No-one can predict the future… so let’s create it together!
Businesses, particularly insight departments, are under pressure right now to ‘predict the future’. What are people going to be needing/ wanting/ doing when the new normal arrives? And what an impossible question to answer that is! Yes, research can provide businesses with a range of possible future scenarios, but how helpful will that really be in terms of planning?
At Qual Street, we’ve been thinking about what qualitative research can genuinely deliver to help businesses get ready for the future…
Staying connected to consumers… arriving at the future together
Perhaps there is an opportunity to ‘co-produce’ a future with consumers, working with them to test out future strategies to see which feel right for your business? Businesses are more than ever, in the same boat as consumers. So maybe the name of the game is to connect clients and consumers to work out what the future should look like together. (We, as qualitative researchers, can of course facilitate and navigate this journey.) And by getting on board with consumers, businesses will arrive at the ‘future’ as consumers too are getting there… rather than waiting to figure out the research questions that need to be answered once the future is already here.
Co-producing the future… becoming the company your customers want
So, how do we get businesses and consumers on the same boat, working out how to make this journey together? This can be done by setting up on-line communities, or via depth and group sessions using screen share facilities, or by using apps designed to capture content.
By using the best of bespoke technology designed for research we can both explore the lived experience and future gaze.
Together consumers and businesses can connect the strands of what the Covid-19 experience is bringing to thoughts, feelings and behaviours now with what consumers want and hope for the future. Together you can build a vision of what you want your businesses’ future to be.
Research can’t predict the future, but it can help with making it happen…
Using research to help you plan your future doesn’t have to be expensive. AND it’s something you can do directly with consumers too, although of course, we’d recommend you work alongside insight experts to help you get the most out of the connections you make with your customers.
Ideas for online communities
- Consider talking to a diverse community of people ready to share what life’s like at the moment. We recommend taking advantage of access to the whole household and the different experiences of people within it
- A research community could help you take the temperature, test new ideas… listening and exploring the experience. This is about listening to language, identifying states of mind and taking note of what people are doing.
- The community can be accessed at a frequency that suits your business; discrete tasks can be set or ‘checking in’ questions posed as and when.
- Communities can talk to each other, talk to you, or just explore individually their experiences (or any and all combinations of the above)
Benefits of online interviews using screen share
- Seeing one another increases human connection (and honesty!) compared with phone interviewing. There are research platforms available similar in feel to Zoom, but designed to be secure, confidential and GDPR compliant. They are inexpensive too…
- And the facility to screen share is a great way to show stimulus material. Rather than being limited to a pre-agreed ‘set’ of stimulus material, screen sharing allows the interviewer to respond to the flow of the discussion. For example, if a respondent starts talking about a particular page on a website, it can be accessed there and then for discussion, ensuring the researcher understands the point fully.
Harnessing content capture technology
There is technology designed to capture the lived experience too. It’s possible for consumers to ‘show you’ what they are doing remotely live, to create filmed output which keeps a visual record of experiences.
Using exploratory approaches like these, we are able to ‘clue gather’ as to how thoughts, feelings and behaviours are evolving, collecting artefacts such as photos, videos, collages etc as we go. The material from these sessions, along with other inputs such as desk research, can help us run future gazing & making sessions…
Future gazing & making using remote work-shopping
In these sessions, businesses and consumers come together to strategise about what the future could look like, and critically, to explore what they want the future to be in a remote work-shopping environment. Businesses come with their ideas: What about this? How do you feel about this? (But also with a sense of what the business could/ couldn’t deliver). Consumers come with the values and feelings that are forming as part of the Covid-19 experience. Together, the future is co-produced.
Work-shopping remotely is not easy. It is not as ‘electric’ and energising as face-to-face contact, but it is the right context for what’s being experienced now. Again, the technology exists to workshop remotely in an effective way: we can Zoom, we can use whiteboard technology, we can share ideas in many ways…
Connect to your customer, and work out what the future should be together…
So, at Qual Street, we say let’s stay connected! Because when businesses understand what their customers are thinking, feeling and doing, they’ll have a much better sense of what they can offer when we all finally land in the future.
If you’d like to know more about how to stay close to consumers and arrive at the future together, please get in touch.
Claire and Kath at Qual Street