Beauty in Market Research

In-home ethnographies ensure that your study subject can name every cosmetic brand she uses. Here’s how they can be done without leaving your office.

When researchers ask women to name the cosmetics they use, most can name only their favorite brands. Although they have strong brand loyalty, time and again research has demonstrated that, when unaided, women can’t name every beauty brand they’ve purchased.

However, Ready to Launch Research has developed a sure-proof methodology that addresses this issue.

The answer is to conduct in-home ethnographies. While at home, a consumer has access to all of her products and is more relaxed. She can’t recall all of her products while away from home, in the same way you can’t recall every Scrabble letter when they’re placed face down.

While conducting an in-home ethnography, inventory the consumer’s cosmetics and ask her to demonstrate using each one. For example, she can wash, condition and style her hair. Just like that, you’ve studied how she uses at least three products, maybe more. This is a time-tested approach that always provides Ready to Launch with a rich variety of ethnographic data – and it can for you as well.

There are drawbacks to in-home ethnography, however. They take longer, involve more planning, and often require the research team to travel to a preferred market. If your firm is in L.A. and your market is in, say, Silicon Valley, that’s a major – and expensive – hassle. And to compound matters, in-home studies aren’t as efficient, which can be problematic when your client needs answers ASAP.

We have a simple solution, but first let’s digress and look at a small slice of American cultural history. Again, stay with me.

During the mid-’70s, when leisure suits and platform shoes dominated the disco scene, Bell Systems (of landline fame) came up with a hugely successful tagline: “Long distance is the next best thing to being there.” (Go ahead. Google it.) Although ’70s fashion may have gone the way of the VCR and the dinosaur – probably not in that order – Bell’s influential one-liner applies more than ever in today’s digital age.

To address the aforementioned in-home issues, we follow Bell’s example. Rather than use 5-pound rotary phones, however, we use webcams to conduct remote IDIs. A webcam IDI provides the best of both worlds: The respondent can display and recall her products in her own environment, and the researcher conducts the ethnography without taking a single step toward the airport.

Here are a few tips to best leverage this type of IDI:

  • Double-check and make sure that your respondent is in her own home, not anywhere else.
  • Request that she bring all of her beauty products to her computer, so you can conduct a show and tell. Have her specify her products by category (makeup, hair care, skin care and so forth).
  • While conducting the show and tell, ask her to rank the products in order of frequency of use.
  • Ask her to submit photos of where in her house – the bathroom, sink, vanity etc. – she uses these products.
  • To help ensure that her feedback is unbiased, conduct the show and tell before asking the questions about the given product. The show and tell also works well as a warm-up activity.

While the term “in-home webcam ethnography” may at first sound like an oxymoron, it’s an effective way to address the product-recall issue. Long-distance interviews are, indeed, the next best thing to being there.

To learn more about how Ready to Launch Research can assist you with market research, please contact us.

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