In qualitative research, we’ve long sought out not only representative participants, but those who would engage with us. To that end, many of us have developed screening batteries for things like articulation and/or creativity.
With the introduction of online focus groups and bulletin boards, new mini-batteries were created to make sure that people were comfortable with the technology and/or comfortable communicating in written form.
In the Summer 2010 issue of QRCA’s Views magazine, there was an interesting piece entitled “Emergent Consumers and New Product Development” by Praveen Kopalle, Ph.D., Tuck School of Business Administration. What caught my eye was the discussion of the value of Emergent (vs. Lead) users.
“Lead” users we’ve often heard described as early adopters. They are also people who might know what their needs are going to be, often because of their high level of involvement in the category; as such, they’re often ahead of the curve of the mass marketplace in being able to articulate these needs.
“Emergent” consumers are described differently. Dr. Kopalle’s studies lead his team to conclude that there were consumers who had an almost “instinctive” ability to understand new concepts – even if they weren’t highly involved in the category – and that findings using these types of consumers in new product development lead to products which were more likely to be adopted by the mainstream. There are eight questions in this “emergent consumer” battery, items such as:
- “Even if I don’t see an immediate use for a new product or service, I like to imagine how people in general might use it in the future,” and
- “When I see a new product or service idea, it is easy to visualize how it might fit into the life of an average person in the future.”
While I find this battery very intriguing, I’m a bit concerned that the only people who could answer all these questions confidently/accurately are those with lots of new product/service experience. Maybe this is a new variant of “Prosumers” that has been discussed over the past two years or so. And maybe my concerns are unfounded.
Today I was watching a TED talk by Chris Anderson on “How web video powers global innovation.” A very interesting talk about how “crowds accelerate innovation.” And when he described the “crowd” aspect, he put up this image:
In a crowd, he said, all these various types of people exist. You and I might be able to add to this list (e.g., wall-flowers, copy-cats), but to my way of thinking, this is spot-on and a great springboard for refining recruiting screening criteria.
- For social media/communications, I might want to focus on Commentators or Superspreaders.
- In website usability research, I might want a mix of Innovators, Trend-spotters and Skeptics.
- And Cheerleaders takes the idea of a loyal customer to another level.
For me, this adds another rich layer to a study design and recruit that is likely to lead to some very interesting sessions. The questions aren’t written yet to get at these various groups, but conceptually I like the idea of where this, coupled with the Emergent consumer battery for new product/service concepts, could go.