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Shopalong or remote research?

A People Nerds interview with Myles Proudfoot

Words by Kari Dean McCarthy, Visuals by Delaney Gibbons

After almost 20 years at P&G, Myles Proudfoot made the switch to the agency side, now putting his natural curiosity to work as Managing Director for Behavior and Insights at ChaseDesign and its clients, including Starbucks, Coca Cola, and Tim Horton’s.   

Myles recently chatted with dscout about the state of market research for retail, why he thinks it’s an area too often neglected, and how he uses real-time mobile research tools like dscout in his quest to improve it.

dscout: You spent 20 years leading consumer understanding groups for Procter & Gamble, and another year on a Google research advisory board. Where do you think retail is, as an industry, in terms of user research?

Myles Proudfoot: Generally speaking, my hunch is that the retail industry is behind. Retail is usually the “poor cousin” to other marketing focused activities. Retail has been thought of as the last step, not thought of as being very strategically important. Retail doesn't get the level of attention that it truly deserves.

I think it's partly because of the structure of how market research operates in large corporations. In large corporations, researchers are usually cash rich and time poor. A lot of the innovation that's going on is excellent for people who are time rich and cash poor. 

What role does mobile research play for ChaseDesign’s work with retail clients?

The work that ChaseDesign does is all about how to orchestrate the retail experience in individual categories to promote greater sales and greater shopper satisfaction.

We do a lot of what people in the industry would call “off the purchase research” or “shopper journey research.” We put together learning plans with our clients that help us get to, "What's the shopping experience today? What can be improved about that experience?”

A tool like dscout allows us to get in-context feedback from the shopper at the store about that experience.

Having a shopper in the aisle telling us what is wrong with the aisle is tremendously important for us. We need to understand what the issues are.

Having a shopper in the aisle telling us what is wrong with the aisle is tremendously important for us. We need to understand what the issues are.

Myles Proudfoot

Can you talk a little more about that -- how does mobile research fit into the scheme of your overall research activities?

For us, dscout is a complete replacement for shopalongs.

The problem with shopalongs is that when you ask people questions as they're shopping, you're kind of influencing their behavior. And while you can still do shopalongs and personally learn a lot about the category, reporting those learnings isn't as effective as having a video clip of 20 different scouts telling you the problem that you can replay for the clients. That's biggest advantage to using dscout instead of shopalongs.

It's so much more believable when you can report the emotions directly from the mouth of the shopper. It’s also very helpful in creating a case that our clients need to make internally and externally—to the rest of their organization, and to their customers about what needs to be fixed.

So the video component of the feedback is particularly valuable to you? Can you explain a little more about how you use that?

Typically, our dscout work includes an understanding of the complete purchase cycle. We’ll have them make a video at the store or in different locations in the store, maybe in the aisle, maybe at checkout, potentially when they're back home using the product, showing us where they're storing the product. That's really how we've been using it.

Pretty much always, somebody is in a store or at the shelf telling us what is the experience like, and what's making it harder than it needs to be. Someone might say, "There are hundreds of choices and I can't make head nor tail of it." "I can't figure out what the organizing principle of the shelf is.”

We haven't done a project yet where it doesn't have a video in screener and a video in the mission. That footage is so rich. You can show the little graphs with the percentage numbers and so on, but nothing beats having that video footage. That's what helps us tell the story. The great thing about dscout, the number one reason why we use it, is because it's a fantastic storytelling tool.

The great thing about dscout, the number one reason why we use it, is because it’s a fantastic storytelling tool.

Myles Proudfoot

Kari Dean McCarthy is a seasoned brand communications strategist, award-winning filmmaker, and gnocchi expert.

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