8 biases you need to keep in mind when conducting consumer research

Understanding consumer behavior is essential for any business that wants to succeed. However, consumers don't always act in ways that align with what they say they will do. This can be due to a variety of biases that influence their decision-making. In the following list, we will explore some of the biases that can cause consumers to act differently than what they say, and how innovation-, product- and consumer insights teams can account for these biases to better understand and target their customers.

1. Confirmation Bias: Consumers may interpret information in a way that confirms their prior beliefs, even if it is contrary to evidence. This can lead to consumers ignoring evidence that contradicts their beliefs, and only seeking out information that supports their preconceptions.

2. Halo Effect: Consumers may have an overall positive or negative impression of a product or brand, which may influence their judgment of individual aspects of that product or brand. For instance, a consumer may have a positive impression of a certain car brand, and may rate their new model more favorably than a competing model, even if the competing model objectively performs better.

3. Social Desirability Bias: Consumers may give socially desirable responses rather than truthful ones to avoid negative judgment. For example, a consumer may say that they always recycle to avoid appearing environmentally irresponsible, but may not actually always recycle in practice.

4. Framing Effect: The way a question or statement is framed can influence how consumers respond, leading to different answers than what they truly believe. For example, asking a consumer if they prefer "all natural" products versus "artificial" products may lead to different answers than asking if they prefer products with "no artificial ingredients."

5. Choice-Supportive Bias: Consumers may overemphasize the positive aspects of a decision they have made and downplay the negative aspects. This can lead consumers to continue using a product or service even if they have had negative experiences with it, because they focus more on the positive aspects.

6. Recency Bias: Consumers may be more influenced by recent events or experiences, rather than considering their overall history with a product or brand. For instance, a consumer may have had positive experiences with a certain brand in the past, but may switch to a competitor after a negative interaction with a customer service representative.

7. Cognitive Dissonance: Consumers may experience discomfort when their beliefs or behaviors are inconsistent, and may change their beliefs or behaviors to reduce this discomfort. For example, a consumer may have previously believed that a certain brand had high quality products, but after a negative experience with one of their products, they may change their belief to be more negative about the brand as a whole.

8. Hypothetical Bias: Consumers may express their preferences differently when asked hypothetical questions, which may not accurately reflect their actual behavior. For instance, a consumer may say that they would be willing to pay a higher price for a certain product, but when faced with an actual purchase, they may choose the cheaper option.

To summarize, consumers are subject to a variety of biases that can cause them to act differently than what they say. These biases can influence their decision-making and lead to inaccurate results in consumer research. However, by understanding these biases, product creatos, marketers and researchers can account for them and design better studies and products that align with consumer behavior. To effectively target consumers, marketers should consider these biases when creating messaging and product offerings. Researchers should design studies that consider these biases to ensure more accurate results. By keeping these biases in mind, teams can better understand their customers and ultimately, provide better products and services that align with their needs and preferences.

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Written by
Daniel Putsche
Daniel is the Founder & CEO of Horizon. He is driving the strategic development of the organization, establishing a thriving company culture with a team on a mission to help teams build products that customers really want. Daniel has a strong record in sales, marketing and building startups from zero to one. Before Horizon, he successfully founded and co-founded multiple companies, i.e. Candylabs, BikeBeat and Venture Advisory Partners.
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