The lines between retail spaces and the web are increasingly blurred. The days are gone when a retailer could count on the simple fact that people need things and a place to get them. Shopping has become many things and retail spaces increasingly satisfy needs other than simple procurement of goods – they are places of entertainment, they are places to teach social values, they are places to construct the notion of family, etc. In other words, multi-channel complexity and media fragmentation increases need for brand consistency like never before. That means doing in-depth research to find the right answers to a client’s business issues. But it also means making sense of insights and proving direction.
Much of it has been learning to take very complex stuff and explaining what to do with it. I think a lot of ethnographers and anthropologists entering a business environment produce deep, rich information but they don’t always translate it into actionable results. Anthropologists are relatively new to the business world and simply weren’t trained to think about solving business solutions or applying what they learned in the way businesses need. I learned early on that if you can’t articulate how to use it, it isn’t an insight. I also learned to provide realistic timeline and be willing to experiment. We often get hung up on things that make sense in academic settings but have little relevance to someone who has to generate innovative ideas and uses for them. Research is a creative act, not a matter of fixating on methods and numbers. Researchers are often fearful of their results being questioned and that often results in being overlooked.