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Student Voices Series about their HCD Internship

A Reflection on my Market Research Internship

My name is Alexandra Michiels and I am an economics and finance student at McGill University. During my time as an intern at HCD Research, I learned about market research – a rapidly expanding discipline becoming more and more central to the businesses of tomorrow, given the advent of a data-driven future – a topic on which I had no ground knowledge prior to this internship. In relation, I discovered that neuroscience, mainly its application within market research, plays a central role in understanding why and how consumers make their decisions.

I am very grateful to have been able to participate in this internship that has impacted me in many positive ways. Indeed, I learned important skills such as problem solving, communication, time management and searching, as well as filtering for credible information.

Biometric tools being used to understand Consumer Behavior
HCD Research is a leading marketing research firm that provides clients with innovative solutions for all phases of the marketing continuum from message development and testing to ad concept testing, website optimization and in-market performance monitoring.

I am glad this internship has given me such an interdisciplinary set of skills, which helped me to considerably develop my knowledge. To gain deeper insight into consumers’ decision-making process and daily habit loops, we must consider both their explicit and implicit attitudes. The use of neuroscientific methods, specifically implicit, helps improve our understanding in cognitive, neural, and emotional mechanisms are related to marketing-relevant behavior. Through my first research project, I learned more on the use of implicit research, which seeks to measure underlying responses that people are not often conscious of, and hence, would not be able to report on when being explicitly asked to. This research project specifically focused on the use of implicit methodology in human resources (HR) research, a relatively unknown topic to the market research industry. My presentation reviewed different approaches used by market research companies in HR research, and whether neuroscience is included in their data collection process. Throughout my research experience, I faced numerous new challenges such as finding pertinent information regarding the use of neuroscience in HR research, which ultimately resulted in my growth individually as a business student and as a part of the team.

My second research project dealt with the concept of brand harmony. When a company launches a new product, consumers have certain expectations based on the brand’s identity, product packaging, product marketing, and more. It is important for the brand to ensure that these expectations are met, combining product and brand perceptions, to produce brand harmony. During my research process on brand harmony, I faced yet another set of new challenges. One of these challenges was that brand harmony is not a new phenomenon, however, other market research companies will refer to it, using equivalent, but diverse language. I, therefore, learned to conduct my research using only a few key words, pinpointing relevant information while being aware of the limitations of online research, to then reconstruct a clear image of what can be defined as brand harmony. Acknowledging limitations is a key aspect of rigorous research, something which was repeatedly emphasized throughout this internship. Overall, this work enhanced my critical thinking and research abilities, as well as fine-tuned my presentation skills.

Student working on the computer with their planner

My experience as a summer intern is twofold. On the one hand, it allowed me to build a solid knowledge base in different fields of market research, as well as neuroscience and its purpose in consumer-based research. On the other, it enabled me to improve my communication and organization and establish a new set of skills such as being able to ‘read between the lines’ and recognize hidden opportunities, which will continually be useful throughout my career in business.

Student Reflections: NeuroU 2021

By Bingling Wang

As a student who is learning behavioral science and interested in market research, NeuroU 2021 was a very exciting opportunity for me to learn more about the different potentials of applying behavioral science in consumer market research. I was able to look at consumer research from the perspective of industries instead of academia and more deeply understand the application of different research methods in the industries.

Among all sessions, I especially liked the Eight Mistakes Persuasive Marketing Makes presented by Dr. Steve Genco. This session reminded me that research in consumer behavior has been constantly evolving, and that it is important to reflect on the marketing methods that companies are used to adopting without thinking twice. For example, Dr. Genco mentioned that marketers have been trying hard to grab consumers’ attention without realizing the possible negative consequences. Yet, with more of the possible consequences being found in research in psychology and behavioral science, marketers should update their knowledge of consumer behavior and start to develop new strategies to cope with the challenge of consumers’ limited attention. Interestingly, although I have learned about the possible negative consequences of fighting for consumers’ attention, I still assumed, before I attended this session, that this is what marketing should do. While it sounds easy to be flexible and reflective, it is actually hard to do! The session would have been even more interesting if I could have heard about case studies where companies use other marketing methods to strategically activate attention, so that I could understand not only the problem that marketers face but also the existing solutions that marketers have thought of.

In short, NeuroU 2021 was a unique opportunity for me to explore how behavioral science can be used to help marketers better understand consumer behavior. I look forward to applying what I’ve learned at NeuroU 2021 in my future work and continuing to incorporate behavioral science in market research using neuroscience tools.

Entertainment venues—part of the industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic (Gössling, Scott, & Hall, 2020)—are yearning for consumers to return at pre-pandemic levels. Cancelled events left venues with massive losses, furloughs, and a recovery that could last into the next three years (Nhamo, Dube, & Chikodzi, 2020). But how can venues attract consumers given health concerns? Which illness mitigation measures should night clubs, movie theaters and the like continue utilizing as public health guidelines begin to relax? Right now, the United States is in somewhat of a gray area: increasing vaccination levels are encouraging, but there is still a risk of catching COVID-19, including its potential variants. Health concerns might be especially pressing for people who are ineligible for a COVID-19 vaccine or live in the same household as others who are ineligible.

However, consumers are likely eager to return to such venues. This comes as no surprise given the jarring alterations to daily life and devastation people have been forced to reckon with. But some consumers will prefer more safety measures (e.g., face masks and hand sanitizer) than others at public outings. In a survey of over 1,000 people from Croatia, Slovenia and Iran, measures like hand sanitizer availability and venue disinfection were perceived to be most important among respondents when attending sporting events (Perić et al., 2021). Among respondents in Croatia and Slovenia, who were less impacted by COVID-19 relative to those in Iran at the time of publication, limiting food and beverage availability at sporting venues was perceived to be relatively less important. If more venues were aware of consumer priorities, they could more selectively invest in COVID-19 mitigation strategies, which are sometimes costly.

The Study

Using HCD’s MaxImplicit methodology, we asked (n=250) people to rank COVID-19 mitigation measures at entertainment venues according to their perceived importance. This general population study was conducted in mid-July 2021. The first portion of the survey was conducted using the MaxDiff methodology, which illustrates strong predictors of what will influence respondents (Orme, 2009). Then, we measured the implicit associations respondents hold between venues (e.g., movie theaters and concerts) and their attributes, such as hygienic, crowded, and fun, using an Implicit Association Test (IAT). These complementary measures help to reveal gaps between consumer needs and venue perceptions.

MaxDiff Results

The MaxDiff revealed the top five consumer needs below. Interestingly, these needs highlight actions (e.g., deep cleaning and ventilation) that occur before arrival. In other words, they are largely not visible at the venue itself. This implies consumers appear to prioritize trust and reliability indirectly.

Top-Ranked Needs (MaxDiff)

1DEEP CLEANED The venue is deep cleaned between events (e.g., sanitizing seats and surfaces).
2CLEAR PROTOCOLS BEFORE EVENT The venue’s health and safety protocols are clearly communicated before the event.
3CLEAR PROTOCOLS AT EVENT The health and safety protocols are clear at the event.
4VENTILATION The venue follows the CDC guidelines for indoor ventilation.
5SAFETY The venue makes me feel safe.

In contrast with the top needs, the bottom five needs below largely involve specific and visible COVID-19 protection measures. These bottom needs are somewhat burdensome for consumers as well. Collectively, the MaxDiff findings suggest that consumers might be looking to place the onus of enacting safety measures onto the venues.

Bottom-Ranked Needs (MaxDiff)

28STAGGERED ENTRANCE There is staggered entrance to the event.
29LIMITED FOOD AND BEVERAGES The venue will limit food and beverage usage (e.g., designated food areas and limited vending).
30CONTACTLESS PAYMENT Payment is contactless at the venue.
31REQUIRED QUARANTINE PERIOD The venue will require a quarantine period before attendance.
32INDOOR VENUE The venue is indoors.

The MaxDiff findings beg the question, which venues satisfy consumer needs? The IAT portion of the survey can help answer this question. We showed respondents multiple pairings of venues and descriptors. An example pairing is “movie theaters” and “organized.” Then, respondents revealed their association between the two by hitting the spacebar on their keyboard or touching the screen, depending on their device. Importantly, the IAT is a timed reaction test; a faster reaction implies a stronger association. Respondents could also indicate a lack of association by simply not hitting the spacebar or touching the screen. Nine venues and ten descriptors were tested in this study.

IAT Results

Below is a summary of the IAT findings in relation to the MaxDiff findings. The top needs can be considered related to the attributes Safe, Reliable, and Organized, which were tested in the IAT. The venues on the right—the “Top Venues”—were given their status because they had at least a minimum association with each of the words Safe, Reliable, and Organized. While these venues appear to satisfy consumer needs, the “Bottom Venues” (not listed in the graphic) do not. These include Amusement Parks, Indoor Bars and Nightclubs, Indoor Music Concerts, Indoor Sporting Events, and Outdoor Multi-Day Music Festivals. Therefore, we can recommend that these venues highlight their attributes of Safety, Reliability, and Organization within their messaging to better satisfy consumer needs.

Diagram, venn diagram

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Consumer Clustering

Another useful way to gather insights from these data is through consumer clustering. This technique allows for consumer segmentation according to similarity. Specifically, K-Means clustering was performed using the MaxDiff data (results shown below) using the software R, resulting in three consumer clusters. The Dimensions represent “collapsed” data. Instead of mapping consumers by the numerous individual variables that were collected, they were mapped according to Dimensions which help summarize the key drivers behind the clusters. The percentages next to the Dimensions indicate how much that Dimension is contributing to the overall clustering. Further, each has a unique profile. The top three variables contributing to Dimension 1 include 1) I feel I will belong at the venue, 2) The experience feels luxurious, and 3) The experience is fun. For Dimension 2, they are 1) The venue makes me feel safe, 2) The venue will require a quarantine period, and 3) The venue is hygienic.

New Hire Alert!

Please join us in giving a warm welcome to our newest Market Research Analyst, Sadie Snyder

Sadie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Montclair State University in 2019. When she transferred to MSU, Sadie says she discovered an interest in statistics, which led her to explore the vast research aspects of marketing. After taking classes pertaining to marketing research, she gained foundational skills such as developing questionnaires, analyzing research data, and participating in on-campus focus groups. From there, she discovered her passions for data collection and the identification of trends and patterns within data.

Following MSU, I was looking for my start in marketing research, which lead me here to HCD Research. It was incredible to discover that HCD uses methodologies that weren’t covered in the many classes I took. I’m looking forward to the boundless innovation HCD Research fosters in our team and understanding our processes for projects from start to finish. When the workday ends, I spend my time kayaking, listening to my self-made music playlist (perfect for long road trips or a quick local drive), and going on adventures with my family dog, Peppa.

By building a team of analysts that have demonstrated a passion for consumer insights early on in their careers, HCD takes pride in the caliber of team members we have on staff to provide innovative solutions for challenging research objectives. We’re so excited to see Sadie continue to evolve in the analytics department of Team HCD!

Consumers Overwhelmingly Want Telemedicine to Be Part of Their Health Care

30% of consumers would consider changing physicians if their doctor didn’t offer telemedicine.

Flemington, NJ May 16, 2020: HCD Research conducted a study of American consumers to determine their perceptions and preferences related to telemedicine during the COVID-19 crisis.

The study was comprised of three segment populations: nonusers (people who have not had experience with telemedicine), ‘COVID-19’ users (people who have used telemedicine specifically due to the COVID-19 crisis), and ‘Non-COVID-19’ users (people who have used telemedicine independent of the COVID-19 crisis). The study revealed that the COVID-19 crisis has changed perceptions of telemedicine positively. Consumers who have used telemedicine tend to have more positive perceptions of telemedicine than nonusers and are more likely to use it in the future. However, 88% of nonusers still say they would be open to using telemedicine in the future.

Other observations included:

This study combined traditional survey questions with HCD’s MaxImplicit approach to understand perceptions of telemedicine and in-person appointments. To learn more about MaxImplicit, feel free to contact us via the info listed below or check out our available resources on YouTube & LinkedIn.

Consumers are overall more open to using telemedicine to communicate with their regular doctors rather than using a separate telehealth company/service, with 58% saying they are likely to use a telehealth company, compared to 82% saying they are likely to use a service that allows them to talk to a doctor from their regular practice. Telemedicine is perceived as being easy, helpful, and safe. Users find it to be safer, more reliable, and more convenient than in-person appointments, while for nonusers, comfort is still a big hurdle to using telemedicine.

More than half of consumers agree they will get the same level of care through both telemedicine and in-person appointments, although it is acknowledged that some situations (addressing pain, needing to take vitals, etc.) are best left for in-person. 

Moving forward, consumers would like to see more opportunities for telemedicine even after the Pandemic is over. Telemedicine may be an important feature of future medical practice as 30% of all respondents (41% of users) indicated that they would consider switching to another doctor if their doctor did not provide opportunities for telemedicine.

The study was sponsored by HCD Research as a service to the health care community.  For more information or an interview contact Rachel Horn, Marketing Research Manager at HCD Research, (

Marketplace Alienation: Avoiding Consumer Discontent

Heraclitus said it best when mentioning “change is the only constant in life.” To keep up with the ever-changing consumer, companies work hard to remain relevant by repositioning and reformulating products. Whether the change is due to advancements in technology or shifts in regulation, companies must evolve while consistently meeting consumer needs. However, these changes within a product or company include the risk of current consumers feeling left behind by the advances. With careful consideration and keeping consumers at the forefront of development strategies, companies can still make positive innovation while minimizing disappointment.

Consumer Opinions

Imagine returning to one of your favorite restaurants to learn your go-to meal was taken off the menu or replaced with a new version of the dish. While some customers may shrug it off, others may find it heartbreaking because that dish motivated them to make the reservation. The experience of feeling isolated or abandoned when a product (in this case the meal) changes is referred to as alienation. Alienation occurs when the expectation is underwhelmingly unmet and can lead to changes in buying behavior. Consumers often become promiscuous when dissatisfied, looking towards other options to better suit their needs, such as making a reservation at a competitor’s restaurant.

Products are not the only components of an experience that are able to alienate a consumer. Rebranding through communications or aesthetics can also lead a consumer to feeling disconnected. To avoid consumers reaching a place of marketplace alienation, it is important to find a balance of advancing without neglecting loyal consumers. How? By listening to the consumer through the idea of brand harmony. Brands consist of products, emotional, sensory and positioning experiences, as well as the visual identity. Creating a synergistic relationship promotes consumer relationships, understanding limitations, learning areas of potential growth and developing a unified company message (Petromilli & Morrison, 2002). The product or concept change still must meet expectations of the consumer experience to ensure satisfaction. By understanding the emotional reaction that target demographics have towards an item or a service will help companies build products to fit and flourish within consumer lifestyles.

Creatures of Habit

Daily activities are embedded with products, services and messaging. These components of life effect how consumers interact with products, including buying behavior. Habits have a major role in decision-making due to the formation of a habit loop of behavior consisting of cues, routines, and rewards (Eder & Dignath, 2019). Identifying the habit loop provides an opportunity to modify different parts of it, allowing product development to focus on consumer lifestyles. Using information gathered about consumers’ routines and acknowledging the existing footprint of the brand within the habit loop helps to create products that meets the needs of the consumer. The consumer-focus during the entire product cycle builds up the consumers reason to believe in a product. By ensuring the item or service fits the perception, the product experience as a whole can set the overall expectation.     

Risky Business

An estimated 80% of new products fail or underperform every year (Prahalad & Sawhney, 2011). A contributing factor to the huge turnover comes from not correctly identifying or contributing to an occasion. Considering the nature of the experience is crucial, since the context determines much of how a consumer will respond to it. For example, reformulating a cookie to have less sugar can seem like a great adjustment! It may even taste delicious, but is it what the consumer wants? If the value of the cookie is being a sweet treat, the new formula will be disappointing. Even if the cookie is an improvement by being better for the consumer’s health, the experience that the consumer anticipated is different. Furthermore, the innovation does not represent consumer expectation. To avoid alienating consumers, companies question if the change is noticeable and then explore how it is interpreted. Ultimately, the success of the change is decided by the positive or negative response of the consumer.

Changes within a company for any reason entails risk that current consumers will feel alienated and reject the new product. Some innovations may be an easy switch, while others are hard to adopt. The reformulation must consider the risk involved in making changes. Low risk changes are small pivots that are viewed as an extension of the overall product experience. Examples of low risk changes include Microsoft investing in gaming and Disney rolling out Disney+. When using implicit testing, the low risk prototypes are determined to have some harmony with the brand and concept but have a high certainty of response. With careful planning in messaging and communications, the change can be eased into the consumer routine and promote acceptance. 

Contrastingly, more extreme jumps have a higher risk of rejection because it’s a bigger stretch and may start a new narrative rather than stay consistent within the established brand identity. High risk products can be detected as prototypes with little to no harmony with the brand and/or concept and have low certainty during implicit testing. The disconnect between brand and product may confuse the consumer, potentially leaving them upset. Kendall Jenner’s infamous 2016 Pepsi commercial was not well-received by audiences due to its ignorant connotations of fixing systematic social issues with a can of soda. The backlash caused the commercial to get pulled, and Jenner had to make a public apology for her part in the ad. Brands work hard to build relationships with the consumer to enable loyalty. Altering perceptions of a product or person through bad messaging can feel like abandonment to consumers who identify with Pepsi or Jenner. Even if the product itself is wonderful on its own, the perceptions can overshadow the product experience. To mitigate risk, alienation market research can include learning the brand associations to help companies meet or surpass the accepted perceptions. 

Holistic Approach

No company goes out to change its product for the worse. The inevitable renovations and repositioning are built to improve, not challenge, consumers’ lives. Yet, the purpose of the product often misfires because of the disconnect between the product and the three types of consumers: potential, existing and lapsed. Reflecting on the consumer risks against benefits can help determine if the best strategy is being implemented to remain inclusive. Ignoring consumers only hurts the company by blindly attempting to rebrand or cut costs. The product, packaging, concept or communication is worthless unless someone validates it through use. By researching certain components of the overall product experience, companies can pinpoint places to cutback or lean into more to better position themselves in alignment with the consumer. Alienation testing engages with consumers to quantify the risk that may alter their purchase behaviors in response to the product changes.

Traditional research tools, focus groups or interviews, can provide the language consumers use. Starting with the consumers at the foundation keeps the innovations close to the users. The research design is dependent on what the company is trying to learn. By using the appropriate tool, the information can provide actionable results that can guide development. HCD employs a large amount of traditional and psycho-physiological tools to monitor interactions within the consumer experience. Using flexible and customizable research methods, companies can further explore how certain elements of the overall experience integrate into the consumers’ lifestyles. Evaluating the overlap of product experience with brand harmony bolsters success when introduced to the market by ensuring the product meets the promise. For more on HCD’s take on Marketplace Alienation, feel free to watch our latest webinar or episode of The HCD Vidcast at the links here.


Eder, A., & Dignath, D. (2019). Expected Value of Control and the Motivational Control of Habitual Action. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1812.

Petromilli, M., & Morrison, D. (2002). Creating brand harmony. Marketing Management, 11(4), 16-20.

Prahalad, D., & Sawhney, R. (2011). Predictable magic: unleash the power of design strategy to transform your business. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Pub.

The Show Must Go On: Consumer Research During Difficult Times

Navigating the COVID-19 situation has proved to dramatically shift the daily lives of entire countries. The COVID-19 pandemic evolves at a rapid pace with the uncertainty of when the outbreak will abate, resulting in a lot of unrest. Job security, travel restrictions and mandatory lockdowns are just some of the variables impacting daily life. For the latest updates regarding COVID-19, please consult the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO) and local government websites as recommendations will vary by location. While the safety of employees, recruiters, researchers and participants is at the utmost importance, the health of many companies is also suffering. Market research must reposition and adapt to the current status of restrictions and limitations set forth by government officials. To help alleviate the outbreak spread, new efforts can be put forth to keep the health and safety of all individuals who contribute to research at the forefront of planning. Conducting research does not have to cease, but it absolutely must evolve to appropriately respond to the current environment.

The New York Times

We must take steps to flatten the curve.   

At the same time, it is also important to us, as an innovative research supplier, to look for ways to continue to meet client and industry needs. Below we will discuss the steps HCD is taking to accommodate our research during this difficult time as discussed on our webinar on March 19, 2020.

A Solutions-Based Approach

With almost thirty years of experience in the market research industry, HCD has been around the block and has learned that accommodating during hard times is necessary. During times of crisis or economic turmoil, such as 9/11, company and consumer moods change drastically. Companies look inward to advance, while the focus on target markets diminishes. Precipitous change forces a shift in product positioning to meet the needs of the environment.

In 2001, examples of adaptability were shown in the increase of tele-web and telephone interviews. Any hesitation to incorporating internet usage in the job market faded as it was a useful way to modify services while still performing. Similar responses occurred during the market crash of 2008, where companies reflected on consumer attitudes and adapted to the new perspectives. Consumer confidence declined causing companies to reposition and rebuild trust. To continue to innovate, challenging times promote partnerships, collaboration and discussion. Our research works to select optimal methodologies appropriate for each unique research question. By diversifying in client base and services, HCD can match the demands of the environment while producing quality research. We flourish in hard times by working together towards new and exciting opportunities to advance. 

Start from the Ground Up

The safety of our employees, partners, clients and research participants is of the first and foremost importance. Doing a wellness check on research partners, employees, clients and research participants is crucial in times of distress to act as a gentle reminder that their health will always remain a main concern. We encourage efforts which help minimize the spread of the virus, such as practicing social distancing, self-isolating after travel for at least 14 days, limiting nonessential travel, avoiding large crowds, keeping up with hand hygiene and disinfecting common surfaces. Hashtags like #JustStayHome and #FlattenTheCurve are circulating on news and social media platforms to encourage behavioral change, spread awareness about ways to stop the virus from propagating and ultimately diminish the demands on the healthcare system. Converting in-person meetings to virtual meetings is an easy alternative that reflects how the wellbeing of teammates, clients and their families is a top priority. 

In-Person Fielding

As news of COVID-19 increased and the threat became more real, HCD responded by remaining flexible in the ever-changing climate. Questions about travel, illness or illness exposure were incorporated into the participant screening criteria, while also including day-of calls to ensure that no additional symptoms developed since being screened. As seen in many industries, HCD eased cancellation policies over concerns regarding the virus to contribute to minimizing the contact and spread. Additionally, sanitization stations and providing PPE (personal protective equipment) were very important for research that continued.

HCD employs physiological tools, such as fEMG, GSR and HR, which require in-person contact. Projects involving this type of research needed to change. While the equipment and surfaces are disinfected regularly as part of the protocol, it was important to reinforce these habits during this time to provide comfort to participants by showingthem how we were protecting them. Additionally, protective gear, such as gloves or masks, was available to individuals attending on-site research during the original discussions around COVID-19.

Technicians were also briefed on other physiological considerations that the toll of COVID-19 may have on participants. Part of technician training involves knowing how to navigate the conversations with a participant to help the participant reach a stable baseline. Emotional contagions, like a calm voice, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to help it adjust to the dynamic of the environment. However, anxieties during trying times may elevate stress levels which could result in a moving baseline. While it is healthy (and actually a great immune booster) to have inflections throughout the day, reporting on a participant in a prolonged agitated state will not provide strong findings. If a participant arrived in a prolonged agitated state, the technician may have decided to not include that individual in the study.

HCD and our clients were consistently reevaluating the situation to make changes as necessary. Rightfully postponing or reassessing methodologies for online capabilities guaranteed the safety of all members involved in the research. Even in the current landscape surrounding COVID-19, as lockdowns emerge, HCD seeks out ways to evolve and elevate research designs while complying with the recommendations of our public health organizations.

Very Virtual

Remaining flexible is a key component to adjusting to the climate while still providing great research alternatives. Postponing in-person research or using online forums are ways to discourage unnecessary contact. The growth in discussions and innovations will allow market research to accommodate client services while still providing high quality research. 

Understanding and analyzing how a consumer responds, perceives and evaluates a stimulus is imperative in gaining actionable findings. HCD integrates traditional, psychological and psychophysiological tools to give value to the research by matching the right tools with the right question. Remote traditional research can be designed with the following:    

  • IDI (In-depth Interviews): Digital work, such as video streaming, is an effective method to convert to a no-contact research approach while still gaining in-depth responses. Moderators can connect with participants in remote places to conduct in-depth interviews or focus groups. Furthermore, videos of the interviews (with the proper consent forms) may be recorded for later review. Streaming services frequently provide features, such as chatrooms, for clients to communicate directly with the moderator or members of the market research team while the interviews are being conducted. Also, the client can curate potential questions for the moderator to utilize in the interview in real-time by taking advantage of the chatroom.
  • MaxDiff: MaxDiff is a forced choice method allowing the researchers to determine ranked priorities. Consumer buying behaviors shift during times of crisis, giving companies an opportunity to reevaluate and learn about the new preferences. Catering to these changes quickly is both comforting and beneficial to the consumer, while helping products or communications improve.

Comprehensive research may include gaining more insight into research questions through employing behaviorally driven exploration such as:  

  • Behavioral Coding: Usability projects, such as website design, can also use screen sharing or screen recording methodologies to learn about consumer computer behaviors. Observing the user experience without interrupting it promotes a more naturalistic experience, thus showing how consumers interact with specific exposures. Furthermore, HCD can provide diagnostic suggestions backed by behavioral economics to help guide the consumer to better interact with the stimulus design.
  • Eye Tracking:  Learning about the visual attention of a consumer gives insight into where the person is looking, ultimately detecting areas of interest or places or components lacking fixations. Print ads, messaging, websites and video advertisements benefit by analyzing the outputs of eye tracking, such as heatmaps.

Furthermore, psychological tools can measure emotion virtually through a large sample size of a target demographic.  

  • Implicit Testing: Consumers are learning to adapt to the current environment, which ultimately affects future purchases. By following consumer associations, companies can gauge how to innovate for the normative needs. Detecting the strength of automatic associations between words and stimuli via this timed reaction test can help reveal perceptions of brands, concepts and product experiences. Unlike the traditional check-all-that-apply (CATA) and scale questions, IAT differentiates the strength of each attribute.
    • Merging MaxDiff with implicit testing is a powerful combination that can be conducted completely remotely. Comparing the highest priority concepts to the association strengths of the product reveals the congruency of the product meeting the expectations of the consumer and possible improvement innovation opportunities.
  • Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM): The intensity of the different underlying dimensions of pleasure, arousal and dominance are measured in this non-verbal pictorial assessment. The three dimensions map out a participant’s response to a product without concerns regarding language barriers, making widespread research very accessible with this measure.
    • Furthermore, HCD offers a virtual version of the patented Mood Map (U.S. Pat. No. 10,430,810). Mood Map LITE uses the numerical dimensions of SAM to concisely summarize the tested experience. Mood Map LITE is a remote and cost-effective way to determine levels of emotional and perceptual congruency. 

Times are Changing

During this period of disruption, companies can reconnect with target demographics to better understand consumers. Use this time to explore the market space- try to investigate target consumers with fresh methodologies to learn the language, trends and associations tied to products. Identifying the unmet needs of the market by reconnoitering routines via qualitative research will allow for productive product developments, updated communications, and ultimately, workplace success.

Companies can revisit and review the habits of consumers by learning about the new necessities as the world continues to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances. HCD assisted in creating consumer technical models with the tools measured throughout this blog to understand behavior and gain information about inconveniences that can be improved upon through innovation. Innovation and adaptability occur out of necessity for growth. Challenging times are wonderful opportunities to build partnerships, overcome obstacles and learn through experiences together. While the COVID-19 pandemic is uncharted territory, HCD is committed to supporting our employees, clients and partnerships. The company’s diligence in producing quality research to serve a global market has historically aided in streamlining powerful market research tools. The inevitable changes and limitations which result from COVID-19 may provide the foundation for collaborations or ideas to aid the market research field in continuous progress. If you are interested in starting a conversation with our team about overcoming challenges of the current marketing place, please contact Allison Gutkowski at