Netfluential was born out of the desire to use technology to access consumer insight effectively and deliver that insight into business quickly enough to impact on decision making.  Using technology to get close to consumers is ever evolving and we remain at the forefront of agencies taking advantage of what's available to access consumer thinking and ensuring that closeness creates insight which benefits our clients, by incorporating a wide range of techniques from social media listening to collaborative consumer interaction. If it helps us understand what's going on or illustrate it to our stakeholders then it's in the mix.

Our methods allow us to collect and analyse data, images and video from people in all kinds of situations.  We ask for instant reactions to ads and for in the moment videos illustrating the challenges of shopping, we help the commute pass more quickly with a survey and we enjoy lazy Sunday afternoons chatting online in depth about why we do what we do, what makes us bother, head towards A instead of B, choose X in place of Y. Getting in people's heads to uncover insights worthy of the name.

As an agency we're method neutral. No field office to keep busy or viewing facility to fill. Just a desire to get the job done well. Whatever approach it takes. There's always more than one way to ice the cake and the best decisions are informed by advice from many sources.

The key to effective research today frequently lies in the combination of methods used - you want to know how people make decisions? - and you can ask them, but you can also ask the people around them, and you can explore a wide variety of other data sources and you can even watch them. While we love what technology allows us to do, we also recognise that sometimes useful approaches can be a little less sophisticated, that simplicity has value.

You can learn a lot by taking the time to watch.  One of my very first projects in research, involved a week of watching lorries at a service station in Cambridgeshire.  I saw more rats than people that week and it set the bar for the most boring tasks the world of work has to offer but it had value to the client and observation remains a valuable part of the mix. In a recent project about payment methods we used a typical Netfluential mixed method approach.  We had a survey in there, an online discussion forum, some depth interviews in person and over Skype and some in store observations. All supported by a bit of trawling then net to learn from some of the existing analysis of the landscape.

And it's a necessary approach. Paying for things, like so many aspects of life, is a mix of the functional and the emotional.  We're looking for speed and efficiency, but it's money for goodness sake and the process needs to be safe and trusted.  It's also very public and our experiences are visible to others. Speeding through checkout with an efficient contactless payment ticks many boxes, holding up the queue in Starbucks while your phone fails to read your thumb for apple pay says something else altogether.  Do you want to be the kind of person who touches in and touches out with your phone, or gives a store assistant a gold card, or has a picture of your kids on your credit card. What does it say about you?  And how do you feel giving your contactless card to the guy behind the bar? Never signing anything anymore?  Where's the sweet spot of ease, security and experience?

One size never fits all and understanding today's world is rarely a simple matter. We are searching for the stories, the universal truths, the triggers and eureka moments that help our clients meet their consumers' needs. It's complex, scientific with an artistic creativity, and it needs methods that are flexible and allow us to lift up the issues and peer at them from all angles. Sometimes metaphorically, and sometimes literally.