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E-scooters at a crossroads
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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Will consumer scepticism and the cost-of-living crisis remain a roadblock to rolling out electric vehicles?

With just over six years to go until the UK government’s ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles comes into force, decarbonisation policies, EV charging strategies, and infrastructure plans abound – but consumers still need to be convinced that electric vehicles are cost-effective and practical.

Electric vehicles are the cornerstone of the UK’s transport decarbonisation agenda, exemplified in the government’s ambitious deadline for ‘all vehicles to be able to drive a significant distance with zero emissions’ from 2030.

The debate on the practicalities of the ban and the impact it will have on consumers is dominating political debate and it means understanding the challenges facing motorists and their experiences is essential.

With 83% of new vehicles registered in 2022 still fuelled by petrol or diesel, WA polled 1000 members of the public to find out their views on EVs and the potential barriers to adoption. Explore our findings below.

Will consumer scepticism and the cost-of-living crisis remain
a roadblock to rolling out electric vehicles? [PDF]

To find out more about WA’s work supporting high-profile organisations on sustainable travel, net zero, and energy issues, please contact Jamie Capp – by email jamiecapp@wacomms.co.uk or on 07910 004 035.

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The human side of research

There’s no denying the power of a good statistic. If 95% of customers are satisfied with a product, it’s hard to imagine how you wouldn’t be too. For that reason, numbers—and the quantitative (numerical) research that underpins them—are often vital in convincing communications.  

But evidence comes in more forms than just numbers, and research can be communicated through more than just statistics and charts. For a message to truly leave a mark, there is an important role for words, and more specifically, stories.

 

The science behind stories 

Humans may like a good statistic, but we love a good story. That’s because we are social beings—we communicate, relate to, and sympathise with other people through storytelling.  

The response is neurological: research by neuroeconomist Paul Zak has found that character-driven stories trigger our brains to synthesise oxytocin, a chemical that enhances our sense of empathy and motivates cooperation.[1] When this happens, we become more trustworthy, charitable, and compassionate.[2]

The implications are important. Zak’s research reveals that character-driven, emotional stories ‘result in a better understanding of the key points a speaker wishes to make and enable better recall of these points weeks later.’[3] More than just a memory aid, stories can also produce more generous responses by triggering oxytocin synthesis. Another experiment found participants who received oxytocin before viewing public service advertisements donated 56% more money to 57% more causes than those who did not.[4] 

In short, human stories influence our brains in a way which makes their messages more memorable, engaging, and well-received. Who doesn’t want that? 

 

Accessing human stories through research 

The wonderful thing about qualitative (non-numerical) research is there are so many sources that can be drawn upon—billions, in fact.  

As researchers, we gain access to the world’s endless trove of stories by asking the right questions, to the right people, through the right methods. Propelled by our own innately human attraction to stories, we employ free-text questions in surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, online research communities, and observation to unearth the experiences of those who matter most (whoever they may be). With these rich insights to hand, we are equipped to develop the kind of ‘character-driven’ case studies that Paul Zak’s research proves are most impactful. 

 

Data persuades, stories compel 

Ultimately, the best research outcomes often involve a mix of both quantitative and qualitative methods. The quantitative serves to show the overall picture on a large scale and lend legitimacy through replicable evidence, while the qualitative reveals the emotive side of the story and brings the data to life with authentic examples that will draw people in. What’s more, it is this emotive narrative that attracts media attention, with journalists far more likely to build a story around a person, with the statistics in the background, than the other way round. 

At WA Research, our expertise in quantitative and qualitative research means we know how to maximise the potential of both approaches, on their own and in tandem. Get in touch to discuss how our research capabilities can deliver evidence-based results and stories that will have a genuine impact on your audience (and their brain chemicals). 

 

[1] Paul J. Zak, ‘Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling,’ Harvard Business Review, 28 October 2014, https://hbr.org/2014/10/why-your-brain-loves-good-storytelling 

[2] Paul J. Zak, ‘How Stories Change the Brain,’ Greater Good Magazine, 17 December 2013, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_stories_change_brain 

[3] Zak, ‘Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling.’ 

[4] Pei-Ying Lin et al., ‘Oxytocin Increases the Influence of Public Service Advertisements,’ PLoS ONE 8, no. 2 (February 2013), https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0056934 

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Is AI the future of market and social research?

Is AI the future of market and social research?

No.

Read almost any opinion piece on trends within the research industry and you’ll find Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning in the top few, so why do I take the contrary view? Perhaps I should explain myself a bit more clearly.

Around 15 years ago, when I was a fresh-faced exec at Ipsos MORI, they ran a ‘Dragon’s Den’ competition for staff to give elevator pitches on innovations they thought the company should invest in. I pitched the idea of using electroencephalograms (EEGs or, more simply: brainwaves) to uncover emotions and reactions that might not otherwise be verbalised.

At the time, the technology was still too young and experimental, and it simply wasn’t available to end-users like us in a functional form. Fast forward 15 years and whilst EEG consumer tech is out there, it is by no means a mainstay of the research industry. But why?

A sledgehammer to crack a walnut

Ultimately, as exciting as EEG tech is, it’s overkill for the vast majority of real-world research questions where that level of data capture is superfluous. We can arrive at much the same insights in far less time and for far less money through good research design and skilled moderation or question writing. The edge that EEG research provides simply doesn’t apply to enough problems that clients have, and that’s why it remains out of the mainstream, providing extremely high amounts of data in mainly academic settings.

The trendy radiator spanner

So, given the blog title, let’s get back to AI. If EEG research is a sledgehammer, then AI is a radiator spanner: a tool that is very helpful…but only in the context of one type of job.

If you have a very large amount of customer data – perhaps online reviews or feedback emails – then the right AI tool will help you distil it down effectively into key themes and sentiments. There are still caveats around this though, in that you lose nuance, and no AI tool can solve the garbage-in, garbage-out problem (will some companies pay AI bots to leave “customer reviews” and then have another department analyse those reviews with a different AI tool? I’m betting yes). What’s more, I’d never advise basing future actions off only the input of those people who take the time to leave a review or post something on social media – it’s simply not a balanced sample.

The reality is that most companies have research needs far broader than the very specific application where AI is of benefit. So, while AI has successfully captured the zeitgeist, it’s far from being the panacea for all research problems.

The right tool for the right job

Here at WA Research, we pride ourselves on offering the whole range of research tools (including AI) but talking to you in terms of the problems they help solve and the outcomes they generate, rather than the mechanisms by which they work.

By keeping a laser focus on the problem and desired outcome, we’ll then select the right tool for the job at hand, regardless of how trendy (or not) that tool is. Feel free to get in touch to discuss the business problem into which you need insight.

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Decoding private equity’s video game spending spree

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NHS outsourcing to the independent sector: politicians vs the public

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More bang for our buck, please: the government wants more out of R&D tax credits

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Navigating the NSIA: which way for M&A?

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An historic opportunity…for more of the same? A look at post-Brexit procurement trends

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