“Walking in Consumers Shoes” (and making a dog’s dinner of it?)

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Over the past 5 years we have been working with hundreds of Global insights folk from the Worlds largest FMCG organisations. These people are charged with making their organisation closer to consumers. Globally.


Over the past 5 years we have been working with hundreds of Global insights folk from the Worlds largest FMCG organisations. These people are charged with making their organisation closer to consumers. Globally.

Nearly all of these organisations say something on their website like We walk in consumers shoes.

But living up to that promise, especially in the face of increased pressure on both global research and travel budgets is a challenge.

In many cases we are asked to help insights teams who feel their consumer closeness programs are not working.

While the reasons are varied, I thought it would be helpful to share the reasons we hear most frequently.

We say “we walk in consumers shoes” but it is the first budget to get cut.

The measurable benefits of consumer closeness programs are less tangible than other investments.

As a result, when the business performance is under pressure, the budget for consumer connection programs is one of the first to go.

This typically results in organisations simply adding in-home visits to the KPIs of existing (and already busy) staff, but not providing the additional resource to organise them properly or manage the results effectively.

This builds the internal resistance for attendance and often removes the essential discussion that is required after the immersions have taken place.

No cost benefit analysis- “we will just get folks to do it, it won’t cost anything”

The internal cost/benefit of attendance is rarely calculated.

If you take 20 senior staff out of the office for a day there is a very real cost to the business.

There is also (or should be) the cost of organising the sessions and disseminating the information.

Those costs are not taken into account, so other potentially more effective approaches have up until now been ignored as they are falsely compared to a zero cost solution.

Seeing is believing

The insights generated in the local market are very hard to share with other parts of the world and future employees.

An in-home visit may spark an idea that has enormous potential and should be investigated further.

Convincing people who did not observe the behaviour is challenging and means that many potentially valuable consumer led hypothesis are not explored further.

So what is the solution?

The in-home or in-store visit will always be a valuable tool in any consumer connection program.

That said, simply adding them to the KPIs of staff globally, without further commitment will rarely achieve the desired outcome.

Many new cost effective methodologies, like global video based digital immersions have emerged that can overcome the challenge of how you share the insights generated globally and with future employees.

Simple steps, like putting searching through previous video immersions into the induction programme of new employees are proving to be effective ways to get an entire organisation closer to their target audience globally.

Importantly this can be achieved without anyone jumping on a plane.

Like in-home visits this is just another part of the solution

Regardless of the methodologies chosen, the bigger challenge for leadership teams is to provide the support, commitment and investment behind the consumer closeness goals they describe on their website.

Without this commitment, the “we walk in consumers shoes” posters throughout the offices across this small blue and green planet start to feel a bit hollow to everyone… and the potential benefits of being more consumer centric are missed entirely.