Three Key Lessons from the Field

Qualitative research in-store can produce more than just answers to discrete research questions, it can act as a flexible method to unlock insights that delve beneath the surface of a consumer’s interaction with a product, brand or fixture – and uncover their thoughts and actions towards this subject in-the-moment. We believe that conducting these contextual research activities allows you to build an empathy that ultimately benefits the actions taken to address the opportunity at the centre of the research effort.

The following three lessons in conducting observations and intercept interviews can help to maximise the impact of this type of work.


 1. Stop…reflection time

Iteration is key to good design, and the lesson is just as applicable to research.

When structuring field research for observation and intercepts, consider a pause period, whereby you can step back and take stock of the responses. Starting to analyse the information during this stage can help you to refocus on areas for deep-diving, or new topics worth exploration in the final days of fieldwork. This is particularly valuable for disseminating understanding among teams, where one person is not privy to all of the conversations or observations.


 2. The ones that got away

It’s interesting to observe those who interact with your product or brand, but consider watching the behaviour and talking to those who reject and do not engage at all with the research subject.

This is a powerful way to uncover what is behind a lost opportunity for a category, brand or product. It provides context, and helps you to form hypotheses around some of the behaviours you’re noting in observation, to validate in conversations with shoppers.


 3. Loosen up on the discussion guide reigns

Each project has its own objectives but there is something to be said for letting intercept interviews deviate from a specific question set to follow a shopper’s stream of consciousness. After all, going down the rabbit-hole and asking ‘why’ just one more time can peel back a layer of perception that reveals something game-changing.

Taking a pause to reflect – as discussed in lesson one – is a good opportunity to ensure that you have sufficiently addressed specific questions required and to find that balance between prescriptive questioning and behaviour-driven enquiry.


To chat about qualitative shopper approaches, journey mapping and other consumer-centric research techniques, write to us at

3 Lessons in Dating (and Survey Writing)

Things seem blissfully simple in the beginning. You just get each other. You share a vision for the future and it’s going to be everything you hoped it would be. This is the beginning of a beautiful…survey.

Writing a survey is much like trying to meet your soulmate, amiright?

Stick with me for a moment. Dating and survey writing are much more similar than you probably think. While there are many ways a relationship or research project can go horribly wrong, there are three common lessons that are well recognised in dating, but are often overlooked in the equally ‘pupil-dilating-heart-racing’ thrill of survey writing.

Lesson #1:

Don’t get catfished. Are you sure you know who you’re talking to?


Outdated pictures. Filters. Photoshop. When you aren’t meeting face to face, it can be hard to be sure if the person you’re speaking to is indeed who they say they are. If you’ve ever seen the movie Catfish, or the TV spin-off of the same name, you’ll know that there are many reasons to be afraid.

Knowing who you’re talking to is equally also important in quantitative research, and so often overlooked. Won’t somebody please think of the screenouts! Far too many research reports conclude with sweeping generalisations about the entire market for a product or service while neglecting to be clear about who exactly the results are referent to. Even worse, this research design issue can be so subtle that even the researcher themselves may not be aware of the profound implications for the project conclusions.

Once the final questionnaire is complete, a good habit to get into is to write down the exact description of the respondent you are speaking to. For example, “We interviewed non-industry, main or joint grocery buyers living in Australia, aged 18-64, who have purchased and consumed cheese from a supermarket in the last 3 months, and purchased cheese from a specialty cheese store / deli in the last 12 months.” It is often surprising how long this list can get once you stop to write it down. The consultant and client can often recall the top-line that we spoke to those purchasing cheese for self-consumption, but qualifiers such as the latter “specialty cheese store” requirement tend to be forgotten once a report is written, and their natural incidence is very rarely provided in a debrief. If we were testing a new supermarket retail cheese offer in this survey, this one screener may have narrowed our results to a very small sub-set of the cheese buying population. While this may in fact be the intended population of interest, it’s extremely important to keep the screen-out data here, to be able to report back the natural incidence (i.e., “Of the 30% of cheese buyers / consumers we spoke to……..X, Y, Z”) so that the business can make an informed decision about return on investment.

Lesson #2:

Don’t give too much away, too soon. Don’t TMI your way out of a good thing.


We’ve all been there. The awkward silence of one person having moved a bit too quickly in the relationship, and the other not knowing how to respond. There’s a natural order to how we progress in relationships of all types; the kind of information that we choose to share upfront, and then the information that we gradually leak into conversation as we become more trusting of the other person, such as the 500 item-strong collection of Mariah Carey paraphernalia that you insist will be worth something one day.

Surveys are similar. The way that you choose to provide respondents with information has a direct impact on the answer that you elicit. I previously authored an article for AMSRS on the placement of key metrics in surveys; to summarise, best-practice would have them placed at the beginning of the survey to ensure they generalise to the broader population by not biasing the respondents ‘natural state’ based on the other questions they complete prior. Applying this logic to questionnaire writing more broadly, researchers need to carefully determine the correct ordering of survey questions to ensure that subsequent questions are not biased by information or prompts given by prior questions (i.e., ‘priming’). For example, asking about a respondent’s favourite cat memes immediately prior to asking them to rate how funny they believe the internet to be in general.

It’s not always about giving away too much though and sometimes you can give away too little. There’s no point testing take-up of a packaging innovation by placing it on a fake ‘shelf’ in a survey if the client is planning on spending millions on an educational campaign about the benefits of the new format. Here you might keep a sub-cell of respondents to test take-up post exposure to the anticipated campaign. This way the client can understand the varied response of non-exposure, and exposure to the campaign.

Lesson #3:

Put in the hard yards in. A solid foundation can help you with tricky situations down the track.


What ever happened to courtship? The world of dating these days can be fairly brutal, often involving selecting potential partners from a list of over-filtered selfies of people in athletic wear, standing in front of mountains, holding a puppy and inevitably wearing a pair of sunglasses (everyone looks good in sunglasses). We use overly simplistic selection criteria to choose our potential dates, rather than spending the time to really get to know the person. Superficiality aside, when asking couples in long-lasting relationships about the key to their success, they all have in common a mutual understanding built upon friendship that can withstand all of the unexpected situations in life.

As in dating, quantitative researchers should work to build a solid foundational relationship with their analytical techniques. While a research project might not end quite so dramatically, the impact on a client’s business can be disastrous if unguided analytics steers decision-makers to an incorrect, or sub-optimal solution. Market research as a field in particular has few barriers to entry, with many researchers from disparate disciplines acquiring a working knowledge of quantitative method on the job. While a hands-on knowledge of how to run a ‘driver analysis’ (for example, which buttons to press to get a result) generally goes unquestioned, I’d challenge quantitative researchers to at least understand the conceptual fundamentals of what’s going on behind the user interface of analytic software packages. It’s this understanding of the technique that will help you write better surveys in foreseeing the way that the questions will come together to be used in multivariate analytics, and assist you with selecting and justifying your choice of technique as a consultant, as well as being able to confidently present the results.

These lessons can help you avoid commonly overlooked errors of survey writing, or perhaps even to find love*.

*The author regrettably has no formal qualifications, expertise or even sufficient life experience in dating and all suggestions relating to the quest for love should be taken with a grain of salt, or ignored entirely.

Author: Amy Tildesley, Founder of Harvest Insights, a food & beverage market research consultancy helping brands design the products and services that their consumers want and need.


See Through Your Customers’ Eyes With Journey Mapping

“Why on Earth have they done that?!” said everyone ever, facing that too-common occurrence of dealing with a frustrating product or service that just isn’t working ‘how it’s supposed to’.

We’ve all been there.

The challenge for businesses is not just in gathering meaningful insight to understand its customers well enough to avoid the above situation, it’s also in telling their story to everyone who needs to hear it, so that all parts of the organisation who play a role in the overall brand experience are on the same page.

Internal data provide pieces of the puzzle but there’s no substitute for taking a step back and seeing the big picture – the end-to-end customer journey, through their eyes.


That’s where Customer Journey Mapping comes in.

Essentially, this involves researching the customer’s experience with a brand, specific product or service, or even a particular occasion. The output of this exercise – the Customer Journey Map – tells the customer’s story by depicting key ‘moments’ or touchpoints with the chosen focus area and calls out their motivations, feelings and thoughts along the way.

The power of this approach is that it is driven by the customer’s reality and goals, rather than that of the organisation, introducing fresh thinking and challenging internal preconceptions.


While no two customer journey maps will be identical, they will generally contain:

*Phases of interaction or episodes

*Customer goals

*Touchpoints with the brand, product or service in question

*Thoughts and feelings experienced along the journey, particularly reflecting pain points and moments of delight


Conducting a customer journey mapping exercise provides a launching pad for better design, positioning and marketing. Here’s why it’s so powerful:

*Divergent, qualitative techniques can expose previously unknown opportunities for improvement and innovation, and highlight areas for further exploration

*Convergent, quantitative research techniques can size these opportunities to help prioritise design or improvement projects

*Most importantly, it helps everyone in the team to empathise with their customers on the basis of reality, rather than an internal and sometimes siloed perception.


If you’d like to chat more about customer journey mapping and how it could assist your business, feel free to contact us at