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Why in-the-moment research matters?

Doctors and smartphone

It is critical for companies to understand what drives the decisions of customers at their point-of-purchase in order to differentiate and grow their business. However, more often than not, these decisions are affected by a myriad of rational and emotional factors and it is challenging to reveal what actually happens at the tipping point when someone makes a decision.

As Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman explains, people sometimes make seemingly odd and irrational decisions that can be heavily influenced by emotions and do not always follow the rules of rational thinking.

Kahneman divides thought processes into System 1 and System 2; a “dual-process” of the brain. According to him, System 1 is largely based on intuition and emotion (emotional thinking) and is more immediate. System 2, on the other hand, is logical (rational thinking) and more deliberate. Most of our decisions are primarily based on System 1 as System 2 processes only come into play when we need to make difficult decisions. That said, it is worth noting that humans are able to convert a System 2 process into a System 1 process, through regular practice.

This model is important to market researchers as it offers an interesting explanation for why customer choices cannot always be predicted using rationalized models and why certain brands do better than others even though they do not necessarily provide better products. Conventional market research methods fall short in furthering deeper understanding since the measurement (interview) often takes place long after the occurrence (purchase). After the time lapse, respondents usually take a more logical, rational stance to their decision. This over-rationalization and generalization sometimes leads to loss of important information that is required to understand the nuance of drivers of decision-making to give companies the competitive edge they need.

For example, it has long been assumed that physicians are largely rational in their prescription decision, relying primarily on hard facts and objective data, however, this is often not the case. Over time, prescribing drugs becomes more of an intuitive process (System 1) rather than a rational process (System 2), based on years of experience. In exploring how these decisions are really made, it is important to identify when and how rational and emotional processes come into play.

In a recent case study SKIM conducted for a well-known pharmaceutical company, we deployed a mobile survey app to better understand the physician’s thought process at the point when the prescription is written; extracting insights in the moment. Using this approach, we were able to overcome the element of lost time and get closer to the moment of decision-making. This led to completely new insights and recommendations that would not have surfaced in more traditional approaches.

The survey could be easily and quickly accessed by a physician directly following a patient consultation as it was designed to take no longer than five minutes. By keeping the survey short, physicians could answer questions after seeing each patient relevant to the study. The study consisted of two main parts: 1) a voice memo during which respondents were asked to record their reasons behind the decision; and 2) short, closed questions to gather relevant patient data.

The mobile research revealed the extent to which patients were involved in treatment decisions. In many cases, a patient declined a treatment or came prepared to challenge the physician on his or her choice. While the team was aware that this sometimes happened, the high frequency of occurrences was a novel insight that warranted further research into what patients wanted and how to convey this information through DTC (U.S.) or sales reps (EU).

In conclusion, emotional decision-making is real – we are seldom fully rational in our purchase decision. Oftentimes it is not an issue that would severely impact insights obtained from conventional methods. However, if you believe that customers are not telling you the full story in market research; if they are over-rationalizing their own behaviors, or if you expect there could be more factors (e.g. emotions) guiding their choices, in-the-moment mobile research may help you uncover new insights.

by Robin de Rooij and Eelke Roos, SKIM

About The Author

Robin de Rooij

Robin de Rooij is a Senior Project Manager and New Venture Director at SKIM, a global market research firm specialized in choice and decision making behaviour. With more than 5 years of experience at SKIM, Robin has performed research in FMCG, Telecom, Services and Technology industries. He is able to translate business problems into customized research solutions and does not shy away from new approaches. With a pro-active and entrepreneurial spirit, Robin is currently also preparing for SKIM’s expansion to Asia, bringing SKIM’s high quality research solutions to this rapidly growing market. Robin has a Master’s degree in International Business & Management at the University of Groningen.

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