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The Power of Observations Versus KPIs

By: Shelly Bouren, SVP of Strategy and Consulting

At EBG, measuring experience is what we do. We truly believe it’s the best way to get a comprehensive view of what audiences need, want, and expect. But experience research goes far beyond focus groups – it’s about catching people in action, living their lives, and gathering meaningful data from it. We learn from real life behaviors, habits, and choices, and then optimize experiences around them. While some might confuse the differences between marketing research and experience research, experiential observations are the key to getting a clear read of how audiences really behave.

When conducting consumer research, surveys, polls, and focus groups are commonly used methods. These tools are an effective way to gather baseline data, but in a vacuum, they don’t always paint the full – or accurate – picture of an experience. While I was working for the Detroit Pistons, I saw the interesting phenomenon of personal misreporting in action when I went to gather in-the-field research during a game.

When asked what foods fans prefer at the arena, most answered some variation of, “healthy foods” – salads, smoothies, vegetarian options. But then I looked around: long lines stood outside of burger shops, fans indulged in hot dogs in the stands, and the salads were hardly touched. This was an incredible example of just why experience research is essential to seeing the whole CX picture. Customers who intend to give accurate responses to research questions don’t account for all the reasons their answers might not really be true. Maybe they’re trying to eat healthy, but in the moment, that cheeseburger just smelled too good to turn down! So, while The ExperienceBuilt Group believes that traditional market research methods are a key element to holistic approaches, there is just no substitute for up-close research in the field.

Just like the previous example of my research at a basketball game, when we survey people in the field (like diners at a client’s restaurant) or hold focus groups, people are often trying their best to give you the honest truth, but their responses don’t always match their lived experiences. The way you reconcile that is by living those experiences along with them in an experience audit. Through observing and intercepting experiences in the field, we can learn which touch points need to be optimized to create the most seamless experiences. Experience audits are where so much of my passion for experience design lies, and I believe they’re a truly essential element of honing any business’ customer or employee experience. Audits help us identify the current state of our clients’ CX, pain points they’re consistently experiencing, important touch points throughout their customer journey, and any opportunities for improvement in their experience design.

Ultimately, experience research catches experiential snags before they come up, solves them when they do, and paints a better picture of audience experiences in action. Human experiences are at the heart of all we do, giving our clients deep insights into what their audiences need, want, and expect – sometimes, before they even realize it. Connect with us today to learn more about everything experience research can do for your company, your employees, and your customers.


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