RemCal Insights Founder Rachel Martin Identifies Four Consumer Insights Research Issues To Be Aware Of

Clarifying the emotional motivations behind purchases (or the absence of them), consumer insights help brands, retailers and investors make informed decisions by presenting them with an understanding of who customers are, the relationships they have with a category and products within it, and the trends drawing them to shop. 

“Oftentimes, brands are just so quick to grow, grow, grow, and they don’t actually get it right from the very beginning,” says Rachel Martin, founder of 4-year-old consumer insights firm RemCal Insights. “You really need to go behind the scenes with consumers, understand how they think and behave. It’s important to understand how they are behaving in adjacent categories because that will most likely transfer over to your category.” 

Traditional consumers insights agencies can take more than five weeks to turn around a project, not advantageous for consumer packaged goods companies looking to jump on white spaces speedily. Following seven years of working for boutique research firms, Martin felt she could streamline the process by working with category experts and consumer recruiters, and focusing on a single project at a time. She’s cut the turnaround time in half.

While the New Yorker works with brands, Martin has honed a sweet spot in assisting investors in pinning down the dynamics really driving sales to allow them to pull the right levers for growth. By conducting interviews in person or via Zoom, Martin digs into specifics about life stages, underlying sentiments and turn-offs in segments—and much, much more. For instance, clients have tapped Martin to dive into the natural beauty segment to deliver a visually appealing presentation of the consumers in it and their ties to it as well as brands’ and their competitors’ positioning and areas of opportunity. 

“Investors tend to really focus on the numbers, but, when I’m able to show them here’s how consumers actually feel about this brand and let’s really break down what these numbers mean and how valid they actually are, that is where real progress is made,” says Martin. “It’s really crucial to have an outsider’s perspective, someone who isn’t invested in the brand at all to be able to take a helicopter view of the category and the brand.” 

RemCal Insights’ services start at $15,000 and top out at $40,000. The cost depends on whether the work includes single or multiple segments or brands. It covers recruiting, incentives, fieldwork, analysis and reporting. Below, Martin lays out four considerations for developing a consumer insights strategy.

Rachel Martin, founder of consumer insights firm RemCal Insights

Answer bias 

Quantitative data can show where categories are headed, but various factors can bias answers. Consumers may answer anything for an incentive like cash or gift cards, potentially skewing data. They may simply select the top answer without reading on to get through the exercise or, on an off day, they could be more negative about a particular brand or category than they otherwise would be. Quantitative data is essential for investors, but it’s insufficient alone. It should be paired with qualitative data to offer a complete picture of what’s going on. 

Research Structure Choices 

It may be faster, but speaking to consumers merely by phone or in controlled environments can net responses that differ from reality. Environmental circumstances or context are vital for accurate responses. “Whenever I talk to a potential client, I preface the conversation with, ‘I don’t do focus groups.’ In a sterile environment like that, customers are just going to tell you what they think you want to hear, and this isn’t ‘real’ data,” says Martin. “I use a hybrid approach using mobile diaries and in-person or video interviews allowing for more transparency into the subject’s life.”

Typically, she conducts an in-person interview prior to having subjects take a video with their phone. “The benefit here is we really get a behind-the-scenes look into their lives and minimize the researcher effect,” says Martin. An interview she did for a venture capital firm to solicit men’s takes on aging and what they would want from telehealth underscores the value of her hybrid approach. 

“In one mobile diary, a 68-year-old man was talking about how healthy he is because he cooks, eats his vegetables, exercises, etc. As he’s telling the camera this, we see a 24 pack of Coke and bottles of alcohol behind him,” recounts Matrin. “He quickly corrected himself when we asked about those items, saying, ‘Oh, but those are my two vices. I have to have that every day.’ It’s through this deeper consumer interview that we uncover the tension points and really allow a brand to meet a consumer’s needs. By seeing the tension points, investors can see the long-term growth potential of the brand they’re interested in.”

Consumer Insights Presentations 

There are multiple ways to bring consumers’ and brands’ stories to life. Some projects involve a consumer lookbook showcasing who was interviewed and how they’re using the brand. The lookbook offers a short handout compared to an in-depth 50-page slide presentation that also is delivered. The books are rich with consumer quotes, short videos and consumer photos to communicate the stories efficiently, and lay out strategic and actionable opportunities for improvement in an interactive and enticing way. 


Consumer behavior is always changing. A priority currently is inclusivity. “In almost every interview that I do, diversity comes up as a core value that customers look for,” says Martin. “Customers are insanely savvy and can call bullshit on a brand if they’re just trying to follow trends, and they’re just saying they’re diverse, whatever that means to them. The brand really has to live and breathe it. If a brand is really able to speak and connect to a diverse customer base, that is really going to resonate with people.”

If you would like to connect with RemCal Insights, contact Rachel Martin directly here.