We’re engaged! Did that announcement grab your attention and prompt you to think about marriage, relationships and future in-laws, if only for a few seconds? Is your association the result of reading the words alone or a combination of the words with the visual cue?
As you ponder your reaction to this statement and my questions, let’s switch gears and consider the definition of engagement from a market research perspective.
In market research, the term “engagement” is ubiquitous. Engagement evokes a broad connotation because, as researchers, we are tasked with designing and fielding research and translating results to answer disparate business questions. We engage during research by asking concrete questions or delving into the minds of consumers to better understand their perceptions, needs and motivations related to particular issues or behaviors. For researchers, the stakes are high. In the absence of engagement, clients may not perceive a return on their investment or realize their fundamental goal of promoting or shaping consumer behavior.
Getting to Know You
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How do researchers engage consumers at a conscious or intentional level? A common strategy is to field a straightforward closed- and open-ended survey to elicit feedback to complement client observations or hypotheses. While consumers may be engaged on a conscious level, their responses are unlikely to expose their deep-seated beliefs, emotions and associations about a particular topic area. Furthermore, intentional responses, while valuable for answering certain business questions, are frequently incomplete, misinterpreted or biased. Researchers compile, analyze and report outcomes, yet they are unable to explain or elaborate on the underlying reasons for results.
Building the Relationship
Researchers seeking to delve into the minds of consumers to better understand their perceptions, needs and motivations must consider that consumers enter research with cognitive biases such as access issues, filter challenges and word imprecision, as we previously encountered with my engagement announcement. Adept researchers craft studies to offer respondents an opportunity to overcome cognitive biases by reaching their subconscious perceptions and communicating ideas in a different manner. When appropriate, projective exercises, or tools to facilitate discussions beyond traditional open- and closed-ended questions, are incorporated into research to actively engage consumers and to garner insights that might not otherwise surface with straightforward study designs. Consumers answer a set of direct questions and participate in activities such as metaphor exercises, storytelling or thematic apperception tests (TATs) while researchers moderate and probe during discussions, collaborate with study sponsors and interpret findings to inform and to satisfy study objectives.
Taking the Plunge
Regardless of research medium, research that marries a set of traditional open- and closed-ended questions with proven projective methodologies engages consumers by enabling them to share conscious and unconscious beliefs and attitudes and equips clients with relevant, credible and balanced insights to make decisions and influence consumer behavior. Essentially, it’s a win-win for all stakeholders. This holistic or psycho-sensory research philosophy that we embrace at Six Degrees is relevant across business sectors and aligns well with studies across a product life cycle including insight mining, strategic development and tactical evaluations.
Are we engaged? Now, identify your top-of-mind associations.
Want to learn more about engagement in the context of market research? Let’s connect.