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At Northstar, we describe ourselves as a full service global boutique; able to deliver large, multi-market studies with the creativity, enthusiasm and attention to detail expected from a smaller agency.

We use qualitative and quantitative methods to deliver best in class insight + best in class insight communication. By thinking creatively, we increase levels of participant engagement to reveal more of what you need to know. And by thinking differently, we increase levels of engagement within your organisation. This makes stakeholders listen to, and action, insight, increasing the value insight delivers.

80% of our projects are international, multi-market studies. We are experts in conducting research and interpreting insight anywhere from Surbiton to Shenzhen. To do this we have a dedicated and enthusiastic team from varied educational backgrounds - linguistics, statistics, design, marketing, sociology, business management, engineering, politics and psychology. This allows us to generate diverse methodologies, be analytically robust and visually creative.

Northstar also collaborates with experts, academics and media commentators across our various research fields, giving us a more informed perspective. Additionally, we regularly attend and speak at industry conferences and events, sharing our methodological and sector knowledge and keeping up to date with industry developments. We also run our own series of knowledge sharing events, ‘Beneath the Surface’.

The impact of our work has been consistently recognised by the market research industry. In 2019, we won the Bronze ESOMAR Research Effectiveness Award and were shortlisted as one the MRS's Global Agencies of the Year. We have won, or been nominated for, industry awards every year since 2012. This includes awards for: Insight Management, Research Innovation, International Research, Best Young Researcher and Qualitative Excellence.

Automotive, Drinks (Alcoholic), Drinks (Non-alcoholic), Fashion/Clothing, Finance/Investment – Business, Finance/Investment – Personal, FMCG – General, Food, Information Technology, Non-Profit, Online, Retail, Tobacco, Transportation, Travel/Tourism, Wellness/Fitness
Advanced Statistical Techniques, Consultancy, Continuous, Creative development research, Data Mining, Depth Interviews, Ethnography, Gamification, Group Discussions/Focus Groups, Hall Tests, Multivariate Stats and Modelling, Online Communities, Online Surveys, Qualitative, Quantitative, Questionnaire Design, Tracking, Volumetrics
Advertising, Brand/Branding, Business-to-Business, Communications/PR, Concept Testing, Consumer, Data Analytics, International, New Product Development, Packaging/Design, Pricing, Product Testing, Usage & Attitude
Affluent, Digital Consumers, Hard-to-Reach, High Net Worth, Kids, Youth/Teens
Senior Contacts

Jeff Johns (Research Director)
Jack Miles (Senior Research Director)
Rhiannon Price (Head of Qualitative Research)
Matthew Sell (Chief Operating Officer)
James Vaughan-Smith (Operations Director)
Simon von Haartman (Deputy Managing Director)

Breakdown of Personnel

Admin/Support staff: 2
Executive/Research staff: 21
Total Number of Employees: 21 to 50


Unit B3
City Cloisters
196 Old Street
Tel: +44 (0)20 7824 9870
Fax: +44 (0)20 7730 6303
Establishment date: 2000

International Address

Northstar Research, Inc.
18 King St E.
Suite 1500
Toronto, Ontario
M5C 1C4
Tel: +1 416 907 7100

Northstar Research (USA)
160 Varick Street, 3rd floor
Suite 1630
New York, New York
Tel: +1 212 986 4077

Measuring Experience

The UK is home to many world-class visitor attractions, the success of which is built on imagination, ingenuity and expertise. Collectively, the efforts and developments have been classified as the UK experience economy.

One of the most interesting experience economy components that the UK has to offer is visual arts. Running uninterrupted since 1769, the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy is among one of the most established brand experiences in the world.

Over the summer of 2014, Northstar, in collaboration with the London School of Economics, conducted an ethnographic study at the Royal Academy of Arts, exploring the Summer Exhibition audience and their motivations.

The study was designed to help the Royal Academy to understand their customers in order to be able to better target new generations of visitors, as well as to help refine the future instalments of the exhibition. It also enabled Northstar to conceptualise and road test a new research approach.

Collecting Moments

Academic anthropology is time-intensive. Anthropologists spend months, or even years in the field before producing a detailed and considered analysis of their observation. By contrast, the length of time available to conduct fieldwork and write up findings in the commercial world can usually be measured in days and weeks.The challenge for the Northstar team was to develop a method that carried the intellectual spirit of academic anthropology, but could be conducted within a limited timeframe and was non-interventionist in design. 

Looking at the various anthropological approaches, the team conceived the idea of ‘micro-anthropology’ to gain a better understanding of how visitors experience art.

The approach centred on the belief that to understand an experience it was imperative to explore it within its context. The objective was to identify a set of small/micro moments that helped contribute towards the overall experience: effectively focusing on recording granular conversations, interactions, gestures and movements within the exhibition context. This was to be repeated across a large number of visitors.

This was a counter point to traditional ‘customer/experience life cycle’ models of analysis that are often overtly deterministic and are better suited to analysis of service delivery and management (not experiences). It also challenged the notion that ethnography by default required a lot of time and involved a limited number of subjects.

Gigantic Jigsaw

The Northstar team developed an approach that relied on the following techniques:

·       Discrete-participation: focused on ‘discrete shadowing’ of visitors to the Summer Exhibition. The fieldworker watched and documented (not filmed) their movements and listened-in to conversations for a few minutes. This can be best explained as a hybrid of Time and Motion studies (Taylorism) and overhearing conversations in a public place.

·       Micro-observations: general observations of the visitor in interaction with the overall environment, lasting from a few seconds to several minutes. This relied on a more classical user experience analysis and involved collecting photographic evidence. However unlike UX there was no specific task to fulfil - it simply recorded an experiential map of the exhibition area.

·       Context conversations: conversations with visitors lasting only 3-4 minutes to understand who the visitors were and their reasons for visiting the exhibition. Extreme care was taken to make these discussions as ‘non- interview’ like as possible

In all the team collected sixteen hours of data and four hundred photographs. In effect we created a gigantic jigsaw.

Early Trends

After granular analysis of the various types of information collected, we analysed three types of experiential trends with a direct impact for the Royal Academy.

·       Control: Summer Exhibition is characterised by its lack of signage, allowing visitors to have a sensorial, rather than a directed experience. Visitors explore the exhibition via an unique sense of control over their own visits, resulting in each visitor potentially having a totally different experience.

·       Family: rituals focusing on family and traditions become apparent among visitors at the Summer Exhibition. Rather than the single person archetype of other exhibitions, attending the summer exhibition has become an annual event for many families.

·       Divergence: the variety of artists and types of art offers a sense of inclusivity, despite the exclusivity of the status and prestige of the exhibition. Equally, there is a sense of both the familiar and non-familiar present as a result of the eclectic art and familiar art exhibition setting.

Unbundling Experience

At Northstar we understand that there are fail-safe methods of asking questions, recording answers and providing insights. These have worked very well across the goods and service stages of a market economy. This harks to a simpler, tangible and straightforward world where you could hold, feel and assess your way around an opportunity.

We believe that understanding an experience economy will take a different approach to what worked in a goods and service market setting. We have to start engaging with respondents differently. We have to understand that it is more effective to be respondent-led and researcher-curated.


Source: Research Live

"Northstar's innovative research approach gave us key ways forward that, in concert with strong creative direction, helped us deliver the strongest exhibition attendance for over 50 years!"

- Claire Clutterbuck, Head of Audience Insight at Royal Academy of Arts

 "Northstar's international research experience was of crucial importance in the conception, exectution and analysis of our award-winning study" 

 - Natalia Plou, Global Membership Manager at World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS)

 "Northstar are unique in their ability to use visualisation to help drive insights more deeply into our business"

- Steve Hill, Customer Insight Manager at Jaguar Land Rover 

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