A Story of Resilience – A Qualitative360 APAC 2016 Sneak Preview

At the upcoming Qualitative360, leading research practitioners and academics will exchange ideas and strategies, brainstorm on the latest cutting-edge qualitative techniques and how they can be used effectively to deliver actionable insights for brands. Asia Research steals a moment with Mr. Hidayatullah Cahyatama, Founder & CEO of Cahyatama Consulting, and gets a sneak peek at the insights that this speaker is going to share about his year-long qualitative research.

Conducted against the backdrop of Indonesia’s economic downturn, this is a story built from 365 days of resilient monitoring to decode the socio-emotional challenges faced by consumers during this difficult time, with the aim of inspiring commercial solutions.

This is a most interesting study. Can you share with us your inspiration/ motivation for conducting this research?

First of all, we in Cahyatama Consulting always believe that qualitative research is a powerful engine to “crack the core truth, for inspiring directions”. That’s why, from years of partnering with 30+ clients, we have learnt that qualitative research has become the enabler for brands uncovering deep insights, for crafting marketing actions. Cahyatama Consulting is growing in the midst of an environment – where there is always a debate of qual vs quant, and tensions between classic vs new qualitative approaches. Nonetheless, I personally believe that we should all be a little bit more “methodology agnostic” – and focus our efforts instead, more on seeking opportunities to produce integrated thinking, a fusion of all the best research approaches – so that we could deliver fruitful insights, that inspire actions for real life challenges.

One striking phenomenon aligned with that and it happened in the year of 2015 – when there was a tremendous challenge faced by marketers to continue growing their brands in the midst of an economic downturn that hampered consumers’ day to day life. Such economic downturn can be monitored in a quantitative way (through brand or retail tracking measurement), and/or deeply understood by conducting a series of ethnography + focus groups in place. The result somehow might come dry (just producing numbers), or not representative enough (lacking the scope), and as such unable to produce strategic actions for marketers. We, at Cahyatama Consulting, then came up with the idea of creating a fusion of all conventional approaches (FGD, ethnography, and online communities), and monitor all the ups and downs in a qualitative way over the entire year – cross-analysed with retail / panel’s quantitative indices, and integrated with all the news / articles / updates in the media.

cahyo1In this light – we set out to conduct the research with 100+ housewives on a bimonthly basis, as they are the ultimate gatekeeper of household consumptions – whilst simultaneously gaining insights about them personally as women. The result was amazing – where we did “crack and track” various “insight and indices” of consumer consumptions across key FMCG categories (food, beverage, personal care, home care, etc) – more importantly, we gained insights into the psyche behind their ups and downs, so we can gauge the dynamics of their engagement with various brands available in their lives – inspiring bimonthly actions for our clients.

What do you find most striking about the findings of this research?

The most striking finding is that we really need to empathize with housewives – on how they are juggling between the challenges of a downturn, whilst doing their best for the family.  There is a feeling that they are “living on the edge”, hence they need to be realistic on household spending and yet, they never stop providing for children, even by sacrificing quite a lot on their own personal consumption.

cahyo2

What is the greatest takeaway?

The greatest take away is the fact that economic downturn is a “survival period” for consumers. As such, the mood is more about avoiding negativities instead of grooming a better future. In the midst of such behavior, there will be some product categories that they keep essential for their family – whilst sacrificing some other categories that are seen more as commodity. But housewives are human as well – hence whilst juggling with lots of compromises for their family, they will always need some “personal escape” to pamper themselves in battling the hardship of life. And in this light, we observed that some personal care products (not all), do have opportunities to steal a scope in this territory.

What were some of the challenges you faced in the course of the study?

Clients had some concerns in the beginning – that middle-lower class consumers might not be savvy enough to engage via online communities. But the fact that they were very active in sharing their emotions via mobile (thanks to social media!), showed that this was not a problem at all. Of course, we need to balance all their “online statements” with some grounded, real-life approaches, so that we can be sure the data gathered are real and logical. As such, we combined the online communities with “real-life ethnography” by visiting the consumers’ homes periodically, and engaging with them in real life. Another balancing act was making a point to conduct “face-to-face” sessions with all the housewives, a week before we start each batch of online communities. By doing so, we could have small conversations with these consumers in real-life, whilst providing a bit of technical tutorial on how to connect within the online communities later on. As a result – we have come up with solid, comprehensive, and rich insights from the consumers every two months in the entire year of 2015.

Another challenge is on the analysis. Oceans of insights – especially from dealing with “emotion-ridden” postings through the online communities, gathered from 100+ ladies across a year of study – is quite a challenge. Luckily we have a team of young and dynamic researchers, who are very well versed in slicing & dicing analysis via online platforms, collaborating nicely with our senior consultants who brought loads of wisdom. So as a team, we could inspire some insights for clients’ strategic directions.

What do you think is the one lesson that all brands can learn from this research?

Lots of lessons that brands can learn from this study! Don’t worry: we will be sharing all of them later in the Qual360 APAC conference in Singapore this Oct 2016. As a sneak peek – there is a feeling that “smart mum = smart choice” is a key insight that brands should embrace, as part of their positioning during an economic downturn. Especially if we believe that the global crisis is not going to end very soon, like what we are facing today.