There’s a time and a place for traditional, quantitative, survey-based methods. But today, more and more insights seekers are finding that a good ol’ dose of armchair psychology can also work wonders when working with consumers.

Male therapist with clipboard analyzing reclining patient.Think about it. Consumer behavior is a term that describes how consumers think, feel and react. Psychology is a discipline that seeks to understand behaviors. So, it makes perfect sense that psychological techniques are redefining market research as we seek to better understand buyers’ motivations. In fact, there’s an entire profession dedicated to the merging of the two fields: consumer psychologist.

We’re in a world that’s swirling with data. So much so that we don’t always have to ask questions to get answers. In fact, research happens in myriad ways.  At IIM, we’ve found that broader insights can be found by listening to the banter that surrounds a subject, whether it’s through analyzing text, listening through online communities or other avenues of discovery.

In this vein, consumer psychologists study a whole host of areas. They’re exploring how consumers make choices, they’re researching the drive and emotion behind decisions, they’re studying the impact of a person’s social circles on those decisions, and they’re investigating the areas where marketers succeed…and where they fail.

If you’re interested in bringing a little psychology into your pursuit of deeper consumer understanding, here are some tips on how you leverage your inner Freud during consumer engagements.

  • Be likable. This dates back to playground psychology. If someone feels comfortable around you, they’re more willing to interact with you.  Let consumers know you value their opinions and input.  Take extra steps to make them feel at ease during a research session.  Be responsive and model the type of respectful behavior you hope for from them.  Consumers who feel a genuine connection will share much more than those who don’t. And, the more they share, the more we learn.
  • Listen more than you talk. Whether moderating focus groups or writing questionnaires, it’s important to remember that it’s not about asking a ton of questions.  Rather, it’s about asking the right questions. And then shutting up and listening…really listening to what consumers have to say.  Often knowing that they are truly being heard is motivation for them to continue sharing.  And, as the sharing continues, the learnings deepen.
  • Look beyond the surface.  In addition to actively listening to what consumers say, it’s at least as important to notice what they don’t say.  There is some information that consumers choose not to share, and there’s information that they are unable to share because they aren’t consciously aware of it or struggle to articulate it (purchase considerations and routine behaviors often fall into this latter category).  Recognizing the “holes” in consumer feedback and knowing when and where to dig deeper helps put the details they do share into a broader context – creating a more complete tapestry of the consumer’s story.

Now that you’ve read the latest on consumer psychology, are you ready to add a couch to your office?