How Can Consumer Atttudes be Measured Without Surveys?

I was in a multi-team meeting a few months ago where there was a discussion about consumer research. The director of the analytics team said, “I hate surveys!” Silence ensued. “It’s because I’m in analytics. But really, when was the last time you’ve taken a survey online?”

The room erupted. “I take them all the time,” someone said. The other members of my research team exchanged glances. I wonder what my research director was thinking. As everyone else started discussing the value of online surveys, I asked a question in general. “Then how do you measure consumer attitudes?”

Her comment was, obviously, her own opinion to which she is entitled, and I think our team’s current structure separates the the disciplines of analytics and research into two autonomous groups. This prompts many in the agency to think that behavioral data is in the realm of analytics, while attitudinal data is in our research team’s front lawn. Outside of our agency, these two fields are rolled up into one discipline.

Taken aback by the comment, especially being part of the research discipline that rests on understanding consumer attitudes, I started to wonder if behavior alone can explain consumer insights. Researchers know that there is a huge discrepancy between attitudes and behaviors, and often bemoan this fact. What people say or feel doesn’t really predict how they will behave, which is why it so important to measure these two aspects and determine where they differ. The relationships between intentions and actual behaviors are imperfect, and by understanding both sides, we arrive at a well-rounded view of the consumer. Many times, outlining the discrepancy between the two and distinguishing their relationship uncovers brilliant opportunities for a brand.

I won’t necessarily rule out surveys as an important attitudinal measurement tool, but rather, I think pursuing the integration of both attitudinal and behavioral data, especially in a field such as marketing/advertising, will allow us professionals to uncover insights that remain latent within consumers. And potentially construct that elusive bridge between what people want and what they buy. If we’re able to uncover people’s desire through attitudinal metrics, we can predict what they are apt to buy, and if we look at behavioral metrics we can deduce their inner wants.

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