POV: Listening isn’t enough—The Growing Importance of Watching Consumers

Traditional qualitative research has always relied upon conversations and probing consumers for deeper understanding of the “why” behind various beliefs, perceptions and behaviors. Whether it is in depth interviews, focus groups or discussion boards, the qualitative branch of marketing research has often benefited from the deployment of projective techniques to try to get what is truly important from consumers. In this era of big data, we certainly can add to the researchers tool kit by adding behavioral data that helps describe the transactions, the what. Whereas qualitative can tell us more about the why. But our recent work has fueled a stronger belief in the added value of observational research to augment and enhance the qualitative tool kit.


Recently, SLRG has worked extensively with a number of clients in the sports and travel categories by deploying in store or on-property observational research. Observing consumers in their natural environment, as an adjunct to traditional qualitative research, provides an even deeper layer of understanding the how by seeing the ways in which the consumer shops or engages in the actual environment. For retailers, such work has shed light on what works from a visual merchandise standpoint. For teams, leagues and sponsors, the approach has revealed what activation elements at a sporting event are most resonant. While travel marketers can see how consumers interact with others, gravitate towards various amenities or utilize public spaces.


In an era of where there is such a proliferation of information, it is still critical that consumers have brand awareness and perceptions about those specific brands that they want to engage with, and that they still have a primary place for traditional and new media. We as a firm have become strong advocates and believers in the fact that point of sale, visual merchandising and other influential factors, at the moment of truth, can really drive decisions and sway the consumer’s preferences as to what they originally contemplated. Observational research reveals many aspects of this reality that survey research or traditional qualitative modalities can not.


SLRG typically conducts these on location immersions, where a team of professional researchers integrate traditional qualitative location based research with robust observational assessments of purchase processes, consumer behaviors at resorts, or behaviors at a sporting event. Let us talk about how this can become an important strategic advantage for your research tool kit in understanding consumer behavior in the year ahead.