Thomas Berger said it best: “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” In market research, this is an axiom we follow every day—but often, we neglect one of its implications.
Most market research focuses exclusively on posing questions and collecting answers. While undoubtedly valuable, sticking exclusively to this strategy neglects a substantial pool of knowledge. Collecting data on the questions users have about a given product, company, or feature can provide a substantial advantage over traditional, answer-only market research.
Perhaps the ‘average’ person, taken as an individual, won’t ask the most insightful questions. Yet, that doesn’t make the questions we ask less valuable - especially for businesses looking to understand us as modern consumers. For technology retailers, particularly those looking to predict purchase behavior and product adoption, questions are the holy grail. All humans are naturally inquisitive. We thrive on asking questions and receiving answers. As a result, when the latest iPhone launches we head to Quora, Reddit, Facebook and Google in droves to ask ‘“Is the new iPhone model worth the money?” and “What’s the difference between the iPhone 8 and iPhone X?”.
On an individual basis, these questions won’t change the world. But collectively, when hundreds and thousands of potential customers are asking the same questions, en masse, they can offer incredible insight into the potential success of the products and services we sell to them.
How? Well, firstly, we must acknowledge that the nature of questions can highlight both positive and negative sentiment within any consumer group. On the positive side, questions have the power to show off our thirst for knowledge and an eagerness to learn about new products e.g. “How will Hive reduce my energy consumption?”. Yet the darker side of questions reveals our vulnerabilities and our doubts, e.g. “Is it really worth committing to a 36-month contract the size of a small mortgage to get the iPhone X?” Or “Why have Bosch just released voice activated speakers in an overcrowded marketplace?”. When the same questions begin reoccurring on huge scales within our target customer groups it can often be an indicator that something is awry.
However, for all the promise these questions offer, they also create two key challenges. First, collecting this data and harvesting it into something meaningful can be a challenging process—especially in the wild west of the world wide web. That said, it’s worth investing time to collate this information if we wish to grasp the initial thoughts and feelings of the people we hope will consume our products and shop in our stores.
Secondly, if we really want to make business decisions based on consumer-generated questions, there is a need to dig deeper into the motivations and rationale of the questions they are asking. The best way to do this is actually by asking more questions - but this time by reversing the roles and asking some questions of our own that allow consumers to explain the root cause of their original questions. The importance of posing our own questions and returning them back to inquisitive consumers is something Instagram recognized recently, releasing the new questions feature within Stories. By adding ‘some’ structure to the chaotic cacophony of questions, Instagram has enabled brand users to collect feedback on products, services, stories or even crowdsource ideas from the very people that were hunting for more information in the first place.
Here at Voxpopme, we take this structured approach to questions to another level. Once trends are spotted, it’s possible to pick a very specific audience, ask open ended questions and collect self-recorded video feedback from key audiences. This reveals the true motives behind consumers original questions, allowing them to freely express themselves on camera. Modern video analytics platforms also automatically theme and sentiment code this content to ensure you can quickly see both positive and negative sentiment toward any chosen subject.
In a simple three step process, users can collate the collective questions that consumers are asking, send questions back to consumers through social media channels and surveys (video or text) and ultimately compile a rich understanding of the drivers of purchase decisions and product preferences. The driving force of the final output lies in the questions themselves. So, if you’re a retailer, pressured to wow customers, excel at sales and deliver products they really want, start with consumers’ questions and dig deeper with your own to ensure you spot the next product you wish to stock is a unicorn… or destined to under perform.
Dave Carruthers is Voxpopme’s CEO, and an entrepreneur with a proven track record in developing high growth technology businesses. With over 10 years experience in developing technology businesses, Dave has a unique understanding of the market from both a technical and commercial perspective.