In situ research – capturing emotion on SubstanceQI’s Research Safari

In situ research – capturing emotion on SubstanceQI’s Research Safari

The goal celebrations of Premiership footballers are eruptions of atavistic elation. All that shirt-removing, back flipping, jumping and punching the air. During post-match interviews players get tight-lipped and offer the blanket response ‘I was a bit emotional out there’. Derby rivalry, testimonial pride, or an unexpected substitution can tip them over. Emotion is acknowledged as primary but in a catch-all way that leaves deeper feelings undefined. As professional sportsman they know instinctively the moment has passed. It is out there, on the pitch that matters.

At Substanceqi we don’t allow vital consumer reactions to pass us by. We are alive to the key moment in which consumers embrace or reject the offer. Senior managers in most sectors have a digitally derived profile of the customer. But reliance on hard, numerical data can lead to viewing consumers remotely like specimens under a microscope.

The antidote is SubstanceQI’s In Situ Research Safari which takes your team on a trek to meet product-users in their natural habitat. The challenges, obstacles and triumphs that occur daily to your customer constitute the playing field upon which your product is experienced. We can’t guarantee you will be championed like a goal scorer, but we do believe you will gain insight into the importance of emotion before it is game over for another day. In the moment is where you need to be.

Getting down with the kid’s – Why do CEO’s try this?

I know my place – If only CEO’s did too

There’s a bit of a trend right now. Getting down with the kid’s. Please don’t do it!

A long time ago when attitudes were very different, our sixth form were given the privilege of leaving school in the mid-morning break! Officially this was to get some air. But as everyone knew it was really to rush down to the coffee bar and have a cuppa and a fag!

The coffee bar was acknowledged by all parties to be sacrosanct and off limits to all school staff.  But one day, an enthusiastic young master joined the staff and thought it would be ‘cool’ to get to know the ‘guys’ and duly appeared full of bonhomie. Death could have walked in and the atmosphere would have been more jolly. A miserable quiet descended and quite quickly everyone found a need to be somewhere else. This scenario repeated itself over the next few days and by the end of the week it was empty at the mid-morning break.

Keep The Gossip Flowing

Now there are reports of CEO’s thinking it’s a good idea to repeat this sort of exercise. But it’s not just a case of trying to sit next to people as they have their coffee or lunch but also randomly turning up and sitting at the next desk for the morning whilst they are trying to work!  I guess they call it hot desking today. I wonder who they think such behaviour will benefit?  I am sure it makes them feel good – they have reached out to their staff and shown what ‘regular guys’ they are. But I suspect all it has done for the employees is made them feel uncomfortable and ruined their lunch!

Of course, CEO’s should be civil but they are there to lead the company to success and be deserving of respect and loyalty from their staff. They are not there to be their mate.  Most people who work in large organisations like structure and a sense of place. The classic ‘I look up to him but down on him’ is not dead yet even if the driver is no longer the ‘class system’. So, on behalf of employees everywhere, can I implore CEO’s to stay ‘upstairs’. Leave people to enjoy their lunch break and a good gossip!

Oh, and the coffee shop situation.  Well the Head Boy had a quiet word with the Deputy Headmaster who had a slightly less quiet word with the enthusiastic new master about how the world worked.  By Monday all had returned to normal. Maybe it’s time for a few Chairmen to tell their CEO’s the same!

The CEO 3 Year Itch – does this sound familiar?

“Mummy, Mummy, why do CEO’s only stay 3 years in one company?”

“Because if they stayed for four they might get found out!”

So much for long term planning. A CEO takes just 3 years to complete their personal success cycle. How much of this have we all witnessed?

Year 1: Evaluation

Root and branch review of the organisation, usually with the help of an expensive management consultancy. Their function is to make the you, the new man/woman look good and take the blame for the inevitable unpalatable consequences – which will almost certainly involve cost cutting and job losses for the City’s benefit. They also are someone for you to talk to, as you don’t know who to trust with your own doubts and confusion.

Year 2: Reorganisation

Change the organisations structure and certainly invent some new department titles. Nothing gives things a better sense of change than dynamic sounding names for the same thing. Just think how much more impressive it was to be part of Customer Insight rather than just the Market Research Dept. Anyway, it will take at least 6 months for people to understand whether they are actually doing anything different and who the hell reports to who.

Year 3: Implementation

By year 3 the ‘benefits’ of the cost savings should have kicked in and these will buy you some decent numbers and hopefully the City will be supportive and the share-price will rise – definitely time to will revue the share options you have in place. Talk confidently about the new structure bringing efficiencies and a more dynamic approach to the business. You are confident that earnings and profit will continue to rise again this year. Your personal stock is high – so it is now time to start looking for a new job. Unless of course you really do believe your own hype!

Internet of Things (IoT)

There’s a lot of noise about the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT). Estimates abound of the number of home devices that will be connected by year such and such. There’s also a rumble of unease amongst adopters about what this brave new world will eventually bring. What control will I have over the connectivity, so that I don’t tell them things I’d rather keep private? Consumers have a different, more personal relationship to their living space than they do with devices they use in public. Is my domestic space to be colonized by data droids? Will analytics end up transmitting the temperature of my bath water, the frequency of my lavatorial flush?

Notions of privacy are difficult to crystallize as they are intimately bound up with personal integrity and different individuals set different boundaries. It is not the same as security, which is swiftly identified as protective; keeping bad things away. At what point does a fully connected home become living in a gold-fish bowl? For mainstream consumers Internet enabled white goods appear to come from outer space. Can there be too much science in an appliance? Qualitative research can solve how best to bring IoT connectivity into the private realm, to explain benefits and explore limits.

What is meant by private can be more than resisting unwarranted observation. There’s an open-ended, creative dimension. Speaking at the launch of a book shop Jeanette Winterson said: ‘you hear this trendy stuff about how it’s the content that matters, you can stream it, have it on your tablet, but in a book you are carving out for yourself a self-contained, private space.’ She aligns the private with the formation of new thoughts. Everyone has a need for inner space: where corporations can’t see you dream.

Face to Face Safari – Understanding Emotional Behaviour

Understanding Emotional Behaviour

The goal celebrations of Premiership footballers are eruptions of atavistic elation. All that shirt-removing, back flipping, jumping and punching the air. During post-match interviews players get tight-lipped and offer the blanket response ‘I was a bit emotional out there’ to any matters – be these derby rivalry, testimonial pride, or an unexpected substitution. Emotion is acknowledged as primary but in a catch-all way that leaves deeper feelings undefined. As professional sportsman they know instinctively the moment has passed. It is out there, on the pitch that matters.

At Substanceqi we don’t allow vital consumer reactions to pass us by. We are alive to the key moment in which consumers embrace or reject the offer. Senior managers in most sectors have a digitally derived profile of the customer, but reliance on hard, numerical data can lead to viewing consumers remotely like specimens under a microscope. The antidote is Substanceqi’s Face to Face Safari which takes your team on a trek to meet product-users in their natural habitat. The challenges, obstacles and triumphs that occur daily to your customer constitute the playing field upon which your product is experienced. We can’t guarantee you will be championed like a goal scorer, but we do believe you will gain insight into the importance of emotion before it is game over for another day.

Being There – Face-to-Face Qualitative Research

Human beings are social animals. In our herding together at a sporting arena, theatre or cinema auditorium we instinctively feel a power greater than ourselves. Football fans describe themselves as the twelfth man, participants in their team’s struggle, not merely observers. The chanting and barracking of opponents is robbed of potency if directed at a TV. This desire to be there is integral to emotional engagement at any live sport. Despite camera phones and the sharing of footage on social media we know, deep down within us, that we can’t take the live moment home. As the Olympics gained momentum so the demand grew for tickets that granted access only to the park. ‘I just wanted to be there’ people said. Examining a spectator’s uploaded video will not reveal to us their memory of time spent because ‘being there’ is about having your individual senses awakened by the bigger, communal focus. It is about enjoying heightened personal moments that occur within the fold of the wider group.

Research based solely on digital reaction and response will not track emotional pushes and pulls. To understand the role emotion plays in influencing the choices consumers make requires face-to-face qualitative research. It is by encouraging participants to engage with one another that the research comes alive. It is by observing the codes and dynamics at play. Visceral responses are not apparent from the start. Substanceqi create forums that afford our clients access to these tell-all emotions.

Food for Thought – Unpacking the world of research

The word MENU. For the majority of consumers it calls to mind the food available in a restaurant before it meant a list of commands displayed on a screen. The culinary world and computer world have converged in the handheld tablets that present the menu in upscale eateries, but otherwise the experience of using these two kinds of menu is different. It gives you food for thought.

In a restaurant of reasonable repute the waiter functions as an adjunct to the menu. Would you like that steak medium rare? Do the requirements of each person vary? The menu is a starting point to be expanded upon and interpreted by a personable gatekeeper. The computer user is alone (initially, despite online connectivity). Confronted with graphical control elements there can be a sense of restriction. The classic case is selecting a radio button – any previously selected radio button in the same group becomes deselected.

At SubstanceQI we appreciate the digital world has a role in efficient, targeted data collection. Like ordering a burger in McDonalds, there is the confidence born of control over what you will get. A simple, uniform, consistent and cheap product. But trying to shoehorn a qualitative research problem that may have an emotional or psychological dimension into a snappy digital solution can restrict the ultimate decision making process: it is akin to ignoring the guidance of the waiter.

We believe in adopting methodologies that maximise engagement and ask the questions you did not realise were important at the outset. The exotic language deployed by some research companies to describe their ‘bespoke modelling’ is comparable to the foodie-speak that peppers fine dining. Menu’s blaze with italicized foreign words, and a surfeit of ostentatious punctuation: Research company websites burst with impactful buzzwords, supported by conceptual conceits pinched from the Social Sciences.

With us, expectations are managed, the cost is justified. We don’t need to prop up what we do because we offer Director Involvement at every stage of the process. We are individuals that give you the opportunity to go off-menu. Gives you food for thought.

The Shape of Things to Come – Management Reconnection

Management Reconnection

The final frontier has been making headlines: Major Tim Peake boarding and returning from the International Space Station; Major Tom (The Starman) ascending to heaven; Virgin Galactic unveils Spaceship Two. All reports that afforded the Apollo Moon Walk a footnote. Once the apotheosis of the Space Race, the black and white footage now deployed to add period colour. The future has a way of receding, becoming the past. In the rush towards the year 2000, the Millennium Bug threatened to detonate time amid the dotcom boom. Commerce adapted, the world didn’t end.

Millennials are coming of age in an always-on digital world. This isn’t news to them. A constant throughout your life is unlikely to be perceived as transformational. It’s just the internet grandad, get over it. Not all Millennials see the world through the lens of cutting-edge tech. The primary impetus for some Millennials may be emotional but they’re not looking to change the world. There are those that are more civic-minded. Instant intimacy with brand controversy on social media occurs independently of any imminent purchase. For other socio-economic groups, down-to-earth concerns like student debt, or the housing crises, are raucously expressed. Life can retain an analogue face.

In-person research is vital to understanding how tech related activities slot into a daily routine. Management Reconnection is crucial. Screen switching can be triggered by physical conditions, purchasing decisions prompted by a particular event. With RESEARCH SAFARI, we help management reconnection with customers through supported encounters at relevant locations, including in-home. Seeing your brand/product category in the field broadens your purchaser perception. The best way to grasp what is likely to happen is to move beyond macro comparisons with previous generations and go meet up with the future as it takes shape.

Collaborative Learning Fusion Day – Hands on User Experience

The Chill Hub (GE) is a refrigerator with USB ports and a Raspberry Pi. A plug-in scale keeps track of your jug of milk. Inevitably, it’s known as the Milky Weigh. At long last I can announce: a fridge you can raid at midnight without ruining your appetite! It is aimed at the developer community already conversant with customising tech to suit them. For other customers a fridge is just of those things to be bought for the kitchen. Not all consumers are hungry for Raspberry Pi with their Honey Monster Puffs: the lunge for the fridge door driven by a sweet-tooth, not Bluetooth

White Goods were once heavy durables with zero relationship to our home computing. The ‘information superhighway’ entered homes through an Ethernet cable. How might today’s Ordinary Joe respond to the offspring of the two? A SubstanceQI Collaborative Learning Fusion Day is a forum in which to stress test your just-thought-of ideas. Subject your innovations to the anxieties of potential customers who are on the cusp of the IoT revolution. If you are interested in new product cycles, but Joe is engrossed in the turning of his tumble dryer, a collaborative learning FUSION DAY brings you together for an interpretative hands-on experience. We help you get your heads round each other.

NPD teams are wary of freezing out end users. A washing machine that digitally optimizes water by sensing the weight of each load will be comprehended by some market segments. Purchasers may struggle to see the benefit of an internet-connected thermostat. Creative engineering must be understood by the buyer for ingenuity to achieve its purpose. SubstanceQI’s Collaborative Learning Fusion Day offers the opportunity to reshape ideas (including concepts and services outside of the technology sector) before moving to a formal research test phase.

Collaborate with potential purchasers of your product and then pitch to the consumer dragons. The heat is on when we ask them to put their money where your mouth is.

THINGS CHANGE : Things Can Only Get Better

The Secret Lemonade Drinker use to sing to the refrigerator. Now your Smart freezer may talk back to you. Are you trying to give up appliances or is it just one of those nights? As the Internet and the physical world get to know one another so consumer behaviour is changing. The information stream produced by The Internet of Things (IoT) will enable the systematic gathering of usage data. Customers are empowered to manage time and resources. A Smart car connected to online diagnostics is soon fixed, not on route to the garage.

The minds eye view of IoT is currently a blizzard of infotainment and funky wearables. When Wi-Fi coverage becomes ubiquitous many consumers, not merely the gadget-crazed, will have at hand a portal to the larger network. Potentially disruptive will be the connecting of homes to the wider urban realm. Electric cars could have the capability of Dr Doolittle: they talk to the traffic lights.

How to get your senior managers to understand the impact of IoT on the A to Z of a customer’s day? Persuade colleagues to get up close and personal with the customers. But the more senior you become the more your broad mind and narrow hips change places. The solution is SubstanceQI’s programme of re-engagement: RESEARCH SAFARI. Our clients accompany participants to relevant locations. This could involve joining the family during a car share (linking up with other users), or seeing in situ how Smart thermostats turn up the heat on traditional billing. Workshops take forward the surprises.

As the millennium approached the music industry got caught napping by Napster. Post-millennial times demand smash-the-mould research to steer past stereotypes. Households are not yet doing housework at midnight to benefit from the time of use pricing. One day you may catch the Secret Lemonade Drinker serenading with the dishwasher in the moonlight.