This was the first time I had attended the MRS Consumer Health Conference and it did not disappoint. There were a variety of speakers from research agencies, client organisations, charities and government bodies talking.
The subjects ranged from a broad overview of new trends in consumer health to very detailed case studies about how research had informed specific healthcare solutions. I was eager to find out more, having worked in the market research industry for the past 4 years as well as recently starting an MSc in Health Psychology.
During the day we heard from more than 10 different speakers, so it’s not possible to mention all of them here despite them all offering great insight. However there were a couple of highlights for me. It was interesting to hear from David at Strategic North about how we, as consumers, make decisions and the role this plays in understanding behaviour change. As a part of our neuroscience consultancy team at Marketing Sciences Unlimited, ‘Walnut Unlimited’, I am only too familiar with his observation that the majority of decision making occurs at an unconscious emotional level, an understanding of this is crucial to effectively engage with consumers. David’s references to brands as being experiences in the eye of a consumer and not just a logo, a product or a name is something I also feel holds true.
My other highlight was the case study from Macmillan, presented by Amanda Neylon which described how Macmillan have used consumer research to design products and services, which in this instance was the creation of an app to help patients and carers self-manage their treatment. This research was a brilliant example of the importance of including your customers at every stage of product development to create something that is truly valued by its end user.
Across all of the talks, panel discussions and interactive sessions there were some common words that repeatedly came up; most notably collaboration in terms of working with people externally such as consumers and in partnership with research agencies, but also, and perhaps more poignantly the importance of internal collaboration with other teams within the organisation to help make better and more holistic decisions. The other recurrent phrase being used was the importance of gaining an emotional understanding of behaviour and not just thinking about the functional aspects of health and healthcare delivery. There was a heartwarming example from Greensand about how turning MRI scanners into pirate ships helped overcome the fear children experience undergoing such tests. Not only was this a better experience for the child and their parent but it also meant great commercial benefits in reducing costs through fewer missed appointments and less need for sedation medication.
KEY TAKE OUTS
On reflection of the conference, I have pulled together my key take outs which have relevance not only for health research but also market research more broadly:
1. Technology has a huge role to play in the future of the health industry, for patients, practitioners and also in the consumer domain.
2. Behaviour change affects us all as researchers, whether we are looking to understand the frequency of purchase, raise brand awareness or increase product usage. Ultimately we are all trying to influence behaviour and uncover how we can facilitate behavior change.
3. Collaboration is key to success – Working with external and internal stakeholders is crucial and involving customers at every stage of the process is key.
4. Sometimes the simplest solution is the most effective. Understanding the need and fulfilling it is more important and using research will help to achieve this.
Thank you to the MRS for putting on this event and to all of the speakers that contributed to the day.
Becky Hutchins is a Senior Research Executive at Marketing Sciences Unlimited, working predominantly in our neuroscience consultancy, Walnut Unlimited.Subscribe