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Passive vs. Recalled Insights: Which are More Reliable?

  • March 9, 2023
passive insights for product usage

Can you remember how much shampoo you used last week? What about how many times you’ve washed dishes in the past five days? Or how many loads of laundry were done in your household in the past month?

…us neither. 

However, it is vital for brands to uncover the answers to these questions. As researchers, it’s important to understand the difference between recalled and passive data collection in research, and which situations are appropriate to gather these types of data. 

What are Recalled Insights? 

Recalled insights are collected when participants are asked to share their past experience with a particular product or experience. Examples of this could be asking participants about their last trip to the grocery store or what a new product was like after they’ve tried it. 

Recalled insights can be collected quickly and easily through methodologies such as surveys and online in-depth interviews (IDIs). However, these insights will not provide the most accurate results in every circumstance. 

Humans have a difficult time recalling everyday experiences, especially over long periods of time. For example, if you ask participants how many loads of laundry they’ve done over the past week, most will be able to answer accurately; try asking them how many loads of laundry they’ve done over the past month, and their answers are almost always going to be approximations. 

Participants’ approximate answers to these questions become a lot less accurate the longer they’re asked to think back on their behaviors, so collecting recalled insights on usage and consumption is not the most effective research tactic and is difficult to measure—even if the speed and ease of collecting these insights are tempting. 

What are Passive Insights? 

As opposed to recalled insights, passive insights are insights collected from participants while they are living their normal lives day in and day out. Research studies that use passive data collection techniques are usually aided by technology, such as scales, monitors, sensors and more. Examples of passive research include Nielsen’s use of the Portable People Meter and IRI’s collection of retail data via scanners. 

Passive insights provide researchers with a more accurate picture of how consumers are using products because they are collected in real-time as participants are immersed in an experience, meaning participants don’t have to answer questions from memory, or answer any questions at all. Since passive data collection techniques rely on participants’ ability to recall experiences, this allows data about their consumption habits to be observed over longer periods of time. Participants also aren’t required to change their habits in any way, they simply act as they normally would while data is being collected on their behaviors, yielding easier studies for participants to complete and more accurate results for researchers. 

The Newest Breakthrough in Passive Insights 

For years, brands have been trying to adapt research methods for passive observation to collect accurate consumption data for CPG products, with little success. Now, this technology finally exists. 

With Product Consumption Intelligence from QualSights, researchers can get more precise, accurate and robust consumption data than ever before by using a network of devices called the Smart Coasters. Once the smart coaster is set up, participants simply place their product on top and use it as normal. Meanwhile, researchers see consumption data: 

  • On every usage occasion. 
  • Down to the SKU. 
  • Down to the gram. 
  • Down to the second.

Research Industry Insights

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