Lee Weinblatt, PTG’s Founder and CEO, was recently featured in the September issue of Online MR Magazine. In the article shared below, Lee provides his thoughts on the importance of real-world research preceding virtual research.
Let’s Be Real. It Could Triple Your Predictive Validity.
Virtual Research. Simulated Research. Conceptual Research. Whatever you prefer to call it, the genre is likely being used to accomplish a variety of critical business objectives at your organization. Consumer Insights teams across industries have come to rely on virtual research for everything from simulating product shelves and packaging to POP displays. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to appreciate about virtual research. Virtual is quicker, less expensive and incredibly flexible when a real-world research option is simply not feasible.
But now to the bad news.
An alarming amount of the virtual research that’s being conducted today is irrelevant because, sadly, it’s founded upon critical issues that could have (read: should have) been identified had real-world research preceded it. Let me share some examples.
PTG recently completed a study where customers of a QSR were asked to experience the drive-thru window while wearing our inconspicuous truVu audio and video recording eyeglasses. Additionally, PTG installed micro cameras that captured consumer engagement and involvement with the drive-thru promotional signage and virtual menu boards. Surprisingly, what the client learned as a result of this real-world research was the drive-thru signage that they were looking to optimize was actually being obstructed and never visible to the customers in the first place.
By simply moving the placement of the communications, the signage was no longer blocked and the client could now move forward with their intended research goals. In the event this communications research was conducted virtually, sure, the client would have garnered consumer feedback on the signage, however, the enhancements wouldn’t have had a positive effect on sales because they weren’t being seen.
We have identified similar cautionary tales as they relate to in-restaurant signage as well. For example, changing the angle of a display board or moving a ceiling drop to another location in a restaurant dining room can make the world of difference when it comes to visibility.
Real-world customer research has also provided invaluable insights when it comes to consumer behavior. For example, we have found that dynamic digital LED menu boards actually change ordering habits which is key information that fast food chains can capitalize on.
Real-world research has also played a pivotal role when it comes to in-store marketing. Our research has identified that how shoppers actually approach shelves, and related store displays, plays a huge role in creating effective signage and product guides. Do customers approach your products from the side? Do they bend down to look at items on the lower shelves? Do they engage with your promotions? A proper understanding of these real-world shopping behaviors has a major influence on how products ultimately move off shelf.
Without a doubt, there’s a place for virtual research – as long as you make sure you go into it knowing that what you’re about to invest in is based in real-world facts versus fiction.