Want to fully understand the customer journey? Get the customer to do it

Picture credit: Journey HQ

Here’s an interesting new mobile app release: Journey HQ is trying to get to the bottom of customer journeys, decision making and buying patterns by getting users to fill in information as they go along.

The USP is simple. Most industry market research never fails to have two ingredients: questions and question-setters. Journey HQ gets rid of both.

Siamack Salari is the creator of Journey HQ, and a long time collaborator on ethnographic testing methods. He firmly believes the best responses are elicited naturally.

“What we’ve done with Journey HQ is, rather than risk biasing people’s answers or framing them in a particular way by the question that they’re posing – we’re not posing any questions,” he explains to MarketingTech.

“All we’re saying to participants is download the app – and it’s not even important whether you end up buying [the product] – but just capture the whole journey for us,” he adds.

It’s not a blank page, however. Each user gets a series of ‘contexts’ – how decisions were made, influences and inspirations that may have occurred on their journey – as well as a slider indicating a user’s emotion at the time. Each event can have up to five occurrences, whether video, photo, or otherwise.

“It’s things that people nearly do, or don’t do, that they wouldn’t normally share with you,” Salari explains. “[We had] someone on a train, she sees a bunch of people boarding, and [it] makes her think about going on holiday and having smooth legs. This isn’t in response to a question, but it’s a study about buying hair removal products.

“We would never have been able to capture this kind of thinking with questions,” he adds.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, so like a lot of market research, users get reimbursed for their troubles. They also get gentle reminders if they’ve not uploaded anything in a while, although Salari notes that “not sending is also permissible.”

It’s reminiscent of the various ad-tech startups doing the rounds who offer goodies for users to watch and comment on ads. But here’s the rub. Journey HQ isn’t interested in a direct dialogue with brands, although it’s still their main end user market.

“It’ll be the brands who come to us who want to understand how people purchase from their categories, which may or may not include their brands,” Salari says. “That’s the market for us.”

Sure, the information would be certainly useful for brands, but as Salari notes, the point of Journey HQ isn’t to note whether a user has purchased or not. It’s to “understand how people reach a place where they buy, or don’t buy, a particular brand or product...captured in real time, in all of its messiness and chaos.”

Fresh data and techniques will be picked up along the way. As the data Journey HQ picks up is self-editing, that then becomes a determiner. Why has this user chosen to share this? The importance of mobile cannot be underestimated either; as users take their smartphones everywhere, it helps gather data that a researcher in a stuffy room simply couldn’t achieve. “Again, this is another example of things that we’d never get any other way,” says Salari.

For now, the product is very much at launch stage, with more studies and collaborations to come. With nothing before it to compare, the only way to assess Salari’s hypothesis was to “build the damn thing”, he explains. But after a year’s worth of testing, he’s very excited by the opportunities that lay ahead, recounting a recent client meeting where he couldn’t get to his prepared deck of slides because the customers were so excited by each journey unfolding.

“It’s genuinely new,” he explains. “The outputs are new, the methodology is new, the way we’re interrogating the data is new.”

Whether you’re a brand or a consumer, with this way of thinking Journey HQ aims to marry the two together and create better experiences for all.

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