MARINA DEL REY, CA: Pinterest, the content-sharing platform for images, video and similar material, believes going "outside the lab" to understand consumers can help supplement its broad range of digitally-led activities in this area.

Cassandra Rowe, a market researcher for Pinterest's global consumer insights team, discussed this topic at the 2016 New Face of Consumer Insights Conference held by the Institute for International Research (IIR).

"We can understand our product left and right, and try to iteratively improve that product, but we might be iterating on something that's the wrong answer," she asserted. (For more research tips, read Warc's exclusive report: At Pinterest, consumer research escapes the lab.)

"I believe if you go outside the lab and see how people are shopping in France, or the food they're eating, you might realise that you're working on A, when you should be working on X."

Like all digital platforms, Pinterest has the ability to seamlessly experiment with new features using techniques such as A/B testing. In this context, Rowe suggested, part of her role is to inject real-world examples.

"As a tech company, a lot of our engineers have been trained that one-on-one usability research is the only type of research that's valuable," she explained. "A big part of my job is to do that, [but] then also sprinkle in some other stuff."

These additional methodologies span in-home ethnographies, informal focus groups known as "Pinner dinners" and overseas travel to help her colleagues learn about foreign markets.

Last year, Rowe reported, she took roughly 15% of Pinterest's 700 employee base with her on at least one international trip – an approach she believes assists the company better understand its growing audience.

"The best way to build empathy has been face-to-face research, and that does mean a lot of travel," she said. "That's still the number one tool in my toolkit."

Data sourced from Warc