The lab allows for controlled studies
What people say and what they do on the web is often different.
A lot of the behavior on the web is automatic and pre-conscious. Hence, for real insights it is important to observe behaviors on the web and then ask questions. Scientifically designed studies in the lab are almost always followed by a qualitative debrief phase such as in-depth interviews or focus groups. The scientific precision of a lab combined with the rich insights from the qualitative phase provides the kind of understanding that is not easily duplicated by other research methods.
You must be in control to do web research.
The lab allows us to conduct controlled studies. We can simulate surfing or browsing or shopping behaviors in the lab and observe consumers to find out how they use a website. We can show online ads “naturally” in the lab and track eye movement on the ad. Data are collected through screen capture, pre and post session surveys, aided and unaided memory recall, and qualitative de-brief sessions. Only when the four sources of data provide a consistent story, we believe we have a valid finding. This procedure allows us to examine an issue from several perspectives and build our findings with confidence.
Small sample, powerful results.
People often confuse lab research with survey research. Surveys are generally used to get an estimate about a population such as % awareness of the brand. Lab research, on the other hand, is used to study cause and effect. For example, we can show an ad to 50 people and measure their intention to buy the advertised brand before and after exposure to the ad. We can run statistical analysis to see if the intention to buy went up significantly following exposure to the ad. Such a study in the field would require much larger sample sizes to detect a statistically significant effect. Field studies have too many uncontrollable factors that can increase the noise and error rate in the data and drown any significant effects due to the ad.
An ideal setting for creativity and collaboration.
Creativity requires a special setting and orchestrated group exercises. The lab pro¬vides the setting and the staging to host creative sessions. The lab is used in creative ways to facilitate ideation. The lab brings consumers and design¬ers together in active collaboration. Designers can watch in real time how consumers interact with the object of interest. New ideas are sketched and shown to consumers for further ideation. All this can happen in the lab, which is built for such collaboration.