Listening Back to the Future of Consumer Research

Listening Back to the Future of Consumer Research

David Wiesenfeld, Vice President, Insights & Innovation, Nielsen Online

What’s driving all the excitement and energy around “listening?” After all, the basic notion of “listening” – observing and interpreting naturally occurring consumer behavior – is not new. In fact, when the first professional market researchers sat in consumers’ living rooms and talked with them about their lives and their needs, they were engaging in “listening” as much as they were asking questions. These pioneers were literally the eyes and ears of their organizations. They brought consumers to life in ways that inspired a host of innovations, improving consumers’ lives and their businesses in the process.

Market research evolved to become a valuable source of information to drive decisions, even as the connection between researchers and consumers became more distant. In a slightly ironic twist, the social media revolution and 21st century technology afford modern-day practitioners the opportunity to routinely engage in “old school” hands-on research – or at least a form of it- by listening to consumers online.

P&G and Nielsen conducted a series of parallel studies to understand how learning gleaned from “listening” to online consumer conversations compares to survey-based findings (“asking”), and how to best use these techniques going forward.

What We Heard

Findings from “listening” and “asking” were largely consistent. Most importantly, in every case, “listening” added to our understanding in important ways, meaningfully enhancing insights, and sometimes suggesting a different course of action. For example, a survey on cloth diapering identified cost savings and sustainability as key reasons for using cloth diapers. Listening took this further, revealing the passion cloth-diapering moms have for “CD’ing,” and connecting it to core values around parenting. This led to a fundamentally different, more holistic understanding of cloth diapering than was available from survey results alone.

Listening consistently provided valuable depth and context… adding listening to the picture was a little like going from an X-ray to a CAT scan. Furthermore, listening revealed the level of consumer passion or intensity associated with a specific topic. Understanding “intensity” can be just as important to winning in the marketplace as understanding size or “magnitude,” suggesting the need to pursue survey-based and listening-based approaches (or hybrid methods) going forward.

To learn more about the findings from this joint study and how to use listening to enhance your understanding of the marketplace and bring consumers to life in your organization, please join us for a complimentary webinar on Friday, June 26, at 2:00 p.m. EDT.

Register for the Listening Vs. Asking webinar.