5 Best Practices for Using Stimuli in Business-To-Business Market Research

B2B market researchers are always looking for ways to increase engagement amongst participants. Interactive exercises and gamification are examples of methods that have been used with success.

Stimuli are another great example of how researchers can prompt a reaction or response from participants. Stimuli materials fall into three categories; auditory (reading out concepts or product features), visual (images and videos) and physical (actual products).

Using stimuli in a b2b market research project has many potential advantages. Firstly, the research becomes much more engaging for the participants, and therefore increases response and completion rates. Secondly, it becomes much easier to collect tangible or nuanced feedback on a concept, user experience or advertisement. Thirdly, business-to-business market research typically deals with abstract terms or ideas, and stimuli are an effective way to focus attention on the key issues of the study and make it more ‘real’.

Having conducted many research studies using stimuli, we have been able to identify 5 best practices to ensure the data leads to usable and actionable insights.

  1. Keep it short – attention spans aren’t what they used to be. Keep auditory or video stimuli concise to avoid participants switching off and missing vital information.
  2. Keep it simple – only include aspects on which you want the participants’ views on. They will naturally react to everything they see, so leave it out if it isn’t relevant.
  3. Ensure alignment across countries – if stimuli is being used as part of a multi-country study, make sure that it is consistent across all markets if the aim is to compare responses.
  4. Go further than the headlines – when looking for detailed views on product concepts or value propositions, it is the researcher’s job to ensure participants look deeper than the superficial design aspects. Prompts are required to get the right type of information and to remind participants to fully synthesise the stimulus.
  5. Use it strategically – Stimuli should only be used when it adds value to the study. Careful consideration over the type of stimulus most appropriate to the participant is important. For example, tradespeople are often working on-site and are unable to view materials on a computer. In this instance, it may be more appropriate to read out a concept over the phone.
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