Target made headlines in the July 2016 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek for turning to youth advisors to help them reconfigure their clothing offerings for kids. By doing this, Target has reportedly touched base with over 1,000 children across a variety of different environments in an effort to help lead the overhaul of their children’s department. Without knowing the specifics, it sounds like they used an elegant mixed-method research approach that allowed them to influence children’s opinions in a myriad of ways.
Several of our clients at C+R have also undertaken similar youth-fueled insight programs of product and retail environment development in the last few years. What’s different about these approaches is that they leverage a much smaller sample size, yet they yield rich and wide-ranging results. The designs of the recurring programs vary and may include:
- In-person focus groups or panel discussions with the same children (and parents!)
- Online qualitative discussions, each one on a different topic and populated from a pool of pre-recruited respondents (using our KidzEyes panel, which is fully COPPA-compliant and allows us to talk directly to youth respondents)
- Mobile “missions” on a variety of foundational (a “Day in the Life” video collage) to tactical (e.g., shopping trip) topics
- Immersive visits with client teams and youth participants for the purpose of empathy-building (e.g., a structured visit to the zoo complete with scavenger hunts and team T-shirts)
Our clients keep commissioning these recurring panels because of the many benefits they offer. Some of these benefits include:
- The kids get invested in the brands. They become part of the internal team. They get to know the moderators if it’s qualitative, and this personal connection makes them want to help the sponsoring company. They’re motivated to give good responses—not positively biased ones, but constructive criticism that helps make sound business decisions.
- The panels are more efficient with time. When an urgent need comes up, like a “disaster check” for a new package design, we don’t have to start the recruit from scratch. We have a list of kids in the right age targets and geographies who use the categories that we can tap into. This allows us to sometimes turn a project around start to finish within just a week.
- Ongoing panels are cost-effective. Initial set-up fees are higher than a standalone study because respondents who are willing to make a longer-term commitment are harder to find. But over the long term, re-contact fees are far less expensive than recruiting new respondents from scratch every time. Plus, there is a greater efficiency in protocols. For example, if several waves of products are tested over the course of the year, we reduce our analytic time and fees. An entire year’s worth of research can often be accomplished for what it would cost to conduct four to six independent studies.
- Most importantly, they’re good experiences for the kid respondents. They learn something about the way businesses make decisions, and the different types of decisions along the product cycle that have to be made. They also learn that adults care about what they have to say and will actually listen to them and implement their recommendations. That’s a powerful sense of control for a generation that is as influential as any in marketing research history.