I don’t mean they need to be more cuddly and approachable as people (although that might be nice!) I mean that the researcher needs to be able to put themselves in the shoes of the other guy. The competitor.
One of shopper research’s critical functions is to represent the external world to the business. And there is no one more ‘external’ than the other guy seeking to “steal” the sale! Most of the people in your company are obsessive and passionate about your business and your brands. They eat, drink and sleep the minutiae of your world and look out into the environment through those rather biased goggles.
You can’t join in with that. Your challenge is to understand in rich depth and texture exactly what makes the competition work, and from that how they already are or maybe could be beating you. Think the way they do. That’s not being disloyal, that’s being smart.
Why do shoppers buy their brands, why do they buy other categories, and why don’t they buy your product for their occasions/need?
A tip. Next time you do a piece of research, ask to run the debrief as if you were the competitor. What would they conclude; how would they react to the information. Then turn it on its head and reflect again on your business, maybe with a more real life and competitively sharpened perspective.
Empathy could be the most commercially valuable skill you bring.