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Confessions from a Quant-a-Holic: A Reflection on IIeX Behavior US

Another IIeX Behavior US has come and gone, and the takeaways are even better than ever. Here are 3 takeaways from the event to help highlight some exceptional sessions.

Editor’s Note: Recently, IIeX Behavior US was held in Boston. Many new developments were discussed. Here, Jackie Anderson gives us an overview of key themes from the conference.


Some of my favorite memories from grad school come from the hours spent hunkered in our school’s basement data lab, correlation matrices taped around the room, SPSS outputs so long they’d rival any CVS receipt. My love of all things data runs deep. The limitless possibilities of combining big data sets get me more excited than I should probably admit out loud. Why am I confessing all of this now? I’m exposing my quantitative penchant to ensure that, when I share what I’m about to, you realize its magnitude … we need more qualitative and behavioral data in our insights.

Last week I joined a seemingly equal mix of vendor and client-side researchers at the IIeX Behavior event in Boston. The view and the content were both impressive. The case studies clients ranging from Danone to Formula 1 shared were encouraging; tales of researchers who went out on a limb to change the way they think about solving business problems and specifically, changing the type of data they leverage. From shopper insights to rebranding, they clearly demonstrated the role, and value, of behavioral data in today’s consumer research. Their stories highlighted a few broader key takeaways including:

1. Rushing Research Shortchanges the Business

It’s easy to run another quick survey or put a tracker back in the field without materially changing any questions. It’s not so easy to give a team the mental space to rethink how tracking is done, to invest (both time and money) in testing alternative, qualitative based methods. Failing to explore the qualitative angles of a research project limits businesses’ ability to develop a complete understanding of a given problem. As Ujwal Arkalgud of Motivbase pointed out, skipping approaches that are viewed as time-consuming (like ethnographies) can prevent companies from uncovering important context and connections that would never emerge in traditional quantitative methods. 

2. Learn to Love the Grey

As a quantie, I love to deal with hard data and statistics. As a human, I recognize there’s a lot of grey area between data points. Behavioral approaches highlight the grey and use it to color a more nuanced picture of consumers’ behaviors, wants and needs. The stakeholder’s research team’s support need to understand how the grey impacts their decisions. Researchers have the unique ability to bring consumers’ emotions into the decision-making process, leveraging the wide array of tech-driven behavioral approaches on the market to help stakeholders get into the minds of their target consumers. Neil Kimberley of Essentia Water’s case study, of work they executed with Protobrand, focused on tapping into the minds of their consumers more effectively and creatively, allowing them to develop a new brand identity.

3. Quant + Qual = Multiplied Insights 

It’s time to move away from the idea that bigger data is better, that quantitative metrics are a better measure of any question. Instead, it’s time to recognize that there’s a place, need and value in the wide spectrum of research approaches, from traditional ethnographies to data stacks. To bring the power of holistic research to an organization, researchers need to partner with stakeholders and build enough trust to try blending new approaches with the old. Swati Bhargava of Danone explained how one of their brand teams recognized they needed more contextual information to understand why a newly launched product wasn’t performing as expected. While the team started by looking at traditional sales data, they expanded the investigation, partnering with Nailbiter and leveraging video metrics to understand the why behind the lackluster sales.

In Summary

I will always be a quantie at heart,  but participating in events like IIeX Behavior makes you realize just how important it is to use a variety of tools and methods to create the most comprehensive profile of consumers possible. The current marketplace is challenging for everyone, and behavioral data allows us to connect to the emotional elements of consumer behaviors, illustrating the why in what we uncover in our quantitative studies. While this may seem obvious (I think it was in my Research 101 textbook), the pressures of tight timelines and restricted budgets can often prevent us from stepping back to assess our research questions from a renewed, holistic perspective.

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Jackie Anderson

Jackie Anderson

Consulting Partner, ScaleHouse