge is and help you get to that solution.”
Implementation and pilots
How hard is it to implement the technology? This also is a good place to start with a pilot project.
Once you see the potential, Khary said he’s a fan of running a pilot project.
“Start something small,” he said. “Something where we are not going to spend a large amount of time and resources.”
You also could start with a scaled-down version of another project to get a taste of the new technology and see if it would work.
Be clear with your pilot projects:
What do you want to get out of it?
How will you measure success?
“It can also take an inordinate amount of time to perfect what the pilot might look like,” Khary said. “That’s very counterproductive to what a pilot can actually do for you.”
A pilot project can help you quickly figure out what’s right, what’s wrong and what you want to do next, Khary said.
“And it allows you to build that communication with that partner,” he said.
Think of your pilot as an experiment, Jenn said.
“There’s an expectation of the word ‘pilot’ that people want to perfect it,” she said. “There’s an expectation that a pilot is going to work, whereas there’s an expectation that an experiment might fail and that’s OK.”
Pilot projects are about “trying it out and proving it right or wrong,” Khary said. “And then how do we roll into the next experiment? Just because it didn’t go right or the way you would have liked it to go the first time, that doesn’t mean you should pull away. What did we learn from this?”
How to ensure technology usage during the pilot
To get the most out of pilot projects, people within the company need to use the technology that’s being evaluated.
The important step here is to determine how to integrate the pilot into existing workflows.
“If that doesn’t happen, it can quickly come in and be placed to the side,” Khary said, adding that especially is true for teams in a high-pressure environment. “When pressure builds, a lot of us default back to our typical way of working. Which means if I default, I’m going back to the things I know and that I’m already comfortable with.”
While you want to iron out the process ahead of time, stay flexible, Khary said. That’s the point of the pilot -— to figure out what works, what doesn’t work and where you might be able to adjust something. Keep your mind open to possibilities.
Make sure people understand the goals of the pilot project and how it will help them. For example, many of us never have enough time, so time efficiency can be a huge motivator to participate in a pilot.
Using technology to move more quickly
“Technology is absolutely an enabler and sometimes an illuminator,” Khary said.
“Sometimes illumination comes from the fact that you can speak with more people than you physically can in person in a shorter period of time -— physically speaking to people in five different cities or five different countries. You just couldn’t do that in, let’s say, a one-week period.”
Easier technology or not, we still need to evaluate what technology to use, when to use it and how to use it.
Khary said technology has helped him in countless ways run better projects, especially early in product development.
“How do we get these prototypes into settings where people are actually using them?” he said.
In the retail location is one way. Another way is to create a virtual reality environment where you can observe consumer behavior. A third way is to use video surveys to ask consumers specific questions after – or before – an experience.
“And now I’m not just restricted to where our office is,” Khary said. “Now I can conceivably do this in any state or city.”
Then you build the product and customer experience as you go and as you are observing and understanding customer reaction.
“We are still creating the prototype, but we are more informed,” Khary said. “We have a better chance of being successful when we get the feedback we need from consumers.”
Timing: Emerging technology assessment
Jenn mentioned that people have said virtual reality will be useful in five or ten years but that the technology isn’t quite there yet. Figuring out when the time has come to jump on new tech can be a challenge.
“I think it’s much sooner than that,” Khary said, noting some teams are already using VR technology. “How do I validate virtual reality to be useful? But it doesn’t have to be useful for the same thing as something that’s existing. It’s going to have its advantages and disadvantages. And then you take it back to your fundamentals – risk to rigor.”
Figure out what the levels of your risk and effort are. If the levels are on the low side, it can be easier to run a technology assessment of emerging technologies.
It’s also good to remember what different technologies are best for. Some are better for some uses than others.
More about risk and rigor
“What’s the risk if we don’t get the learning right on this?” Khary asked.
The team’s mindset
Technology can make things easier keep up with new trends is easier with the right team – especially as things are changing quickly. As part of your technology assessment keep in mind what is and isn’t changing.
“The basics aren’t changing,” said Jennifer Saenz, global chief marketing officer at PepsiCo during her chat with Zappi President Ryan Barry, at the 2021 Virtual Insights Summit. “We still need to be amazing strategists. That’s why we are here. We are trying to drive a return for the business; trying to drive growth in the marketing place; trying to win.”
Now more than ever, marketers and insights professionals need to understand what unmet need a company can help consumers with.
Also keep in mind the ever-increasing technology stack that teams can use. Team members need to learn those skills as well.
“I need to now understand a lot of the technology and analytics that historically in many places has been siloed or kept at arm’s length and potentially even outsourced,” Jennifer said. “The marketer and insights professional – they need to own the data. They need to own the analytics. They need to understand it.”
And then you can get very quickly from looking at the data and creating a hypothesis. That also means we need to look at roles like data scientists, data anthropologists, financial, etc.
“You need a whole range of talent to build out a team that’s going to have diverse perspectives and really go after opportunity in a different way,” she said. “How do we make sure that the knowledge we are creating is really created to to create an impact.”
You can also drive impact by making positive changes in your employees’ experience, she said.
“When you can democratize that information all of a sudden the amount of impact that you can make with so many people having access to it … now my every-day marketer on the team can work with an easy user interface and have the benefit of that data in front of them,” she said. “That’s also impact you can make.”
Technology assessment wrap
The biggest advantage I’ve found in assessing technology is to truly start with the problem you are trying to solve. For example: The market research reports I’ve been getting aren’t that helpful to me. They aren’t comprehensive or clear enough for me to take action.
So my problem is: My market research process isn’t helping me make meaningful changes for my customers.
Then I can start looking for the right technology to help with that.
We live in a world that’s full of data. And the amount of data is increasing. Author Anthony Tasgal believes it’s because we live in a system where we worship numbers strongly and above all else. Some of us are afraid to make decisions without data. People want facts. So they say. But data alone doesn’t give the whole picture. I use data, too, but for great storytelling in market research we need the customer to appear as the main character. That means we need to hear from them. Directly.
People can also be unpredictable and things change. If researchers really want to start understanding why people behave the way they do, we need to start looking at the people behind the data.
Choosing insight over information
In this data-heavy age, it’s easy to think that the world revolves around numbers. Numbers matter. But, it’s also about insight. And stakeholders sometimes don’t remember data. They remember stories.
We should focus on unlocking insights and understanding what drives behavior. Be in the business of constructing and delivering meaning. Not just data points. Deliver insights.
Nothing beats truth, especially when it comes from a genuine person. It is an in-depth insight that allows researchers to unlock and share powerful customer stories that have real impact.
The importance of storytelling in market research
Tasgal writes that if numbers numb us, then stories stir us. They translate information into emotion – and it is that reason why storytelling in market research makes your findings and conclusions more impactful and memorable. It’s all about finding the people behind your data and unlocking the story behind your statistics to engage and excite your executives and shake up your stakeholders.
Stories are patterns with meaning that the brain is hardwired to respond to. In fact, neurochemically there is evidence that stories make us care, create empathy and build trust by producing oxytocin.
Unfortunately, today some researchers are data rich but insight poor. It’s the story that trumps information by turning information into emotion to create empathy. Empathy is the single biggest thing that can drive decisions. That means that in order to unlock real meaning, we need to start telling stories – and fast.
Why is there a disconnect?
Let’s talk about the influence on big data a bit.
“When I talk with executives, they often don’t leave the office or talk with customers,” said Graham Kenny, a speaker, consultant, strategy expert and regular Harvard Business Review contributor. He joined us on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “That alerted me to the need of executives needing to get out of the office and talk to customers. There’s an absence of that in most organizations.”
Much of the decisions are based on insights gleaned off big data in these cases. How customers interact with a brand, where they buy and other relationship points that can be collected by data without having to speak with people.
“I can understand that it’s hard for time-starved executives,” said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.” “I don’t have enough time either for all the things I need to get done. But how can we run successful businesses if we never hear from the actual customers? I think it’s impossible.”
If executives can’t get out of the office, at least they can hear from their customers through video surveys.
In many companies, Graham said, the executives get isolated away from the customer experience. On the other hand, he’s seen a push toward big data.
Can one work without the other and how successfully would that be? Let’s discuss that topic a bit more here. Fittingly, we are starting with a lake. Dive right in.
The data lake
All the data goes into a “data lake” and you can then fish out what you want and when you need it, Graham said. Certainly, analyzing user behavior can help us understand some things about our customers. Let’s take the example of banking. Tellers can see your information when they talk to you and get instant recommendations on potential upsell opportunities.
What comes up in front of that teller is a profile of the customer that can include:
Potential interests based on previous behaviors
Situational-based recommendations – like what other similar customer have bought in similar circumstances
Interests based on demographics, time of the year, etc.
It’s really no different from what Amazon does online. When I buy something new, Amazon immediately recommends something else that I might be interested in and want to buy right then. Judging by the amount of Amazon packages on my door step this seems to work. Given that the Prime truck seems to be driving up and down my street all day, my neighbors seem to agree as well! So big data can help us!
“Relying on big data only or the end-all, be-all is just going to be a disaster,” said, Graham, stressing that big data is one piece of the puzzle to understanding our customers.
Data needs to be centralized and analyzed correctly. Silos in different departments won’t help. Some data is precisely inaccurate, Graham said. Those data points hide biases. With that in mind, a lot of data companies have can also be wrong.
To understand your customers start with a well-designed strategy, which is then followed by execution.
“Different people get involved and they have different challenges,” Graham said. “Big data is very helpful in the execution phase.”
Execution – everyone has to be involved. All the way from the CEO to the people in creating the products and working directly with customers. That can also make it difficult. Many organizations struggle with ensuring everyone understands their important part in the execution.
Strategy design – doesn’t include everyone and should fall to the executives, Graham said. The insights team can help here as well.
The implementers shouldn’t create the strategy: They focus on the implementation, efficiencies and often look at it from that lens. Graham also mentioned that strategy off-sites with everyone involved don’t work. Many people in fact, say nothing has changed after those sessions.
A better solution to doing an isolated off-site strategy session, which could include a visit to customers to hear from them. Or to run a video survey research product and hear from customers what they have to say.
“Don’t do what you’ve been doing all these previous years,” Graham said. “Don’t do what most organizations do. That is look inwardly. And try to come up with an outside view.”
He calls that process “strategy discovery.”
“Strategy discovery alone implies that you are looking elsewhere,” said Jenn. “That’s where the role of talking to customers is so crucial.”
And the voice of the customer matters
When teams bring the Voice of the Customer to their daily tasks and decision making a better customer experience can happen. But VoC programs don’t happen overnight. They take time and effort and a deliberate strategy. Storytelling in market research helps here as well.
What is the Voice of the Customer?
The Voice of the Customer refers to hearing from and implementing changes that are being shared by your customers.
That can be easier said than done. You want to listen to them, understand them and of course make sure they know that their feedback mattered. Many companies have started VoC programs and that’s a great start. But to make it truly work customers need to be heard and that’s often done through storytelling in market research as part of your overall process.
Using video for storytelling in market research
Agile video market research can help companies get to the bottom of what drives customer decisions. It’s the single most powerful way to deliver real human feedback, giving researchers unbeatable access to how customers truly feel about different brands, products, and services. Using video to uncover real human stories means you can give context to your data, get closer to what people think and make informed customer-centric decisions.
A typical, consumer-recorded video response is 6-8 times longer than a response to a text-based open-end. That means that in just a few clicks, video enables you to see what your customers truly think, feel and do by revealing real consumer responses. It goes beyond the information and data provided by scores and scales and unveils the true voice of the customer, unlocking real insights and telling the story behind the scores. The result? Multi-dimensional layers of insight and true customer stories that just aren’t achievable with scores and statistics alone.
Video cuts through the noise to obtain raw, unfiltered context. You can better understand your customers’ true feelings and build a deeper understanding of your consumers across your entire organization. Not only that, but it also increases customer closeness by allowing you to add depth, emotion, and authenticity to your data. That means instead of sharing yet more statistics with your stakeholders, you can humanize and add context to your data and deliver impactful, convincing and memorable stories that drive change.
How to leverage storytelling in market research
1. Bring your research to life
You can collect videos from consumers by adding open-ended video questions to your surveys. Elisabeth Trawinski, an insights pro at Reckitt, mentioned how showing videos to stakeholders can have more impact than PowerPoint.
2. See real people’s responses
Video feedback can help you see and understand genuine customer interactions. That helps you get to the bottom of what customers really think. People share their thoughts in their own words and in their own environment.
People – including stakeholders – relate to stories from customers. And the best way for those stories to be memorable is by hearing them directly from customers.
3. Tell the story behind your results
You can collect videos during or even after your research to boost the impact of your results. By supplementing your quant study with scalable video feedback you can add real weight to your research, find the golden thread and make everyone in your organization sit up and take notice by sharing impactful stories that drive change.
4. Find the insights you’re looking for
Once uploaded, videos can be searched by keyword or filtered by additional data such as age, gender or other customer tags so you can easily find the insights you need to tell customer stories. Additionally, because all videos are theme and sentiment coded you can easily discover what your customers are thinking and why – so in just a couple of clicks you can bring a topic to life and tell the story behind your scores.
“I think what you are doing as an organization is quite interesting,” Graham said referring to the Voxpopme online survey platform, which:
Allows brands to ask questions to consumers and customers through an online platform.
People can then answer the questions directly on video with their smartphones – on their own time.
Responses are transcribed and analyzed for sentiment and key topics.
Highlight reels can share the most impactful responses quickly and concisely. That works especially well for those busy executives.
“I think that’s a good approach,” Graham said. “We are getting people talking about their experiences.”
Hearing from customers directly is the only way to understand how the product or service works for them.
“That’s emotion and you can’t get that from a written document,” he said.
Challenges talking to customers
Graham said a lot of people agree hat they should talk to customers.
“But people say ‘we don’t know how do to that,'” he said. It’s really about these prioritization steps:
Also keep in mind that sometimes you want to consider behavioral economics. What are people doing in the real world with your product and why? One you can observe, the other needs a follow-up question.
“Somebody says ‘well, we are doing the survey anyway. Let’s just ask these 25 other questions,'” Melina said. “‘We are sending the direct mailer. We might as well put all this other stuff on there.’ That just doesn’t work very well with the brain.”
Have a single goal you are trying to figure out.
“What’s the most important one and how can you put all your eggs in that basket?” Melina said.
Understanding your customer health
Watch this “Reel Talk” episode with Voxpopme Senior Vice President Braden Johnstone to learn even more about customer health.