5 Tips to Get the Most Value from Purchase Barriers Research

 In Business

Addressing the primary and secondary purchase barriers of your target audience is a shortcut to unlocking real value, especially during uncertain times.

We have always recommended a wide range of research approaches to help clients stay connected to what their core audiences are thinking and feeling.  Barriers research has increasingly been at the core of these efforts because it 1) focuses on audiences who already have some level of familiarity with your product or service, 2) focuses on understanding what these audiences need right now, and 3) delivers concrete tactical recommendations for the organization that can result in significant gains.

Barriers research focuses on conversion

Fundamentally, purchase barriers research is about more quickly and easily smoothing the path to purchase and converting prospects into sales. Here are five tips to make the most of your next study:

1. Go Beyond Lapsed & Non-Users

Purchase Barriers research is often limited to aware non-users and lapsed users. In categories with high to medium purchase frequency, we recommend adding light users to your next barriers study.  This is low-hanging fruit for brands – they have already been converted to users, but for one reason or another, are only occasionally using your brand. Purchase Barriers research can help you find out what’s preventing them from becoming higher-volume customers.

We often discover that purchase barriers among light users differ from those among lapsed and aware non-users, requiring you to address different challenges.  There is a reward for solving this issue – frequent  purchasers represent a majority of sales volume, so moving customers from light to loyal purchasing can drive impact.

2. Identify the Entire Range of Possible Purchase Barriers

A purchase barriers study is only as good as the list of barriers evaluated by survey respondents.

In order to conduct successful purchase barriers research, it is imperative that you know the full range of barriers experienced by the target audience.  Qualitative research serves as a valuable first step to barriers research, allowing participants to express the reasons why they are currently not using your brand (or are not using it more often), which can then be used to conduct quantitative research among a broader target audience.

Conducting qualitative research into potential purchase barriers can prevent two common research problems:

  • Lack of shared purchase barriers – a list of barriers created by internal teams which are found by research to occasionally or rarely prevent conversion, with more prevalent barriers invertedly omitted from the study
  • An open-ended survey question that identifies purchase barriers that cannot be evaluated by all respondents.

Using qualitative research ensures a strong, user-focused list of shared purchase barriers that will be evaluated by all respondents in a subsequent quantitative study.

3. Prioritize & Size Purchase Barriers

Maximum Difference Scaling (“Max Diff”), a comparative question that ranks a list of items, is often used to evaluate barriers and is an excellent tool for understanding a definitive hierarchy of barriers.

However, a commonly missed opportunity in purchase barriers research is limiting the evaluation exclusively to a Max Diff.  Using two question types will provide a more complete picture:

  • Max Diff to prioritize barriers – what is the rank order from most to least?
  • Agreement ratings to size barriers – how prevalent is each barrier?

If the agreement rating is not employed in conjunction with Max Diff, two complications may arise:

  • The top-ranked barrier via Max Diff isn’t widely experienced, as determined by the agreement rating/sizing question, overstating its importance as a problem to solve
  • Barriers which appear to be secondary in nature via a Max Diff question are shown to have near equal prevalence to the higher-ranked barriers by the agreement scale question, which can result in organizations ignoring barriers that are actually widespread

In both of the above cases, actions taken based solely on the Max Diff results without consideration of the size of the barriers would only partially address the situation.

4. Segment Purchase Barriers for Action

It’s not uncommon to have 15 to 20 or more purchase barriers spanning a range of product/service characteristics and situation, with the most prevalent barriers identified in the research being unrelated to each other.

Using cluster analysis to group respondents into barrier segments is a powerful tool to generate more actionable results.

For example, research conducted for a wireless carrier identified multiple widespread barriers that covered many different factors.  Through segmentation, the target audience was classified into three segments based on their primary purchase barriers – technology (phones offered), cost, and coverage area (i.e., will my phone have service).  By sizing each segment and understanding the most prevalent barriers within each, we provided clear direction to the company, allowing them to set priorities for addressing the barriers.

5. Test Ideas

Barrier research often uncovers the issues without providing solutions.

To elevate your research, add a question set that addresses how purchase barriers are mitigated, whether through messaging, offers, or new products/services/features/solutions.  This can take a similar shape as the barrier evaluation design – starting with a Max Diff question to prioritize the messaging/offers/solutions, followed by a scale question to understand exactly how motivating each approach is to the target audience(s).

There will be best-case scenarios where a single message or new product/service feature is so powerful that it will resonate with all segments. But that may not be the case. In the wireless carrier research, for example, each segment was motivated by a different set of messages, which directly addressed their core barriers to usage.

Purchase barriers research provides immediate value to firms because it focuses on subjects that are relevant to their most important audiences and highlights specific tactical actions that can implemented immediately.

Please contact Russell Research for more information including details about our proprietary Pathfinder tool that identifies the key obstacles that are holding your brand back and prioritizes the messages necessary to overcome these barriers.

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