Rational Buying Decisions in Online Market Research
I attended the Dutch Marketing & Insights Event (MIE) on 4 -5 February 2015. The MIE is organised by the Dutch Market Research Association (MOA) and is an annual returning event. This edition again contained a lot of interesting workshops which highly contribute to the knowledge and skills of market researchers. Without a doubt, the most discussed topic at MIE was Big Data and analyse techniques for traditional market research. For this blog I want to focus on the latter topic.
One important factor when you analyse data (and which is often forgotten!) is to take environmental effects into account. Environmental effects are the personal experiences of people, his or her mood, the phrasing of questions and framing of the questionnaire, etc. Basically, it contains all non-rational factors which influence a respondent when they make a decision. Traditional market research is highly focused on the rational aspect of decision-making. It takes respondents out of the context and asks them rational questions (e.g., Why have you bought this product? On a scale of 1-10 how likely are you to buy this product again?) about their own behaviour.
While, in fact, the most decisions we make in life are not rational at all but are based on emotions and feelings. You do not know for example why you bought this specific kind of cereal, you just did. In reality we cannot go through a detailed rational buying process for every product we buy in the supermarket. We simply do not have enough brain-capacity to make every decision in life analytically and rationally and it would just take too much energy and time. Most decisions are made quickly, intuitively and unconsciously and are based on environmental factors. When we ask you later in a survey to go in detail through the buying process (due to all the detailed rational questions) then you construe your opinion during the research! For example: when a respondent has to think of some product attributes (price, colour, service, design etc.) then he will probably rate almost all of these attributes in the grid as (very) important when he evaluates his buying process. While in reality he did not evaluate all those attributes when he bought the product. One of my favourite quotes is from Daniel Kahneman and was quoted more than once during the MIE: “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.”
This knowledge, combined with the fact that people are also highly influenced by environmental factors, makes you as a market researcher more aware of how to phrase and design your research. Are my questions neutral and not steering towards positive or negative answers? Am I asking too many product attributes which do not matter in the actual buying process? Do I need to design a shelf test to imitate the actual buying process of the respondent more precisely? As long as we are all aware of these environmental factors we can ask ourselves the rights questions and design a proper research.