Market research is often more focused on what matters to the business than what matters to the customer – and therein lies a major problem for many businesses that profess to be customer-led, according to an industry figure.

Questions like ‘would you recommend our service?’ are simply about shifting arguably irrelevant NPS scores; questions like ‘what stops you living the life you want to live?’ are rarely if ever asked.

“A market researcher bringing inconvenient truths is more likely to find themselves in an argument about the methodology than an impassioned debate about innovative new ideas,” notes John Sills, partner and managing director at The Foundation, in a WARC Best Practice paper, Creating breakthrough propositions around inconvenient truths.

All that time and money expended every year on research reports, feedback surveys, and social media scanning usually ends up with leadership teams choosing safe options that everyone can agree with.

“They find reassurance in frenzied activity,” he observes. “Expensive research reports confirming what is already known, week-long creative sprints without any customer input, and over-analysis of data that leads to ideas that customers say they want in a focus group but would never pay money for in the real world.”

What’s needed, Sills argues, is a customer-led, immersive approach to proposition development, one that is “centred on experiencing outside-in perspectives in a way that has the impact needed to build belief”.

That means belief in the way in the way customers really do perceive the world, however inconvenient it may be for the business, and belief that there are new and better ways of doing things that can be valuable to both customers and the organisation.

Of course, none of this is achievable without involving customers throughout the entire process, from giving the initial insight to critiquing the final ideas.

It’s a notion that UK supermarket chain Morrisons took on board at a low point in 2014 when it was losing money and market share.

The inside view was that the brand’s vertically integrated food manufacturing made them distinctive, not something customers recognised.

But personal customer immersion – including the CEO speaking directly to customers – revealed that what they did value was Morrisons’ ability to make fresh food in-store, especially when they could see the evidence of it happening.

Building this into the supermarket’s proposition and marketing led to 14 consecutive quarters of like-for-like growth.

Sourced from WARC