Execs who live with their consumers

Tesco research
Companies often make the mistake of not understanding new territories before they expand into them, writes Edward Cotton in the Influx Insights weblog.

The UK grocery giant Tesco is planning to invade the competitive US market in the next 18 months. The operation will start out in California before potentially branching out across the country.

To make sure they get the California market right, Tesco has been doing its research, as would be expected.

What’s a little different is how they went about it (link to article in The Sunday Times).

For a two-week period, 50 senior Tesco directors and researchers lived with American families, recording and experiencing their shopping, eating and leisure habits.

As Lucy Neville-Rolfe, the company secretary and corporate affairs director at Tesco explains;

“Spending time with people in their houses, looking in their cupboards and fridges and actually shopping with them is a great way to understand the market”.

Listening to people in focus groups and going to people’s homes are two completely different things, with the later generating far more valuable insight.

With the success of a business at stake, it helps to spend time to understand the true nuances and realities of consumer behavior, you will not get that from focus groups or surveys.

The other important thing is that senior executives participate, so often, research is not seen as critical and left to the junior members of a team, leaving the senior people stuck with their old paradigms and unable to see how things have changed, because they lack the first-hand personal experience of seeing it for themselves.

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