Now What Do I Do?: Explore the Unexpected to Understand The Why

By Natalie Haynes, Contributor

One of the most challenging aspects of research is synthesizing data and boiling it down to actionable insights. And as more and more data is available, taking in all of that data and making a decision can feel paralyzing. Sometimes the path forward is clear. Other times, research results are more ambiguous, at least on the surface, but these cases often lead to additional questions, looking at the situation in a different way, and experimenting or testing.

It is very common for research to lead to additional questions to explore. This happens both in qualitative and quantitative research. In focus groups, a good moderator knows when to go off script and investigate an unexpected idea. And while it would likely be cost-prohibitive and untimely to run focus groups every time someone wants to investigate an idea, tools like Metametrix allow a curious researcher to investigate many different questions and ideas using tools that are both cost-effective and fast. Metametrix also creates visuals which help communicate findings and which give context to conclusions.

The best researchers are curious and hunt for surprising findings. Sometimes research confirms what you already know, but many times, research leads to hints of shifting customer needs.

One example:

A few years ago a major apparel retailer conducted qualitative research on women’s t-shirts, and several women mentioned that they don’t buy thin t-shirts for work because they don’t want their co-workers to see their tattoos. It was an unexpected and very helpful finding for the research team.

That feedback was not universal among the respondents, but the topic came up enough that it prompted additional research, looking at trends regarding tattoos for women (13% of women had tattoos in 2010 according to Pew Research), which then informed product design, product mix, and also informed the questions that were asked in later research.

In this example, the research team integrated multiple data sources to recognize a trending consumer behavior. And while the initial research was qualitative, integrating with quantitative provided a more holistic view of changing needs.

Additionally, while many women want to cover up body art, others want to show off their tattoos, or at least clothing that gives the illusion of one. A search with Metametrix shows tattoo clothing is most commonly associated with arms, and ties to the concepts of art and style.

These Metametrix results linked to an Etsy store in Poland:

Tattoo blouse from an Etsy store in Poland

Tattoo sleeves

Even babies are part of this growing market

So back to “Now what do I do?”

Now we know our customer better. Some of them need to cover up. Some of them may want more edgy clothing, for the whole family.

Next steps would be:

  • Experiment to understand what works, for which customers, in what markets.
  • Tailor the product and the marketing to the trend.
  • Monitor the trend.
  • Keep listening to customers in any way you can.
  • Keep asking questions.