Blog Post

Meaningful Insights In a World of Constraints

Author: Christy Tchoumba

No doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has had sweeping effects on many aspects of life – where (and how) we work, where (and how) children learn, how we as consumers behave. 

While the end is starting to feel like it’s (maybe, hopefully) in sight, many clients I’ve spoken with lately are still challenged with how to carry their insights forward – how to get the information they need to plan for the future or tackle the work that was put off when the virus initially emerged. At the same time, many are also facing new constraints. They’re stressed to the max and wondering how to deliver answers to the questions their brands need while dealing with a reduced budget, a category that might be constricting, a smaller team or even all of the above.  Not to mention concern over ensuring they maintain the high levels of quality expected. 

If you’ve ever felt this way, the good news is that there are straightforward steps we can take to design a study that allows you to work within these new challenges and still bring answers back to your team. The design may look and feel a bit different than what you initially or ideally considered, but there ARE ways for research to co-exist with constraints. At Aspen Finn, we feel fortunate to have a number of levers we can pull to help our clients follow their customers’’ journey and get to the outcomes they need, even amid the new limits they may be facing. 

Lever One: The Upfront Discussion

Global pandemic or not, one thing that hasn’t changed is that the best research starts with a meaningful conversation between us, as your insights partner, and you. During this conversion, we dive in to understand the business challenge that prompted the research, as well as the specific questions that need to be answered for your brand. Is it a quick read on a new trend you’ve been seeing or something foundational to support a more significant strategic undertaking? How are the analysis and implications going to be used to move the business forward? Armed with this information, we can develop an optimal design to get you just what you need.  

Lever Two: The Approach

Our strategists have a robust tool box of approaches at their disposal. With so many methods and tools available, and most of them in-house, we have the flexibility to meet your consumers where they are and interact with them naturally, at the depth you need, within the timelines you need it. Whether it’s a three-day discussion board, a 30-minute text-based chat, a combination of diaries and video interviews or a longer-term community – rest assured your objectives will be covered and your questions answered.

Often we’ll plan for multiple phases of research, but the timeline or budget ultimately just doesn’t allow for it. The depth of the tool box comes in handy in these cases, too, as we can provide a simultaneous hybrid design. Rather than a digital discussion followed by online interviews, for example, we can conduct the discussion but layer in video responses to make sure you still get the authentic voice of the customer. Or we can build in pre-project homework, so that we have additional context before completing a series of interviews. There are a host of options we can design to deliver the most complete consumer story within your constraints. 

Lever Three: The Work 

With COVID-19 challenges at play, a newer lever has emerged. And that’s helping our clients reduce the scope of the work by sharing some responsibility for the execution. While we always want to be a strong partner and take the load off you as much as possible, these days we are occasionally finding ourselves needing to think creatively with our clients about how to get it all done. For example, our team may take the lead on recruiting, set up, and guide design, but then we split responsibility of moderating with you. Or, our team does all the heavy lifting of setting up and executing the research, but you observe the groups or board and write the report.  We’re happy to support however we can, while recognizing budgets don’t always allow for us to do it all for you.

Lever Four: The Respondents

We can also adjust the size of your respondent base to make the project more efficient. We’re fortunate at Aspen Finn to have access to a large and diverse panel, so we can identify and engage just the right participants. And, because a great amount of the work we do is qualitative, we don’t typically need huge base sizes. This may be an obvious one, but reducing the number of people we speak with almost always has a significant impact on pricing. So whereas budgets may have supported a N=40 person activity in the past, we can often manage with smaller base sizes and will be sure to recommend optimizing project scope to the minimum we need for success.

Lever Five: The Deliverable

The final lever we can pull pertains to the deliverable. Our strategists strive to match the deliverable to how you plan to use it. Maybe the question you need to answer is something more straightforward – you just need a quick read on how consumers feel about this topic, so you can bring an informed perspective to an internal meeting. In this case, maybe you don’t need a full report, but just a topline summary. Or maybe you need to plug some insights into a broader report you plan to deliver, so we’ll just hand off the key findings for you to incorporate. Or maybe you are presenting a full debrief and need the complete consumer story to share, with lots of quotes, videos and other insights to bring the consumer to life and give your stakeholders something memorable. In that case we deliver a full report, one that makes you look like a rockstar to your internal teams. Consulting with you on what information is needed and how to deliver it is just another way to make the project work for you.

No doubt about it, COVID-19 has affected our worlds and the role insights play.  But by pulling the right levers, a strong partner can ensure you and your brand get the authentic consumer stories you need to move forward with confidence.