Editor’s note: Rebecca Brooks is a partner and co-founder of market research agency Alter Agents, Los Angeles. 

Think about your typical morning. Many of us get up with our alarm, scramble to get ready to face our day and start our commute to work. If you are one of the contributors to the 2.25 billion cups of coffee consumed in the world daily, then your morning routine will involve coffee. Let’s imagine all your choices: make coffee at home, grab some in a drive-thru, conduct a morning business meeting at a coffee shop – there are many scenarios here. Your choice will depend on whether or not you are running late, have coffee at home, are headed to a meeting, want a specialized drink you can’t make at home … the list goes on. Add this to all the brands of coffee available to choose from and you have many possibilities when making a single decision.

This is all about context – the high number of factors at play at any given moment when making a purchase. Nearly every purchase decision hinges on influences that can be as unpredictable as roulette. A single person may make regular choices that seem completely disparate from one another, with no consistent patterns, due to contextual factors.

How can a brand keep up when today’s consumers are thinking of their own specific set of ever-changing needs, rather than brand, brand, brand? By shifting our research focus from loyalty in a hypothetical scenarios to alignment in a real-world context, we can glean more actionable insights. How can market research start to reorient to deliver insights for brands to truly connect with their audiences right when it matters? 

Here are four changes to research methodology that can help deliver the insights that will evolve brands to meet consumer needs. 

Ground everything in context by couching your questions in context. This can mean talking to recent purchasers. Our clients have found that data from rece...