Consumer Conversations Reign Supreme for Achieving Empathy

On RBDR, an established podcast famed for providing marketing insights you won’t find anywhere else, Discuss’s CSO Jim Longo discussed the importance of empathy, the impact of COVID-19 on market research, and the evolving relationship between qualitative and quantitative research.

(For more insights from Jim Longo, please see the first part of this series entitled “The Golden Age of Qual is Here”). 

Empathy has become a buzzword over the last couple of years, and with good reason.

All but the newest marketers will recall the recent, industry-wide “agile” movement, which emphasized adaptability but also created something of an echo chamber (a concept Discuss pioneered 5 years ago for insights professionals).

By contrast, empathy encourages researchers to not only acknowledge but seek to understand a consumer’s pain points. To examine a product or service and ask, How can we meet these needs? Are we under-meeting them now? Or are we not meeting them at all? represents a distinct break from the business-objective types of research marketers have been using for decades.

Likewise, the advent of video and recording has brought the consumer to life, particularly in the boardroom. Video clips in PowerPoint presentations lead to “look-up moments” – when executives get their nose out of their papers and pay attention. To hear consumers describe pain points and needs in their own words renders their concerns real.

Video interview

The COVID-19 pandemic made everything exponentially faster, but truthfully, the consumer has been evolving for years. In the past, many organizations thought of the consumer as a static entity; COVID-19 has initiated dialogues that invoke customer closeness, forcing insights departments and marketers to consider how consumers are different today compared to even a few months ago.

There’s also an industrywide re-evaluation of the quant-qual relationship, creating a new depth of synergy. Quantitative research projects are increasingly followed by qualitative “deep dives” to understand the data.

In fact, qualitative research is increasingly performed both pre-quant and post-quant as separate research projects. About a quarter of all research in 2020 was hybridized, incorporating aspects of quantitative and qualitative research, and half of all research involved some level of qualitative analysis (whether hybrid or standalone).

This is the opportunity the industry has been looking for – even if COVID-19 was the unfortunate catalyst. The advent of empathy programs and customer closeness has sparked conversations about the importance of relating to consumers rather than simply talking to them. Pre-2020, organizations were monitoring consumer behavior on Twitter and Facebook, but there was no conversation. Today, that’s no longer true.

Empathy is a way for companies to show they care. Personalized questions, based on individual pain points, lead consumers to think stronger of brands because consumers lead the conversation. In making consumers feel heard, researchers also encourage consumers to become de facto brand ambassadors who share their positive experience with others.

To learn more about how to start a Consumer Connects program, see our free guide: “6-Step Guide to Operationalize a Consumer Connects Program.


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