We recently commissioned some research on market research. A staggering number of respondents (product developers, marketers and retailers) don’t test new products with consumers at all. Many have become disillusioned with traditional market research methodologies (focus groups in fusty box rooms, surveying shoppers in freezing cold fresh food aisles in supermarkets with a clipboard, that sort of thing) for three reasons:

People don’t do what they say they’ll do. Just because someone says they’d consider your new product in a focus group or when prompted, it doesn’t mean they’d buy it at fixture.

It’s too expensive and takes too long. The people we spoke to haven’t got £1000s to spend on a single piece of research, which (when you combine recruitment time, producing questionnaires, fieldwork and analysis) is prohibitive when seeking to get cost-effective insights on every detail they’d like to get feedback on.

It’s all relative to context. It is very hard to make meaningful conclusions when a lot of this research is conducted in a fake/contrived environment.

Behavioural scientists evidence that we now know that the majority of shopper decisions are unconscious. So, asking someone to tap into their unconscious brain by consciously answering questions seems like a waste of time (in our humble opinion).

Focus groups do not give you:

  • Access to the “system 1”, fast, unconscious brain that makes more than 80% of FMCG purchasing decisions.
  • Accurate, quantitative and reliable data. 
  • A reliable indication of propensity to buy.
  • Accurate insight into what elements of a product, pack or message appeal.
  • An understanding of how to iterate and develop to improve future success.

That said, focus groups (used well) can give you:

  • Feedback from a product in use, as an indication of likely consumer satisfaction.
  • Soundbites and Voxpops that may be interesting discussion points or add colour to internal and external presentations.
  • New ideas and suggestions.
  • So, we’re not anti-market research. We’ve simply developed a tool that solves the pain points.

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