Beyond Measurement – The Importance of Consumer Observation in Measuring Product Performance

In 2018, Eolas International highlighted that more and more, consumers are involved in the measurement of product quality in the marketplace as businesses strive to understand what product quality and experience truly means to their shoppers.

Welcome to the start of 2019, and this year promises that this movement will accelerate, and we will also have access to more diverse solutions to truly understand the consumer’s view of product quality and experience.

What opportunities exist for such solutions in driving our insight into consumer product experience?

The centricity of measurement

Measurement and performance is fundamental to product quality
No one can challenge the importance of such tracking, and it is as central to consumer understanding as it is to auditing of product quality in the marketplace.

Indeed, the majority of our understanding of consumer product experience is focused on measurement and tracking. Questions on satisfaction, interaction, repurchase intent and sentiment, for example, are essential in ensuring consumer experience and the performance of products are achieving the levels we expect.

Nonetheless, there are limitations of measurement and tracking, such as:

  • It can assume all consumers and usage occasions are somehow “standard” and lack the diversity of interactions people have with products.
  • Measurement can lack the chance to truly explore and observe usage, and uncover unknown insights in product interaction.

Developing our capabilities to address these themes will no doubt serve to complement measurement and, moreover, identify opportunities to enhance consumers’ product experience.
So what developments should we be looking for in 2019 to address these?

The power of seeing

Let’s consider one example from the fresh milk category, a highly penetrated category across Northern Europe.

Our research with consumers in Ireland has demonstrated very high satisfaction levels of over 95% across product interaction points with several Fresh Milk brands, such as packaging ease of use and overall product taste. Based on such measures, a product or quality manager should rightly be happy with such satisfaction on the perceived quality of their product.

When consumers were additionally asked to record videos of their usage of fresh milk on their smart phones, not only did the idiosyncrasies of consumer interaction come to life, but so did the potential opportunities to enhance consumer product experience.

Product Quality, On pack in use interaction. Connected Consumer, voice of the consumers.

Take for example, the individual who found the loose plastic ring top on their milk fell into their hot tea when pouring. Or the individual whose “frothy” milk seemed less or more frothy across the different brands they used. Or the individual who habitually uses a sharp kitchen knife to remove the seal on the bottle.
These individuals all stated they were satisfied with their experience with the products they were using. But are the products delivering as the product or quality managers would expect? It is this potential for a disconnect that measurement alone may not answer.

The rise of video based research

Video as a medium to inform, observe and understand has exploded in the past five years, not least due to the phenomenal amount of video being created in the realms of social media. Indeed, creating video has never been easier for individuals across the globe. In the market and consumer insights space, the use of video interaction is expected to intensify in 2019, and this offers all functions in a business the opportunity to see product interaction through the consumer lens.

These benefits are clear, and even more exciting are the potential opportunities that video research could potentially lead to, including but not limited to:

  • Live video based consumer care platform
  • In-use facial coding analysis
  • Video based ethnography
Product Quality, On pack in use interaction. Connected Consumer, voice of the consumers.

Whilst the future for video based research is bright, consumer engagement through video has its own set of considerations.

Thinking about the respondents themselves, are sufficient numbers willing to share video content and how can we enhance engagement and quality of information? These complexities require a flexible and evolving approach.
From a regulatory perspective, companies must guarantee data privacy and GDPR compliance alongside building trust with respondents that their data will not be used in any way they are unhappy with.

Technologically, video research depends on smart phones and the speed of evolution and adoption within this space means nothing can be taken for granted (remember how Google Glass was heralded as the next big thing in “in the moment” research?!).
Also to be considered is the sheer amount of data coming from video and the necessary coding required to obtain structured information.

The evolution of video based research at Eolas

Here at Eolas International, we believe that video will provide powerful insights into the consumer based tracking we conduct for our clients. Due to this, the inclusion of video capture has been a key addition into our suite of consumer research solutions.

As individuals are becoming more and more tuned into capturing moments and experiences on their smart phones, research tools need to align with new developments, trends and functionalities quickly – making the role of research solution managers ever evolving.

Conclusion

“Better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times”

A quickly found quote on Google – but in the case of consumer research, something that is pertinent and true.

Technology is providing us with many more opportunities to see and observe behaviour and interactions, particularly through the easy tools available to capture video. This provides us with a world of opportunities to observe, to drop assumptions and explore consumers’ use of our products in greater definition and depth. Whilst quantitative measurement will always be critical in product quality and performance, combining this with observation invites us to link product quality and experience to the real world and see what these mean through the lens of the consumer.

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