great insight isn’t just about what people *said*

I watched the next episode of Mary Portas: Secret Shopper last night.  Not really a good idea because she winds me up, but this week’s focus was on the sofa industry and since one of the agencies I work for has a client in that sector I thought I’d better tune in.

What really set me off this time was Mary’s assertion that customers don’t want Sales.  All the people Vox Popped for the programme (and Mary too) merrily declared that they were sick of sales and didn’t believe the deals anyway.

Well, that’s what they said.  Like researcher Simon blogged the other day (in a post so good I’ve now linked to it twice), what people say and what they do are often different. People are inconsistent, frequently irrational and their underlying motivations are difficult to uncover.

I’ve done quite a few furniture focus groups myself recently.  When you ask people what they don’t like about furniture stores practically the first thing they talk about is the never ending sales.  But dig a little deeper and ask them about the stages they go through in buying furniture and stage one is nearly always “see who’s got the best deals on”.

This is where the difference between DIY research and using a trained researcher really becomes apparent.  If clients start to think all they need to do is head down the local high street with a video camera for some Insight, they’re going to come to considerably different conclusions than an experienced researcher might.  And yes, the same applies to agencies sending the account exec out to do some quick and dirty research as pitch fodder.  As an old boss once said to me, “good researchers tell you what people meant, not what they said”.

Mary Portas persuaded CSL Sofas to move to a ‘best price permanently’ pricing model with no sales at all.  I’d love to know how they’re planning on shifting their slow selling stock…

3 thoughts on “great insight isn’t just about what people *said*

  1. I was also surprised to see tham dropping Sales and agree that that the consumer research was weak but think that the potential success of her strategy may have more to do with the brand positioning and use of their existing assets.

    The “always best price” positions CSL apart from their competitors as a challenger. Success relies on the sales team to explain this to the customer and explain why it is a great promise. From the show the sales team seemed to be pretty well trained so could be able to do this.

    It would be interesting to do some pre and post sales consumer research to see if the CSL sales team are able to change consumer thinking but you could argue that the these results are in the figures.

  2. I agree with the sentiment for sure. But the other side of the argument is whether they only ‘see what deals are on’ because everybody is always in sales.

    It’s a risky move, and I guess it’s success will depend on whether people see the ‘everyday’ price as actually being good value.

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