The Flaws in Traditional Recall Studies: post-rationalization by consumers

Posted: 2015.11.15

Traditional market research is usually done long after the purchase has been completed. Even if only a short amount of time has passed, the customer is usually far away from the psychological factors that led to that purchase.

Research to collect data after a customer has already selected their product and paid, known as recall, is prone to errors in human faculty and often falls victim to human psychological tendencies for over-dramatization.

The trend toward understanding the shopper's journey in the moment is only being further pushed by marketing professionals and companies like our modern market research firm. In order to understand why in-the-moment intercepts are better than recall, we need to understand more about the human brain.

The flaw in recall studies

When asked why she believed traditional recall studies were flawed, a director for Unilever, Aske van der Werff, said “when asked why they made a purchase, consumers tend to post-rationalize. They either don't know or can't articulate why they made a purchase.” So many different factors go into making a purchase, many of them subconscious, that consumers might not even be aware of what is happening.

A study conducted on consumers that had bought beer showed that they cited 3.8 influences on average. When using mobile technology at the time of purchase to survey customers, an average of 1.4 influences were given. This shows that we as humans tend to dramatize things. It is a natural social and psychological trait that we have. We love storytelling, and we like to add more elements to make things more interesting.

The advantage of intercept studies

Ms. Van de Werff went on to say that there are 3 things you must do in order to understand the shopper's journey:

1. "First you have to be in the moment—not too far away from the actual occasion to prevent post-rationalization and stories that just aren't the real deal."

2. People have a better and a more accurate memory for what they did rather than why they did it. "So focus on the 'what', not on the 'why'"

3. "Then use modelling to understand some of the "whys" by looking at the sequence of "whats," and what interactions led to a purchase, or a change in the purchase."

The advantages here are clear. By intercepting them at the time of purchase, you can see exactly what it is that's driving them to make a purchase and how they feel about the products or offers. You don't have to rely on recall or fall victim to over-dramatization.

The Custom Intercept Solutions advantage

We are right in line with the thinking of Ms. Van de Werff. We are a modern market research company that specializes in catching customers in the moment. Rather than working with unreliable data, we actually speak to the customers and listen to them in the moment when they are telling the truth. Blending in old-fashioned customer service and charm with modern mobile technology, we can customize a survey to fit your specific needs and get you the information that really matters most to you and your customers.

Traditional recall studies have long been the staple of market research. However, new research has revealed that they are deeply flawed. Not only are humans usually not capable of recalling exactly why they bought something, they are often prone to post-rationalization. In order to get the truth, you need to intercept customers in the moment. Here at Custom Intercept Solutions, we use mobile technology to get customers right at the point in their journey where they make the purchase.