In this globalised economy, giving the customer exactly what they want is more important than ever before. The massive number of competitors present in every market has made getting ahead of the game and anticipating consumer needs, even prior to their own cognitive realisation, crucial to success.
For the last decade brands have been operating on an Experience Economy basis, an economy in which consumers feel satisfied and happy with a brand just by having a positive experience in relation.
The Transformation Economy, however, suggests that offering pleasant customer experiences is not enough, consumers want to feel a sense of personal achievement when making a purchase or engaging with a brand, and they are willing to pay to for such transformations. Alongside the obvious research objective considerations then the other burning question for market researchers is, what does the Transformation Economy mean for participant engagement?
The Experience Economy and Market Research
In market research, we are used to having different projects that often involve testing new products and CX journeys at different stages of the customer journey, and the process usually goes:
Stage 1. Research Objectives — The client (internal or external) comes to us with their research objectives
Stage 2. Research Methodology — We advise on or devise the optimum methodology to achieve these objectives, be it via panel, community and/or dedicated project
Stage 3. Research Process — The research process commences, from recruitment to analysis
Stage 4. Insight Reporting — We present the insight to the client, explaining the good the bad and the ugly
In the Experience Economy, participant engagement is broadly reliant on two elements; the experience of the research process itself, from communications to UX, and the incentives offered whereby participants observe the value of their opinions.
The Transformation Economy Participant
Firstly, let me expand on the nature of the Transformation Economy participant, they crave something authentic and meaningful — some call it the ‘soul’ of the business — to which they can connect on the most personal level and, in doing so, undergo an actual sense of transformation. ‘Transformation’ or self-actualisation can include the desire for community, personal achievement, social transformation, purpose-finding, creativity, and accountability to name a few.
The (continuous) engagement of the Transformation Economy participant relies on the planning and execution of Stages 2, 3 and 4 in the market research process above.
Stage 2: Research Methodology
When devising the project methodology consider transformative participant creativity and the desire for community. Group methods are not always appropriate but where possible collaborative approaches, as well as ongoing insight panels and/or communities, allow for greater social transformation. Be sure to use a variety of feedback formats to inspire imagination including text, visual, audio-visual and interactive.
Stage 3: Research Process
During the research process itself, it’s preferable to have the client actively engaged. If we are running a live chat for example, we always encourage our clients, specifically those who are involved in the resulting brand/product development, to be present to hear feedback and ask questions ad hoc if necessary.
If you are sure that your client will be present at the time of the session, letting participants know is always a good idea. It speaks to their transformative need for accountability. But be careful with your approach — done wrong, even with the anonymity of digital research, it could have the opposite effect, i.e. be intimidating leading to stifled feedback. It just needs a casual mention, not only in the session but also at the point of the recruitment.
Stage 4: Insight Reporting (and follow-on client action)
Always, always, always feedback to participants. I can’t emphasize this enough in relation to the transformative participant. Explain how their feedback is being used; how it will improve the product or service in question. And do do this as soon as possible to maintain engagement (in the case of panels or communities) / encourage repeat participation (in the case of ad hoc projects). In this way, the transformative participants’ need for personal achievement and purpose-finding is fulfilled. They know they have been heard; their opinions are not only valued but will result in positive action.
A final note… Incentives
I can’t conclude this blog without mentioning participant incentives in the Transformation Economy. Whilst I agree that a voucher in exchange for research participation is still well received, if you can go one step further it will pay dividends. Consider samples of another product/s packaged specifically, a special coupon or even a signed letter, letting respondents know that their opinion is changing a product that will be sold to millions. These dedicated additions are far more likely to make participants feel that they have achieved something special than an anonymous voucher alone.
It is difficult to believe the economy can change so fast, but it is imperative to keep track of it, and the days where we conducted a survey and then forgot about the participants are long gone. It is time to let the participants know we are paying attention to them, hearing them and most of all, that as the customer of a brand they are the most important part of it, indeed it would not exist without them.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.