Insights

During Times of Uncertainty, Let Consumers Take the Wheel
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During Times of Uncertainty, Let Consumers Take the Wheel

Jennifer Kehl

In times of uncertainty, it’s especially important to stay connected with your consumers. Whether you’re trying to add new benefits to your offerings to keep up with changing consumer opinions,  updating claims on your packaging or building your innovation pipeline to meet emerging needs, you need consumer input. But at the same time, getting that input is more difficult. Restrictions on in-person data collection, such as with focus groups, leave a gap in your usual processes, and a fast-evolving environment means you have to be even more agile.

In the face of these challenges, “Do It Yourself” research solutions are tempting, because they’re fast (and cheap). But DIY options usually leave you on your own to figure out what the results mean and what actions to take. They can also be somewhat templated and lacking in depth and flexibility. Getting fast answers that are incomplete or unclear is too much of a risk for the important decisions you need to make. 

So what are some best practices for fast screening work to get answers you can trust?

1. Use multiple dimensions to prioritize your options: The reality is that business objectives are often multi-faceted, so you need the ability to sort your options on more than one dimension. And your strategy can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach, so you need flexibility in which key indicators to use. Whether it’s relevance, credibility, uniqueness or another dimension, like a usage occasion or target consumer, you need the ability to evaluate your ideas on the areas that are most insightful to propel your business forward.

For example, a salty snack brand that’s looking to innovate with the goal of driving new usage would want to consider which ideas consumers would use for different demand occasions rather than just the ideas that are broadly relevant. A sorting exercise can help the brand narrow down the options to the most appealing idea. From there, diagnostic and qualitative insights can inform how and when consumers would use the new product as well as what refinements could make the idea even better.

2. Start with a wide angle; then focus on groups of interest: Getting feedback from a broad consumer group is important because you never know who will be interested in your idea. But if you only go broad, you can miss out on more granular and nuanced insights. Evaluating your ideas among key subgroups allows for richer understanding, potentially helping you capitalize on a new trend, decide which adjacent categories to extend into or learn who to target next, all opening the door for strong incremental potential.

For example, if you’re adding gluten-free claims in a category with products that all contain gluten, most current shoppers probably can’t relate to seeking gluten-free alternatives. In this case, you need to evaluate your options among the right group of consumers to make the right choice. Another example is the launch of Lunchables Uploaded, which aimed to appeal to non-buying households with teenagers in addition to the households that already bought the category.

3. Act fast but act smart: The external environment is incredibly fluid, so the process for getting consumer feedback needs to be fast. But speed shouldn’t come at the expense of clear, reliable direction, and that trade-off is unfortunately often the case with DIY methods. An interactive online insights platform that allows for customization, and flexible reporting is one key for speed. And when you combine a strong platform with trusted data and advice from experienced consultants then you’re able to move quickly and know you’re moving in the right direction.

In a recent BASES client survey, manufacturers agreed that the biggest challenge they face in the current research environment is that it takes a long time and a lot of work to get the data they need. They consider a limited budget and shortened timeline to be the biggest internal barrier to successful decision making. However, most respondents expressed that speed is important, but not at the expense of predictive data and strong consumer insights. It’s clear that front-end sorting and refinement is a crucial step in the research process to build a healthy innovation pipeline and maintain relevant offerings, so why cut corners?

Advances in technology and innovation have essentially removed the limitations associated with historical fast-screening models. With advanced and modern fast-testing tools, brands can quickly perform faster and more insightful testing at early stages of development using trusted, software-enabled methods that bring speed and affordability without losing quality so that no initiative goes untested. Sometimes in-market forces are out of your control, but the ability to lean into market dynamics and agilely react is what defines brands who stand the test of time.