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Re-designing market assessments in a consumer economy

by Matt Cybulsky & Lauren Janney

Our creative consulting studio, Lens Strategy, teamed up with IONIA Behavioral Insights to re-design market assessments for healthcare, reducing the executive’s risk by offering a picture of the market from the customer’s perspective.

As much as we like to think we’re rational decision makers, there’s a reason why no soothing metaphor for “trust your data” exists. If anything, we’re told the inverse—to “go with your gut.” Take sport fans preferring to hedge their bets on a Tom Rinaldi-like pre-game story, as opposed to the data-driven analytics of yesteryear. Our modern view of the world around us is increasingly infused with human interest stories, emotional resonance, and shared social experiences.

Emotions are not only fuel for our value judgments; they are complex and powerful aspects of reasoning itself. Our purchasing behaviors are no less susceptible to emotional and narrative influence. According to Walker, consider that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. This explains the business world’s continuing obsession with the story of the customer as THE driver for business strategy (e.g., the “Re-established” Wells Fargo, Warby Parker direct-to-consumer eye wear with a philanthropic cause, the Nike Equality Campaign), and yet our tools for market assessments in healthcare have not fully evolved to meet this new paradigm.


Missing in action: Consumer and provider insights

Traditional market assessments do not fully meet business needs, especially in highly variable industries like healthcare. While data-driven analytics have a place in today’s business, market assessments often fall short of providing real insights into human dynamics—causing a chasmal gap between capital and strategic decisions.

For instance, many hospitals fail to properly consider patient or provider behaviors, narratives, or emotions as part of their assessments, excluding highly influential insights. Yes, it’s fantastic to have data on children per family in a county, or the median income and disposable income of families with PPO insurance. Yet, what does this tell us about the communities’ perception of a new hospital? Very little.

The way consumers purchase healthcare has changed, driven by emotional decisions to buy. A market strategy rooted in human behavior takes stock of those emotions as an opportunity for deeper loyalty and fulfilling outcomes.

Without doubt, managing the risk of an investment to build, expand, or change service offerings is best leveraged by an understanding of the behavioral approaches of customers, users, and providers instead of an analytical review of traditional metrics, alone.

In fact, discovering the preferences of future patients you’ll serve—instead of esoteric knowledge of their disposable income and insurance mix—is the difference between building a Target, Wal-Mart, or Costco. We know the need is there, but success and failure ultimately reside with human emotions and the desire to shop at a preferred store. Building a Wal-Mart instead of a Costco or Target in the wrong town by omitting the preferences for consumer perceptions is simply short sighted, no matter what the quantitative data tells us about volumes and incomes. Successful, confident, and useful market assessments for health services recognize the same.

Vivid market assessments include psychology and create confident decisions

The science behind any assessment should reduce the executive’s risk of playing the human odds of not knowing consumer perception, emotions, and choice. We’ve developed an approach that synthesizes traditional metrics, consumer behaviors and preferences, and provider behavior and preferences to construct a thorough and comprehensive decision guide. Our Market Breakthrough services offers owners a picture of the market from their customer’s perspective, giving surety in growth strategies.

The way consumers purchase healthcare has changed, driven by emotional decisions to buy. A market strategy rooted in human behavior takes stock of those emotions as an opportunity for deeper loyalty and fulfilling outcomes.

IONIA Behavioral Insights & Lens Strategy partner to bring you the best in behavioral science tools and human-centered design addressing a multitude of strategic and delivery challenges in healthcare. If you are interested in deeper engagement with your patients, providers, and stakeholders, please contact Dr. Cybulsky at or Lauren Janney at

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