Director, Account Service
Consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands are historically accustomed to conducting ongoing market research. Crowded shelves at stores and the ever-increasing threat of direct-to-consumer challenger brands continue to elevate competition for consumer attention and spending.
With stakes this high, today’s CPG brands must determine if their market research partner will be able to dig below the surface to deliver insights and behavioral predictions that will truly move the needle on sales. That said, figuring out the right CPG market research partner requires brands to do a little digging of their own.
Here are eight questions you should be asking before you ink a new contract with your next research partner.
- “ What does your average timeline look like? What constitutes a ‘quick turnaround’?”
Aligning definitions of speed and turnaround time will help you understand how quickly your research partner can produce useable insights and respond to changes in your research needs. Ask your potential partner to outline the resources and staff that will be available for ad hoc projects to determine if they have the necessary team in place to begin immediately or if they will quire additional time to staff up before starting your project. Be wary of partners who agree to seemingly impossible timelines. Rush a project and you may end up with skewed, vague or incorrect results.
- “What experience do you have in my industry?”
Does your market research partner have an extensive track record researching brands and products in your category? If not, what about their history in CPG market research? Retail in general? Research partners with experience in your sector bring an awareness of market and consumer trends that affect your business and will likely be able to probe deeper to discover less obvious consumer expectations and drivers.
- “What experience outside of my industry can you bring to the table?”
Cross-pollinating ideas, methodologies and best practices that aren’t traditionally used in CPG market research can open up entirely new ways of discovering insight about your customers or your business challenge. Ask your potential partner to share an approach they employed in a different industry or vertical that might work well to tackle your issue from an unexpected angle.
- “How do you foresee working with my team?”
Your research partner should be able to slot in seamlessly with your in-house research & insights department and adapt to your workflow. Share with your potential partner the roles and responsibilities of the team you already have in place and ask how they will incorporate your feedback and needs into their deliverables. Ask them how comfortable they are with collaboration and how their platform and expertise will integrate with your own.
- “How do you reach customers on a deeper level?”
Many CPG brands face an uphill battle, as their products often fall outside the category of “emotional purchases.” That doesn’t mean there aren’t important emotional drivers that inform customer decision-making. It simply means that the research must work harder to uncover the drivers behind seemingly “thoughtless” purchases.
Beyond basis like qualitative and quantitative methods, CPG market research partners should probe deeper, integrating System 1 research methods to tap into intuitive, unconscious thinking as well as System 2 methods to glean insight from controlled, analytical decision-making. Taking a whole-mind approach to research uncovers both the responses customers have the ability to articulate as well as the deciding factors of which customers themselves are unaware.
- “How will your current research integrate my past results?”
If you have already conducted work to identify and understand your target consumer and current business challenge, your research partner should build on these findings, not begin back at scratch. Share your previous learnings with your research partner and ask how they plan to pressure test assumptions and reveal previously unseen opportunities and pitfalls.
- “What breadth of methodologies do you offer?”
CPG market research companies may specialize in specific platforms (ex. shop-alongs, taste formulation, packaging testing, etc.) or provide a full suite of services. “This-or-that” or “Which is more important?” questions about your product are best answered with quantitative research, whereas “Why?” or “How?” questions about your product are better addressed through qualitative methods.
If you’re looking to test a very specific aspect of your product, working with niche providers may be the ideal solution to nail down a concrete decision. If you’re looking for blue sky opportunities, full-service market research partners can provide insights that act as a springboard for ideation.
- “Can I contact your past clients?”
The best person to give you a sense of what it’s like to work with a research partner is someone who has been in your position, so feel free to request a shortlist of references. When contacting references, don’t be afraid to ask for examples of stumbling blocks in their project. Hearing from a third-party how a potential partner has corrected their mistakes tells you a lot about their approach to problem-solving.
Brands in the CPG space often already possess a deep understanding of their products’ strengths and challenges. The ideal market research partner should be able to test assumptions, surface covert insights and augment existing teams by bringing fresh skills, tools or expertise. The best partner for your CPG market research will take what you already know and use it to strengthen your brand’s foundation and future.