Best Practices

How Advances in Choice-based Research Can Better Impact Consumer Behavior


You might remember a time when the only true test of viability for a product or service was to put it in a test market.  That was, and still is, an expensive, risky, and lengthy proposition.

To mitigate these costs, marketers and researchers often choose to use approaches that incorporate some text descriptions and graphics to gauge customer response. While far less costly, these approaches often leave brand and product leaders wondering whether the responses are accurate reflections of how consumers will respond to the way the product or service once in market.

Fortunately, some important developments in the area of choice-based research have emerged that more effectively simulate what consumers really experience when making a purchase decision. This is the result of key elements in the graphics and choice modeling worlds converging to bring realistic choices to the survey respondent, closely mimicking the actual buying experience in a highly controlled environment.

Radius has seen these benefits play out in several situations where clients have needed to evaluate products, services and marketing efforts that are not readily translated into either ‘test markets’ or simple text and graphics based surveys.  Each of these instances required that we accurately reflect visual buying experiences — buying from a website, a catalog, a menu board in a fast food restaurant; ‘seeing’ the design elements of a small appliance; selecting from a color display for cosmetics.

When we look across these efforts we sense that not only are respondents more engaged but their responses are more consistent and realistic compared to text-laden descriptions. Here are a few examples:

  • A customer stands in line at a fast food restaurant: What influences their decision when placing an order? Is it a ‘special offer’, a video, the placement of menu items?
    • We re-created menu-boards in central location testing facilities using a choice model ‘behind the scenes’ program to show actual size menus on which these element change.
    • Respondents ‘placed’ their orders with the interviewer.
    • The result was a more organic buying experience and realistic evaluation of alternate menu configurations.
  • A customer signs up for a service through a website: There are multiple choices to make. We need to learn the best core services to offer and at what price. What add-on services should be offered at what price? How can we best maximize revenue from that purchase?
    • We re-created screens that look exactly like the website, instituted an underlying choice model, then contacted current and potential customers on-line to ‘buy’ from alternative offers.
    • The result was a truer assessment of how elements of the experience influenced price sensitivity and choices.
  • Giveaways at a dentist office: Remember those ‘giveaways’ when you or your child leaves the dentist office – toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and other stuff?  Well the dentist buys these on-line or through a catalog.  What should we offer the dentist and how much should we charge?
    • To do this we created a catalog that looks just like what the dentist would see.
    • We used an underlying model to change the offers and the prices and let the dentist choose.
    • The result was a more accurate understanding of what to offer and how to present these offerings to drive purchases.

These applications are all different, and illustrate only a portion of what has been done (and can be done).  However, in all instances our goal was to understand the ‘value’ consumers place on each of the elements in the design.  By designing realistic experiences for consumers and bringing the results of their choices into a user-friendly simulation tool, we were able to optimize the path forward for each of these clients.  The choices are simple and realistic for the consumer and the simulation tool is an easy to use ‘point and ‘click’ program, so the net result is a more actionable and reliable path forward for the brand.

Please contact us if you’d like to learn more and understand how these approaches could be applied to your needs.


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