What’s New In Human Insight Methodologies?

Girls in STEM Mentor jan Choudhury

by | 27 May, 2021 | Untapped Thinking

The world moving online over the past year has necessitated innovation in market research methodologies. With digital techniques already prominent in every researcher’s toolbox, there was a broader need to adopt and accelerate online methods that capture actual human behaviour and pain points in an agile way. Yet, as a company that uses such methodologies, it wasn’t easy to find them without our usual visit to major industry conferences. 

Yes, conferences moved online, which was great. Like ourselves, it offered industry practitioners flexibility as to when and how we attended but removed much of the human connection that comes with in-person events. 

Thankfully, the conferences (and new methodologies) have not lacked insight. Some strong case studies and fascinating panel discussions have taken place. Three overarching themes stood out for us from the past quarter conferences, with a main focus on the outcomes of the Quirks Global Virtual Event, 2021.

We need ‘Human Insight’ that is broad and deep.

The journey from Market Research to Consumer Insight to Human Insight was well underway before COVID struck. More and more businesses realise that they will only succeed when they put the people they serve at the heart of the propositions they are designing for them. There is a strong need to make human connections after the loneliness of lockdowns. It has proliferated the use of the word “human” throughout our industry, and as such, many companies are changing the name of their insight function to “Human Insight.” 

InsightsNow presented an interesting session recently. They talked about insight methodology capturing more human behaviour in context and holistically using AI or machine learning technology. Such techniques include immersion, ethnographic research, in-context diaries, the voice of the consumer, social listening, and capabilities like design thinking that describe need states and Jobs To Be Done. These have evolved from measuring emotion alone to uncovering empathy and the need to know the full context of the human experience. Challenges still exist in capturing this insight, however – for example, by summarising need states, where much of the context often disappears. Furthermore, we often see that this context and deep human insight is lost at the go-to-market activation stage. 

At Untapped, our templates from target profiling to ideal destinations to activation stories include that critical ‘Why’ behind each desire. It ensures that we can carry the full human context through the entire process.

Conference speakers also said a lot about the need for human insight to be broad (quantitative data) and deep (qualitatively rich). 

Big Sofa and PepsiCo led a great session and described the need for ‘Big and Thick Data.’ They quoted Tricia Wang, “To have impact, data needs stories and vice versa”. PepsiCo’s Human Eyes programme helps their employees get closer to the consumer, unveiling the stories, meaning and insights that data can’t see. Techniques, such as Big Sofa’s video capturing of real-life consumer behaviour and experiences, transforms data into actionable and empathy-building content to deliver on the ‘Big and Thick.’

A plethora of other case studies highlighted the innovation in technology to support “Big Qualitative”. Borderless Access talked about their project with Coke to probe the longevity of COVID related healthcare trends in Africa using Bot enabled WhatsApp interviewing. 

Streetbees also shared how their conversations provide data behind the shifting behaviours and sentiment by having consumers tell a story and upload a video analysed using AI.

Remesh (website link) showcased their online moderated (AI-driven) open-ended questioning on a topic. Other participants can view responses and vote on them within a given time frame to show their agreement. Remesh reports top-ranked responses. 

These examples represent a common trend in combining machine learning with human review to convert qualitative insight into data without losing its meaning. All of this was bound to happen in the future, but the industry can agree that the global pandemic significantly sped up the launch of these insight innovations.  

Clients are continuing to seek agility.

The need for agile research tools isn’t new. Clients have been asking for faster quality insight at a lower cost over the past decade or so. Our very own OnTap Connect and Innovation Gym products aim to respond to this need for agility, providing innovation support and short, focused high energy coaching when and where clients need it.

DIY Tools

DIY tools are responding to this need for increased agility with machine learning becoming increasingly sophisticated. An innovative example for teams looking to run their own quantitative research surveys is SurveyMonkey. They announced their new capability, ‘Answer Genius’, that predicts the question, auto-filling as you input the text. Their Survey Score evaluates the quality of your survey by combining questionnaire length and type. And AI-Powered Insights uses machine learning and advanced statistics to identify like-minded segments of respondents, allowing you to then filter your data according to these groups.

However, insight managers often don’t want to go it alone. They want support from agency partners, partly due to remotely working teams. That leads nicely to the third theme.

Clients want honest and trusted agency/research partner relationships.

Clients want to build closer and stronger relationships with their research and innovation partners due to several factors; the fast-evolving tech-enabled platform offerings, the increased pressure on business needs and research budgets, and lockdown isolation reducing client team interactions. 

A panel discussion chaired by Digsite with Nestle, Shutterfly and Bonduelle revealed the following client needs:

  • A need to sharpen technical skills; “I want a research partner, not a tech company.” They need capability and strategic help to transition between the technology and how it will help them answer their business and research questions.
  • A “co-creation mindset” – the ongoing collaboration and communication throughout projects with trusted advisor suppliers. Honesty on behalf of the research partner as to what they can and can’t deliver is critical to building this trust.
  • Ensuring confidentiality when researching online, especially for highly strategic upstream projects

Lean Insight Methods 

All client research functions need to support their business with actionable insight and recommendations. In today’s climate, that means thinking differently and not always having to conduct more research to unearth fresh insight. 

Untapped’s Asset Mining product can help increase your return on past investment. We guide teams to mine through existing insight with fresh eyes to untap new understanding. As Rob Morgan recently said in our Innovation Gym Webinar, ‘knowledge spillovers allow you to reacknowledge existing innovation insight’.

The challenge for agencies and partners is to continue to build closer trusted relationships. A further challenge is to meet client needs of delivering broad and deep human insight in an agile way using all the progressive technology currently in development. 

In the months ahead, we hope that client teams can start to return to some face to face working. But in the meantime, we must reflect on the insight innovation achievements throughout a global pandemic as the above examples highlight. 

Watch our OnTap Innovation Gym and Connect video to discover how we work through your innovation challenges together.

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Written by Sally Kemkers