Moving on Out: When Research Meets Reality

A recent project with a leading electricity supplier in New Zealand couldn’t have come at a more fitting time for me.

The brand approached LRWTonic to explore the home movers journey using our non-directive, regressive storytelling F2F interview technique, Chutes & Ladders – a project I was thrilled to work on. Meanwhile, away from the office, my personal life was entering an exciting period, as my girlfriend and I began our first steps into the less-than-hospitable London property market.

Our insights from the project have hence proved all the more interesting to me, encouraging me to analyze my own decisions and experiences along the moving journey, and in doing so teaching me a great deal about my role as a researcher.

Most fascinating of all these insights, perhaps unsurprisingly, was our segmenting of first time movers, and how they are distinguished from experienced homebuyers by their dependence on external sources for reassurance, ensuring a safe route through the journey. I was experiencing first-hand how stressful and chaotic and overwhelming the house hunt was, with offers flying here-there-and-everywhere and a complete absence of instructions on the ‘right way’ to do things. Sure enough, I found myself repeatedly seeking out reassurance from perceived ‘experts’, whether that was my old man, my mortgage broker or online discussion forums, all of whom I used to validate almost all of my decisions.

Seeing LRWTonic’s insights supported by my own behavior brought a sense of pride and confidence in our findings, but it also gave me a renewed sense of why I work in this industry.

We do what we do to redefine the ‘truth’ of people’s behaviour, with the research tools we adopt enabling us to peer behind the curtain of post-rationalisation to reach the heart of consumer motivations. I have no doubt whatsoever that I wouldn’t have been conscious of the reassurance I was seeking if it hadn’t been for the research I was undertaking. I may be an analytical person (or, at least, that’s what I’ve analysed myself to be!) but if you’d asked me to explain my navigation of this journey I would have, like anyone else, falsely rooted my behaviour in rationality. You’d have heard me explaining how I spent hours dwelling on the pros and cons of this and that and witling options down pragmatically. The truth though – that I can now appreciate – is that I have deployed a range of personal biases to make decisions as painless as possible for myself, and then sought reassurance on these decisions every step of the way. It is on this emotional impulse that I have been carried through the journey until now.

Being afforded this awareness has shown me first-hand why our research techniques are so special. The subjects that we explore are often the most familiar, and seemingly straightforward – buying broadband or choosing a credit card, for instance. An unaware observer may remark that these journeys are ‘obvious’. But there it is. That’s what’s so special: we rock up at the office every morning to give ‘obvious’ a damn good kicking. But we can only do this with the right tools; one analytical mind by itself cannot unlock the truth. There’s no such thing as a lazy research solution.

And whilst we should feel empowered by being part of a research team, we mustn’t ignore the fact that we are consumers ourselves, involved in the same discourse with the world around us as the respondents we have the pleasure of speaking to. The stories we tell are everyone’s stories, including our own. And never has this been more apparent to me than whilst strolling around a 1-bed in Enfield (North London) commenting on how wide the hallway feels.

I’m a consumer, and that’s why I’m also a researcher.

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