We have just returned from Insights Association’s Corporate Researchers Conference (CRC) in Orlando, Florida where it truly lived up to its name by providing some amazing insights into our industry. Here are 5 key takeaways I saw:
It COULD Be the Golden Age of Insights ... but we are not seizing the opportunity
The insights industry is flooded with all this data, and our marketing stakeholders are wondering why the research industry can’t make sense of it all in actionable ways. As per Brett Townsend, Director of North America Insights of Electrolux admonished the audience: we’re not focusing on business outcomes. Because of this, instead of being the heart, we’re the appendix of the company body.
Insights teams, and the research agency partners that support them, need to understand that we have to focus on driving profits and revenue for the companies we ultimately serve. Townsend recommends that we put the past behind us and become more creative. This may require hiring talent from outside the industry with a fresh perspective and lens.
I Feel the Need ... the Need for Speed
Johnson and Johnson echoed the frustrations of many of their peers: insights teams are being asked by their corporate managers to be doing more but with less – lower budget and fewer people. Their budgets and teams are being slashed constantly. However, at the same time, business stakeholders are constantly demanding for more.
Research suppliers cannot sacrifice quality and must be committed to gathering real insights about real consumer behavior. We must rethink how to get genuine actionable recommendations that are predictive of consumer behavior, constantly innovate the tools to insure we can get to them, and be aggressively creative. The pressure is on us to be more proactive.
Tap into Emotions
The key tenant of behavioral science is that emotion influences consumer choice. Emotions are a proxy that taps into the instinctual and unconscious behavior of shoppers. Companies like Disney encourage us to use more humor to boost kids engagement with research surveys. KraftHeinz spoke of the importance of emotional insights to inform brand and category expansion. WarnerBrothers Entertainment spoke of the “sweet spot” of ages 6 to 12 years old to create lifetime fans of your brands, and therefore, also tapping into nostalgia, one of the key Drivers of Influence in behavioral science principles.
This is nothing new. But this reinforces our conviction to strive to expand on qualitative tools and biometric technology to reliably measure emotion and turn the observations into insights brands can actually implement to drive growth.
Scott Brill, SVP of Market Development at PRS IN VIVO, is publishing a 21 Day of the Drivers of Influence series on his LinkedIn explaining the simple heuristics that are key to the application of Behavioral Science, especially to packaging, shopper marketing and product experience. Remember to follow him here.
Live in the Moment
In the past, qualitative research was always passive; but brands long for the opportunity to connect and observe consumers in real-time, in the context of their lives. The closer we can come to consumers' real-life experiences in laboratory exercises, the more as researchers we can get to the authentic “System 1” reactions that can reveal and predict consumer behavior.
We need to bring the insights teams to the consumers and into the research through in-context research and truly immersive ShopperLabs. The need to connect with consumers will require that creativity Brett Townsend urged the industry to demonstrate. Those insights practitioners who want to stay relevant will have to create more innovative qualitative solutions and retail labs that mimic the real shopping environment, in order to look at the full holistic shopper journey. Stop asking respondents. Observe them.
Always Evolve and Change
Simon Chadwick is truly the one of the most interesting figures in the industry. (I still want to know the “effigy story” he hinted at in his presentation!)
He has a long history in insights and for years, he has built his predictions in Cambiar’s State of the Industry Reports on genuine data. He has placed a magnifying glass on the growth and contraction of the industry by looking at data points ranging from which mergers and acquisitions were occurring in the industry and what the venture capitalists were investing in. He followed the money trail.
Though Simon was telling us about his past experiences (and they were funny, amazing, and sometimes sobering), he also admonished the audience to look far into the future. Or be left in the dust.
AI is here. Big data is here. Machine Learning is here. AR and VR are here. By observing the adoption of new techniques for uncovering consumer behavior, we can begin to predict where the industry might go, in the short term as well as the path practitioners may need to pursue in order to keep pace with the future.
We heard it from Campbell’s and ConAgra Foods, we have to look ahead and essentially do the impossible: predict consumer behavior and trends.
A great quote from Wayne Gretzky states, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Always be ahead of where you need to be – that is the way to win.
I may be relative young in the insights business but CRC confirmed what I firmly believe: with science, innovation, data, and creativity, we can all do this. But as my colleagues at PRS IN VIVO would also tell you, we believe you need a 5th ingredient: a Behavioral Framework. And we’re confident in the future because we’re making sure to use all five.
What were my takeaways from CRC: Shift from looking in the rear-view mirror and let’s look at the road ahead of us – way ahead of us, so we can truly help our clients build profitable businesses. And we can finally enter the golden age of insights that Brett Townsend encouraged us to create as an industry.
Janice Lai is the Senior Marketing Manager of PRS IN VIVO and leads their global marketing efforts. She’s been with the company since 2010 when she left law school and never looked back. In her spare time, Janice likes to cuddle up with her puppies, try new restaurants, attend comic cons, and planner in her Filofax. Follow her on Instagram: @iamJaniceLai