In part two of our Innovation at SIG series, we look at the first crucial stage of packaging innovation – observing and discovering real consumer needs
In part one of our Innovation at SIG series, we saw how innovation requires structure. But where do you start? A common belief is that if a company creates a more intuitive, advanced or better-looking product then it’s innovative. Another view is that innovation comes from asking consumers what they want. But both perspectives are problematic as incremental changes aren’t innovative, while most consumers aren’t able to articulate what they need.
SIG believes that in order to truly create valuable products for consumers, you need to start with consumers. That’s why it kickstarts every innovation process with observation-based ethnographic research. This means looking at how people consume products in the real world, such as when they’re at home, on the go or at work. And by observing these kinds of situations, SIG can collect valuable information on consumers, which will reveal unarticulated or hidden needs.
“We start with ethnographic research because we like to put the problem ahead of the solution,” says Ali Kaylan, SIG’s Vice President of Global Marketing. “It typically takes a month to plan ethnographic research and find the right consumer subjects. And for whichever market we’re targeting, that’s where we do the research. For example, a product targeting Chinese consumers means observing consumers in China.”
Collecting quality insights
After the initial planning phase, SIG is on the ground for approximately a week, observing a set of 6-8 consumers. Unlike quantitative testing, which tends to look at large numbers and data sets, ethnographic research is about focused or in-depth analysis of relatively few subjects. This ensures SIG can gather quality insights not only on everyday product interactions but wider consumption occasions, purchasing behaviours and daily habits.
So what kind of information does ethnographic research reveal and how do you make sense of it? Observations might show how consumers choose items from a supermarket shelf, how they consume drinks while on a busy train, or even how often they open and re-close a product throughout the day. With potentially hundreds of such observations, SIG can begin categorising them into more manageable domains.
“We repeatedly watch interesting observations to understand what consumers are doing and why they’re doing it,” adds Kaylan. “When we can’t determine the driver for a specific observation, we investigate it further during consumer interviews and ask them directly why they performed that action. We can then put two and two together to fully understand the driver.”
From its large pool of observations, SIG creates up to six unique domains that contain a core set of consumer needs for the relevant market. These valuable insights can then be used to guide the ideation process in which product ideas can be fully explored, tested and refined.
To find out how SIG begins turning insights into ideas, don’t miss part three of the Innovation at SIG series where we’ll put the spotlight on ideation and see how this process is much more than just brainstorming.