There are many different methods and reasons to conduct market research. In this three-part series, we’ll explain the three different elements of market research: WHAT people doHOW they do it, and WHY they do it. Each market research study can contain any combination of these. We’ll discuss how each element will work, and when they are appropriate to solve for your specific business problem.

The second element of market research is learning about behavior intent or HOW customers approach various aspects of the purchase process. Behavior intent, in more plain language, is a measurement of how customers or stakeholders evaluate their potential options and rationalize decisions. This focus of research can help you figure out how to best position your brand to intercept and influence customers before they act.

Behavior intent research asks the following type of questions:

  1. How do customers determine the value of a certain product or service, including the product or service attributes that are important?
  2. How do customers gather information – channels and frequency?
  3. How likely customers are to purchase, repurchase, or switch brands/providers?
  4. How is messaging interpreted by customers?

Behavior intent research helps inform a more effective and efficient strategy by examining cognitive processes and past behaviors, in order to predict future behaviors. Common behavior intent methodologies include: Path to Action, Concept Testing, Market Opportunity, and Message Testing.

However, behavior intent research has limitations; while you may understand how customers make decisions, you still don’t know why. Our experience shows that both performance and behavior intent is driven by motivations. Two customers may perform the same actions but for different reasons and expectations; this explains why some customers can be satisfied while other ones are dissatisfied, even though they had near identical experiences.

For example, when conducting interviews for a manufacturing client, we found that their two key audiences (engineers/designers & contactors) shared similar criteria and information channels. This was critical for helping the client identify a clear set of value propositioning and channel strategy. However, we also identified a key difference in their motivations: one was intrinsically motivated while the other was extrinsically motivated. Messaging and sales conversations needed to subtly pivot based on audience. Understanding ‘how’ these audiences purchased products outlined an efficient strategy, but the ‘why’ enabled them to best leverage it for success.

In the final part of our series, we will explore how motivation works and what it can add to your insights.