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Few people would argue that instant coffee tastes as good as freshly ground coffee. But, instant coffee outsells sales of coffee beans and ground coffee in most markets. The second observation about coffee is that in recent years there has been a tremendous growth, in many countries, of espresso based coffee, for example lattes and cappuccinos, often being drunk at coffee specific outlets, such as Starbucks. These espresso coffee outlets have found a way of combining the perceived quality of freshly ground coffee with the speed and convenience that many customers are looking for. The combination of speed and quality has been supported by elevating the role of the waiter to 'barista', somebody whose skill and training allow a quality product to be produced quickly.

The lessons for market research?
Thinking about coffee creates two clear lessons for market research:

  • The first lesson we can draw from coffee is that many people, sometimes a majority, will trade-off quality in order to get something that is a bit cheaper, faster, and more convenient.
  • The second lesson we can draw from coffee is that some people will pay a premium for a quality product, if it is convenient, and convenience often involves speed.

The wider picture is that in many cases speed is the key. People want quality, and they want to pay less, but often speed will determine what they do. The pattern we see for coffee we also see for market research, even down to the growth of boutique agencies, offering a quality product, which is not very cheap, but which is perceived as agile and responsive.

The Quick and the Dead
At Vision Critical we have collected our thoughts together on the 'Need for Speed' and we have published them in a short eBook: The Quick And The Dead, a Manifesto for Change in Consumer Insight. We'd love to hear your thoughts.

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