Context Research for Innovation:

Consumer Value Preferences

My project for Context Research for Innovation was aimed at understanding the factors that influence consumer choices, particularly with regard to “high-value products.”  In other words, I wanted to understand what kinds of factors (superb functionality, longevity, style, self-image, lifestyle, etc.) drive people to spend more money for a specific product.  My teammates and I approached this question through an interpretive lens, embracing the fact that people have different interpretations of “high-value” and designing qualitative methods that highlighted this subjectivity.


We performed dozens of “extreme-user” interviews, during which we asked financially independent consumers to describe a high value purchase of their choice that they were very happy with.  By letting people talk freely about a product that made them happy, we compiled a list of keywords and phrases used to describe high-value purchases.  These phrases were then generalized to the point where they could be applied to one of three product categories (Clothes and Accessories, Cars, and Technology).  These phrases were then used in a “Card Sort” exercise where consumers physically organized the phrases for each product category based on importance to them. Positive phrases were placed on a board with concentric circles labeled  “Most Important”, “Somewhat Important, and “Least Important” (see below).  Additionally, participant ranked any negative phrases on a scale from “Worst Possible” to “Tolerable.” Finally, participants completed a written survey featuring 7-point Likert scale spectra between contrasting product attributes, along with demographic and lifestyle questions.

Check out the: Consumer Survey

From the data collected through the card sort and survey activities, we developed specific consumer “personas”, such as the one shown below. The final deliverable for the course will be a formal research proposal and execution plan that could be given to a potential client.  The insights from this research would obviously be useful to product companies, but they could also help consumers understand their own values and buying behavior.  This could lead to the positive social outcome of more consumers critically making product choices based on the things they care about most rather than blanket marketing tactics.  The potential shift in consumer behavior would place a more central focus on brand design identities, opening doors for companies to develop niche products.

You can view the formal research plan here: Research Plan

This research inspired the BuyingRight web app project, which you can read about here. The project involved User Interface design, usability testing, and human factors analysis.