Video Research - A Way Foward for The Industry, Written by Andrea Geeson, Voxpops International
Transforming the stereotypical image of the market research industry and its workers is more difficult than organising a few seminars and relocating social functions to trendy establishments, as we recently discovered at a rather flat research congress. Typically regarded as a dreary figure with a clipboard that hassles you when you attempt to go about your business, market research is in desperate need of a make over. Reinventing or at least attempting to keep up to date with changes in technology are demanded, not just to keep research as accurate and accessible as possible but in order to attract the best potential employees to the industry.
One area that looks set to take the research industry by the horns and run havoc through pre- conceived notions of the profession is video based research. Traditional paper studies are being increasingly pushed aside by developments in technology and the rise in internet and email questionnaires. However, perhaps the most exciting upshot of recent digital advances is the increased speed of downloads and the ability to compress video clips into a manageable size.
The ease of use and accessibility of digital equipment from digital cameras and PC and Mac editing software and the variety of different formats that footage can be delivered on from intranet and internet, CD Rom and DVD means that video research has taken huge leaps from the days of VHS and television presentation. Employees, from CEO to assistants can now get research direct to their desktop, and because the research videos can be edited to include music, graphics and cutaways the resulting research can be more appealing to the growing MTV generation than the librarian connotations/image of written reports.
Video research, rather than ‘dumbing down’ data, can enhance the findings. Professors in social anthropology are turning to video to because it allows them to analyse emotional content and make sense of people’s perceptions. Filming people’s responses adds depth to what might otherwise be fairly non descript answers. By capturing facial expressions, body language and emotions, video can unearth responses that can be lost in translation in more traditional practices.
Being bombarded with a plague of market research surveys at every turn clearly does not work, how many of us ignore internet pop ups and delete email questionnaires? People cannot edit their thoughts into 25 words or categorize their feelings to match three typically unspecific tick boxes. Video allows them to articulate their views without restrictions. Form fatigue and endless tick boxes have clouded the industry for too long. Like any other industry, market research, who should know better than anyone, needs to constantly re-develop its practices to hold the ever diminishing attention spans of the time-starved public.
Using video generates a higher response rate not just because of its novelty factor but because video research makes people think their views are being taken seriously. Being approached by a film crew is exciting, besides the obvious 15 minute of fame appeal, as it allows people to climb onto their soap box and vent their frustration, knowing that company directors or product developers might see the footage. People are more inclined to say what they think, because they feel that people might actually be listening to their responses.?
Many companies spend colossal sums on advertising and branding but how many marketing departments know what their customers look like, where they shop, what they eat and drink? Only video research allows you to see the inside of their living room and the colour of paint on their bedroom wall. Big Brother and the avalanche of reality television programmes have changed the public consciousness towards the camera. Filming has become more acceptable now every aspect of our lives has become documented in a television series. The reality stars of the research world are crying out to be discovered and can be found on every street corner, shopping centre and playground. Children’s views in particular can be difficult to disseminate from written responses but place them in front of a camera and watch them, and your research project come to life.
Witnessing a shopper’s journey around a supermarket or seeing segmentation studies that allow visual comparative analysis between different customer groups can inform marketing strategies and it is simple to integrate digital video clips into more complex qualitative studies to highlight particular trends or illustrative more pertinent findings. Even if only a fraction of the footage is used the rest can form part of a bigger research project.
Converting market research into a digestible and essentially concise format is the biggest challenge the industry faces. The most detailed and thorough research is useless if it is trapped in an inaccessible or lengthy form. The findings of a market research study should be a call to action and unless people can understand the results market research is failing in its role. Listening to what customers have to say is a good idea in practice but do we have the time to attend endless focus groups? Video is the next best thing and thanks to modern technology the footage can be viewed immediately or edited to include only the relevant answers, making it fit with the demands of the modern day worker.
If a picture tells a thousand stories then video research is worth a million paper based customer surveys. By making the most of the visual materials we have available we can not only increase response rate and facilitate better interaction with respondents, we can also start to change peoples’ perceptions of the industry and improve the future of market research.