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Taking Consumers off the Hot Seat: Inclusive Data Collection for True Usage

Trusting consumers to be honest with their experiences to yield truthful research results can be tricky. To avoid discrepancies, the secret may be to cut out the middle man.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Joe Belechak will be speaking at IIeX North America 2019 this week in Austin, TX. If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX North America. Click here to learn more. 


Are you comfortable in front of a camera? If I put you under a bright light and start asking you to remember last week, what are the chances you’d recall accurately? Let’s say we had discussed a particular expectation or plan, and you fell short. Would you want to tell me?

If you answered yes to the above questions, please stop reading this! Get to Hollywood and be a star. You’re in the wrong industry!

For the rest of us, these situations would likely draw a hard “no”. When put under the microscope, most of us find it hard to “act naturally”. Our brain feels scrambled. Do we act like our “best self”? Do we act the way we were five minutes ago? When we answer the question, are we supposed to get into the frame of mind we were in when we acted? Or is “today me” supposed to retroactively answer for “last week me”?

…and we process all these thoughts right there in the moment. It’s an awkward, unnatural position to be in, yet this is the way we often garner usage information from consumers. We put a camera on them. We ask them to remember what they did last week. We have them “track” their own usage while knowing full well their log will be reviewed later. And we expect them to act natural, remember accurately, and tell the full truth.

But what if the consumer didn’t have to do the talking? What if products could tell us exactly what consumers are doing and the role of the consumer was simply to tell us “why”?  

Thanks to innovations in the Internet of Things (IoT), this type of research is now entering the mainstream For those unsure exactly what IoT is, think of it like embedding an internet connection into everyday things and imagine the possibilities! Place a smart tracking sensor on the outside of any consumer product and signals can begin to be sent directly from the package. This allows researchers to understand the exact day of use, time of use, and amount used during every single occurrence without asking the end user to do anything other than using the products in their home. No camera, no measure-taking, no diary, no recollection. Just pick up the product and use it like you normally would. IoT will do the rest!

By designing research using IoT data collection, “true usage” becomes clear. The lifestyle inclusive method of learning takes work away from the user, becomes incorporated into a routine, and provides insight into the user in their most natural environment. The desire to “help” the researcher disappears, and the disconnect between what is said and what is done diminishes. And hey – if you want to understand what the data is telling you, just ask! IoT sensors have the ability to trigger the surveys and questionnaires that research has long relied on to help understand the “why” behind the “what”.

In a world where consumer understanding is critical, shouldn’t we ensure the consumer we see in our research mirrors the consumer we see in the world?

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Joe Belechak

Joe Belechak

Head of Sales, Adrich