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5 must-read books for marketing researchers

Editor’s note: Miguel Conner is marketing director at Chicago-based research firm qSample. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “The 5 best books on market research.”

There is a lot of market research being conducted out there. It spreads to all the corners of the country – a vast lattice of insightful numbers and consumer psychological insights in many platforms and mediums. On a more quantitative translation, it’s a $24 billion a year industry that employs more than 150,000 workers nationwide.

Oddly, the one thing market research is lacking are books on market research!

Outside of limited academic tomes and beyond satellite topics, market research books could fit in the head of a pin along with those dancing angels (that’s an exaggeration but you get the idea). However, the ones currently available to your e-reader or bookshelf are extremely beneficial to market researchers of any stripe. They can either be utilized as needed refreshers or for elevating research pedigree.

Here they are:

A Nation of Numbers: The Development of Marketing Research in America (2015) by Paul A. Scipione

A Nation of Numbers: The Development of Marketing Research in America (2015) by Paul A. ScipioneScipione’s book was released just this January. It’s truly the first of its kind: a comprehensive history of market research.

Scipione provides engaging biographies of the pioneers of market research, including George H. Gallup, Arthur Nielsen and Ernest Dichter (which we have profiled). A Nation of Numbers also presents the evolving market research eras, a balancing act of quantitative and qualitative pendulums.

Just as fascinating, Scipione offers a crystal ball into the future of market research, based on, yes, research on the history of market research. George Santayana famously said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Could we say that thoe who do not learn from market research history are doomed to have average data?

Scipione makes a good case for this.

Strategic Market Research: A Guide to Conducting Research that Drives Businesses (2010) by Anne E. Beall

Strategic Market Research: A Guide to Conducting Research that Drives Businesses (2010) by Anne E. BeallThe book is remarkable in its understanding and presenting of strategic principles of market research. Correct techniques are essential to any market research company, and this book delivers sensible formulas in approachable manners. Beall offers both qualitative and quantitative insights, explaining soberly how to go beyond data to interpret results (including understanding nonverbal communications of respondents). The insights of the book can be applied beyond businesses to nonprofits or academia.

To make sure her research on market research is kosher, Beall makes available real-life examples to elucidate the reader.

Marketing Research Kit For Dummies (2010) by Michael Hyman and Jeremy Sierra

Marketing Research Kit For Dummies (2010) by Michael Hyman and Jeremy SierraYou figured a Dummies edition would make the list (at least we didn’t include Sun Tzu’s proverbial The Art of War, found in so many business and marketing top book lists). Yet the book backs up its title’s claim: providing an effective toolbox for market researchers of any proficiency. Here are some of the nifty essentials, gleaned from its jacket that our team at qSample agrees with:

    • Complete instructions for writing a research plan, conducting depth interviews and focus groups.
    • Explains the process of sampling, analyzing data, and reporting results.
    • Tips on developing questionnaires for face-to-face, internet, and even postal surveys.
    • Assistance in keeping your eye on your competition and analyze their results.

In addition, the book comes with a companion CD, so knowledge can be gained driving to and from work.


Market Research in Practice: How to Get Greater Insight from Your Market (2013) by Paul N Hague, Nicholas Hague and Carol-Ann Morgan

Market Research in Practice: How to Get Greater Insight from Your Market (2013) by Paul N Hague, Nicholas Hague and Carol-Ann MorganThis work grants a clear, step-by-step guide to the whole process of market research – from planning a project through analysis and presenting the findings. The authors explain how to effectively utilize research tools and methods in order to obtain dependable data; and this includes market research design; desk research; sampling and statistics; questionnaire design; data analysis; and reporting in various mediums.

Unlike the other books mentioned here, Market Research in Practice deals with the coverage of social media research and mobile surveys.

For experienced market researchers, the book may work as an important checklist; for others, it is a first-rate roadmap to ensure a research project finishes with the best possible results.

Questionnaire Design: How to Plan, Structure and Write Survey Material for Effective Market Research (2013) by Ian Brace

Questionnaire Design: How to Plan, Structure and Write Survey Material for Effective Market Research (2013) by Ian BraceWe admit we have a soft spot for Brace’s book – as we specialize in niche panels and online survey data. Still, one cannot argue that a main cornerstone for market research is survey execution and material. Questionnaire Design can make that cornerstone as solid as possible. It describes how to understand the different types of questionnaires, as well as how exactly they should be deployed. Moreover, Brace explains how to plan, structure, and compose the right questionnaire for specific modes of research.

Also very important, Questionnaire Design includes a section on the opportunities and issues with mobile questionnaires and surveys – essential as we enter a golden era of mobile research.

Posted in Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Techniques, Marketing Research Resources, Research Communities, Research Industry Trends, State of the Research Industry, The Business of Research | Comment

Ad blocking less likely among mobile’s power users

Editor’s note: Jennifer Sikora is chief marketing officer at CivicScience, a Pittsburgh-based research firm.

Young adults with mobile phonesMobile ad blocking is no doubt going to be watched very closely by marketers, advertisers and mobile product developers as they assess how quickly and extensively consumers will adopt this option. With both CivicScience and Pew Research data putting smart-phone usage now at over 64 percent in the U.S., the growing opportunity to use these devices as a vehicle for marketing reach is now being threatened with easier access to ad blocking technology.

Headlines about this topic were back in the spotlight early summer 2015, with Apple’s announcement that its next iOS and OS X operating system versions will make it easier to develop ad-blocking extensions to Apple’s Safari Web browser.

Will marketers need to rethink mobile strategies, given that eMarketer estimates that mobile ad spending will exceed the $100 billion mark in 2016?

We ran a poll (from June 23-July 13, 2015) to study 6,500 U.S. adult consumers based on their likeliness to install a mobile ad blocker. While the top-line results suggest that 41 percent of U.S. adults who own a mobile device are “very likely” to install ad-blocking software (a potentially worrisome statistic on the surface), we actually found a more optimistic narrative as we took a deeper look at the profiles of response groups.

It turns out that those who said they are not at all likely to install ad blocking for their smart phone or tablet device have much heavier levels of mobile device and app usage than the other respondents. It may be fair to call them mobile power users.

Brands that target younger consumers should be pleased to know that non-blockers are 38 percent more likely to be under the age of 25 and 33 percent more likely to be 25-29. Also, women are a bit less inclined to say they are “very likely” to install a mobile ad blocker.

Beyond the basic demographics, though, is where the true picture emerges. Those who say they’re “not at all likely” to install ad blocking are more likely than average to use their mobile device for many different types of activities and transactions. They are:

  • seventy-seven percent more likely than the rest of the respondents to say they use their phone to make mobile payments;
  • fifty-six percent more likely to conduct over half of their retail banking using their mobile device;
  • sixty-two percent more likely to use their smart phone very frequently to research products they want to purchase;
  • fifty-two percent more likely to say they primarily use texting over phone calls, social media or e-mail to communicate most often with friends and family;
  • sixty-five percent more likely to play the majority of their video games on their mobile device vs. other game play options; and
  • twenty-one percent more likely to second screen – meaning that when watching TV, they are also viewing mobile apps, games or other content not related to the show.


In addition to mobile device usage differences, the data also show that those not likely to install mobile ad blocking are 25 percent more likely to feel that their personal financial situation will get better in the next six months, and they are 16 percent more likely than the average respondent to be currently employed. This suggests that mobile power users are more likely to be an economically stable audience for advertisers to reach.

The mobile power user is going to be far less inclined to block ads on their devices, while those more likely to install ad blocking represent a less mobile-engaged user-base. Such research insights can help marketers and advertisers as they revisit their mobile spend strategies, knowing that they still will have a receptive, and perhaps higher-quality consumer audience on the other side.


CivicScience collects real-time consumer research data via polling applications that run on U.S.publisher Web sites, cycling through thousands of active questions on any given day. Respondents for this report were weighted for U.S. Census representativeness for gender and age, 13 years and older, and data was collected from 6,516 non-incented opt-in respondents answering poll sessions from June 23, 2015 through July 13, 2015.

Posted in Advertising Research, Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Findings, Shopper Insights, Social Media and Marketing Research | Comment

How mobile wallet apps are changing consumer habits

Editor’s note: Nielsen Newswire is the digital news channel of Nielsen, a global provider of consumer information and insights. The following piece was originally published here under the title, “Paying it forward: How mobile wallet apps are changing consumer habits.”

In an age of tap and go, mobile payments are providing increasing convenience for consumers as well as potential opportunities for marketers.

Randall Beard, Nielsen’s President of Expanded Verticals, moderated a panel this week at Nielsen’s Consumer 360 Conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss the current mobile payment landscape and the opportunities it will provide to marketers. Louise Keely, President, The Demand Institute/SVP Nielsen, Ben Jankowski, Group Head, Global Media, MasterCard, and Alberto Jimenez, Retail & Mobile Payments Leader, IBM, took the stage to share their thoughts about the future of mobile wallet payments and the landscape of current mobile wallet app users.

During the panel, the group spent a good deal of time discussing the challenges around adoption in developed markets, largely because of the abundance of players and technologies in play.

“There’s no question it’s going to come,” said MasterCard’s Jankowski. “One of the barriers to scale is figuring out what the standards are. I think that’s a fundamental issue we need to overcome. But there’s no doubt adoption will come.”

Comparatively, however, the group acknowledged that mobile wallet adoption in emerging markets is already setting the global pace. One of the big reasons for that, said the Demand Institute’s Keely, is because cash is expensive.

“If you don’t know what’s happening in emerging markets, go learn about it,” she said. “Because that’s what’s going to migrate to developed markets.”

When it comes to opportunity in the space, IBM’s Jimenez cited notable growth in merchant-based apps – even though many consumers find themselves using just a small number of apps on a regular basis.

“I would pay a lot of attention to merchant-specific wallets,” he said. “I know there are lots of apps on people’s phones. But the numbers are showing that the growth is at the merchant-specific applications.”

On average, U.S. smartphone users accessed 26.7 apps per month in the fourth quarter of 2014. For 18 percent of these U.S. smartphone users, at least one of the apps they accessed during the average month in Q1 2015 was a mobile wallet app. Additionally, the financial habits of mobile wallet app users skew toward the more affluent, offering excellent potential opportunities for marketers, as consumers who utilize mobile payments generally over-index on almost any banking product, and have investment accounts. They also use college funds at nearly five times the rate as the total population!

Who are mobile wallet users? (chart))

Unlocking the potential for marketers

According to MasterCard’s Jankowski, a big key in unlocking the potential of mobile wallets lies within the data.

“The more we can get data about purchasing at a one-to-one basis, the better we’re going to be,” he said. “The closer we get to the information, the more effective marketers will be able to be.”

“Cash is expensive and it’s not safe,” added IBM’s Jimenez. “From merchant perspective, it’s about learning about your customer. Mobile wallets can close the loop.”

The future of mobile payments is poised for growth. According to a recent Harris Poll, roughly six in 10 Americans anticipate that tap-to-pay smartphones will eventually replace payment cards (63 percent) and cash (57 percent) transactions,  at some point, though not necessarily in the near future.  In fact, three in 10 Americans believe these transactions will replace credit/debit cards in the next five years, and roughly one-quarter of Americans believe they will replace cash within that timeframe.

Mobile wallet users time spent (chart)

“Someday shopping is going to feel like entertainment,” said Keely. “Money is going to be at the center of it all. It’s going to be fun.”


Insights came from Nielsen’s Mobile NetView 3.0, Nielsen’s Financial Track Survey, and an online, English-language Harris Poll of 2,221 U.S. adults fielded February 11-17, 2015. Mobile Wallet users were identified using Mobile NetView 3.0, Nielsen’s on-device software, which is installed with permission on panelist smartphones (approximately 5,000 panelists ages 18+ with Android and iOS handsets). The panelists are recruited online in English and include Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American consumer representation. Mobile Wallet users were linked to the Nielsen Financial Track survey using Nielsen’s PRIZM segmentation system, to allow profiling of financial habits. Nielsen Financial Track is a quarterly online survey of 12,500 respondents, conducted in English and in Spanish and includes an over-sample of 500 Spanish-dominant Hispanics.


Posted in Behavioral Research, Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Findings, Marketing Best Practices, Product Research, Retailing, Shopper Insights, Uncategorized | Comment

Pixar’s Inside Out and the world of behavior economics

Editor’s note: A.J. Drexler is president and chief strategist at market research firm Campos Inc, Pittsburgh. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Inside Out: A lively depiction of behavioral economics in action.”

PixarLeave it to Pixar to come up with what might be the most tangible expression of the foundational principles of behavioral economics we’ve ever seen. On the face of it, Inside Out is an entertaining personification of the interplay between five universal human emotions as they seek to process daily life in the minds of the characters of the movie – principally eleven-year-old Riley and, to a lesser extent, her parents. At the same time, however, it is a lively depiction of how and why humans are not the strictly rational beings that traditional economics had for centuries presumed them to be.

In their book Nudge, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein introduced the language of econs vs. humans, which is shorthand for the Nobel Prize-winning work of Daniel Kahneman, who upended the old assumption that, if left to their own devices, people will make decisions that are both rational and in their own best self-interest. In human reality vs. economic theory, when people face uncertain situations, they don’t examine and process information in ways that would be characterized as rational, often relying on mental shortcuts or the emotions that can drive decision-making.

There are no econs in the movie Inside Out. Rather, the film does a magnificent job in characterizing the mental processing that directly influences human decision-making over the lifespan. And this movie is particularly strong in its depiction of the optimism bias, one of the decision-making biases most frequently and accurately described by behavioral economists.

As a child, Riley’s mind is very clearly controlled by Joy – a blue haired, infinitely optimistic component of Riley. Sure, Anger (little red fire-cracker, literally) shows up now and again; green-faced Disgust keeps her safe from perceived poisoning (aka broccoli); and teeth-chattering Fear protects her from impending disaster by imaging worst-case scenarios. But Joy is clearly in charge. She stands at the center of the console of Riley’s mind and either calls upon the others as needed (they are often wandering rather aimlessly about) or permits the others to take over for short stints as necessary to keep Riley safe. Joy is so much in charge, in fact, that at one point she actually draws a circle on the ground – far away from the console – and orders Sadness to stand within it so as not to tarnish any of Riley’s memories with melancholy. Through Joy, this movie very clearly demonstrates how optimism becomes the core for human decision-making at the very earliest stages of life, interrupted only as necessary by the others and only insofar as they are required to keep us safe.

The movie also challenges us to imagine what happens to our decision-making when optimism is not present. Left to their own devises during the critical core of the movie, Anger, Disgust and Fear must jointly make decisions for Riley independent of Joy. Without the optimism of Joy to assuage their fears about going forward, their only recourse is to go back to the past and try to re-create it. An entirely fruitless endeavor, and, yet, in so doing, they send Riley on a potentially perilous journey that even Fear cannot save her from. The message: Without the override of optimism, we just can’t make sense of an unknown, uncertain and unpredictable future.

Throughout the movie, we also get a glimpse into the parents’ cast of characters. For both the mother and father, the biggest difference you see is that all of the players are seated side-by-side at the console (rather than wandering in and out of the room as needed), and the interplay between them is smoother and involves more of what we would consider rational thought. While neither parent is driven so singularly by Joy – and other emotions sometimes get the best of them – all of their emotions work more collaboratively with one another. Despite the fact that the adults’ sense of joy and optimism may not remain the driving emotion, the role of optimism as a foundational and powerful part of their adult decision-making – most principally as they embrace the opportunity for any unknown future challenge – is preserved.

Translate all of that to the world of behavioral economics: each of our foundational Joy does important things for us, both good and bad. On her most important days, she helps us get out of bed in the morning and face another potentially harrowing day with courage. And she helps us smile through situations that would otherwise reduce us to tears. But on many other days, and in many small ways, she also undermines our rational decision-making. We don’t get all of our cancer screenings because, of course, other people get cancer, not us! And we don’t save enough for retirement, because the future is long and there is plenty of time! Too much unchecked optimism, it turns out, isn’t good for us and our rational decision-making. And it wasn’t, ultimately, good for Riley either. Riley needed Sadness in order to deal effectively with the trauma of a cross-country move. In the end, this is the value that the personification of Joy in Inside Out brings to the world of behavioral economics. She has made it possible to have a much easier way to talk about the optimism bias.

Posted in Behavioral Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Techniques | Comment

12 tips for moderating health care MR

Editor’s note: Huw Davies is qualitative services manager at U.K.-based research firm Gillian Kenny Associates.

Market research is designed as a way to peer into people’s minds but it is only as effective as the person who is moderating the process. It is a job that requires a lot of experience and skill to do well. A moderator should be confident, a quick learner and a people person. Good market research moderators also need to be experts at handling many different Health carepersonalities and different needs – from the people in the room to the people behind the glass.

Essentially, the moderator is just as important as the research subjects because the moderator is the one who draws out people’s opinions in a way that is productive and useful. For successful moderation in health care market research, try following the tips below:

1. Let the participants know what to expect: Everyone participating in the research is going to be more comfortable and cooperative if they know what to expect, so be sure to start off the session with a thoughtful and thorough introduction that prepares the participants for what’s in store.
2. Be prepared: Not to sound too dramatic but being a moderator is a little like being a performer taking the stage. Once you’re on, you need to know all your material so you can get through the show without a hitch. Know your discussion guide back-to-front and make sure you’ve learned in advance about the relevant therapy areas (which may include reaching out to physicians and support groups for information). At the same time, don’t be trying to show off what you know. The participants are the experts, and that’s why they’re there – make sure they know that.

3. Create a comfortable environment: As a moderator, your mood and attitude will set the tone for the room, so relax! Be friendly, calm and make sure participants feel at home. Be sensitive to any particular needs they might have: Do they need visual or hearing aid systems? Would they like a caregiver to be present? Let them know they can take a break at any time. You want to build a rapport with participants so that they feel comfortable enough to share their genuine opinions with you.
4. Stay neutral: Not only is it your job to moderate but also to remain moderate. Health care market research can bring out a lot of passion in people but a moderator needs to remain unbiased. If participants sense that you have your own perspective, it may affect their answers, so behave as though you are completely opinion-free. This also applies to the way you respond to their opinions. While you should give them positive reinforcement for offering their thoughts, don’t react to the content of those thoughts. It’s important that they don’t feel that you’re judging what they say, either positively or negatively. You’re there to facilitate the discussion, not to participate.

5. Give participants plenty of time to think and respond: While you don’t want to let the proceedings lag or become awkward, silence is not a bad thing when used properly. Participants will not always have every answer on the tip of their tongues. When interviewing a patient, perhaps due to the state of their health, they will need a little extra time to find and form their thoughts, so give them that time.
6. Be a good, empathetic listener: For example, if interviewing a patient, show sincere empathy for their concerns and pay close attention to what they tell you. People are more forthcoming when they can sense that you are really interested in what they have to say. Demonstrate that you’re listening by referring back to some of their previous answers when relevant. This will make it clear to them that their opinions are being heard and are valued, which will likely encourage them to share even more.

7. Keep track of time: This may seem minor and even obvious but it’s neither. If a health care professional is particularly passionate about a new drug entering the market or a patient is especially vocal about their latest consultation, you could be nearing the end of the session before you realize you still haven’t even touched on some key questions! Keep tabs on the clock and make certain you’re making good time as you progress.

8. Don’t let dominant personalities take over: Understanding the different personality types that tend to reveal themselves in the focus group setting is critical for effective moderation. Some people love to talk while others are more reticent. Don’t let the dominant people overshadow or discourage the quieter types. If someone is trying to take over the conversation, very politely thank them for their thoughts and then tell the group that you would like to hear what others have to say. Make a special effort to give positive attention and encouragement to those who seem reluctant to speak.

9. Give each individual interview your full focus and attention: When doing in-depth interviews, the moderator should approach each participant as if they were the sole interview subject. Don’t let them feel like they’re just one of many and don’t interview them that way. You never know what you might discover from each participant, so ask all the same questions you would ask if this person was your only interview subject.

10. Conduct interviews where it is best for the participant: If interviewing a participant that has mobility issues, make sure you choose a location that will have lifts, ramps, appropriate parking or anything else that might be needed. If the patient is quite ill, you may even need to do the interview at their home (which can have the added advantage of offering insight into the home environment).

11. Inform participants that they can cancel or postpone the interview at any time: Hopefully a cancellation won’t happen but it can provide some peace of mind to research participants if they know they have an out. In some cases, this may just be because of nervousness on their part but if their health is poor, it may also be a practical concern for them. On the other hand, it is possible that a participant will be unexpectedly called into clinic or surgery.

12. Keep it interesting: To borrow that performer metaphor again, a good moderator should be able to maintain the attention of the participants. If you ask engaging questions and keep a lively dialogue going – while moving things along at a steady but not hurried pace – then you should be able to keep everyone interested during the discussion process. If they lose interest, get fidgety and start watching the clock, then the quality of responses will likely go downhill fast.


Posted in Health Care Research, Moderating | Comment

The rise of commuter commerce

Editor’s note: James Ainsworth is director of global community content at customer experience firm SDL, Bristol, U.K. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Striking at the heart of commuter commerce.”

Woman Using Smart Phone in London Tube It is time to get acquainted with a new addition to the “big book of business buzzwords.” Commuter commerce is a thing and it is gaining momentum as a window of opportunity for commerce, arresting consumer attention in the moment of a habitual journey. Commuter commerce is smartphone-driven and enabled by connectivity on public transport. According to a 2013 study by Geometry Global, more than half of U.K. commuters are now browsing products online and comparing pricing across competitor Web sites on smartphones as part of their daily routine of getting to the office. The survey of 2000 respondents indicated that 31 percent of those browsing while commuting will go on to make a purchase online during the journey.

On the shopping list – in order of most popular purchase – are clothes, followed by media entertainment and take-away food or groceries.

A more recent study has indicated the scope of commuter commerce, as it rakes in £9.3 billion annually and it is only set to get bigger.

“People in Britain spend more online per head than any other nation, and it seems our love affair with online shopping now also extends to the morning rush hour,” commented Rob Harbron, managing economist at CEBR. “The data shows that commuter commerce is booming in the U.K. as savvy commuters use their time efficiently to make the purchases they just don’t have time for normally.”

Here are four key factors that will speed up the success of commuter commerce:

Increasing online security: “We estimate that making the mobile checkout experience faster and safer could boost spending by £30 million each week,” published Mazuma Mobile July 7, 2015.

Increasing the availability of connectivity: Most modes of transport are tooling up for the modern commuter. As a standard consumer expectation of the transportation experience, trains, busses, boats and even the humble donkey are all being wired for the Internet.

Optimized user experience of mobile Web sites: Delivering buying experiences that adapt to customer behavior will guide customers on the best path to purchase, whatever their language and device, with intelligent search and navigation capabilities. Providing intuitive, consistent experiences with personalized search results and adaptive renderings will speed up commuter commerce.

Increasing the options for delivery or collection: There is no doubt that click- and-collect is a habit on the rise. Earlier in July, department store and online shopping chain John Lewis announced a new £2 charge for click-and-collect orders under £30 as their infrastructure costs have become a victim of their own consumer choice and flexibility success.

Having it your way is more than a philosophy espoused by a major burger chain – it is an expectation creeping into all consumer habits and one the rail network is keen to seize. A trend to address the rise in commuter commerce is placing parcel collection points at stations on the rail network: Order on your smartphone in the morning and pick up your item from your collection box on the way home. Last month, the Doddle network of parcel stores opened its 35th store in the space of 35 weeks in the U.K.

The London Paddington station store is part of a rapid Doddle store roll out program which will see 100 open by the end of 2015, and up to 250 new locations by the end of 2017.

Entrepreneur and CEO at Doddle, Tim Robinson, said; “Missing a delivery is a real pain and costs the industry up to £3/4 billion a year, a cost which is inevitably passed onto consumers.”

Commuter commerce is not without its risks of impact from external forces. With significant industrial action due to take hold of the transport pulse of London in the coming days, it won’t be long before values are attributed to the cost to retailers.

Either way, the case for providing a compelling customer experience and orchestrating a seamless customer journey – whether the customer is on an actual physical journey, in the office or at home – is clear.

Posted in Behavioral Research, Brand and Image Research, Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Shopper Insights | Comment

Do you know how much your customers are worth?

Editor’s note: Mark Haller is an advisory partner at the Chicago office of New York-based professional services consultancy PwC. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on the American Marketing Association’s blog under the title, “How much are your customers really worth?”

Businessman Protect Stack Of CoinsThe best companies don’t just serve their customers well. They serve them in a way that also creates maximum value for the business. Pouring money into improving the customer experience is a crapshoot at best – and at worst, a fool’s errand – if the investments aren’t linked to an understanding of the impact on profits and value.

Many companies still struggle to find the right balance between service and profits, largely because they have trouble determining the true “value contribution” of their customers. Traditional profit and loss calculations don’t dig deeply enough into the individual customers or segments that create – or destroy – profits. P&Ls owned by a business unit or a function such as sales, marketing or logistics typically are not explicitly aligned with understanding which customers are delivering the most to the company’s bottom line.

As a result, efforts to improve individual P&Ls don’t necessarily lift customer profitability because their efforts aren’t coordinated. If a logistics manager reduces air freight by 40 percent to meet an internal cost savings target, but the cuts affect the business’ ability to serve a segment of customers who were willing to pay a higher price for expedited shipping, you could be leaving money on the table – and possibly losing customers, as well.

In other words, you may win the functional P&L battles (securing leaner logistics, for example) but ultimately lose the war by destroying overall profitability.

But there’s hope. The rise of digital channels and advances in data-mining provide marketers with much more information about customers’ transactions, activities and interests. Developing a 360-degree view of customer profitability, and embedding this perspective into the very fabric of a company’s operations, can help uncover previously hidden opportunities to better serve customers in a way that drives sustainable profits.

A single source of the truth

A 360-degree approach requires complete visibility into all of the elements that factor into customer profitability. It’s important to understand not just how much you charge certain customers (list price), but how much you give back to them through promotions, rebates or other discounts.

In addition to direct price incentives, examine the costs to serve each customer by knowing which delivery channels they use, how often they call the contact center and how many warranty claims they make annually – all of which contribute to the “pocket price.” Digging down to the transaction-level DNA of each customer can give you almost unlimited views into the drivers of profitability.

Of course, pulling this information together is half the battle. The data often reside in a myriad of sources and formats across the organization, not just in ERP or CRM systems but in financial spreadsheets, on a sales rep’s hard drive or in call logs from the contact center. It takes a fair amount of grunt work to consolidate this information, but it’s a critical step.

However, the availability and quality of data should never be used as an excuse for delaying efforts to quantify customer profitability. You can get quite far with the data that you have at your disposal. Basic analyses of existing data typically will point the way to the gaps and other areas of improvement, which helps build a business case for additional data and analysis. As the value of the analytical effort moves beyond the hypothetical stage, you can improve decision-making and uncover additional opportunities.

Myth-busters and team-building

Creating a single source of the truth does more than reduce the time spent in meetings arguing about whose spreadsheet is better. When everybody starts believing in the same set of data, they’re more likely to align around the steps required to improve customer profitability.

The insights that you discover may begin to dispel long-held beliefs about the activities and segments that truly drive profits. Customers who are considered highly valuable because they sign large annual contracts actually might produce negative margins after accounting for the true costs to serve them. Or a segment that historically has attracted little marketing or sales resources might prove to be highly profitable through low-maintenance digital channels, leading to reallocation that can drive margin improvements for specific products, channels and customers. Finally, long-standing discount and promotion programs that fail to effectively link that investment to customer behavior and results are laid bare.

Even small adjustments can lead to quick and quantifiable improvements. Experimenting with minor price increases, bundling, cross-selling or segment-specific service policies can give you rapid feedback about which levers drive true profitability.

Coming to grips with a fact-based reality that is contrary to long-held beliefs can be painful, but the process eventually should lead the entire organization to rally around this new “truth”: Driving more cross-functional cooperation and connection leads to serving customers more profitably.

Posted in Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Marketing Best Practices, The Business of Research | 1 Comment

Q&A: The future impact of facial coding and emotion analytics

Editor’s note: Seth Grimes is an analytics strategy consultant with Washington, D.C.-based Alta Plana Corporation. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Faces, emotions and insights: Q&A with Affectiva Daniel McDuff.”

Woman with digital tablet and different faces Emotion influences our actions and colors our interactions, which, to be blunt, means that emotion has business value. Understand and model emotions’ associations with actions and you can gain insights that, if you do it right, enable activation.

Humans communicate emotion in many ways, notably via speech and written words, and non-verbally through our facial expressions. Our facial expressions are complex primitives that are fundamental to our knowing and understanding one another. They reveal feelings, that is, affective states, hence the company name Affectiva. Affectiva has commercialized facial coding and emotion analytics work done at the MIT Media Lab. The claim is that “deep insight into consumers’ unfiltered and unbiased emotional reactions to digital content is the ideal way to judge your content’s likability, its effectiveness and its widespread potential. Adding the emotion layer to digital experiences enriches these interactions and communications.”

I recruited Affectiva to speak at the upcoming Sentiment Analysis Symposium, taking place July 15-16, 2015 in New York. Principal Scientist Daniel McDuff, an alumnus of the MIT Media Lab, will represent the company. He will speak on “Understanding emotion responses across cultures,” of course about applying facial coding methods to the task.

Seth Grimes: Affectiva measures emotional reaction via facial coding. Would you please take a shot at describing the methods in just a few sentences?

Daniel McDuff: We use videos (typically from Webcams) of people, track their face and analyze the pixel data to extract muscle movements. This is an automated way of coding Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen’s facial taxonomy. We then infer emotion expression information based on the dynamic facial muscle movement information.

That’s the “what.” But what are the technical ingredients? A camera, obviously but then what?

For image capture a normal Webcam or smartphone camera is sufficient. Analysis can be performed in two ways: via the cloud in which case images are streamed to a server and analyzed or on the device. The algorithms can be optimized to work in real-time and with very small memory footprint, even on a mobile device.

You earned your PhD as part of the Affective Computing group at MIT Media Lab, where Affectiva originated. What did your dissertation cover?

My dissertation focused on large-scale crowdsourcing of emotion data and the applications of this in media measurement. In the past behavioral emotion research focused on data sets with only a relatively small – less than 100 – numbers of people. By using the Internet we are now able to capture data from 100,000s of people around the world very quickly.

Why are you capturing this data? For model building or validation? For actual purpose-focused analyses?

This data is a gold mine of emotional information. Emotion research has relied on studying the behavior of small groups of people until now. This has limited the types of insights that can be drawn from the data.

Now we are able to analyze cross-cultural data from millions of individuals and find significant effects even within noisy observations.

When you capture data from hundreds of thousands of people around the world, what more do you know, or need to know, about these people to make full, effective use of the data?

It is extremely helpful to have demographic information to accompany facial videos. We now know that there are significant differences between genders, age groups and cultures when it comes to facial behavior. We may find that other factors also play a role. Affluence, personality traits and education would all be interesting to study.

You’ll be speaking at SAS15 on emotional response across cultures. How close or far apart are emotions and the way they’re expressed in different cultures? Are there universal emotions and ways of expressing them?

There are fascinating differences between cultures in terms of how facial expressions are exhibited. Indeed there is a level of cross-cultural consistency in terms of how some states are expressed (e.g. disgust, surprise). However, on top of this there are complex culturally dependent display rules which augment these expressions in different ways. Some of these relationships fit with intuition, others are more surprising.

A variety of affect-measurement technologies have emerged at MIT and other research centers that include text and speech analysis. Are cultural analyses consistent across the various approaches?

Emotion research is a HUGE field and to a certain extent the face community has been separate from the voice and text communities in the past. However, we are now seeing much more focus on multimodal research which considers many channels of information and models the relationships between them. This is extremely exciting as we are well aware that different channels contain different types of emotional information.

What are some scenarios where facial coding performs best? Are there problems or situations where facial coding just doesn’t work?

Facial coding is most effective when you have video of a subject and they are not moving around/looking away from the camera a lot. It is also very beneficial to have context (i.e. what is the subject looking at, what environment are they in, are they likely to be talking to other people, etc.). Interpreting facial coding data can be challenging if you don’t know that context. This is the case for almost all behavioral signals.

What business problems are people applying facial coding to?

All sorts of things. Examples include: media measurement (copy-testing ads, testing pilot TV shows, measuring cinema audience reactions), robotics, video conferencing, gaming, tracking car driver emotional states, etc.

Could you discuss a scenario, say tracking car driver emotional states? Who might use this information and for what purpose? Say a system detected that a driver is angry. What then?

Frustration is a very common emotional state when driving. However, today’s cars cannot adapt to the drivers state. There is the potential to greatly improve the driving experience by designing interfaces that can sensitively respond when the driver’s state changes.

In an open situation like that one, with many stimuli, how would the system determine the source and object of the anger?

Once again, context is king. We need other sensors to capture environmental information in order to ascertain what is happening. Emotion alone is not the answer. An integrated multimodal approach is vital.

Can facial-coding results be improved via multimodal analysis or cross-modal validation? Have Affectiva and companies like it started moving toward multimodal analysis, or toward marrying data on sensed emotions with behavioral models, psychological or personality profiles, and the myriad other forms of data that are out there?

Yes, as mentioned [earlier] different channels are really important. Affectiva has mostly looked at the face and married this data with contextual information. However, I personally have done a lot of work with physiological data as well. I will also present some of those approaches at the workshop.

What are you currently working on by way of new or refined algorithms or technologies? What will the state of the art be like in five years, on the measurement front and regarding the uses emotion analytics will be put to?

As there are so many applications that could benefit from being emotion aware, I would expect almost all mobile and laptop/desktop computer operating systems to have some level of emotion sensing in five years. This will facilitate more large-scale research on emotions.

And finally, do you have any getting-started advice for someone who’d like to get into emotion analytics?

Don’t underestimate the importance of context. When analyzing emotion data it is essential to understand what is happening since emotions and reactions are complex and vary between people.



Posted in Consumer Research, Market Research Techniques, Research Industry Trends | 1 Comment

Goodbye CATI, hello mobile-first

Editor’s note: David Shanker is CEO, the Americas, at research firm Lightspeed GMI, Warren, N.J.

Phone handset icons in speech bubbles. Rarely do U.S. government rulings impact the market research industry but one recent change defines the future of our industry. Since 2014, several industry associations appealed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow marketing researchers the freedom to use auto-dialers to call mobile phones. However, the FCC recently implemented new regulations to expand the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which prevents the use of robocallers on mobile phones even in the use of market research. By eliminating this outdated and increasingly costly method of data collection, the government got it right.

The Marketing Research Association (MRA) and the Council of American Survey Research Organization (CASRO) were fighting to preserve the old guard, using auto-dialers to collect survey and opinion research through mobile phones. For me, the real issue here is an industry – our marketing research industry – that is fighting to protect an outdated way of doing business. With some coming out so strongly in defense of robocallers for mobile phones, we risk perpetuating the antiquated view many have of market research.

Moving in the right direction

Many in the research industry are still fighting to keep computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) alive; however, the FCC decision pushes marketing research in the right direction. This ruling puts the nail in the coffin of CATI; it makes it impossible to do cost effective research without the use of auto-dialers. And let’s face it: consumers do not like robocallers – not on their home phone and certainly not on their mobile phones. As of 2007, 72 percent of U.S. consumers registered their phones for the do-not-call list.*

Let’s look at the state of our industry: You can’t walk two feet at a conference without signage, discussion, seminars or sell sheets underscoring the importance of mobile-first. And a mobile-first strategy certainly doesn’t include the robocalls of market research yesteryear, when CATI was the latest innovation. Smartphones afford us a nice way to collect market research information without the disturbance of calling on that device. Let’s take advantage of technology to move research into the 21st century.

Go beyond the device 

The brand and advertising world continues to evolve at the speed of now, and as an industry we’re in grave danger if we don’t keep step. I don’t believe as an industry that we should support CATI collection via mobile. How can we enhance the image of the industry? By creating mobile-first surveys, we are meeting respondents on their devices, at their convenience.

The answer for researchers is right in front of us. Write surveys that are 15 minutes or less that consumers can complete on their mobile device screen. The average U.S. consumer uses their smartphone more than three hours per day. We live on these devices. If we want to speak to consumers, let’s speak to them where they live. We have been promoting mobile-first for years now – it is critical in survey design. With a short, simple and convenient approach to data collection, mobile-first offers panelists the opportunity to take surveys on the device of their choice whenever they want.

The world is changing, and the way consumers provide insights is evolving faster than any of us could have imagined. CATI had a nice run but is dying a slow death and this ruling is the final blow. The responsibility is on us to do everything we can to keep our industry alive and relevant by letting go of the past and embracing the future.

*According to the 2009 Economic Report of the President, prepared by the Council of Economic Advisors, the program has proved quite popular: as of 2007, according to one survey, 72 percent of Americans had registered on the list and 77 percent of those say that it made a large difference in the number of telemarketing calls that they receive (another 14 percent report a small reduction in calls). Another survey, conducted less than a year after the do-not-call list was implemented, found that people who registered for the list saw a reduction in telemarketing calls from an average of 30 calls per month to an average of six per month.


Posted in Market Research in the News, Market Research Techniques, Research Industry Trends, State of the Research Industry, The Business of Research | 1 Comment

Is your brand healthy?

Editor’s note: Joel Rubinson is the president and founder of Rubinson Partners, a New York marketing research consulting company.

Many use the terms brand equity and brand health interchangeably; they shouldn’t.

Facebook vs. Yahoo stock pricesBrand equity refers to the size of a brand. A brand with high brand equity has lots of customers, big market share and usually generates lots of profit. However, there is no guarantee that the big brand will stay big or that it won’t gobble up increasing advertising and promotion to hold its share. The future of the brand is what brand health is about. Take two brands – Facebook and Yahoo. Both have lots of brand equity today but clearly the stock price trajectory of the two brands is different. Yahoo … big brand but healthy? Not so much.

So, to understand the distinction between brand equity and brand health, let’s create some out of the box thinking. Let’s think about brand health using a synectics-style metaphorical excursion, where the group investigates a related question in a seemingly unrelated topic area, then force-fits the insights back to the top area of interest.

Consider the question of how a pet owner determines if their dog is healthy. If the dog is healthy it:

  1. has a normal appetite;
  2. comes when you call it;
  3. looks like the breed it is;
  4. heals fast;
  5. grows into its paws to normal size;
  6. has a bright, shiny coat;
  7. doesn’t have accidents in the house; and
  8. has a cold, wet nose.

So, following the metaphor, here are the signs that your BRAND is healthy, and how the marketer can determine this.

Dog is healthy if: Brand is healthy if: Metrics
Has a normal appetite Brands “eat” advertising and promotion support. If the brand needs to increase marketing support, especially promotion support, to maintain market share it’s not a healthy sign Monitor the ratio of advertising and promotion spending to sales.
Comes when you call it Does your brand come when consumers call? Are they calling it? Is the marketing team listening and responding? Social media metrics: conversation volume, sentiment, numbers of customer complaints expressed via social and percent satisfactorily addresses.Digital metrics: trademark search, Web site activity.
Looks likes the breed it is Does your brand have the meaning to consumers it intends to have? Is it positioned as intended? Identify key themes the brand is positioned on. Measure these both via attribute ratings and social media conversations under those themes.
Heals fast Good brands can receive bad news that, in an era of social media, can turn into massive body blows in an instant. One of the most powerful signs of brand equity is that your customers will forgive you; is your brand bouncing back? Brand health metrics from continuous surveys and social media sentiment analysis.
Puppies need to grow into their paws to normal size Is your brand growing the way it should? Are you aware of the geometry of a brand, the signs across multiple information streams that it has grown to full size? For example, high penetration or trial that is not supported by commensurate customer retention means the brand will stop growing short of its full size. Compare your brand to competitors on a variety of key metrics to create normative relationships and assess your metrics in that context to determine if your brand is at, above, or below the regression line of, for example, market share and repeat rate.
Has a bright shiny coat Dogs’ coats shine, making them attractive from a distance. In the era of shopper marketing, nothing could be more important than having your brand jump off the shelf and tells shoppers in an instant what it is about. Measure your brand performance at key stages in the path to purchase. Are you converting consideration into purchase at point of purchase as effectively as other brands?
Doesn’t have accidents Well, no brand team wants to be fighting fires and cleaning up after the brand. Brands are about trust and therefore consistency. You should be able to have exactly the brand experience you expect, or better. If your brand has inconsistent quality or train wrecks it will keep the brand team on defense. Monitor the experiences that consumers have with your brands and if each experience is adding to or subtracting from brand equity.
Cold wet nose Touching your dog’s nose regularly is a way of tracking if it is healthy or if you have to look further. In this digital age, track your brand in all layers of consumer expression: surveys, social media, search, activity in owned media, etc. Combine all of the metrics above, and others, into a coherent dashboard with data coming from a variety of relevant sources, streaming continuously rather than on a project schedule. Do NOT restrict yourself to surveys.


So, we’re not talking about the size of the dog, we’re talking about if it’s healthy. Brand health is critical to understand and measure because it is predictive of the future. A big brand that is unhealthy won’t stay that big for long.

Marketers need to identify and monitor all signs that a brand is healthy and growing which increasingly means mining digital and social signals.

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Market Research Findings, The Business of Research | 1 Comment