What’s the value of research, anyway?

the central group performance at retaill

Let’s be clear. Research is an invaluable tool if you’re in the business of trying to predict, act on, and influence consumer behaviour.

Now, the not-so-clear part. We’re living in an era of incredible research tools. Unfortunately, the confusion around what sort of research to use is bewildering. The result? Most of us reach back to our old, trusted tools, or jump erratically from one shiny research tool to another.

Not so good, you might agree.

The research(er) paradox

Recently we were invited to speak at Google Canada’s head office in Toronto. Our audience was a group of research firms at an MRIA (Market Research Industry Association) event. It was a small gathering of industry professionals, agencies and customers in a fairly intimate environment.

The forum we spoke at delved into the merits of research in today’s volatile physical retail environment. The paradox in the room quickly surfaced – at The Central Group, our main focus is to act on the very research that we are able to supply our clients with. On the other hand, most of our audience members were professional researchers who often never saw the results of their efforts take shape.

We described how research, design and innovation (RD&I) needed to mesh more seamlessly now than ever before. It truly needed to be a symbiotic relationship where one element flowed effortlessly into the next, if brands and retailers were going to maintain a competitive edge over all other sources of retail commerce.

In fact, we went so far as to say that the opportunity for brands and retailers to develop a more coherent cadence of RD&I woud provide a competitive edge, as retail experiences continued to evolve.

Does the evidence support us?

The answer is a resounding yes.

In fact, research from the Aberdeen Group has revealed companies can experience sales increases of +70% if they embrace the simplest of predictive research analytics.

Today, with so many online and offline research tools available to us promoting real time insights in a cost effective and quick manner, the benefits should be clear.

But are they?

In a recent survey by our friends at IBM, it was found that 75% of brand companies needed better insight into retail performance, and roughly 60% of the promotions they placed in store didn’t break even.

With those odds, why wouldn’t companies invest in a little ‘insurance policy’, researching if their programs were targeted to the right shopper, and understanding what motivated that shopper to buy?

The IBM research supported this ‘insurance policy’ thinking. It revealed that deploying with any type of cognitive analytics, we could see a +30% increase in promotional profit, 2-5% better on shelf availability, and an increase of 2-4% in new product sales.

What to do

Our business isn’t simply research and insights – it’s putting that intel into action. So here are some action items you can take right away to put research to work more effectively for you.

  1. Ask the core question – Is my shopper based research operating in a silo?
  2. Draw a straight line between research insights and design, and ensure your agency and design partners are responding directly to the insight.
  3. Make research, design and innovation part of your company culture and operations.
  4. Test, learn, measure and educate not only internally, but with your retail customer.
  5. Rinse and repeat. Like any good habit, this one takes repetition!

We find that taking these steps has made us far more valuable to our brand partners. They trust our judgement, because they know that judgement is informed by objective facts, not fickle opinions. This feeling of being a trusted partner isn’t just good for our partners’ bottom lines – it gives our team a true feeling of pride and self-respect.

Pretty valuable benefit, you might agree.

If you found this story useful, and you’d like to know more about how we work with brands to drive shopper ROI, don’t hesitate to contact Mike Alviano at mike.alviano@centralgrp.com, (905) 467-2231‬.

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