No matter what kind of product a brand is looking to refine, market, promote, launch or re-launch at some point it is time to consider the individual features and benefits it offers and how they apply to different people.
In an age of information brands need to get the amount of detail given about each feature of a product just right in order to foster a feeling of knowledge without them feeling overwhelmed.
Many factors come into play at this point. For example the number of features that you are asking your potential customers to grasp, the applicability of those features to different groups, the desire for each feature and general market understanding of the product overall. Of course, let’s not forget brand reputation and trust.
Take your Google account for example: most understand what it’s for, the functionality that they want from it (easy browsing, emails and connection to friends etc.) and know the brand well. However it has proven very difficult for Google to get us to appreciate the power of having lots of different functions in one place — Google is embedded in our minds as a place to search for information and that product feature is so valuable we don’t want to consider any others.
Acceptable levels of information
Giving consumers lots and lots of detail about your product can be very tempting, adding in lots of different features which you feel will be beneficial sounds like a brilliant idea as well. But, when the product doesn’t sell and a quick chat with one of your front-line staff reveals that they don’t even understand properly how it works, you have a real problem!
Humans have the capacity to decipher lots and lots of detail, when motivated to do so. But if there is a large choice of products and a large range of features within each product then the brain (without us even noticing) will dismiss those that require a lot of cognitive effort in order to make the choice more manageable. Using heuristics consumers manage information at an acceptable level.
This is a bias known as ‘anchoring’ that good research as well as product design endeavours to avoid (for a healthy reminder of this and other cognitive biases take a peek at this summary).
Fixing the problem
Having identified that there is a potential issue with the complexity of information/number of product features you are offering, what is the best way to resolve this issue?
Your product is developed and in market so coming up with better ways to communicate the features has got to be important: considering taking out some of the features to make it easier to comprehend has to be up there too. But removing features that you know the consumer benefits from seems extremely counter-intuitive and is potentially risky.
In this case you’d use a combination of qualitative and quantitative insights to guide the right decisions. A traditional market research study would now undertake a lengthy, expensive round of research to explore all the details of consumer opinions about the current product. But you are already the expert in the product and its features. Instead, consider running a more agile research process that incorporates iterative design improvements into existing features.
What you need to do now is to first get a clear evaluation of the product features, the information that is being communicated about them and an assessment of which are most important and appealing to your current and (importantly) potential customers. You need to know whether to take that dicey decision to change features before you delve into your communication strategy.
Combined Online Quant and Qual
Running a quantitative survey is a quick and simple way to test the market and for a really well-rounded view you should consider the inclusion of a sample of your front-line staff to be able to compare their knowledge and understanding with that of the consumers (you may well reveal higher or lower dependency on these staff than you expected).
Once you have the results from this quant you will be able to see that (as your initial chat with your front-line staff member hinted at) your consumers aren’t complaining about each feature, they are just bewildered once you put them all together and the decision making process needs to be made simpler to improve your conversions.
A good quant survey can help you prioritise what’s important and why and now is the time to elicit some qualitative insights that can guide your new communication strategy.
Another benefit that arises from this kind of combined methods approach is that you are able to quickly get in touch and invite some specific survey respondents to take part in the qualitative work (you can ask them to opt in at the end of the survey as you know you have the follow up planned). This limits the time and also the cost you need to invest in your qualitative work.
Now you can develop your communication strategy with fresh input from your consumers and have a complete understanding of the detail, language and content that is persuasive. Only a good qualitative investigation will reveal this — but good doesn’t have to be large, long and cumbersome. A good strategy could be a selection of online one to one sessions with staff, customers and potential customers, or a 3 day continuous dialogue with one large expressive group via a bulletin board.
In this case, combining your qual and quant and running your quant first has facilitated a much more focused agenda for the qualitative discussions so this gives much more flexibility to the approach that meets your needs.