behavioural research
April 5, 2018

Are you ready for Behavioural Research? Ask yourself these questions.

By Paul Laughlin

This month, we will return to the topic of research, starting with behavioural research.

As we discussed, when sharing posts on Behavioural Economics, behavioural biases cast doubt on self report. If people aren’t aware of their behavioural biases, can you trust survey results or focus groups? The answer is more nuanced, due to other advances in research design.

But, such concerns have caused some to refocus research effort on behavioural research or experiments.

So, to help us start to explore this area further, I’m delighted to welcome Katie Hagan, as our latest guest blogger. Katie works for Netquest, a leading global data & research agency. Talking with their UK MD, Johnny Caldwell, he put me on to this interesting article from Katie; together with a free e-book for readers.

Over to Katie, to begin our introduction to behavioural research.

Behavioural research & LinkedIn innovators

LinkedIn does a “Daily Rundown” everyday. Curated by LinkedIn’s finest editors, it’s an article that lands in your notifications very early in the morning. Every morning, it gives you the scoop, on what professionals are discussing across the globe. These articles cover everything from the economy and politics to sports and social media trends.

My favourite part of the Daily Rundown, is the “Idea of the Day” portion. Usually it’s a quote from a forward thinking, successful professional. Recently, one of these quotes particularly stood out to me:

Idea of the Day: Leaders who want to innovate need to throw out the old and embrace the new, says innovation expert Jeff DeGraff. But, it doesn’t mean changing the game all at once. One way to start ushering in new thinking is the 20/80 rule: start by changing a smaller part of the organisation first. It’s tough to move the middle, so begin by experimenting with the top & bottom 10%. Growth requires we turn our backs on the middle-way and lean in favour of the unconventional.”

Jeff deGraff

This made me think about the insights industry. There are many leaders in market research, but how many of us are innovators? How many are adapting and experimenting with the new technologies and methodologies?

We need to be innovators as much as we are researchers, but to get there we have to begin asking ourselves the hard questions.

Have you accepted your research limitations?

Yes, we’ve been trained to accept our limitations. But, that needs to be changed.

Many of us are okay with the fact that we don’t know if our participants are responding attentively, accurately, or honestly on a survey. We’re all armed with various versions of the same rebuttal:

Research has come far in the sense that we’ve developed techniques. Ones to ensure reliability and internal consistency, such as split-test and test-retest techniques. On the other hand, we must assume respondents won’t always answer truthfully, to more sensitive questions. We also understand we cannot always rely on human memory.

With advanced technology, there’s now ways to improve your methodologies, to decrease these limitations.

Do you know the new possibilities?

Since most of our market research is now taking place online, it’s now easier than ever to acquire information from panelists. These are just a few examples of how we can now collect data like never before: Online surveys, online mystery shoppers, MROCs, and mobile diaries.

On top of that, online data collection has practically eliminated the manual data input process. Making analysing data much easier than it used to be. Yes, there’s a trend here: ‘Evolving’ tends to positively correlate with ‘easing’.

Online research has already made acquiring sample, and analysing data easier. But, there’s even more in store for us: A solution to our research limitations. Online behavioural research and its many forms. For example, passive metering (a popular form of online behavioural research). It enables you to access much more detailed information than cookie data. Information such as: cross-device data, browsing history, app usage, and search terms.

With passive metering technology, you can generate insights about your competitors, specific audiences, popular apps, search terms, and consumer activity. All this, without having to ask in the form of a survey and worrying about the accuracy. Oh, what a world!

(Note from editor, remember GDPR considerations, when designing how you implement passive metering)

Should you embrace the new behavioural research?

New technologies are always intimidating, it’s a common theme when the new replaces the old. Remember how distrustful everyone was, when emails replaced letters, GPS replaced maps, and smartphones replaced (most) landlines?

Depending on your age, you definitely remember those uneasy transitions. For those of you born and raised in the tech era, I’m sure it’s difficult to fathom such a world existed.

No matter your age, we can all agree that it’s hard to imagine where we would be without smartphones. Let alone all the other new, life changing innovations we’ve been gifted with. But when they were first introduced, we were uneasy. We’re the same way when it comes to new research methods.

The idea that the insights industry is being shaken up, by new research methods, makes you uneasy. It makes us all uneasy. We’re naturally uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. But you know what’s more uncomfortable? Falling behind.

The longer we wait to adapt to our ever-changing industry, and clients, the more we will fall behind our competitors. For the sake of better business, research and insights: Evolving is inevitable.

Do you have to embrace everything at once?

Do not abolish surveys, mobile diaries, MROCS or any declarative research methods! That’s not what we want. Don’t even dive into behavioural research yet. First, educate yourself about what behavioral research is and how it can improve your insights (and business). Then, using the 20/80 rule, test the waters by weaving behavioural into your classic methods.

Here’s a simple suggestion, of how to slowly incorporate behavioural research, into your current methods. Include questions on your surveys that can be answered with behavioural data. Acquire that behavioural information with passive metering. Then compare the different forms of results.

You’ll be surprised to see behavioural data can provide you with much more accurate data, than forms of declarative data. Then you’ll be wondering about all the ways you can utilise behavioural, just like any innovative leader would.

A free e-book on Behavioural Research methods

My only issue with the Jeff DeGraff’s Idea of the Day is that he didn’t mention the most critical element of being innovative: Educating yourself. I strongly believe before committing to an innovative idea, you must do your background research. We recommend you do exactly that with behavioural data. That’s why we’ve developed the free Behavioral Data 101 e-Book to teach you everything you need to know (and more):

All you need to know about Behavioral Data

Are you still only using surveys for your research projects? From determining the best moment to launch a new product to measuring the impact of a marketing campaign, are surveys still your go-to? Surveys are great but, you’re missing out on new types of insights: Market research is evolving, and with it, so are our research methods.

Your experience of implementing behavioural research

Thanks again to Katie, for joining our growing panel of guest bloggers. It’s good to hear different perspectives on best practice. I hope you’ve also found this post on behavioural research to be thought-provoking.

What about your customer insight practice? Have you implemented some behavioural data capture alongside existing research methods? If so, we’d love to hear your experience and tips for best use of this approach, or blending methods.