Right Research for the Right Reason

I’ve been in marketing research for 30 years now, about 20 of those years spent on the ‘client side’ with various companies from television broadcasting, to healthcare, to online travel. One constant I have experienced during this time is that businesses often struggle with identifying what type of research to use in a particular situation. There is often a tendency to focus on what is easy and/or cheap or what the highest C-level is asking for. But, just because it’s easy or cheap (or being demanded by the CEO), doesn’t mean it will yield the type of consumer insights needed to drive both brand and product development.

One of my clients, Zillow understands this and has always sought to try to conduct the right research, at the right time, for the right reason. Zillow is a data-driven company and a success story of how you start with clear objectives and hypotheses and then the research design is built around being able to answer these questions.

Zillow always begins with objectives, specific questions they identified as being critical to answer in order to move the business forward. And Zillow always has a clear and explainable plan for how they intend to use the research findings. There is no research, for the sake of research or to answer “interesting” questions. Earlier this year, we got a call from Zillow with another question. Urban legend had it that their target consumer – “movers” – were literally movers and shakers in the brand world and that their moving behavior also impacted their purchase behavior. It was an interesting theory, and if true, could confirm the importance of this audience to other businesses and advertisers.

And so we designed a Mover Study to test this hypothesis. Ipsos conducted an online survey of more than 3,000 U.S. adults on behalf of Zillow and measured changes in purchase and brand usage among homeowners who had moved into their new home in the past 12 months (or were in the process of moving) and homeowners who had been living in their home for more than 12 months and had not moved recently. We went in with many hypotheses as to the categories that may be impacted (after all, those who have recently moved into a new home must buy kitchen appliances at a higher rate, but they probably don’t change brands of toothpaste at a higher rate, right?).

When we got the data back, the first thing the project manager did was to verify that the data were run correctly. We were hoping to validate at least a few of our hypotheses – but all of them?!? We were stunned. And as we started to go through the data we realized that Urban Legend was true – moves do prompt significant changes in purchasing behavior. It was a great client meeting. There’s nothing like having data that not only confirm your hypotheses, but can be used to demonstrate the appeal of your customer to potential advertisers. Zillow has since blogged about the study and additional findings from their study can be found in their infographic below. Zillow is proof that doing the right research for the right reason can drive your business – and it all starts with clear objectives.