Food and beverage manufacturers are constantly looking for more effective - and efficient - ways to gain consumer insights that will help them stay one step ahead of the competition.
And they are increasingly turning to the internet to help facilitate this process, from using online panels to gain instant feedback on new concepts, to analyzing social media activity.
But how can brands get even closer to consumers - without moving in with them?
By doing the next best thing and engaging with a small number of them directly, but digitally, said Unilever technical insights manager Daniel Blatt, who described how staff at the firm’s Vlaardingen R&D center worked with InSites Consulting to engage with 90 UK consumers via a proprietary online platform over a three-week period to gain insights into food, personal care and home care categories.
‘Some consumers get really hooked’
The consumers - who were paid a token sum to participate - were asked to play games, answer questions, upload photographs and share their insights with R&D experts at Unilever, who were in turn required to communicate with individual panel members directly in order to gain a deeper insight into their behavior.
The results were encouraging, with engagement and motivation on both sides much stronger than many participants had anticipated, said InSites co-founder Dr Niels Schillewaert, who has used the platform (which can be customized for each client) to helps scores of leading food and beverage brands get closer to consumers.
Importantly, the process is targeted and keeps all parties focused on the task in hand, he said. But it is also fun, with many consumers upset to learn that they are only needed for a short period, he said.
“Some of them get really hooked.”
At Unilever, meanwhile, several users noticed that the exercise had made them much more attuned to consumer behavior outside of a professional setting (friends, family etc), while the quizzes also highlighted how little some of them knew about how consumers actually use their products, he added.