Consumers Don’t Always Know What They Want - but They Know What They Like!

Research Works When It Identifies “Likes”

We recently had a conversation with a prospective client who expressed reservations about doing research.  In some previous research they concluded that consumers don’t know what they want.   That’s an easy conclusion to reach, however, we don’t subscribe to it.  Think about it.   When you are shopping you recognize the need to make a decision.  When have you ever made a purchase without deciding on which product to buy – meaning that you simply selected any product in the category and bought it without thinking about the features and prices and other options.  That never happens.  We always think about our purchases, even if only briefly.   The key to meaningful research lies in identifying the purchase decision process.  

We’ve seen research where the respondent is simply confronted with a number of products and asked to make a choice.  In that situation, consumers will make a choice because they are asked to, but it won’t be a choice made in context.  Good research sets the right context.  It puts the consumer in the right mind frame. 

We don’t like the idea of asking consumers to make decisions without easing them into the right context.  So, we utilize masked screening for recent category purchasers or people who are in purchase mode right now.  (By masked we mean, we ask about purchasing in a number of categories and respondents don’t know which category we’re actually interested in.  If they don’t check the box for the current product category, they receive a polite “survey ended” message and they can’t get back into the survey.) 

Next, we ask a series of background questions to get them into a mode of thinking about their purchase.   What was the impetus for buying this category?  Where did it come from?  Did they do research on the category?  If so, where and for how long?  What was the most important information source they relied on?  Where did they shop for the category?  Why?  Where did they make their purchase?  Why did they buy there? 

Next are questions about the products.  What features did they seek?  Did they have a price range in mind?  Did they have a brand in mind?  Why? 

By this point, we have them warmed up.  They are thinking about their last purchase or about a purchase they are in the middle of making.  We’ve got their heads into the category and now we can ask nuanced questions about new products.  And this is key.  We don’t just ask for ratings or first choice picks.  We approach product selection from a number of angles.  We have diagnostics from meta-research (which is to say research on research) that yields actionable answers; answers that we know how to interpret and share with our clients. 

Our clients are never left feeling that consumers don’t know what they want.  Consumers intuitively know how they make decisions and our research reveals those choices.  From decades of experience, we know how to identify what consumers like and what they will buy. 

For more information please contact us today.