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Knowing Enough to be Dangerous

August 8, 2022

Are you familiar with the expression, “I know enough to be dangerous.”? I use it all the time to indicate that I know a little about a topic, but I cannot be considered an expert. An expert would be confident that they are not missing anything while, someone who knows enough to be dangerous gets the gist but acknowledges there are holes in their knowledge.


I know enough to be cost or time-effective.

The term “dangerous” – which in my mind jumps to life threatening – might be a stretch.  No one is going to die based on my limited or extensive knowledge of a particular research request that passes over my desk. In my case it should be more like “I know enough to be cost or time-effective.”

Let me explain. At Big Village, a retail client came to us to help them create their strategic roadmap to ensure future relevance and vitality of their organization. Their ask – “Tell us what the future of retail looks like in a post-covid world.”  Without context, that’s a lot to unpack. So, we got started by defining parameters that were meaningful to the client’s organization. We asked questions like, “what kind of retail should be considered?” Among choices including apparel, big-box, luxury, online, brick & mortar, ecommerce.  And “how long into the future?”  2 years?  5 years?  10 years?  20 years?  From the retailer, consumer, and wholesaler perspective.

With an answer of yes to nearly every question, we had a lot of things to consider.  It was important to gather the right data to answer the question in a way that was closely aligned with the recommendations for action that our client needed to prepare for a successful future. It was in our client’s best interest to focus on the apparel retail market, and even more specifically, footwear. With this focal depth defined, we appreciated the need to go broad as well. Therefore, the second phase of our secondary work cast a wide net encompassing the broader retail world.

Now, as a full-service market research firm, we know we want to run surveys and conduct interviews to collect rich primary content that the client can quote and cite in their thought leadership piece.  But on a well-covered topic like the future of retail, I’ll use another potentially over-used expression – “we don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”


Accelerated Intelligence

Many rich resources exist discussing the future of retail, identifying trends and citing research and experts on the topic.  Big Village’s Accelerated Intelligence team spends time mining these resources and incorporating them into actionable results for our clients. At the initiation of this engagement, our team sat down with the client and reviewed what they wanted to achieve with this thought leadership piece. We also covered what they already knew, absorbed all the secondary research content they had already reviewed and noted sources they valued and those they didn’t. After starting with a stacked foundation of content, our experienced team then took to Big Village’s best-in-class resources to mine insightful content to weave a narrative about the future of retail and the impact to consumers.

With a strong knowledge base, we turned to customers. We employed a dual method using both qualitative and quantitative primary research to gather the aspects of shopping that matter most. We had customers react to possible future scenarios such as a Phygital experience, destination shopping and virtual changing rooms among other new and emerging concepts in retail. Gathering their deep thoughts and emotional reaction to these and other aspects of shopping through a three-day qualitative journey, we then quantified shopper’s attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and opinions.


The Future of Retail Emerges

As we synthesized the data gathered from each phase of our work, the future of retail emerged. We had excellent content and a strong story to describe the future shopper – who is demanding both experience and convenience and the technology bridge that connects their needs. After a couple of work sessions with the client, reviewing over 40 unique resources, and summarizing what matter most, we knew way more than enough to be dangerous. We had done the legwork; the time-consuming desk research the client didn’t have the bandwidth and time to do. We identified all the key content that already existed on the topic and were able to inform and create unique and actionable primary research methodologies that provided the client with a thought leadership piece that stood out from the noise. They called this “ownable,” which meant they could activate on the recommendations for action that were born out of this effort.

Had we not done our research on what already existed and supplemented that knowledge with actual customer experience, desires, beliefs and behaviors, our client may have chosen to focus on topics already well covered or not impactful to their consumer base. When we designed our learning agenda that includes qualitative and quantitative primary research, we were confident that our findings would showcase a unique perspective to help this retailer succeed in the ever-changing retail experience post-COVID and beyond.

With a comprehensive, succinct, and actionable report in hand synthesizing our four phased approach, our client knew far more than enough to be dangerous. They knew enough to be impactful and actionable – the ultimate goal.


Written by Christine Palumbo, Vice President of Insights at Big Village.