There’s an intriguing suggestion for consumer insights professionals in the July issue of Quirk’s Marketing Research Review: “Consider measuring the future to inform the present."
Research data that can accomplish this feat, we're told, can help brands “proactively change [consumers'] present behavior” in ways beneficial to future bottom lines.
Is this a suggestion that market research take cues from time-travel film scripts such as “Twelve Monkeys” and “The Time Machine?” Nope. It’s a piece of intriguing, out-of-the-box thinking from the Quirk’s article,“Going Beyond Self-Report,” by Jason Martuscello of BEESY, a marketing intelligence company grounded in behavioral science.
After getting our attention with his future-leaning vision of market research, the author makes it clear he’s talking about brands finding a way to influence today's consumers by asking about their expectations for tomorrow and beyond: “how they expect to feel” and where they “want to go.” Martuscello contrasts this eyes-forward approach with how “most research uses the past and present to passively predict future behavior.”
The article evenhandedly summarizes biases and limitations of self-report survey research, as well as biases and limitations of biometrics and other “new implicit [data] methodologies” that aim to supersede traditional surveys by probing for presumably more reliable non-conscious indicators of consumer sentiment.
But Martuscello also defends the value of self-reported consumer feedback – with the caveat that the surveys eliciting those responses must be well-designed.
“With concepts like cognitive biases and human irrationality taking center stage recently, it’s worth noting that people are real and can provide accurate answers to well-designed and structured surveys," he writes. "Tremendous business value can be exacted….People who claim self-reports are unreliable sources of information typically are misusing them,” or have partisan reasons for dismissing surveys as simply passé.
The most trustworthy self-reported data about consumer sentiment and intentions, Martuscello adds, is that which demonstrates what he calls “stability,” “persistence” and “durability.”
“When intentions are stable (e.g., same over time) they are resistant to change and are better predictors of behavior.”
MFour's own method for overcoming recall bias and predicting consumer behavior emphasizes observing the actual buying journeys of real respondents from a first-party consumer panel, and using those observed journeys as a springboard to better-targeted and better-designed surveys that allow consumer insights professionals to understand the “why” behind the "who, what and where."
These consumer journeys, as visualized on the new Path 2 Purchase™ Platform, can be thought of as bringing together the past, present and future of real, validated consumers. Researchers get to follow doubly opted-in members of the largest first-party, all-mobile panel of U.S. consumers as they move through time and space. The result is a way to influence future behaviors with data that helps decision-makers draw reliable conclusions about how and why current actions and attitudes came to be.
The Path 2 Purchase™ process begins with targeting carefully profiled consumers who have been tracked and geolocated at a relevant retail location in real time. They then can be surveyed in-store or shortly after their visit. But instead of capturing an isolated event that is already receding into the past, Path 2 Purchase™ makes it possible to turn the survey encounter into a point on a continuum.
- Researchers can look backward at the journeys that preceded the survey, illuminating the answers given at that specific moment.
- Then they can carry on their studies into the future by watching the same consumers' ongoing journeys. If they stated an intention or a preference in the survey, did they follow through on it?
- For example, you can interview a consumer at an auto dealership at an early stage in his or her car-shopping journey, and then see how many other dealerships, and of what makes, the same shopper subsequently visited.
This is why we say that Path 2 Purchase™ encompasses the future, as well as the present and the past. The result is a holistic view of validated consumer behavior along an ongoing continuum, rather than just a glimpse of a snapshot from a single point in time.
And, thanks to the unique multimedia capabilities of smartphones and the advanced mobile-app surveys that take full advantage of their data-producing potential, you can literally see consumers as they are making their journeys. For example, by asking them to submit open-ended “video selfie” responses that bring emotions and motivations fully to life. A further advantage of video responses: ironclad protection against data fraud, as you watch and listen as real people who are truly engaged with your questions give you their honest feedback.
To repeat a key passage from Jason Martuscello in his Quirk’s essay:
"It’s worth noting that people are real and can provide accurate answers to well-designed and structured surveys. Tremendous business value can be exacted….People who claim self-reports are unreliable sources of information typically are misusing them….”
For a productive demo and discussion of how you can get reliable location and survey data that helps you rise to the challenge of looking ahead and not just behind, just click here.