Eating Behaviors, Recall and Getting the Right Data for Market Expansion

By Geoff Lowe

You’d think remembering what you had for breakfast would be straightforward. So stop reading for a second – can you remember? What did you have for breakfast? It seems a simple enough question. However, the answer relies on something we call “recall” in the market research industry.

Infotools, Bulla Dairy Foods and MDI explored this question and all its associated implications. This was to help answer the question of what Bulla, an Australian-based dairy company, needed to know from its consumers to help them build a market strategy. It had nothing to do with what people had for breakfast. However, the question provided great insight into what’s the best methodology to use to answer the research question.

In short, Bulla wanted to understand the consumer mindset – motivations, innate drivers and the way in which communications can make an impact – as the company looked to expand into the Asian market. With such an important expansion, the company needed customer information to advise decisions surrounding entering the market properly and thoughtfully. Finding this data proved to be a challenge, as relying on recall to get an accurate perspective on eating behaviours can be tricky when many struggle to remember what they had for breakfast that day, let alone a few days ago. Additionally, food is no longer used just for satisfying a need – it’s woven throughout a consumer’s day in different ways. Resultantly, food as a category doesn’t fit neatly into a standard Q&A approach.

Keeping these realities in mind, Bulla needed to come up with a way to gain an accurate perspective on how its brand and products would fit into new marketplaces. Using consumer recall to drive research for this important move didn’t seem like the best approach. Consumers are busy, frantic and bombarded with constant communications. This reality makes recall – already questionable in market research circles – even less reliable as people’s brains are clouded with too much “stuff.”

Bulla asked questions of traditional recall-based research:

“How does a research project cut through, remain relevant, maintain compliance and deliver accurate results to inform large scale business strategy?’ Bulla needed something that was flexible, cost-effective, as close to real as possible, and also replicable.”

Bulla saw a mobile diary as the best answer to these questions. Consumers are used to this format, as popular programs like Weight Watchers and MyFitnessPal have shown. Recording daily activities, either manually or through a wearable, has become nearly ubiquitous. For Bulla, a mobile diary could conveniently record “in the moment” consumer experiences, capturing rich information while not relying on iffy consumer recall.

Mobile diaries, therefore, provide a method to capture the most accurate data where people are recording what they’re doing while they’re doing it. Diaries, therefore, have the potential for gaining a wealth of rich information. However, they also pose a challenge when it comes to ensuring compliance. A concerted communications program within the diary app that pushed simple, relevant messages to participants overcame this challenge.

Consumers are happy to provide data in the easy-to-use interface of a mobile diary. To get the best ROI on mobile diaries, access to the data within them had to be made possible. Doing so means all stakeholders have immediate, easy and continuous access to the data and key results. Not just for the initial reporting cycle but for as long as the project has any relevance at all to Bulla.

Insights need to be accessible. Placing data in the cloud makes this possible. By making the data easily accessible via a shared URL, stakeholders can ask questions of the diary data whenever needed. All this without damaging the original data. This approach maximises the ongoing value of the initial investment. Giving stakeholders access to data lets the “question asker” directly utilise the data without multiple middlemen. Increased access generates a heightened understanding which leads to better actions at a lower cost.

Presenting data in an online and accessible way provides longevity for the insights. Bulla’s team expect to draw conclusions from this data for up to 24 months, mining it for any unrealised value for as long as feasible. This makes the most of the collected data and consumer input.

The way mobile diaries and accessible data balance art and science paid off for Bulla’s expansion project, helping them understand not only the “what” but also the “why” and, ultimately “how” to deliver the message to a new marketplace. Specifically, the research uncovered consumer-led needs that advised ideal categories, gaps in the marketplace, brand health and insights into successful marketing and communication strategies.

For more information about this project, there is an in-depth case study available.

By Geoff Lowe, Infotools