The secret life of the Market Research report

I interviewed a colleague of mine recently who used to oversee the market research for the luxury car company.  Sue told me they participated in various types of research – annual syndicate surveys with other car companies, global brand studies and occasional ad hoc focus groups to try to ‘fix’ serious sales hiccups.  

Much time, effort and cost went into this research. Typically, at the end of each project there would be a presentation to stakeholders outlining the key points for strategic consideration.  And then…not much happened.

The spiral bound report was placed on the shelf where it would sit next to the previous year’s reports gathering dust.  It’s future life relegated to random interrogations for a fact or figure.

So what are the main issues here?  

  • The culture of the company was such that market research was seen as a sideline and not genuinely integrated into strategic planning as it should be.
  • Secondly, the research, mainly quantitative, was on repeat. The same every year.
  • And lastly, whilst it showed trends, the ‘why’ was left to Executive guesswork… a precarious situation.

Sue said “We should have invested in some solid, qualitative investigation across our main product lines to really understand what our customers were thinking. For example, we had an important model losing market share and we assumed our customers wanted the newly launched competitor car.

After some time, we commissioned some face to face customer group work and learned that our customers lost that feeling of being ‘special’. It wasn’t our car per se, it was that the customers perceived brand experience had deteriorated.  If we’d talked to our customers earlier, we could have provided tactical support to retain more of our customer base”.

What’s the research culture like in your company? Does it need a shake up? If so, change it. 

Use the big data and quantitative research to guide your qualitative understanding. Then deep dive into some juicy conversational insights to bring that data to life. 

“Bringing conversations inside the business and getting the brand team to chat to customers themselves would have been really useful to unpack how our customers were really feeling”, Sue said.

In fact, customer conversations are even more crucial now given that sales behaviours have changed significantly last year during COVID-19:

  • 57% of sales leaders believe that the role of sales in Australia is more important now than pre-COVID.
  • 58% of email-fatigued consumers want companies to find new ways to engage them[1].

These statistics highlight the need for up-to-date consumer insights. With stronger demand for a better customer experiences, we need to understand what that means to customers.  We need to talk to them. Those old spiral bound volumes, while useful to a point, just might have had their day.

[1] The State of the Sales and Customer Experience in Australia. 2020 and beyond. Hubspot

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