Insightful, Actionable Market Research

Enquiries : 01788 823500

← Older posts

Client testimonial for our work on fashion brands

Posted on by nanda


I was delighted with this testimonial after working with the Head of Insight at Initiative marketing agency on a couple of recent fashion related market research studies:

‘Nanda took time to understand the challenges we faced in a customer research project. She was full of ideas and enthusiasm. Because of this, and her skill and professionalism, the project was a resounding success, meeting all its objectives.’

Both projects involved working with the target audience – women interested in fashion and jewellery – to understand more about their purchasing habits and what they’re really looking for when it comes to aspirational brands and styles.  Using focus groups and assisted shopping trips to bring them in contact with new products and designs to touch and try for themselves provided both clients with some really powerful feedback on what the UK market is looking for.


Posted in Added Insight Company News, Client Testimonials Tagged , ,

7 deadly sins in market research

Posted on by nanda


Common market research mistakes

7 common research mistakes

These days more people are taking a DIY approach to market research.  With many online and mobile survey tools to hand, it can be tempting to ‘have a bash’ yourself, and this can be fine for a quick straw poll or simple study where the findings are not business-critical.

Yet for a serious consumer insight study, a more professional approach is needed if you’re to avoid some classic mistakes.  Here are a few common ones, where people have thought ‘how hard can it be to ask a few questions?’ and got into hot water by not realizing how method, timing, audience and several other factors have a huge bearing on the quality of feedback.

7 things you can easily get wrong

Wrong reasons: Sometimes people think ‘we need some market research’ when in fact this isn’t the answer at all.  Some basic desk research may be all that’s needed, without resorting do undertaking an expensive study from scratch.  I was once asked to undertake research into the UK’s top 50 call centres – but a bit of digging uncovered an off-the-shelf study which answered most of the necessary questions at a fraction of what it would have cost to contact all those companies cold.

‘Wrong reasons’ also means conducting market research simply to prove a point, eg: that your new product concept is brilliant.  It’s wrong to go in with a fixed agenda – the idea is to have an open mind and obtain honest feedback, not try to make the answers fit what you want to hear.  So think about whether research is really the answer, and if you are doing it for the right reasons.

Wrong method: I’ve often seen cases where the chosen approach is all wrong, leading to poor response rates or bland, inconclusive results.  For example: asking senior business people to fill in a ‘tick box’ online survey with lots of closed questions, when what you want to know is far more complex, eg: an understanding of future needs, or their detailed critique of a new product.  In this case an in-depth qualitative approach, allowing time to listen to their concerns and issues, may be far more respectful and appropriate, yielding more insightful feedback.  Consider which method is right for your particular respondents.

Wrong timing:  It’s vital to think about when your study will actually hit, for two key reasons.  Firstly, to ensure an engaged audience – you don’t want to hassle them when they may be tied up, eg: trying to interview busy shoppers just before Christmas, or accountants at year end.  Secondly, timing can be important if it might affect the results – imagine how different the findings may be if interviewing employees straight after a round of redundancies, or conversely just after big bonuses!

Wrong audience:  OK, so it’s unlikely that you’d interview entirely the wrong people.  But a common error can be missing out a key body of opinion.  I was once asked to undertake an email survey about the customer experience of a computer helpline.  The flaw in the plan was that this would never have reached those whose PC had gone bang or whose issues had not been resolved, as they’d be unable to read the email at that point!  Yet these were the very people whose feedback would have been most useful.  So do make sure your chosen method attracts a representative range of respondents, and doesn’t exclude a vital audience.

Wrong incentive:  Participants in any study need to know what’s in it for them, ie they need some kind of incentive to give up their time.  Yet it’s surprising how often the wrong incentive is offered, or indeed not offered at all.  People often don’t mind filling in a quick pop-up survey for free, but if it’s a laborious questionnaire or lengthy appointment, this will rarely wash.  You may have to factor this into the budget, as these days it’s often necessary to offer hard cash or at least a prize draw, though for business respondents a charity donation or a summary of the findings can also be appropriate.

Also be mindful that not offering an incentive for a self-completion questionnaire or online survey can impact who takes part and in turn the results – it can tend to lead to polarized responses.  By that I mean lots of ‘Mr Delighted’ or ‘Mr Angry’ types who feel motivated to respond, as they want to tell you what’s so great or so awful, but may miss out those in the middle who can’t be bothered as they were neither thrilled nor let down.

Wrong questions:  Obviously content is king here.  A classic mistake is trying to ask too much.  Stay focused on what you really need to know, keeping other questions as extras if time permits.  Yet do ensure you ask contextual questions eg: if the respondent is married, has been in the job for long, or other relevant details which could prove useful when analysing the results.  Other common errors include leading the witness and asking questions in the wrong order.  Keep your questions open, not leading, to ensure you get an honest steer.  And structure the flow such that any delicate or personal topics are left until rapport and trust have been built, rather than jumping straight in.

Wrong researcher:  It’s tempting to think you can do all this yourself – we’re all used to asking questions, we’ve done it all our lives.  Yet there is skill in asking the right questions in the right way, teasing out interesting nuggets that someone may not want to admit, delving more deeply into a seemingly throwaway comment, or managing a group of participants when one opinionated respondent talks more than the rest.  There is also skill in interpreting the themes and patterns emerging, especially when the feedback can be copious, fragmented, or contradictory – working out what it all means for your business can be a major task in itself.

So consider when it’s fine to undertake the project in-house, and when it would be more appropriate to use a specialist.  If budget limitations preclude this, at least try to match the researcher to the audience as best you can.  For example, an inexperienced junior may be ill equipped to interview a busy CEO about the future of the sector, yet perfectly able to interview some of your customers.

Hopefully being mindful of these pitfalls will set you on the path to good market research practices and ensure you get the insights your business needs.


Posted in Qualitative Research Tips, Recent News Tagged , ,

Market research client testimonial – healthcare

Posted on by nanda

South Warwickshire Foundation Trust

added insight recently undertook qualitative market research, providing us with valuable insight into customer needs and how a new offering might best be positioned. We were very happy with the work – right from the beginning Nanda’s experience helped guide the project and challenged our thinking, and it has delivered exactly as per the brief – Thank you for all your guidance, which has really benefited the project.

Managing Director, SWFT

Posted in Client Testimonials, Recent News

Market research & the over 50s – five things Wiki won’t tell you

Posted on by nanda
Over 50s market research

Market research and the over 50s

I’m surprised more market research isn’t done among the over 50s. Having now crossed that threshold myself I have an increasingly vested interest. Maybe it happens, but judging by the lack of understanding of our needs by some brands, I have my doubts.

Take just one example – washing my hair the other day. With two blue bottles on the shelf, there I was in the shower with water blurring my increasingly short-sighted eyes, squinting desperately to try and see which was the shampoo and which the conditioner, due to the impossibly tiny writing. A task made harder when, funnily enough, it’s the one place I don’t tend to wear my glasses! Were I ten years older with a bit of arthritis, I’d also struggle with the hard to open lid, a second basic design flaw.

Sadly, as we get older, our hair starts to thin, and this product boasted ‘age defying properties’ so was definitely targeted at people of ‘a certain age’. Yet having failed on two basic counts, it struck me that the company must do little market research to understand our needs. I’m now tempted to jump ship to a brand that does.

This lack of understanding is surprising, as surely taking time to explore the needs of the older consumer can pay dividends. I imagine the 50-plus market can be a lucrative one, as we’re likely to have more spending power, and have reached a time in our lives where we feel we’ve earned a few small luxuries so don’t mind splashing out occasionally.

I’m also flummoxed, as interviewing this audience is not a dark art – it requires a few extra considerations, but an experienced interviewer shouldn’t find it difficult. For those who haven’t tackled this kind of market research, here are a 5 tips and pitfalls that may not appear in the guide books or on Wiki:

DO factor in plenty of time: The older/retired respondent often has time at their disposal and enjoys a visitor or a chat on the phone. They can be happy to talk for England, digressing into tales of their grandchildren, holidays or other irrelevant stories.   A business person can be more succinct – realizing time is money and you both have a busy day – but this audience may not, and can find it rude if you keep chivvying them along or cutting them off. Clients can have a long list of questions and short timescales, putting you under pressure to race through the discussion guide, yet with this audience it’s particularly important to build in sufficient interview time for building rapport, explaining the process and allowing for some digression.  Where timing is tight, it can be good to outline the ‘rules’ up front, explaining what’s expected, apologizing in advance if you have to bring them back on track, due to a busy schedule or a desire to hear from others (if it’s a group setting).

DO consider any special needs: Some might be hard of hearing, sight impaired or unable to get up long flights of stairs etc. Ensure any focus group venue is user friendly, and that, again, you allow enough time to go through questions slowly and have stimulus material in a readable size

DO give lots of reassurance: These days many of us are ‘marketing savvy’ and understand the concept of focus groups and research. But more elderly participants sometimes don’t, or may lack confidence and understanding of what you are after. So they can feel they aren’t providing the kind of riveting nuggets you’re looking for. In such cases it’s good to give lots of encouragement: ‘That’s really useful … that’s exactly what I’m interested in, thanks’ …

DON’T assume all over 50s are the same: There’s often a massive difference of opinion depending on life stage, upbringing and circumstance. Eg: an active retiree of 60 could well feel very differently to a 75 year old in poor health. So it’s important not to lump all over 50s together and assume they all have the same needs, yet this is often how a research project is designed. Instead your focus groups or range of interviews should factor in some different subsets by age and/or other important demographics depending on the subject.

DON’T ignore an important audience: While many older people are now confident internet users, an online survey can sometimes exclude an important subset of non-users. If considering online, decide whether it’s appropriate for your particular target audience, or if going this route alone may risk missing out a vital body of opinion. Sometimes a multi-mode approach can work well here.

Bearing in mind these tips should help you get the most from your market research. And if my shampoo makers are reading this, please take note, then I can hopefully enjoy a much better hair washing experience in the future!

Posted in Qualitative Research Tips, Recent News

Qualitative vs quantitative research? Ensuring the right approach

Posted on by nanda

When discussing a market research solution with a potential new client, especially one who doesn’t often buy research, their starting point is often: ‘We need a questionnaire’.  Unaware of the different tools and techniques available, and the difference between qualitative vs quantitative research, they can tend to think the key is asking as many people as possible as many questions as possible.  Instead, a better starting point is: ‘We need to understand X, how can we best find this out?’

The quantitative approach

Sometimes a survey involving a large sample that captures responses from many different kinds of people can be the right way forward.  It’s often useful when needing to:

* Obtain basic data on ‘who, how many, what or when’ type questions (eg: how many times did you visit a supermarket last month?  Which ones?  What was your average spend? etc)

* Compare and contrast answers by gender, age or other subsets

* Be confident that the numbers are statistically sound, eg if needing to build a robust business case, calculate market share or percentage take-up, etc

Yet this kind of method is not always appropriate for tackling other types of issue.

The qualitative approach

This is more about aiming to map the mind rather than the population.  While smaller scale, often taking the form of one-to-one depth interviews or focus groups, it can be useful when needing to:

* Understand answers to ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions (eg: Why did you choose X?  How do you feel about Y?)

* Get to the bottom of important issues and barriers, such as why customers may be unhappy, why people choose particular brands, how to best position a new product, etc

* Uncover insights into human behaviour and emotions by using more open questions and indirect techniques than are possible in a ‘tick box’ type survey (eg: Tell me more about X … how might you feel if you had to do Y?  What makes you say that? etc)

Clients with little experience of qualitative research can sometimes question its validity when smaller numbers are being interviewed.  Yet there becomes a law of diminishing returns by overdoing it, as the same issues and concerns tend to arise repeatedly after speaking to a good audience cross section.  Plus one can always adopt a mixed approach, beginning with qualitative work before quantifying the key findings.  Or a study may start with a broader survey, but then drill more deeply into pockets of interest through follow-up qualitative interviews among a certain subset.

So it’s important to first consider the kind of questions you want answered without being too prescriptive about the method.  Having an open mind and allowing research experts to guide you towards the right approach rather than jumping to the conclusion that you need to ‘go large’ should ensure you get the insights you need.

Posted in Qualitative Research Tips, Recent News Tagged , ,

Confidentiality in market research: Anonymity and why it’s important

Posted on by nanda

Confidentiality in market research: To be or not to be … anonymous.

When interviewing, maintaining anonymity of participants can be a contentious issue.  Here we outline when and why confidentiality in market research is important.

For a lot of consumer research, finding out exactly whether it’s Mabel in Mablethorpe or Bill in Bilton who feels a certain way about a product is immaterial.  What most clients really want to know is the kind of person who loves their brand, may buy their new product or will be the highest spenders, etc, eg: ‘working women over 40 who dislike cleaning’.  So it’s the profile of different audiences that can be of interest, not the actual names of respondents.

Yet business-to-business research can be different.  Especially in cases where a company has a small number of valued clients and wants to understand their views on a new product or service, they are often dying to know exactly who said what.  This can be for reasons such as:

  • The natural instinct to be defensive about negative feedback, eg: ‘I bet it’s Joe Bloggs who was so damning, but it’s not my fault, it’s only because we’ve stopped giving him a discount’
  • A wish to try and put it right if they’ve had criticism about poor service, product quality, etc
  • A temptation to follow up with a sales call if reaction to a new idea is particularly positive

In such cases researchers need to be really clear up front with clients about the rules around anonymity, and indeed the benefits, in order to manage expectations.  (This is especially true for companies that are not used to buying research and might assume there is no issue with naming names.)

Allowing respondents to speak in complete confidence to a market researcher has the following advantages:

  • It can enable them to speak openly and frankly about issues they face when they may not do so otherwise.  For example customers may tend to deal with the same sales reps and find them far too pushy and not good at listening.  Yet customers may find it incredibly difficult to state this openly when interviewed, knowing they have to face those reps every week.  Conversely, allowing them to speak in confidence, the client might learn some valuable lessons about the sales culture that might not otherwise have been forthcoming
  • Some information can be highly political or sensitive and while a respondent may be happy for a researcher to report an unattributed comment such as ‘I think the market is tough for delivery firms right now’ they would not want it to be widely known that ‘We, Company X, are struggling’
  • Others can be concerned that a report with their name on may be taken out of context or end up being made public and portrayed as the official view of the whole firm, when it’s only their personal opinion
  • Anonymity can improve participation rates, as some will not want to take part if they are to be named, yet find the chance to get things off their chest confidentially quite therapeutic!
  • Optimum response rates can be especially important if the pool of participants is limited – one would not want to risk lots of refusals and start running out of names, so anything that minimizes this hurdle is helpful
  • Some can be suspicious about research being a thinly disguised sales call.  Allaying these fears by explaining that they will not be named personally can put them much more at ease

So for all sorts of reasons, anonymity can yield far better results and is normally the favoured option.  It’s also worth explaining to clients that surely the key aim of the study is to gain overall understanding, learn how to improve a product or service, etc, not to get too hung up on exactly who said what.

If they are adamant that they would like results attributed to individuals, there are some ways to try and keep everyone happy, including:

  • Keeping anonymity as the default, but explaining to the client that if a respondent does flag a major issue, you’ll ask if you can identify them and relay their concerns back, so that someone can get in touch and try to resolve the problem
  • Explaining to participants that you would ideally like permission to attribute their answers, but will respect their wishes if they prefer not to.  Saying: ‘We can decide at the end if, after everything you’ve said, you’d like the interview anonymised’ can be enough to get them to relax and open up, knowing that you will honour their instructions afterwards, either way
  • Offering a part solution, eg saying: ‘If, at the end, you would like certain comments kept off the record’ can also help, as often people are happy for the bulk of what they say to be attributed, but may have made just a few inflammatory comments that they wish kept anonymous
  • Giving the client reassurance that you will provide some context to comments made, eg that you will not just report: ‘Your clients said X’, but that ‘large IT firms tend to think X’ or ‘those who have regular contact with you feel most aggrieved’, such that feedback is meaningful

Despite these workarounds, handling confidentiality does still need the utmost care.  For example, if the pool of participants is quite small and some are named and some not, it’s vital to mask responses in such a way that it’s not obvious who said what by process of elimination, eg: “IT firm X said this.  We only interviewed two IT firms and firm Y were happy to be identified, so it must be Joe Bloggs Co.”

To be or not to be anonymous – this can be quite a hot potato requiring a lot of up front consideration to ensure clients feel you have their interests at heart, yet respondents also feel valued, respected and positive about contributing if asked again.  The Market Research Society Code of Conduct provides further guidance, but hopefully these practical tips from a hands-on practitioner will also allow you to feel better armed and enable you to keep everyone happy!

© Nanda Marchant – added insight ltd – March 2015

Posted in Market Research News, Qualitative Research Tips, Recent News

Testimonial – Phoenix IT

Posted on by nanda

Phoenix logo


I was delighted with this recent feedback on a business-to-business qualitative market research project we undertook for this national IT company:

“Nanda has recently undertaken qualitative research for us to gain insight into our client’s needs. Despite being tasked with tight timescales and interviewing senior people in the hectic period just before Christmas, without them being paid for their time, she achieved this on time, to spec and the work was to a high standard. I found Nanda to be highly professional and very experienced, and would be happy to recommend her company, added insight in future.”

Alistair Blaxill – Managing Director – Partner Services Phoenix IT Group plc

Posted in Client Testimonials, Recent News

Shopper Research: Uses and Abuses

Posted on by nanda


In-store market research can yield fascinating insights into shoppers’ behaviour and how they view your brand.  Yet to gain the most from it, there are some vital considerations, which we touch on in this article.

People find it fascinating when I explain the kind of tools and techniques we use in shopper research to get underneath the skin of how consumers behave in-store and unravel what they are really thinking and feeling about certain products and brands.  For example we may ask them to wear special eye-tracking specs to see what grabs their attention and how they are comparing and contrasting products, or may ask them to replicate a purchase and observe how they navigate and behave, interviewing them afterwards to understand what was going on in their minds.  We might intercept buyers in a Tesco aisle and ask for their critique of the shelf and how easy it is to shop.

Whatever the exact approach, such research can prove extremely powerful, as consumers have an array of stimulae right in front of them and can get fairly close to their real shopping experiences.  Plus we can compare behaviour in different types of store, or on different kinds of mission, from browsing and topping up to distress buying.  This enables us to more accurately unpick what is really going on in their minds and in their trolleys at point of purchase, beyond the top of mind answers they might give in a focus group or depth interview.

However, there are some pitfalls and considerations, as it’s not always easy to set up this kind of study.  A few to bear in mind when planning such projects include:

The necessity to gain in-store permissions: Some clients imagine we skulk in the aisle with a voice recorder and pounce on unsuspecting shoppers, or pretend we are shopping with a friend and take them, undercover, to the right fixture.  This is not professional practice and it’s far better to get the retailer on-side and gain their permission, especially as we may want to take photos, video footage etc

Asking the client for support with set-up: Others imagine that the research agency sets everything up with the retailers.  Yet it’s the client who has close relationships with category managers and the in-store connections to gain permission for the study.  Conversely the agency may struggle to know whose door to knock on, and will not have the persuasive gravitas of a big brand.  Often there is a quid pro quo for the retailer, ie ‘if you let us do this research you can also ask a few questions, be party to some of the insights or get paid for the privilege.’

Pre-recruitment considerations:  In most cases, it’s necessary to pre-recruit participants, and this needs to be factored into costing and resourcing.  Very few shoppers have the time to drop everything for half an hour or more the moment they are asked to participate.  Generally a recruiter is positioned in the relevant aisle, intercepts shoppers buying or browsing the right products and asks them to return a day or two later if they qualify to take part.  By contrast, a short ‘intercept’ to ask just a few questions can be done on the spot.

Ensuring sufficient respondents of the right calibre:  If doing a study about biscuits or detergent, chances are that it would be fairly easy to recruit a cross-section of the right candidates, for example ‘older people who buy X brand’.  Yet if it’s a more obscure or infrequent purchase such as cod liver oil, the chances of there being sufficient footfall in the right aisle are much lower.  This needs to be thought through in advance to avoid drawing a blank on the day, by perhaps recruiting from other places or not making the selection criteria too difficult, eg ‘participants must be vegetarians under 25 who buy cod liver oil twice a month’.  This may seem an exaggeration, but believe me, clients can ask for some rather ridiculous and impossible quotas at times!

Allowing time for analysis:  Clients are obviously eager to get quick feedback.  Yet it takes time to bring together the rafts of material created from interviews, photos, different stores, etc and develop the underlying story.  Beyond just ‘he said this, she did that’, what it all means for the brand,  what should be the strategy going forward, etc all takes some percolating and interpreting to ensure the most meaningful insights are forthcoming.

Bearing these elements in mind when taking on a shopper project can hopefully ensure a quality job, and make the life of that footsore interviewer standing by a chilly supermarket fridge all day with a clipboard so much easier!

© Nanda Marchant, March 2015

Posted in Market Research News, Qualitative Research Tips, Recent News


Posted on by nanda

Client testimonials are always greatly appreciated so I was really pleased to get this positive feedback on a fascinating project we did on cycling around London, involving depth interviewing, analysis and reporting:

“I have just been through the whole report and it is amazing, the client will love it.  It made we want to get on a bike!

Thank you for the effort with this, I really appreciate how you stuck with it and love the little pictures.  Thanks again.”

Stephanie Shaarwi, Director – SPA Future Thinking


Posted in Client Testimonials


Posted on by nanda

Focus group moderation for Acacia Avenue International has led to this kind feedback …

“Nanda helped us moderate an intensive project with a week’s worth of back-to-back fieldwork. We were thoroughly impressed by how quickly she integrated herself into the project, with very little time for a briefing. She was a pleasure to work with and an excellent moderator in front of our clients.”

Posted in Client Testimonials ← Older posts