Tom De Ruyck

Every year, IKEA conducts a global qualitative study to understand how people feel and think about, and how they approach the new edition of the Catalogue. The findings of these studies serve as input for the creative team that works on the newest edition. For the 2013 edition, significant changes were made to the format, content and structure of the Catalogue. Next to this, a complementary mobile application was launched. Structural changes that were making it even more important to deeply understand people’s emotional and rational reactions to the new edition. 

From good to great
A consumer consulting board (aka MROC) was chosen as the backbone of this project in favour of traditional focus groups. Online closed platforms with the requirement to create dialogue and work together across 5 different countries with 50 consumers in each country (Germany, Italy, Poland, the United States of America and China) were set-up. But, why was this a better option than running traditional qualitative research?

A simple, but very useful framework to evaluate this new research method and to demonstrate its effectiveness internally to ensure it is providing you with automational, informational and transformational benefits:

Automational: doing things faster and more cost-efficient

  • A Research Community indeed takes more time to set-up, but once created it can be reused without losing the time of a classical set-up phase. This is a plus in the process of crafting a new Catalogue: the platform cannot only be used to evaluate the current issue, it can also be used as a source of feedback and inspiration during the process of creating the next edition. For this project 5 communities with a duration of 3 weeks were created. The platforms were reopened for a week after 8 weeks to get feedback on the next stage (the creation of the cover for the 2014 edition).
  • Secondly, the set-up cost of a community project is higher than that of an ad hoc qualitative project, but once established and in use it becomes a cost-efficient tool: more and different research methods can be combined within the same budget.

Informational: gaining a higher quality of data and deeper insights

  • Communities are characterised by the fact that you can work with more people of different profiles. In this case, with 50 participants in each of the 5 countries. We included 3 different profiles: potential, existing and lapsed customers. 5 MROCs to hear the opinions of ‘the many people’ in one single project, on one platform.
  • Out of the ‘research on research’ we did in the past, we know that for most participant profiles and research objectives it is best to run a community in the mother tongue of the participants. Firstly, by doing so they will discuss more with us and they will post in a more nuanced and emotional way. Secondly, our experience has shown that it is a must that the community is moderated by a native who knows the language, the local culture and the local market. All of this will lead to more relevant and to-the-point customer dialogues. That is why we made the choice to set-up a separate MROC in each of the 5 countries. This approach also allows us to run the whole project at once and in parallel. And while being in local contact with participants via a local moderator you still grasp the advantages of having a central/global project team and content overview when ‘connecting the dots’ on a global level.
  • By working with a single master topic guide (that is adapted to the local reality and culture of the country) you partly eliminate interviewer bias. The project is ran by a team of different people that work together both on country and global level.

Transformational: doing things that were just not possible before

  • Evaluating the Catalogue in an MROC gives us the opportunity to work with the same participants over a longer period of time (3 weeks of 24/7 contact in this case) in the comfort and context of their own living environment (home). In this project, we were able to follow the evolution in perception and usage of the Catalogue over time (before the Catalogue arrived, the first flip-through moments and different reading sessions). This is something that is hard to realize with traditional methods in a cost-efficient way.
  • Another advantage of having more time with participants on your hands is ‘consecutive learning’. One can build further on what is previously learned. Or stimuli material can be tested, adapted and tested again in only a matter of days among the same group of consumers.
  • To get a holistic view on participant’s use & perception of the Catalogue, a whole range of research techniques were plugged-in to the community platform: observational tasks, an online diary, a collage tool, mini-surveys, creative exercises, group discussions and even implicit/emotion measurement tools. Communities allowed us to blend different research methods, giving us depth and breadth in terms of the insights we found.

The research team did not have a hard time to convince the internal clients to make the switch as it was clear that the time was there for something different and better than offline focus groups. The advantages of using a community in the evaluation of the Catalogue (and the App) where very clear as well.

Tom De Ruyck, Head of Research Communities at InSites Consulting

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