There is nothing more rewarding than an innovation session that goes exactly to plan, feels a bit like chaos (at times), and then results in fantastic insights and output. That’s kind of what it feels like when we run consumer immersion sessions. Although these multi-participant sessions run on a complicated schedule, they’re usually very high energy—and often very energizing. And even if they start out feeling a little overwhelming, they result in really happy clients who also uncover some really new territory.
So what’s the recipe for success when it comes to consumer immersions?
A wide range of stimulating activities, including:
Videos of consumers in their element.
Consumers bringing in objects that represent their experiences.
Shopping alongside a consumer.
Side-by-side interactions, as well as idea generation between clients and consumers.
Fantastic consumers. Ones who are both insightful and creative. Ones who can clearly articulate a need or an insight—and come up with an innovative no-holds-barred solution, as well.
Facilitators who are comfortable with uncertainty AND really flexible in their approach. Will the clients play along? Will they use the consumers the way we intended? Will we need to shift gears? Is the timing right? Do we have enough consumers? Did too many people show up? Whether the answer is YES or NO, it doesn’t matter. The facilitator just needs to work it out.
Clients who are interested in trying something new. How often do you spend the whole day immersed in consumer experience? I’m not talking about a focus group, or spending hours poring through a need state deck. I’m talking about spending quality time with real live consumers—smart and creative ones. And doing so on an equal playing field, like during a facilitated consumer immersion, will help you reach your goal. Plus, how often do you work cross-functionally—including everyone from marketing, to finance, to R&D—so everyone is personally tasked with growing the business using consumer insights.
Structure to bring it all home. Sure, it’s great fun to do a lot of crazy things all day with consumers. But what use is it if you can’t bring it all together? At the end of the day, whether you’re capturing key insights and business implications, developing scenarios for the ideal consumer experience, generating insights-based concepts to test (or a combination of all 3!)—structure is the key final ingredient.
Of course, recipe or not, working with consumers is little bit of a wild ride. And that’s what makes consumer immersions so exciting—delving into the unknown. With the right mix of planning and structure, combined with creative range and flexibility, you’ll be sure to walk away with fresh new ideas that are actually rooted in the needs, wants and opportunities of your target consumer. A recipe for success, indeed.
Beth Storz is President and Innovation Process Facilitatorat Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.
Beth Storz is President and Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go. She co-authored the book, "Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral Innovation™ Approach Drives Your Company Forward." Beth has been a guest on many innovation podcasts and her work has been featured in media outlets such as HuffPost and Fortune. Beth holds a BS in Business Management from Cornell University and a MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and has worked in brand management at some of the premier consumer packaged goods companies—including Unilever, Kraft and Nabisco. Since joining Ideas To Go, Beth has established herself as a leader in the Innovation landscape and designed and facilitated projects for hundreds of companies—from CPG to financial services to pharmaceuticals.