Two Quick Stories
Several years ago, I observed a friend return home from the grocery store and upon unpacking her groceries exclaim, “Oh no! I got reduced fat peanut butter. I hate the taste of reduced fat peanut butter. Ugh. I need to start reading labels instead of just grabbing things off the shelves.”
Around the same time, I took a trip to my childhood home, and observed my father as he searched multiple store websites comparing peanut butters, looking at price, unit price, store promotions, ingredients, nutritional value, texture options, etc.
So why am I exposing the peanut butter purchasing habits of my closest friends and family members? Because I think it’s fascinating. We all make decisions and act on these decisions in vastly different ways, despite often times sharing many similar experiences. And now, I get to advise companies on how to deal with this madness? Well, don’t mind if I do.
A Journey from There to Here
Virtually every conversation I have nowadays, with strangers and old friends alike, inevitably turns toward, “So what do you do? Where do you work?” Well, I started my career as a secondary education psychology teacher, convinced I could change the world. I spent hours researching my discipline and planning lessons so my students could conduct experiments and discuss the finest intricacies of human behavior. Were my students interested? Many of them. Was I changing their world? I’m not so sure. So I decided to stop explaining research and psychological phenomena to those who weren’t equally fascinated by it, and start conducting it for those who depend on it. Two years and a master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology later, and I am settling into my new job as a market research analyst.
One of my greatest learnings from graduate school was that the most successful, engaged employees can see a clear connection between the work they do on a daily basis, and its contribution to the mission of their company. This seems logical – so what is it about working in market research that motivates me to plant my roots, so to speak?
Each day, the work that I do helps clients to innovate with impact and make critical business decisions. It’s creative work that also allows me to put my perfectionist neuroses to good use. And ultimately, it helps ensure that everyone can purchase what they need and want, when they need and want it (think peanut butter).
Further, the future of market research will be evolving, largely under the influence of the millennial generation – my generation. Our recent paper about Device Agnostic touches on this. It’s forecasted that smartphone users will increase to 70% in 2021. Due to this, we’ve had to formulate innovative practices for survey experiences to complement various screens. For example, our R&D found that respondents spent over 50% more time reading swipe-able concepts designed for a mobile device than a traditional concept designed for a PC. This can be attributed in part to respondents being more engaged with the stimulus on mobile. This sharp increase of smartphone users is just one indication of how research continually needs to innovate to satisfy shifting trends.
Millennial consumerism is changing what people buy, how people buy it, where they buy it from, etc., and I think it’s important to be able to apply my experiences to work and vice versa. When I carry out concept tests, or products tests, or identify shopper behaviors and trends, it is often for brands that I consume. Not only is this insightful for clients, but it’s insightful on a personal level – I get to learn about myself, my peers, my family, and the reasons we behave in similar or different ways. And most importantly, I can tell my job is important because I am continually able to see tangible results in the real world from my day to day work, and that serves as a great motivator.