Gen Y meets Gen Z
planung&analyse reports on the findings of Happy Thinking People’s ongoing Gen Z Community in its “Editor’s Pick”.
What does someone from the fast and wild world of start-ups think of “Market Research”?
Ellen Surdel joined Happy Thinking People Berlin as a “Praktikantin” – a student placement – in March 2021. She has an extremely interesting background – in start-ups. She is a young serial entrepreneur, having co-founded three innovative retail concepts since 2015 in Berlin and Bern/CH.
The COVID crisis made running the shops logistically extremely challenging, so she “paused” and decided to completing her study in psychology. Which requires a “Praktikum”. Enter Happy Thinking People.
Edward Appleton chatted to Ellen three months in to find out more about her take on MR and how it compares to start-up cultures. Enjoy.
Edward: So Ellen, how’s it been so far with Happy Thinking People?
Really exciting, to be honest. It’s such a busy time, with so many customers wanting to know how things are going to pick up or continue after COVID_19 – in society, with their product ranges.
I’ve been busy. With Happisodes (Ed: our mobile ethnography app), analyses, doing digital workshops and learning to use whiteboards, for example.
Q: And your impressions? Positive, negative?
In a word: super. No really. It’s so varied. No one project is like the next. So, if you’re the type of person that likes a challenge, variety, it’s just right. Less so if you’re looking for the comfort zone in routine city.
E: And what kind of skills have you had to bring to bear?
Analytical thinking is a major must-have. Sometimes things seem obvious in terms of a challenge, but it’s the small details that really make you aware of what separates superficial understanding from getting to the bottom of something, what makes people really tick.
You need the right sort of approach and mind-set for that, plus a sharp analytical brain.
One project I was working on recently was for the garments range of a brand with a sporty, male image. The client wanted to widen their appeal. Working with a number of alternative concepts, we could see with a very fine eye exactly where the brand credibility was over-stepped, and what sort of approaches with a more feminine tone worked. Lots of subtlety, very gradated stuff, a bit like an Aquarelle drawing, very fine brush strokes.
Q: Anything else other than analytic rigour?
Empathy. For participants of course – but also in the engagement with clients. Being really client centric.
I get the impression that project managers need to be both great client listeners and communicators, so that clients really feel they’re being heard and understood. That seems key.
The ability to explain things clearly is also really important, to avoid potential misunderstandings.
Q: What about with participants?
Yeah, as I say, empathy is key. But it’s also finding the right way of asking questions. The ability to keep participants engaged is something I’ve noticed a lot too – to be responsive, to keep things slightly entertaining, fun even.
Research as fun – how amazing is that?! 😉
Q: How does work at Happy Thinking People contrast with life as an entrepreneur?
Managing start-ups is different, depending on the development stage. At the beginning things can be hectic, everybody has to do everything, there’s lots of learning by doing. Sometimes there’s a lack of expertise – which I guess is understandable given the broad scope of what you have to do.
With research, the expertise levels are clear, and expected.
And it’s great being able to talk to people, have mentors around you, ask questions, get advice.
Q. What role does research play with start-ups?
The role of data is increasingly important – everything needs to be fact-based, especially for capital-raising pitches with potential investors. So, I think research is really important.
The drawback is the cost aspect – lots of start-ups are very small and have limited financial resources, so spending on research is a luxury that many struggle to afford.
But still: the value of doing proper research is unquestioned – it lessens the need for experimentation, which can sometimes result in doing things over and over until you get it right.
Q: What advice would you give start-ups thinking about doing some research?
Well, many people starting a business don’t think they need to buy in specialist research, they think they can sort their knowledge needs via google.
But things are changing so fast, and getting to know your customers is just so important, and you can’t google that. Plus exploring with your customers how to sell, what the right language is, which channels for which types of customers, there are so many new ones emerging like TikTok and live shopping.
Not knowing these things means you spend more time and money in multiple trial and error stuff, which isn’t efficient.
Q: What can Research learn from start-up mentality?
Dynamism, flexibility, being able to pivot quickly…. but H/T/P is pretty good on that. So, I think for larger size companies that would be something.
Maybe research could find a way of approaching smaller companies. They have a huge need. Would just need to find a way of managing it financially so that it makes sense for both parties.
Q: Finally, what words would you have for someone thinking about going into market research? Versus start-ups maybe.
Market research is really fascinating – there’s a huge variety, you learn a lot, always different topics, always in-depth insights……so you get to build up a huge knowledge base quite quickly.
So, I’d say it’s great for people who want to learn, develop themselves, immerse themselves in different areas.
Research is similar to start-ups in a sense – always learning, but in a different way. In start-ups, as I mentioned, there can be a lot of trial-and-error. With research, everything is data-driven, so decision making is actually easier.
Edward: Thank you Ellen!
This post was first published in July 2021 on Research World, the online portal of ESOMAR. The photo on the introductory page is courtesy of Jean-Karim Dangou on Unsplash