There is more than one best way to approach consumer research
Typically when we conduct research participants are screened by target age, region, habits, etc. We then ask these participants to self-report whatever it is we are researching. The thinking is that the people we’re targeting are the source of the best insights.
However, a consumer research company we’re in contact with, BrainJuicer, presents a different—and intriguing—research approach.
The approach is something like this: people are actually quite poor at judging what they will do, and are in fact better at judging what other people will do. Recent research reported by Science Daily “Others May Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves“, supports this idea for “overt behaviors”.
The second part of the approach is related, and deals with prescreening. If we ask research participants questions about other people’s behaviour (e.g., Do you think other people will buy this?), why would we prescreen? In fact, the argument favours the “wisdom of crowds” and that a sufficiently random group of research participants will generate as good, or better, research results.
This is an interesting way to look at research and it’s compelling. However, it does presume that the participants are able to see things from another person’s perspective. This might not work well for all research subjects.
Highly sensitive and intimate research seems to be an area where prescreening and self-reporting are desirable. Healthcare research similar to that conducted by LiveContact (a client of ours) is a good example. Can a randomly selected individual really understand the anxiety a cardiac patient feels about a particular treatment or drug?
Companies should be aware that there is more than one way to approach research. Determining the best way requires good judgment on a case-by-case basis.