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Changing world of consumers

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Traditional consumer research fails to discover what is really important to consumers in their everyday lives  
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Valuable insight into everyday lives

Why is lifestyle important in research as technology develops?

All too often when companies are conducting research into new technology devices they focus on the product itself: how it works, what it looks like, etc. These factors are clearly important but they do not establish how it might fit into consumersí everyday lives.

By fully understanding the lifestyles of their target customers and how they interact with technology in different situations, companies can better identify the needs of the market. Devices should be made to fit with a need. That, in turn, helps them focus their marketing efforts more effectively to maximise sales.

What insights are you looking for?

We are not merely interested in what people are doing or how many are doing it; we want to understand in detail how and why people use technology and how it influences their everyday lives.

The success of the iPad demonstrates why this is important. Most commentators said it would not catch on because they analysed the device, saying it was neither a phone nor a laptop and few people would see a use for it. At Intersperience we said publicly at the launch that it would succeed because our insight pointed strongly to a latent desire for just such a simple product that would fit with the lifestyles of families and be used in the home for leisure.

Others looking at the proposition could not see the market because they focused on the iPadís perceived lack of technical attributes: no camera, no USB port, etc. However, to the less technically literate over-25s, who are by far the biggest consumer group today and also the biggest buyers of iPads, this lack of complexity is its biggest selling point.

How do you do the research?

We are currently gearing up for a major piece of research, Digital Selves, which is a comprehensive attempt to understand how people live today with technology and how it influences their lives and behaviour.

This includes a four-week study in which participants will be asked to keep a comprehensive online diary about their technology usage. Alongside this we will be conducting longitudinal qualitative research which will involve people participating in a number of tasks that are often outwith their comfort zones and reporting back on how they feel. There will be face-to-face interviews at the beginning, middle and end of the period, each with a focus on different parts of their lives.

Another approach is an ethnographic study where we embed the research team in participantsí lives. The academic purpose of ethnography is to experience someoneís life without the researcher influencing the actual behaviour so, for instance, we might install cameras unobtrusively in peopleís homes (with their consent, of course) to see how they interact with each other and technology in various situations.

What application will the results of Digital Selves have for businesses?

All these techniques help us understand how people actually live their lives, rather than how they say or think they do. Observing how people actually behave in a range of real-life situations is more valuable than merely how they respond to a list of 50 questions on a clipboard.

With this kind of approach companies need to invest in exploratory research earlier in the product development lifecycle. This identifies customer needs, which then feeds into the creative and technical process.

This approach will narrow down the variables when developing new products much earlier, saving time and money. They can invest into what they know will work, not what they hope will work.

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