Prior to the pandemic, we were spoiled by in-store design research that gave us the depth to understand the “whys and hows” and deliver actionable consumer insights to our clients. We know the value and authenticity that being in-store provides, so when the pandemic hit and we needed to innovate, we had very high standards for new, accessible methodologies. Our virtual research capabilities were born with the belief in authenticity at the forefront.

Our Virtual Research Methodology

Our first hurdle was getting authentic, REAL people to participate in our studies without access to in-store intercepts. We developed REAL Recruitment to find the right people for our clients while also avoiding career research respondents. We then leaned into real video and photography to prime the in-store shopping mindset and present stim more effectively in a real environment which checked the boxes for the REAL people, environment, and mindset that we are so used to with in-store research.

Our pilot partnership with General Mills:

At the same time, one of our longtime clients, General Mills, needed an alternative to their in-store research solutions at a time when no such solutions were allowed. They had experimented with other virtual solutions and found them lacking in key areas:

  1. Not qualitative enough to find the why and how
  2. Provided insights that were not actionable
  3. Not customizable or partner-oriented enough

 So, a new collaborative opportunity arose, and together we worked on championing a virtual research methodology within the organization that could deliver empathy and authenticity without being in-person.

Case Study: Virtual Research Pilot

Our in-context General Mills partners were able to sell-in the method to a brand team that was willing to pilot our new virtual design optimization solution in conjunction with our mobile method that involves consumers shopping and reacting to stim in a real store. The project objectives focused on shelf breakthrough, concept understanding and appeal, and benefit communication for new snack innovation. The project included 35 completes for virtual and 35 for mobile across two package designs.

It was a huge moment, and we were happy, albeit not surprised, that both methods produced the same recommendations. Our insights thrilled the brand team, and both methodologies delivered similar breadth and depth. Even though the research was virtual, they were able to understand the “whys and hows” while still accessing behavioral data.

Where do we go from here?:

While we and shoppers feel comfortable again with our traditional in-store intercept method, our mobile or virtual research methods are the better project fit for certain situations.

Virtual research is a great option:

  • If there is need and benefit to getting a nationwide sample or super niche audience
  • If there is a need to test in a retailer environment that doesn’t allow in-person in-store research
  • If the timeline or budget requires the use of 2D/digital stim versus 3D prototypes

Mobile is a great option:

  • If you have a large team you want to be able to experience the research without traveling
  • If wanting authentic video output to align key stakeholders

In-store is a great option:

  • If you seek learning on highly habituated categories
  • If you need your team to build deeper intuition
  • You want to experience the joy of traveling with our super fun team

We have replaced one effective method with a suite of effective methods, ensuring the optimal approach is available to our clients.   If you happen to have experienced any of these frustrations with virtual research…

  • Not qualitative enough to find the why and how
  • Provided insights that were not actionable
  • Not customizable or partner-oriented enough

…send us a note.  We would love to talk through an optimal approach to delivering actionable and in-depth guidance on how to give your product the best chance to win at-shelf.

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