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How to engage kids and young people in market research

Market research involving kids and youth is an incredibly useful area: not only do they have an important and unique perspective, but because children and young people aren’t as self conscious as adults, they aren’t as likely to censor their opinions - which means honest insights and truthful answers. We’ve recently been looking at the rules and regulations of conducting market research with children and young people in our blogs - but it’s not just about the do’s and don’ts.

As well as following the guidelines set out by the Market Research Society, you need to engage with the children too, otherwise you’re not going to get very far. In order to get the best from them they need to feel happy, secure and confident enough to verbalise their opinions - which is why we’ve put together this handy guide to explain everything you need to know about engaging with children and young people.

Find your inner child

Let’s start with the fun stuff - the secret to successfully engaging with children and young people is to unleash your inner Peter Pan and try and think how they think.

You can’t approach market research with children in the same way you would a project with adults, so you need to use your imagination and put yourself in their shoes. Let’s assume you’re researching a toy. Now imagine you are a child playing with that toy. Where are you playing? And who with? Are there any other toys involved? What is it about this specific toy that you like? And how could you make it even more fun?

Cast your mind back to when you were younger: at what age did you start playing with these types of toys? When did you grow out of it? How and where would you have felt most relaxed to play with it? Now switch back to adult mode and you’re good to go.

market research with children

Before the research

A lot of blogs tend to focus on the nitty-gritty of the recruitment and screening process, from how to reach out to your audience and how to get consent. But it’s not just a numbers game - you also need to consider how children are feeling about the research and recruitment process.

Often researchers are predominantly concerned with how to get consent from the parent or guardian, but you need to get informed consent from the child too - and it’s a good idea to reach out to them for a chat before the research takes place as well.

You might also consider giving them fun small pre-tasks to get them thinking about the topic before the research begins to warm them up and also to provide a good starting point for discussion on that day.

Create the right atmosphere

When conducting market research with children and young people, it’s essential that you build a rapport - and fast, before you lose their interest! It’s a good idea to start with an icebreaker to help them relax, or even tell them a joke - the most important thing is to be friendly and approachable so that they feel comfortable with you.

Be careful not to adopt teacher mode or come across as a boring research consultant - don’t intimidate them by sitting behind a desk, but come down to their level and use language they understand so that you appear both fun and approachable. You also need to choose a safe and appropriate location for the research.

Often with children and young people it works best to carry out the research in the comfort of their homes where they feel most secure, but if you aren’t conducting research at home, you should at least create a homely feel, for example by wearing informal clothes as opposed to office attire. Creating this type of environment isn’t just for the children, either - a family friendly atmosphere in a safe and secure setting will get the parents on board too!

Consider the parent/guardian

Next up, make sure you take into consideration the importance of the parent or guardian. If you want to enlist their involvement in the research you can either interview them separately or as part of the same session depending on what’s right for your project.

Children (especially young children) might feel more secure with their parent in the same room as them, whereas older children might want to feel more independent, so make sure you take different perspectives into account.

Even if the parent/guardian doesn’t need to be involved in the actual research, remember that you still need their consent and they should also be present in the building and easily contactable at all times. It may be worth organising a chat with the parents before the research starts, this would give you an opportunity to answer any questions and may help
relieve any anxiety they may have.

market research with children

Establish the rules at the start

By clearly laying out rules from the beginning, you can help children understand their role and what is expected of them and set the right tone for the day from the start. On the day of the research, make sure you take the time to clearly explain everything again, from what is expected of them through to what will happen and why, and make sure you give them the chance to ask questions, too - after all, the more comfortable they feel, the more likely they are to engage and open up.

Consider logistics

What time of day is your research taking place? Children are likely to be tired after school and will need to do homework, eat and go to bed and you might not get the best out of them after a long day at school - so it’s worth looking at the possibility of conducting research on weekends. You should also consider the length of your research session as well - remember, kids don’t have the same concentration levels as adults and won’t be able to focus for such a long time. The ideal length of time for any research method would be 30 minutes max - any longer and you’ll rapidly lose their attention which will compromise the quality of your results. You should also make sure they have breaks when they need to ensure you are getting the most out of the research at all times.

Choose the right methodology

Children are all different. Some like looking at stuff, some like to talk about stuff and some like to play with stuff - so make sure you choose a variety of tasks that appeal to and engage with all types of children. Try and choose tasks that keep them interested and motivated - drawing works well, as does making collages, writing stories and role play, whereas older children will probably feel more comfortable with online methodologies such as MROCs or interviews via webcam.

Other good methodologies to consider when carrying out market research with children include focus groups because they can create a positive and friendly atmosphere. They can be a bit intimidating, though, in which case friendship pairs are a great alternative because they are with a friend so will feel more relaxed. If you are concerned about peer pressure then one-to-one interviews are another option that give you the opportunity to build a real rapport with the children without any outside influence, which could really help them to open up.

In conclusion, you can glean some fantastic insights from conducting market research with kids but you need to think carefully about the age of your audience and what makes them tick in order to effectively engage with them. Download our quickfire guide to conducting Market research with children to find out more:

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