Quirk's Blog

Translating social wisdom into lessons on community engagement

Editor’s note: Rachel Belinky is community strategist at market research firm Ipsos SMX, Cincinnati. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Leveraging social wisdom for better community insights.”

As market researchers we intrinsically understand the importance of engaging consumers in every stage of the product life cycle, from ideation and co-creation through concept testing, marketing and innovation. Consumer engagement is particularly crucial when it comes to market research online communities (MROC’s), where ongoing relationships are often the most influential factor in determining depth of participation and quality of insights.

Social media iconsLook no further than some of the largest and most buzzworthy social networks to see how the idea of relationship building continues to guide innovation. In his town hall Q&A addressing Facebook’s new “empathy” feature, Mark Zuckerberg said the feature would be less about up or down voting, and more about the ability to “express empathy.” Why? Because “… your friends and people want to be able to express that they understand and that they relate to you.” And in a recent Advertising Age article, Pixlee CEO Kyle Wong advocated that brands form “advisory boards” made up of top influencers, rather than consumer focus groups because this “not only helps develop deeper relationships with your top influencers, it also allows you to truly understand and leverage the creativity of how customers use your products, leading to co-creation.”

Engagement-based community practice hinges on relationship building, both among members (“peers”) in the community and between members and the community manager. But how do community managers establish trust and ongoing engagement with participants, while at the same time maintaining high standards in research design and moderation? The answer lies in leveraging some basic tenets of social media – combined with qualitative techniques in online moderation – to establish unique connections.

The importance of trust in the context of an online research community

The level of trust that is built throughout the course of a community lends itself to deeper insights and increased compliance. Community respondents are more likely to provide an honest and detailed response (compared to traditional qualitative studies) and more compliance (compared to traditional quantitative studies). If a stranger asks you to do something, you are less likely to oblige than if a friend of yours asks you. The same principle applies to community vs. other traditional methodologies.

Furthermore, an insight, more often than not, has an emotional component to it. For instance, someone might think that a woman colors her hair for the first time because she wants to change her look, when in fact, her reasons may be much more emotional than that. Maybe she wanted to become the woman she always dreamed she could be or she wanted to stop being defined by everyone else’s perceptions. In order to get to a deeper emotional insight, you have to ask questions that warrant a personal explanation. You can’t expect to receive an introspective response by asking, What was the reason you first colored your hair? Instead, you may provide an example of the type of response you are hoping to receive from members, or share one of your own personal stories so that people feel comfortable being just as open and honest as you were with them.

Lessons from the deadly sins of social media

In addition to seeking inspiration from specific social networks, we also regularly apply the larger tenets of social media in our daily moderation and activity planning to enhance engagement. Take some of the “deadly sins” of social media – those committed by people on social networks who don’t typically have a large following or very much content engagement. Let’s see how just three of these social media sins can translate into a lesson on community engagement:

1. Mundane subject matter

You ate Wheaties for breakfast? Walked the dog? Stuck in traffic? Bored at work? These posts are not funny, thought provoking or clever, and are often posted with way too much frequency.

How does this translate to community engagement? Make the content interesting by using creative methodologies or your unique voice to make the topic or the way in which you ask the questions more engaging. And don’t overburden your members!

2. Poor quality media

Posting out-of-focus pictures of soupy-looking casseroles that no one would ever want to eat is not doing anyone any favors. A homemade culinary experiment may not taste as horrendous as it looks but based on the quality and composition of the picture shared, you couldn’t pay me to take a bite.

How does this translate to community engagement? Images are an incredible source of engagement, whether for research activities or personal images you may choose to post for engagement. Be very thoughtful when choosing your images.

3. Never responding to others

Nobody likes to participate on social media if it’s not actually “social.”

How does this translate to community engagement? When a member tags, private messages or directly e-mails the support mailbox, it’s the community manager’s job to respond to them as soon as possible. No one likes to be kept waiting and no one wants to feel like they are being ignored. Make responding to your members a priority.

Balancing engagement and objectivity

As we’ve seen, sharing personal stories and photos is one of the most effective ways of creating an engaging environment in a community. This goes for the community manager as well, who should strive to be seen as an actual person rather than just someone behind a screen simply asking people to participate in research. Sharing more of who you are offers the opportunity for your members to connect with you in all sorts of ways, developing a stronger relationship and more trust.

But as all researchers know it’s also paramount to remain objective to obtain quality insights. To remain objective and neutral when probing in research activities, one rule we swear by is the “if at all” or “if any” rule.

If a member says that she doesn’t like a specific shampoo brand and would never use it again, you might ask, “How, if at all, could this brand improve their product to make you interested in purchasing it again? Your responses are always so detailed, @NameOfMember – don’t let me down now!” or “In what ways, if any, could this brand make their products more relevant to you? And please be as detailed as possible, @NameOfMember – you’re always incredibly insightful and I would love to know what you think!”

Not only are we remaining neutral in our questioning, we are also reaffirming to the members that we are reading what they post and value their contribution in the community.

Ultimately community is all about creating an environment where people are encouraged to express themselves and have the ability to relate to others. Market research online communities are no exception. Building trust and relationships allow for a more open and honest dialogue with consumers. Combined with best practices in qualitative moderation, it’s a win-win environment for generating better, faster and richer insights.


Posted in Consumer Research, Market Research Techniques, Online Surveys and Research, Public Opinion/Social Research, Qualitative Research, Research Communities, Social Media and Marketing Research | Comment

How the digital generation is changing qual

Editor’s note: Lisa Boughton is director at Angelfish Fieldwork, a Cheltenham, and U.K.- based marketing research firm. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Millennials and qualitative market research: The generation changing everything.”                          

Social TechnologyEveryone is talking about Millennials; it seems to be the buzz word of the moment for market researchers the world over but does anyone actually know what it really means for us? How can we tap into the Millennials market that we are told holds the key to the future of marketing if we don’t know what we are trying to tap into?

So firstly, let’s look at what Millennials are. Similar to their predecessors, the Baby Boomers and Generation X, they are an age demographic, that reached young adulthood around the 2000s and are viewed by many as an essential demographic in modern day market research. Growing up in this time makes them unique as they experience the world in a very different way to those who came before them.

They value health, well-being, sustainability and ethical treatment. Unlike those who came before them they are living, able to make choices rather than just surviving and with the advent of the Internet their choices and opinions are formed and shared for the world to see.

Seen as a truly digital generation, they were amongst the first to fully embrace digital technology, with the majority of Millennials being early adopters of tech. Connected by a vast network of social media, they are collaborators rather than passive consumers, engaging and interacting rather than merely reacting. With what is seen as a non-traditional approach to life, optimistic outlook in the face of diversity and unique sense of self, there are endless lessons that qualitative market researchers can learn from this remarkable demographic.

Because of Millennials, market research has taken a major shift to the digital side; it is where they reside in their work life and down time therefore digital media plays a vital role in reaching them. You must engage with them on their level, give them substance and value. You need to understand what makes them tick, makes them happy, makes them angry and what their passions are. By involving Millennials, you will find your route to them, through a partnership and cooperation. With their shared love and familiarity with technology, they are the best subjects to test new apps, tech and gadgets to quickly receive honest feedback and suggestions.

As digital natives, their impact on market research is wholly unquantifiable. With a great understanding and competency for the ever evolving technologies, and acceptance of new platforms, it seems that qualitative market research is firmly going online. Engaging Millennials on their own turf is key and market research methodologies such as MROCs are really beginning to gain traction as the methodology of choice to engage this generation in a qualitative market research setting. This new technique allows for greater control than ever before. By directly selecting and controlling the engagement with your ideal demographic you can increase insight in a time frame to suit … which these days is always yesterday.

Market research online communities are becoming the forefront in market research for a number of reasons but it is so popular with Millennials due to their very nature – tech savvy and extremely reliant, they are trusting of all things digital and wary of the more classic methods. Short attention spans resulting from constant engagement and a desire to share opinions, content and solutions means that online is the premier way to reach and understand this fascinating demographic.

So what does all of this really mean for qualitative market research?

Well, to put it simply, Millennials have thrown everything that traditional marketers thought they knew, out of the metaphorical window. As the largest demographic, this is not set to change any time soon. They are the present and future of consumer behavior and research conducted now will pave the way to the marketing of tomorrow.

With the shift to everything digital, it is inevitable that market research online communities will continue to make up a large chunk of the qualitative market research market. By nature Millennials are big believers in collective experiences in which they can contribute and have their voice heard, making face-to-face research less of a default option. By using this type of platform it enables engagement through a language Millennials are much more familiar with.

And we should thank them for this shift in our qualitative market research behavior. With easier access to participants through online channels, market researchers can improve their reaction times to trends and current affairs, which is priceless in a world that just won’t wait.


Posted in Brand and Image Research, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Quantitative Research | Comment

10 guidelines for asking good questions

Editor’s note: John Holcombe is founder of Wellspring Insights & Innovation, Miami, Fla. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Asking good questions: the most disruptive technology we have.”

“We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.” – Bono

Question Mark I recently read an article about a new market research technology/method that “gathered better insights” than other technologies or methodologies. What a bunch of nonsense. No matter the technology or methodology you are using, research gathers only quantitative or qualitative observations (data points, facts, opinions, perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, stories, experiences, feelings).

From these we need to create context and develop insights and the most disruptive tool we have as researchers is the human question.

Have you ever noticed that great listeners also ask great questions? Great innovators and creatives also ask great questions.

Questions have a dark side, too. We’ve all experienced this – in board meetings, political exchanges, in a survey or the observation room of a focus group facility – when questions are blocking strategies: questions can be evaluative, judging, full of bias and agenda. Questions can be used to prevent the flow of ideas, to test, trap or expose. They can be used to humiliate – or on the other end of the spectrum – to kiss some major butt.

Asking good questions can help us understand an issue or point-of-view different from our own; good questions can help us be more empathetic and insightful listeners.

Ten guidelines for good questions

  1. Engage people. Care. Questions must be non-threatening. When a respondent is concerned about the consequences of answering a question, there is a good possibility that the answer will not be truthful. For example: “Why are you a [blank]?”would be a threatening question to many. The simple question, “Why?” is often threatening in and of itself – it makes people defensive.
  2. Don’t be biased. Good questions should not expect a certain state of affairs. Defer judgment and don’t assume anything.
  3. Don’t support an agenda. Good questions produce variability of response. Bad questions look to confirm something or test a subject.
  4. Do not express emotions. I saw a post on LinkedIn recently that asked, “Why do Americans hate planning?” What a bad question – it breaks all of the rules.
  5. Avoid jargon and vague words. Adjectives (e.g., most, least, majority) are frequently used in question yet they mean different things to different people. Similarly, using technical jargon produces confusion.
  6. Ask on only one dimension. No “double-barreled” questions. You hear these all the time on talk shows. The interviewer asks the actor “Do you like working on the set? What was your favorite set?” Skilled actors can quickly choose which of the two questions to answer; with regular folks, stay in one dimension.
  7. Use humor carefully. Humor is a great way to approach difficult topics and to build trust. Self-deprecating humor can work, too.
  8. Explore. Yes or no questions should be avoided. Questions that open up endless possibilities should be used. “What are all of the reasons you got into the nonprofit field?” for example, is a good example of a question that follows all of the guidelines here. Want to engage someone and show you care? Ask, “Will you please share with me the story of your life?”
  9. Clarify. Let’s face it, we’re all biased. So make sure you understand what they are truly talking about by asking, “So what I hear you saying is …” often.
  10. Use the power of silence. Want someone to elaborate, open-up and tell you more? Say nothing at all and engage with your eyes. You’ll be amazed at the nuggets that come up when people feel compelled to fill the gaps of silence.

Good questions go hand in hand with empathetic listening. Highly emphatic people have a voracious curiosity but they are not out to interrogate others – they genuinely want to understand the world inside the head of the other person. They don’t interrupt and they use the power of silence.

As Studs Terkel said, “Don’t be an examiner, be the interested inquirer.”

In other words, if your questionnaire or discussion guide feels like an inquisition rather than a conversation, you need to reconsider the types of questions you are asking.


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

Connecting consumer preconceptions and advertising engagement

Editor’s note: Jeri Smith is president and CEO of Communicus Inc., a Tucson, Ariz., research firm.

Why is it that some individuals choose to engage with a particular ad while others ignore it all together? That’s the million-dollar question. Creators of advertisements strive to ensure that their ads secure the attention of the widest possible swath of consumers within their target audience. With that said, not all consumers are created equal when it comes to the likelihood of engaging with a specific ad for which they have exposure opportunity.

Kraft Mac & CheeseThis important yet little-researched area within the field of in-market advertising effectiveness involves evaluating how pre-existing consumer brand experiences and beliefs affect engagement with advertising. Generally, individuals who already admire a brand will be more likely to engage with ads for that brand. It makes sense that this would be true – individuals who are already considering shopping for a BMW are more likely to engage with BMW ads than individuals who are not. The phenomenon stands true for less considered purchases as well: Tide detergent customers watch Tide commercials and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese fans pay closer attention to Kraft Mac & Cheese ads. It’s reinforcing to hear (via TV or video) how smart you are for considering buying a BMW, for your choice of Tide or Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

In connection with this dynamic, most advertisers and researchers realize that you can’t presume advertising impact by comparing brand metrics between those who have seen your ads with the same metrics among those who haven’t. Predictably, brand metrics will be stronger among the ad-aware but this is generally discounted – with the reason being the aforementioned phenomenon.

This phenomenon is called selective perception. The strength of selective perception varies by brand as well as by the particular creative approach employed in the ads for that brand. Depending on whether a brand has a frequency or loyalty-building objective, or an awareness, trial, market share expansion strategy, selective perception can be positive (in the former case) or a hurdle to be overcome (in the latter case).

It’s important to be able to measure and understand the relative degree of selective perception for a particular campaign to determine the success in communication and persuasion beyond the brand’s base of user fans. So how does one measure how consumers feel before engaging with ­– or ignoring – an ad to which they have exposure opportunity in the real world?

One method is to utilize longitudinal design research – interviewing the same panel of consumers before and after an advertising campaign runs in-market. In the pre-wave, researchers survey a target audience sample before the campaign appears in-market – collecting brand usage and preference data for a range of brands within a product category. In the post phase, researchers question the same respondents on what advertising they have viewed recently. Researchers then compare advertising recall among respondents who were brand users or fans in the pre-wave versus those who weren’t.

Perhaps you’ve discovered strong selective perception for your brand’s campaign – maybe brand fans are twice as likely as non-fans to engage with the TV executions within the campaign. But to achieve its marketing objectives, this advertising campaign needs to engage non-fans as well. A closer examination via qualitative research or by employing new biometric measurement approaches can help to illuminate particular elements within the ads that are of interest to non-fans. Additionally, brands can initiate additional research to identify the types of triggers that will cause non-fans to engage with ads for their brand. These insights can be used to ensure that non-fans are engaged by the brand’s campaign – to learn something new and to perhaps change their way of thinking or even their purchase intentions.

Unless a brand is able to identify the selective perception dynamic, it can be a mystery as to why, despite its strong copy testing or broad-based in-market tracking results, a campaign is failing to generate the trial or expansion of household penetration that the advertising is charged with achieving.

The selective perception phenomenon is present across many media types beyond TV and video, and is even more prevalent in digital and online consumer-brand interactions. Further, we know that having engaged with an ad for your brand in one medium, a consumer may be more inclined to notice ads within the same campaign in other media. As such, an understanding of selective perception across media types can lead to superior insights about how to make the overall campaign work harder for your brand.

It’s a relatively simple matter to evaluate and diagnose the selective perception dynamic for a particular campaign. Researchers who don’t attend to this practice are missing important insights that can be highly actionable to the advertisers whose campaigns we are helping to optimize.


Posted in Advertising Research, Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Data Processing, Market Research Techniques, Research Industry Trends, Retailing, Shopper Insights | 2 Comments

Audi: Betraying the brand promise

Editor’s note: Rob Stone is CEO of Market Strategies International, Atlanta. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Brand betrayal.”

AudiWe’ve been part of many brand positioning engagements, from the development of new product brands to the re-positioning of corporate brands. Positioning poses some of the most thorny – and rewarding – challenges to marketers and researchers. Of all the headwinds brand positioning can face, the stiffest is getting true buy-in across the organization. While marketing groups should typically lead positioning efforts, their enthusiasm is a necessary, not sufficient, condition for success. Start to worry when other key organizational stakeholders – especially product teams and sales/distribution – aren’t in the room. As recent headlines teach us, billions of dollars of equity are on the line.

Positioning isn’t just a marketing veneer or a tagline. It needs to be an organizational north star, the core strand of DNA that not only embodies your differentiated value to the marketplace but also shapes every aspect of the business – from product design to marketing communications to customer experience at the point of sale. The companies that nail it, like Apple, drive enormous brand premiums in the marketplace. Among other brands that have built their success around disciplined adherence to savvy positioning strategy, I would have added Audi … until the September 2015 reveal of the 2.1 million Audi cars that have software at the center of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Sorting through my mail, I found a promotional offer to test drive a new Audi. I was struck by their tagline – which has transformed itself from a masterpiece of branding execution to an exercise in executing your brand, virtually overnight: “Truth in engineering.”

Truth in engineering has been an apt summary of Audi’s brand promise, implying that a superior driving experience (both in performance and finish) is a natural expression of scientific devotion to pure engineering. That appeal to authenticity has been perfectly pitched, especially for a cohort of Millennials entering the luxury category, and it’s resulted in stunning sales performance. Earlier this year, Audi recorded its 52nd straight month of record U.S. sales. While I don’t drive an Audi, it was the runner-up in my last purchase process, in part because of the deep chord their positioning strikes for me. Ordinarily, I might have responded to the test drive promotion – but, in this case, it was that bold claim that prompted a bitter laugh and a quick trip to the recycling bin.

If building a business rigorously around a coherent positioning strategy offers a great path to success, betraying the fundamental promise of that positioning threatens to unravel success even more quickly. While details of the recent Volkswagen diesel scandal continue to unfold, the most current accounts cite that any cars using the firm’s Type EA 189 engines – including the Audi A3 – are affected. Nothing could be further from the concept of truth in engineering than a car engineered to fraudulently defeat emissions inspections. This has undercut the company’s marketing claims that its new diesel products successfully combine environmental protection and performance. The scandal couldn’t put a dagger in the heart of the brand’s claims more perfectly if it had been cooked up by one of Audi’s competitors.

And that makes it a perfect example of a company that forgets that brand positioning needs to be baked into its operational DNA. Marketing strategy needs to be an expression of a brand’s fundamental truths, not an external façade. In an organization that truly lives the positioning of truth in engineering, can you imagine an engineer observing to his boss, “You know, I think I can trick emissions testing?” It’s even worse to contemplate the possibility of senior management, who should embody brand principles for their teams, championing the idea of fraudulent engineering from the top. At the root of the diesel scandal is not only a failure of business ethics but also a failure of brand discipline. For a critical moment, the brand forgot who they are.

The road to redemption

The question will be how well and how quickly Audi can rebound. It’s had significant help thus far from the media coverage, which focuses almost exclusively on Volkswagen, its corporate parent. In the American market, most consumers know that Chevrolet is a General Motors marque, but fewer know Audi’s parentage. The more interesting question is, among those who are aware, how much permission is there for redemption? It would not, after all, be the first time a company recovered from a gaffe – even one that touched upon its core brand promise.

You may not remember the uproar surrounding Intel’s floating point unit (FPU) bug in late 1994. Some processors in its Pentium line were found to return infinitesimally small errors in certain calculations. Because the vast majority of users would never notice the issue (Byte magazine estimated that only one in nine billion floating point operations would produce an inaccurate result), Intel’s initial policy was to replace processors only for users who could demonstrate they had been affected. With core brand pillars of technology (strike one, based on the FPU itself) and safety (strike two, by insisting consumers retain a processor with known flaws), Intel’s response did not measure up – and elicited immediate criticism. But deviation from brand promise did not last long. Within a month of the problem hitting the mainstream press, Intel promised replacements for anyone who asked, returning to its long-term brand pillars.

It’s too early to see how much impact the diesel scandal will have on Audi. In these days of nimble crisis communications, we can expect that Volkswagen will work quickly to create a sense of transparency in its investigation. The more fundamental task, for whoever takes on Martin Winterkorn’s job, will be to reinstate a sense of mission in the employees, restoring truth in engineering and truth in brand.

Posted in Advertising Research, Brand and Image Research, Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Market Research in the News, Public Opinion/Social Research, Shopper Insights | Comment

Producing consistent results through quant+qual integration

Editor’s note: Hubertus Hofkirchner is CEO ofPrediki Prediction Services Vienna. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “New qualitative: Tapping crowd intelligence for advertising efficiency.”

“Qualitative is the better-suited research method, bring it back” is a frequent complaint of advertisers (like John Zeigler, DDB group chairman) when their work undergoes quantitative pre-testing. Yet, the long-term trend shows an unabated decline of qualitative in the wake of the success of online quantitative and automated digital research.

Proponents of qualitative criticize that quantitative data provides too little insight into consumers’ reasoning and emotions. They propose to intensify traditional focus groups and face-to-face interviews. Before reverting to these methods we should consider why they lost ground in the first place and whether innovations provide a better alternative for advertisers.

Emotional advertising is more effective

Marketers and advertisers have very good reason for joining the method debate. A recent study on 30 years’ worth of data from nearly 1000 case studies – done for the IPA’s Effectiveness Awards – found that emotional advertising is twice as effective as less creative campaigns that primarily address the rational mind. A campaign’s immediate success is less important because the long-term effects make all the difference.

Spend by research methodThis raises several questions: Does the decline in qualitative disregard the IPA’s findings? Are pre-testers using the wrong methods? What are some other research methods – which are clearly on the rise, according to ESOMAR’s GMR 2014 industry report?

The distinction between quant and qual stems from traditional methods being good at either one or the other with full coverage needing both. Today’s business environment however, puts enormous pressure on companies and managers to be more agile and cost efficient. Tighter budgets and deadlines do not combine well with the luxury of conducting two sequential projects. Doing them in parallel is not a good solution, either. The cost still remains a problem and the studies cannot build upon one another and little value is added.

Separate projects create their own issues. If the qualitative findings fit with what a marketer already knew quantitatively, he will ask himself “Good but so what?” When they do not, his puzzled question will be, “Which one is right?”

The benefit of solely qualitative projects may be lost if verbatim responses get summarized into shallow insights and fail to wash out the gold nugget called actionable insight. It relies on a central – potentially weak – point, the individual researcher whose analysis is subject to personal perception, individual interpretation or even fear when encountering results which the client may dislike.

Today, qualitative or quantitative research is no longer a contradiction as new methodologies can integrate the two. One such example out of ESOMAR’s growing “other” category is the prediction market method. Its trading mechanism produces a stream of quantitative data while in parallel, the participants’ market talk generates rich topical conversations. The two are inherently linked: positive or negative market price movements show directly if a piece of market talk is an insight or nonsense.

Experiments in psychology have shown that people can predict other’s emotions and behavior better than their own (see Puleston/Hofkirchner: “Predicting the future” – ESOMAR 2014). The answers to, “Will I clean up?” versus “How many of us will clean up?” are 50 percent and 15 percent, on average, the empirical result is 13 percent. Therefore, proper prediction market questions always ask for other consumers’ actions, emotions or intentions but never the respondent’s own.

The emergence of crowd intelligence

Each respondent in a prediction market becomes a research analyst himself, as the challenge is to be right about the future. This decentralized approach opens different perspectives with correspondingly deeper interpretation of everybody’s verbal and numeric responses. Crowd intelligence emerges and market price movements provide the feedback which trains the panel’s collective IQ and sparks creativity. The environment feels democratic. Respondents feel a strong impulse to help the client.

Advertisers can now get two viewpoints at once, combining the rational and the emotional into a consistent whole. Artfully structured question designs ensure that respondents forecast and discuss both near and far-horizon KPI’s to facilitate differentiation between short-term novelty effects and long-lasting emotional ones.

The future lies in the new integrated methodologies which produce consistent quantitative and qualitative results with only one project.

Posted in Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Findings, Market Research Techniques, Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, Research Industry Trends | Comment

3 pitfalls to avoid when customer journey mapping

Editor’s note: Clay Walton-House is a senior manager at Seattle-based marketing and sales consultancy Lenati. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Customer journey mapping: Avoid these 3 common pitfalls.”

PitfallCustomer journey mapping, the process of visualizing a brand’s customer experience through the eye of the customer, has become a widely adopted methodology by companies who strive toward customer-centric operations. Customer journey maps provide a view of customer experience that may not come naturally from within the walls of a corporation, allowing marketers to more effectively address customer needs and solve for the objectives of the organization.

The benefits of a well-researched and well-designed customer journey map are numerous, most commonly used to:

  • uncover opportunities for product differentiation;
  • identify friction in the customer experience; and
  • ensure marketing tactics influence customers during their decision-making process.


Yet companies can be led astray if the mapping exercise is not conducted effectively, producing maps that miss the mark in the attempt to uncover the customer experience.

There are three most common pitfalls when customer journey mapping:

  1. Selecting the wrong journey mapping framework.
  2. Applying an organizational view vs. a customer perspective.
  3. Assuming there is one common journey for all customers.

Companies who avoid these common pitfalls are better positioned to deliver value to modern economy customers, and reduce any friction within the customer experience. Customer journey mapping must remain a foundational part of the strategy and development process, and if these pitfalls can be avoided, your brand will be well on its way.

Pitfall #1: Selecting the wrong journey mapping framework

The problem
A foundational component of customer journey mapping is the map itself-the framework developed to capture the outputs of the mapping process. The framework defines scope and orientation of the mapping exercise, and can encourage or limit certain types of insights from being explored. There are a multitude of customer journey mapping frameworks – quantitative decision modeling to service blueprints – yet not all approaches are suitable for addressing a given business challenge. Or worse, some frameworks can be misleading.

The problem is that not all frameworks are created equal, and key considerations are not evaluated when assessing frameworks. For example, is it important to uncover and document competitor offerings and resulting influence on your own customers’ journey? How important is it to have deep channel experiences identified (online, in-store, etc.)? Is your customers’ lifecycle with your brand linear (subscription businesses) or is it more circular (retail)? These are key considerations when defining the boundaries of your journey mapping exercise, and can either help you chart an effective course or lead you astray.

The solution
The key to selecting the right customer journey mapping framework is to start with your end-goal. Begin the journey mapping process by:

  • articulating the business decisions the journey map will be used to inform;
  • outlining key questions the company hopes to answer through the mapping process;
  • choosing a framework that fits the objective, and a design (scope, boundaries, etc.) that will capture required insights; and
  • ensuring that all coordinates and points on the journey map contribute to the objective, and don’t distract from your end-goal.


Pitfall #2: Applying an organizational view vs. a customer perspective

The problem
Effective customer journey maps are built upon research and analysis undertaken from the customer’s perspective. However, companies often fall in the trap of approaching the customer journey from the perspective of institutional touchpoints (retail store experiences, Web sites, customer service calls, etc.) rather than looking at customers’ holistic experiences with the brand directly from the customer lens. This is a common and easy trap, as departmental teams are internally organized around corporate functions that own a piece (but not the whole) of the customer experience. This is a problem because people tend to orient toward what they know deeply, producing an inside-out bias that fails to achieve the goal of a customer-centric view of the journey.

A customer journey begins long before customers actually interact directly with a company, and the journey involves decisions and emotions that go beyond an experience or touch point with a company. Not incorporating these insights devalues what a customer journey map can provide in net new organizational perspectives and appreciation for customer needs.

The solution
To avoid the potential pitfall of confining the map to an inside-out view, an effective journey mapping exercise will incorporate deep customer insights through primary research and/or analytics. These robust consumer insights should be used to:

  • uncover the human-journey life events, life stages, social dynamics, etc.;
  • capture customers’ motivations, needs and goals before, during and after they interact with the product or service;
  • analyze influences surrounding the customer, including those outside the brand’s control; and
  • represent customers’ perceptual journeys as effectively as their behavioral journeys.


Pitfall #3: Assuming a common journey

The problem

Any marketer worth their salt understands that there is always diversity within a customer base and that understanding and serving the diverse customer is a strategic imperative for the brand. Yet marketers still fall into the trap of assuming the customer journey itself is not diverse, and that customers follow a common path. Often, this error follows from a marketing department’s assumption that they know their customers very well, and that they have no blind spots regarding the customer journey. Yet other times, the error stems from a simple lack of appreciation for the nuances of the journey’s twists and turns. Regardless of the root cause, assuming a common journey can be the downfall of a journey mapping effort, as it fails to generate a perspective that is an accurate depiction of the customer experience. Each customer will move through the journey in their own way, and the challenge for marketers is to determine the minimum viable number of journeys that are required to sufficiently represent the varied journeys that take place.

The solution
An effective journey map that solves for diverse journeys within the base will:

  • identify representative journeys for specific sets of target customers (aligned in behavior, motivations, attitude and product use);
  • show general patterns in the decision-making and purchase paths;
  • illustrate key forks in the road that effect different groups of customers in different ways;
  • find the balance between developing numerous, segmented views that are representative of diverse customer journeys, while not over complicating the process and making the output less actionable.


Not all maps are created equal

As the examples above illustrate, many maps fail to reveal the full terrain surrounding customers as they navigate their decision-making and purchase journeys, thus leaving too many questions unanswered. By avoiding the pitfalls laid out in this article, your map will be a strong tool for representing your customers’ experiences and ultimately for driving organizational strategy.


Posted in Consumer Psychology, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Techniques, Retailing, Shopper Insights | Comment

Making financial goals tangible for consumers

Editor’s note: Lena Tjosvold is senior consultant at San Francisco-based insights and innovation consultancy Antedote. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Harnessing immediacy for a better future.”

saving money Money is continually the No. 1 reported source of stress in the lives of Americans according to the American Psychological Association, and yet financial planning is often set aside in favor of ”want it now” pursuits such as trendy restaurants and weekend getaways. It feels like there is never enough, what you have tends to evaporate to unknown places and it’s confusing to figure out whose advice to take.

As money moves squarely into the digital realm, finances are communicated via numbers on a digital screen, which begs the question: How can we make finances feel real and immediate when it’s less of a physical thing these days?

Saving and spending habits have become visible and trackable by category in one dashboard through services such as Mint and Goodbudget. College graduates can receive smart forecasts and recommendations on how to pay down debt from multiple sources in a way that works for them through Tuition.io.

Nudge behaviors are being increasingly integrated to help consumers act on things they know are good for them: Acorns and Digit help you save without even realizing it by automatically squirreling away smaller pockets of money for you, causing huge future effects once compounding is taken into account.

Digital services are morphing into digital advisors that proactively and intelligently make more tailored suggestions than ever before. LearnVest harnesses the visualization benefits of technology as well as the human touch of a real person for personalized financial planning. To make the future painfully real (trust me, I tried it), Merrill Lynch invites you to watch yourself physically age on screen through Meet the Future You to make you realize that your youth will fade away over time.

Several tailwinds are pushing toward this immediate finances future: Consumers are increasingly seeking transparent advice and direction, accessing all the information they need in their pocket and expecting services to help them visualize the meaning behind the numbers.

At the same time, there a couple of headwinds for businesses: Consumers are wary of giving up their personal data, especially of the highly sensitive kind and are skeptical that financial services companies have their best interest at heart. They seek reliable gatekeepers that will provide impartial advice without pushing towards certain products – the same way you might seek a personal stylist instead of asking a store’s sales associate how a sweater looks on you.

Opportunities exist to tie savings even more to tangible and aspirational financially-related goals – such as being able to travel X number of days in retirement, being able to contribute to your grandchild’s college fund and saving enough to start your second act as a florist. If consumers can truly feel tomorrow’s challenges, they are more likely to make trade-offs today.

Posted in Consumer Research, Financial Services Research, Lifecycle/Lifestyle Research, Research Industry Trends, Shopper Insights | Comment

Aldi turns to YouTube channel to connect with customers

Editor’s note: Seb Joseph is news editor at The Drum – Modern Marketing and Media, London. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Aldi looks to push products through online video with YouTube channel launch.”

Aldi is launching a YouTube channel to push its products to foodies flocking to social media and video sites for food recipes.

The Taste Channel will host weekly videos, focusing on various styles of cooking using a selection of products sold by the discounter. Presenter Helen Brumby hosts the videos, which will also feature food experts such as TV chef Simon Wood, Great British Bake Off finalist Luis Troyano and blogger Clare Zerny.

The first episodes offer hints on home baking, similar to The Great British Bake Off, as well as cooking the perfect steak. To trumpet the supermarket’s sponsorship of Team GB, some of the athletes will share their favorite food in the build-up to and during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Jonathan Neale, Joint managing director for corporate buying at Aldi U.K., said, “More and more people are using social media platforms such as YouTube for recipe ideas and cooking inspiration.

“The channel gives the chance to connect our customers with some well-known faces, learn more about Aldi products and see how to cook different creations with them.”

The launch is the latest example of Aldi’s newfound confidence in the online space as it looks to capitalize on the growing popularity that has seen it – and Lidl – shake-up the supermarket space in recent years. In January, it asked shoppers to tweet how much they saved at Aldi throughout the month, with the aim to get them to share with one another the savings they have made.

Posted in Advertising Research, Brand and Image Research, Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Marketing Best Practices, Public Opinion/Social Research | Comment

Knowing your data

Editor’s note: Scott MacLean is director of data science at Nulink Analytics, Melbourne, Australia.

A lot of good things come from New Zealand: Bungee jumping; EasiYo make-your-own yogurt; the All Blacks; Begaand Mainland cheese; good sauvignon blanc wines; Crowded House; and Russell Crowe (well, maybe not the last one).

New Zealand also produces creative and competitive ideas pursued by skilled and knowledgeable market researchers.

The latest I have come across is a rather cool online tool developed by Irene Rix and her business partner Josh Bondy, at their aptly named CodeKiwi business, albeit based in Melbourne (I have no formal or financial connection with this company).

Some of you will know that I can go on a bit about the quality of data files that I am given to analyze. Indeed, some of the leading interviewing packages still don’t seem to have understood the idea that their great online interview scripting capability can still result in data files that are painful to analyze.

In most cases, asking your data provider to give you output in SPSS .sav format will minimize my pain (and that of any analyst) but not always. In any case, a lot of times I still receive data files in .csv or .xlsx format, and that can raise a whole lot of issues that normally just don’t occur with SPSS data:

  • no labeling information for code frames or questions;
  • answers to multi-response questions recorded in just one field, with responses separated by commas;
  • pick any responses recorded as one, two, three, etc. instead of 0/1.


I could go on.

In most cases, I therefore prefer to refer people to the excellent guide to SPSS data file preparation, available on the Survey Analysis Web site.

The CodeKiwi team’s approach, in contrast, stems from their recognition that in the wider data and analytics field, the .csv (and .txt) data file format, is pretty much pervasive. Their online tool allows anyone (not just market researchers and analysts) to upload these types of data files, have comprehensive and automatic checks and reports run on the data structure; format; missing value patterns; distributional forms and characteristics; values requiring re-coding; string lengths; and a host of other information.

Knowing your data table

In addition, a unique data health index is provided. This index is based on the pattern of missing values, mix of variable types and their skew, variance and concentration of values.

In their own words:

“Knowing your data before you get started can save hours of pain. Learn what’s lurking in that shiny new data file, and save your time for the clever stuff …”

The Know thy data initiative is a first-rate effort to come to grips with a key issue that is faced by all data analysts, whether in market research or in other fields of data endeavor.

Why not have a look for yourself? https://knowthydata.io/

Posted in Big Data, Data Processing, Market Research Techniques, Research Communities, Research Software, State of the Research Industry | Comment