Mind-reading: Conducting Deep Research Using Multiple Passes

In a recent post, I made the point that right now is a great time to be conducting research into your buyers.

In this post, I’ll show you one way I’m conducting some research: conducting mind reading using multiple passes.


Apparently e-commerce is getting a boost these days. Let’s dig in that general direction.

What exactly is going on in the mind of e-commerce consumers?
More importantly, what’s going on in the mind of e-commerce store owners?

To answer both questions, we’ll do a deep read of a blog post from Shopify’s Partner blog:

Article: Shopify Partner’s Blog: How to Optimize Your Client’s Ecommerce Store in Response to COVID-19

Screenshot of the article

Mind Reading Through Multiple Passes

To perform this deep research on that blog post, we’ll read it in multiple passes. At each pass, we’ll focus on one of these aspects:

  1. Keywords
  2. Evidence of Struggles
  3. Deeper Pain
  4. Worldviews
  5. Recommendations, What People are Spending On

This is a technique that I learned from the 30x500 course from Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman. It’s much more useful when performed on online discussions. But since the article above is both timely and filled to the brim with these useful layers, I decided to read it as part of my research.

Pass #1: Keywords

Here we’re looking for all the keywords, all the jargon, that we come across. Here’s my list:

  • peak
  • confusing
  • optimize
  • ethical
  • brand
  • crisis
  • likelihood
  • future
  • communicate
  • empathy
  • keep selling
  • balance
  • understand what’s happening
  • surprising liquidity
  • retail therapy
  • unexpected
  • successful launches
  • pay-per-click ad costs are down
  • return on ad spend hitting record highs
  • unemployed
  • employed people are buying
  • bare essentials
  • food and drink
  • household essentials
  • cozy
  • games
  • puzzels
  • creative
  • sane
  • luxury goods
  • travel-related
  • apparel
  • fashion
  • directly from brands
  • support independent businesses
  • look carefully
  • how people are adapting
  • surge in outdoor sports
  • why they bought
  • post COVID
  • surveying not enough
  • hard questions
  • compensate
  • financial situation
  • uncomfortable questions
  • customer behavior
  • identify a drop-off
  • funnel
  • adapt
  • experiment
  • purchase patterns
  • refine client’s value proposition
  • more time to browse
  • split testing
  • headlines
  • USP
  • sales pitches
  • google analytics
  • heat and scroll maps
  • interviewing customers
  • monitoring
  • usability tests
  • fears
  • attempt to make a purchase
  • impression of comfort and safety
  • close the sale
  • reassure
  • new situations
  • unprecedented
  • sense of control
  • updating the customer
  • ordered some plants
  • long wait
  • hadn’t forgotten
  • physical stores
  • logistics
  • basic concerns
  • actually receive their purchase
  • actively processing and shipping
  • free app
  • announcement bar
  • current climate
  • site header
  • obvious
  • fully operational
  • lead times
  • displays on mobile
  • restock notifications
  • new subscribers
  • delivery and return options
  • customer satisfaction
  • rapid increases in demand
  • click and collect
  • courier networks
  • collections
  • delivery times
  • patient in expectations
  • frustrated
  • skus
  • delivery information section
  • return window
  • faqs
  • questions
  • via email
  • social media
  • support enquiries
  • situation evolves
  • inventories
  • fire sale
  • bundle
  • mix-and-match surprise box
  • stickers
  • note cards
  • wrapping paper
  • merchandizing
  • hilight products
  • remote-work approved
  • garments
  • home accessories
  • backorder program
  • sold-out
  • future ship date
  • cash-flow conscious
  • pricing strategy
  • financing terms
  • budget
  • interest-free installment payments
  • payment due date
  • perception of risk
  • GoFundMes
  • disposable income
  • Pay at your own pace
  • Payment gateway
  • monthly payment price
  • subscriptions
  • richer relationships
  • product is right
  • retention rates
  • community building
  • candid survey
  • email welcome series
  • marketing automation
  • personas and mindsets
  • lockdown
  • all-out empathic
  • your style
  • buy one donate one
  • be human

Pass #2: Evidence of Struggles

Next, let’s re-read with an eye for digging up the struggles that customers and shop owners might be experiencing. We’re trying to go verbatim here, not to interpret just yet.

  • ⚬→ It’s a confusing time
  • ⚬→ Everything is changing fast
  • ⚬→ Figuring out how to help client is tough
  • ⚬→ Shops are seeing a slow decline while others are going just fine or seeing huge increases
  • ⚬→ Shops are seeing massive drop
  • ⚬→ If you got fired recently, you aren’t buying anything but the bare essentials
  • ⚬→ Are the wins short term?
  • ⚬→ People don’t want to answer surveys because of what’s going on for them and their loved ones just yet
  • ⚬→ Store owners are getting cart abandonment issues
  • ⚬→ Since customers have more time to browse, brands need to stand out from the crowd
  • ⚬→ I don’t know which headline, USPs or sales pitches will be the most effective
  • ⚬→ I feel out of control in this unprecendented situation and that makes me cautious
  • ⚬→ It’s been a while since I placed my order. Is it still going to be delivered?
  • ⚬→ We’re getting too many orders and it’s putting pressure on our logistics
  • ⚬→ Is this site fully operational? It’s now showing an announcement bar saying as such.
  • ⚬→ Click and collect is no longer an option because of our surge in orders
  • ⚬→ Is this product still shipping in this situation?
  • ⚬→ What’s the return window like now for this item?
  • ⚬→ We’re getting a lot of support enquiries
  • ⚬→ I get a “sold out” notice on that product but I’d wish to backorder if I could, to support the shop
  • ⚬→ I’d like to pay but can’t because I spent it all on my friends GoFundMes
  • ⚬→ Shop owners had to let staff go

Pass #3: Deeper Pain

Here we’re looking for the deeper, unsaid pain beneath the struggles we dug up in pass #2.

  • ⚬→ My business isn’t seeing an increase like others
  • ⚬→ How long will this run last?
  • ⚬→ Is my business made for the new economy?
  • ⚬→ I don’t want to buy this product, by fear I won’t have money later
  • ⚬→ I’m anxious about the wait time for this product being delivered
  • ⚬→ I’m sad from having to let go some of my staff
  • ⚬→ I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of orders
  • ⚬→ I’m exhausted and I don’t have the energy to figure out better logistics on my own
  • ⚬→ I’m helpless by the idea our visitors can just compare our product against a competitor with better delivery times or a cheaper price
  • ⚬→ I’m too busy fulfilling orders to spend time online building community or talking to my customers

Pass #4: Worldviews

This one’s tricky. We’re looking for beliefs and mental models that play an important (and sometimes curious) factor in explaining behavior.

  • It’s unethical to optimize my store, my product, during a time of crisis
  • A store that’s not updated with anything COVID looks dead, unkept
  • Customers won’t answer surveys for fear of saying the truth on something embarassing
  • Customer behavior has changed since March 15
  • It’s important that the customer feels in control
  • It’s important that the customer feels reassured
  • Orders placed will eventually be received
  • Customers will likely sign-up to receive email announcements after getting a restock notification
  • It’s important to streamline logistics
  • Online commerce will continue after the lockdown
  • It’s important to understand the customer’s behavior
  • Split tests can be done on anything
  • It’s important to retain customers

Pass #5: Recommendations, What People are Spending On

And finally, what are the quoted sources recommending shop owners do?

Note: If this were an online discussion, we would be looking for evidence of what people are actually purchasing.

  • Ask your customers some hard questions and conduct usability tests to get details you wouldn’t uncover over a survey
  • Look at analytics, at heat and scroll maps to see how online behavior has changed since March 15
  • Get an “announcement bar” app for your store and re-assure customers of your delivery times and inventory
  • Spend on online ads while the return on ad spend and online activity are high
  • Run experiments, split tests
  • Make special collections with products suited for this new situation
  • Offer flexible payment terms, installments, subcsriptions

What to Do About Those

To those of you in the e-commerce business, all of these insights might for you be table stakes. Or maybe, there are some new starting points in there from which to dig deeper.

Here are some of the more interesting bits that I got from this exercise:

  1. Retail therapy: Customers go shop online as a way to blow off steam, which could signal a kind of baseline of online activity will remain throughout downturns.
  2. Exhaustion causes shop owners to delay improving logistics, interviewing customers, or analyzing traffic: This might be an opportunity for some specialty informational products coupled with consulting service offerings.
  3. Apps: There might be some apps (and plugins) that would normally not get much attention, but that are now being tried for the new situation. I’d dig in the Shopify community site for online discussions of people describing struggles around customizing their stores with those apps. I’d look into payment options, installments, subscriptions and the site integration workflow around those.

Whether you’re just starting to get into research, or whether you want to up your mind-reading game, this multi-pass research style is what will get you insightful insights, deeper depths, and eventually, maybe some richer riches!

To get good at these techniques, be sure to check out the 30x500 course from Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman. Or if you’re ready to do more research but you got too much on your plate, maybe I can lend a hand.

Stay sharp!



@pascallaliberte

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