Quirk's Blog

Tech update: What the Apple Watch means for MR

Isaiah Adams is the manager of social media development at marketing research and analytics firm Optimization Group, Mich. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “What the Apple Watch means for market research.”

Smart watches are nothing new. They even date back to as early as 1972. On Tuesday, Apple’s highly anticipated iPhone 6 launch party unveiled their “next big thing” – the Apple Watch. Other powerhouse companies such as Samsung, Sony and Motorola are already players in the smart watch space. So why are people flipping over cars in the streets with excitement over Apple’s latest announcement? Besides the fact that Apple has an incredible track record for creating products that revolutionize our daily lives, Apple’s latest release is exciting because it shows us that they still understand what it takes to make “magic” happen.app

When the iPhone was first released it was not great because it had a clean design, intuitive user interface and new apps; but rather it furthered our ability to integrate and sync our lives together. Not only could we now automatically sync our phone’s treasured files seamlessly with our desktop computer but apps were now communicating with each other better than ever before. That’s where the magic happened. Apple gave us the ability to sync what were previously separate worlds into one, unified universe.

As I watched the recording of the unveiling of the Apple Watch, I started to wonder how this next evolution in smart watch technology would impact people on a day-to-day basis and eventually how it might affect market research.

If you’re one who would stop me by saying, “Why are we even talking about this? The Apple Watch is a niche accessory at best,” let me first explain why I make the assumption that this will soon impact people’s daily lives on a large scale.

Yes, the known features of the Apple Watch are not a reason to jump for joy. These features are generally available through different wearables already on the market. What makes this different is Apple’s superior marketing and distributing power. They’ve already begun to leverage this by striking deals with some of the leading health systems, in an effort to diversify their HealthKit.

Apple has a history of defining a category. Forrester Research

Posted in Behavioral Research, Big Data, Business and Product Development, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Research, Health Care Research, Lifecycle/Lifestyle Research | Comment

Why e-com needs to provide true personalization

Editor’s note: T.J. Gentle is the CEO and president of Smart Furniture, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Personalized experiences engage customers. That principle has been well-known to merchants for hundreds of years – maybe even longer – ever since they discovered that learning the names of customers and greeting them personally resulted in repeat business. Learning customer preferences and showing them merchandise that appeals specifically to them results in greater loyalty.

That’s a fairly simple concept, but the idea of shoppingpersonalization is still emerging in the world of e-commerce. Personalization almost always results in increased engagement. However, when interaction is happening between a person and a computer, the challenge faced by retailers is much larger than hiring a smart and friendly sales staff.

The rewards of besting that challenge are great. Web shopping experiences enhanced through prescriptive personalization have been shown to increase conversion rates twenty times, increase revenue per visit by a factor of 22.9 times and increase average time spent on site by 700 percent. And that’s in the current environment. Over time, retailers who fail to personalize their sites will start to see their numbers spiral into decline.

Though personalization is in its infancy, there are already several methods being explored. Choosing the right method is important to optimizing its impact.

Know your audience

Netflix was an early adopter of online personalization. The digital video provider hastened the decline of physical video rental stores by providing quick and easy search for mail-order DVDs and on-demand digital streaming content. But it could not duplicate the experience of browsing shelves at a local shop or getting recommendations from employees. Netflix addressed this shortcoming by providing suggestions based on what customers watched and how they rated the content.

When a Netflix customer rates a movie, an algorithm using a “wisdom of crowds” methodology looks for other customers that rated the movie the same way and then makes recommendations based upon what those customers rated highly. Even with something as subjective as media tastes, this crowd wisdom logic works well for Netflix.

Amazon uses a similar premise for the “you may also like” feature, which provides recommendations based on what customers who follow similar click paths ultimately purchase. This form of personalization works for these retailers because it adequately simulates the experience customers would receive in a physical setting. Simple, qualified recommendations are perfectly suitable for movies and consumer durables.

When to get prescriptive

Things get more complicated with products that customers spend a great deal of time researching and expect knowledgeable retailers to help them navigate. Few people start the search for a product like furniture with a clear idea of what brand, style and color they want. They visit stores and look at what appeals to them, talking to sales staff about their preferences, budget and expectations. Successful stores hire salespeople who listen carefully to customers and lead them to products likely to appeal to them and fit their needs.

Since online shopping journeys are entirely self-led, this puts e-commerce at a disadvantage. A personalized shopping experience cannot be effectively duplicated with a “wisdom of the crowds” approach because:

  • stylistic taste is only one of several components that guides a purchase and
  • the complexity of products offered requires expert knowledge to create meaningful recommendations.

Achieving personalization for furniture product categories relies on robust customer and product knowledge equal to what a seasoned salesperson is capable of delivering. The best way to extract customer preferences and match them with product attributes using an algorithm is through prescriptive personalization – combining expert product knowledge with information about what individual customers prefer.

Profiling customers

In a brick and mortar retail environment, sales staff can learn about customers by engaging them in conversation and asking questions, as well as looking for body language and other hints to help guide the experience. Web sites have not traditionally engaged visitors in this way, but it is possible to ask customers questions and store their answers in a database tied to their accounts. This is the first step in prescriptive personalization.

By offering an incentive, retailers can draw customers into taking online quizzes that classify them into a specific customer segment. On SmartFurniture.com, customers can take a short “this or that” quiz that simply asks them to make a selection from three images. After answering just ten questions – which most customers can easily do in less than two minutes – an individual profile is created that indicates stylistic preference, budget, size constraints and lifestyle.

Classifying products

Once customers are properly segmented, the personalization algorithm can begin matching them to products most likely to fit their needs and wants. To do so, however, requires exhaustive quantification of each individual product’s attributes. Building this data set requires a team of experts to break down each product and assign numeric ratings to features such as style, build quality, materials, size, etc. Accuracy of matches between customers and products increases with the level of granularity associated with product attribute quantification.

Because they are based on specifically targeted questions and expert analysis, the intricacies of the customer and product profile databases that result from prescriptive personalization eclipse those that are possible using a wisdom of crowds approach. This creates the specific, meaningful product matches that are appropriate for larger-risk purchases and those for which a curated shopping experience is expected.

The evolution of personalization is advancing to machine learning, with algorithms that are capable of analyzing the relationship between shopping journey click paths and conversions. Paired with available data from inbound referring links and IP information, it is likely that fully curated prescriptive personalization experiences will become possible without the need for customer quizzes in the near future. That level of precision will further increase shoppers’ experiential expectations.

Online personalization is becoming more scientific and easier to institute, with technologies that are more reliably duplicated than brick and mortar personalization. The time for static Web sites has passed and the path forward is through highly personalized Web-based shopping.

Posted in Advertising Research, Behavioral Economics, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Retailing, The Business of Research | Comment

Is MR standing still?

Editor’s note: Jeroen Rietberg is the director at analysis and reporting company Intellex, Netherlands.

There is no denying the fact that the market research industry is changing and changing fast. There are those who claim that the industry might even cease to exist as technology advances. Big data, mobile, strategic relevance, signdata protection and survey quality are just a few items on a long list of factors that might reshape the industry over the next three to five years. In order to identify and grasp these changes and processes, but also to be able to predict what kind of changes there are to come, we decided to set up and maintain an ongoing discussion about the future of market research. In this article we outline what steps we’ve made to start and keep this discussion going.

Inertia in the industry is being seen as a big problem. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines inertia as ‘indisposition to motion, exertion or change.”

During Marketing Week Live (formerly the Insight Show) in London Intellex spoke to some 50 market research professionals about their ideas on the current challenges and future of market research as an industry. Based on these opinions, we found out that this resistance to change is a real issue in today’s MR industry.

Gathering insights

“Research agencies don’t seem to grasp that, with technology advancing the way it is, there will come a time when we don’t have to ask questions anymore.”

“Big data is just another imploding buzz word.”

Two random quotes picked from the many we collected during the Insight Show in London. As you can tell from these quotes, opinions vary wildly.

The fact that market research industry is drastically changing is one of the few points that a majority of the people we spoke to, actually agree on. The only other almost unanimous conclusion that we found, is that no, they don’t think the industry is ready to face these changes.

The quote that probably summarizes the collected opinions on the industry best was, “The biggest issue with the MR industry is its inertia.” There is a shared worry that the industry, in spite of recognizing the changes in the market, is somehow unwilling or incapable to adapt.

Interestingly enough, the biggest challenges market research professionals see for the coming three to five years are only partly technology driven. Big data was mentioned, of course, as well as the advance of mobile platforms and data protection. But the challenge that was mentioned most often was the strategic relevance of MR in combination with data quality.

“People are tired of market research.”

“I’m not confident about the quality of work of MR agencies.”

The conclusion is that not only research buyers but also research providers question the long-term relevance of the industry in the context of the upcoming changes. If a majority of our interviewees worry about relevance and don’t feel the industry is ready to cope with the upcoming challenges, it is about time we start a collective brainstorm about how to tackle the future. We must take one step at a time and keep inviting the MR professionals who are not indifferent to the future of the industry to also join the discussion and share their thoughts.


Posted in Big Data, Public Opinion/Social Research, Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, The Business of Research | Comment

Social data: An interview with eDreams ODIGEO

Editor’s note: Europe’s eDreams ODIGEO is the world’s largest online travel company in the flight sector and the largest publicly traded European e-commerce company by profitability. Emilie Rose, international client success director at Bazaar Voice, Texas, recently had the chance to sit down with Amaryllis Liampoti, Group Head of SEO at ODIGEO Barcelona, to learn how their team is gathering, analyzing and leveraging user-generated content to improve their business. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “Using social data in the travel industry: an interview with eDreams ODIGEO.”

What sort of data are you able to glean from reviews?travel

For Best Airlines we are able to pull an overall score based on a 1-5 rating that travelers provide post-travel. This overall ranking is a combination of review factors which include: cleanliness/condition of the aircraft, space between seats, in-flight entertainment, air steward service, check-in/boarding, traveling with children, luggage handling, value for money, VIP lounge, etc.

For Best Airports we also pull an overall score based on the same 1-5 scale and we also provide airport ratings by categories like shopping, bars & restaurants, waiting lounges. We are also able to show the contrary, using the worst rated airports and providing customers with a ranking of the Worst Airports in the World.

How have review trends impacted your business decisions?

Because we understand the importance of showing reviews to our customers, we have created a technological infrastructure across our pages to be able to have better visibility and easier access to these reviews. For example, we have included schema.org structured data so that searchers can see ratings even before they enter the Web site.

What are the toughest challenges in converting social data into usable information?

We have over 30 Web sites that we collect reviews for but obviously our core Web sites have a higher amount of reviews. When creating global content studies the challenge is to present the data in a way that does not just focus on these core markets. Another challenge is the truth behind the matter that statistically clients that have had a negative experience with an airline or at an airport are more likely to share their experience than those that traveled issue-free. We must take this into account as we need to show the most realistic sentiments, both good and bad.

How do you measure the ROI of your efforts?

We measure the ROI on our efforts by looking at many factors, but three are key: social media engagement with our content studies, online value through high authority Web sites linking back to the pages created to host the studies and also the offline value through PR.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to make social data a bigger part of decision-making across their business?

Companies that wish to make social data a bigger part of decision-making across their business should create a work flow where the social data is not only collected and published, but rather digested and transformed into marketable actions. These marketable actions should be creatively presented both in the form of data-analysis studies and display of social data on the Web site to make it accessible and attractive to customers.

How do you get executive buy-in for your social or data programs?

We know the importance of having unique content site-wide and we have done many A/B tests that prove that conversion is positively affected when social data is present. Approval is a no-brainer when increased revenue for a company is the outcome.

Do you have any tips on working with people that rely on intuition and experience over data?

It is important to combine both intuition and experience with data. Intuition and experience allow us to create human-oriented products, but the data we use to analyze ideas formed from intuition and experience is the proof to show if an idea is working or not for what we want to achieve. For example, as an e-commerce company we obviously are interested in higher conversions, we rely on intuition to implement new ideas to set us apart from the competition and the data to see if we are achieving positive monetary results.

How important is the user-generated content topic especially for your specific industry? (Emotions, …)

In the travel industry user-generated content is key. It is true that price is also a key factor for travelers, but also safety, comfort, quality and value for their money when planning a trip. For example, if travelers see that previous trip-goers have had a bad experience with a certain airline and there is not a large price difference to choose a competing airline for the same trip then they will go with the higher rated airline.

What are your future plans regarding social data?

Our plans for the future regarding social data are to provide more content studies, like Best Airlines and Best Airports. We are also in the process of providing our worldwide customers with localized opinions. For example, if you are buying on eDream.co.uk, you will only see reviews from our British customers. Into the future we are also looking into basing our product offering on real-time suggestions from reviews and tapping into the power of our peers across social networks.

Posted in Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Data Collection/Field Services, Market Research Best Practices, Social Media and Marketing Research, Statistical Analysis | Comment

Mobile technology and data are making a difference in health care

Editor’s note: Maura Keane is the online communication intern at GeoPoll Research, Washington, D.C. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “Mobile healthcare in the world.”

While at a restaurant last week, the guy sitting at the table next to me pulled out a razor flip-phone. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Aren’t those in museums now?scatered old cell phones

Mobile technology has come such a long way since its development in the 1970s. In just the past decade the advancement mobile technology has made is astonishing. In the Western world, our smartphones do everything for us: schedule meetings, manage our bank accounts, check Facebook and even pay for our Starbucks. The list keeps going and it seems there isn’t anything our cell phones cannot do. If our phones can do all that, shouldn’t they be able to help us with our health?

Health care has always and will always be an important issue in the world, for good reason. Being active and eating the right food is vital to maintaining a healthy body and protecting yourself from illness. In America, citizens are increasingly struggling with obesity but modern medical and phone technology are advancing every day making it easier to stay healthy. With new technology and apps, our phones can make it easier to manage our health and weight loss, with apps that can calculate BMI, track fitness, or remind you of a diet plan. Tech giants like Google and Apple are pairing up to “reinvent” health care: Apple’s new app, Health Kit, combines all the features offered on multiple apps for monitoring your health in one hub. Apple is also partnering with the Mayo Clinic to notify your doctor if your blood pressure rises above normal levels. It appears a lot of cell phone giants are also joining the health app bandwagon, including Samsung, who has developed a fitness band, the Gear Fit.

In developed nations a majority of health concerns are not life threatening, but when looking at developing nations, access to health care could mean life or death. There is a growing trend in these countries to use mobile phones to improve access to medicine or doctors and educate on general medical knowledge. In Africa, over 80 percent of people own cell phones. App developers are taking advantage of this growing market by creating applications for “dumb” phones, cellphones which have few advanced features. In Zambia, the Ministry of Health is pairing with IBM to improve the health care system through IBM MobileFirst, which will allow health care facility staff in three Zambian districts to use mobile devices to scan barcodes to record and transmit medical stock. Not only will this allow better access to vital medication, but it will enhance the awareness of usage patterns of medications. In Bangladesh, mothers are using their phones to access health information and get weekly text updates on childcare.

This kind of access to health information teaches people the importance of vaccines, check-ups, prenatal care, postnatal care and general medical knowledge and can improve the lives of millions of people. A recent poll ran highlights the importance and desperate need for better health care in Africa. GeoPoll ran surveys in 10 African countries asking respondents “Did anyone in your family need to see a doctor in the last seven days?” Over 52 percent of respondents said yes. Everyone knows that developing countries need better access to health care and drugs and with mobile technology growth brings hope that new apps can provide a solution. The kind of health care access apps provide can change the lives of many people in developing nations and the difference mobile technology will make in these emerging markets will be exciting to witness.

Posted in Big Data, Consumer Research, Health Care Research, Lifecycle/Lifestyle Research, Mobile Interviewing | Comment

Why CMOs need to embrace user-generated content

Editor’s note: Gene Austin is the CEO, president and director at Bazaarvoice. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “Follow your customer: The need for authentic and visual content.”

The only constant is change. In business, we either change along with the market or we become irrelevant.

Today’s market is changing faster than ever: the power of the customer voice to take over brand messaging; the convergence of paid, owned and earned media; mobile and the omnichannel; and big data. The pressure to stay abreast of and capitalize on all this change is overwhelming. It requires internal change to happen at a faster and faster clip each year – while the trends driving that change are still unclear and unpredictable.

CMOs are worried. Two-thirds feel ill-equipped to help their business use social media effectively and 82 percent feel unprepared to harvest and make use of big data.

Visual content hubs crowdsource powerful UGCPeople - thought bubble

The first step in keeping up with change is to capture the authentic opinions of your customers. By doing so you have both created a conduit for feedback to you on which change can be most meaningful to your future while also providing the most influential content to each consumer. And that, of course, is authentic opinions from other people – user-generated content (UGC).

You must capture and share what consumers think – on their terms, in their language and in their mediums – to create a better experience. This includes reviews, Q-and-A and engaging advocates to drive brand growth. This simple move has huge impacts on your business: driving sales, reducing returns, helping consumers make smarter decisions (which leads to higher satisfaction) and so on.

With a new social app popping up every day the types of content out there for you to capture are always changing. The newer social networks like Instagram and Vine have paved the way for visual storytelling and businesses have quickly realized its potential to help consumers discover, explore and engage with them. Visual content hubs are one example of creating a visual story out of your fan-created content.

Deliver trusted content at the moment of truth

The “moment of truth.” This is a familiar term. It simply means the moment in which a customer decides to pull the trigger and buy. But when is that moment today? With mobile, social and Internet always available there is no “funnel” or set “purchase path.” We can go from never considering a product to buying it in just a few swipes of our thumbs while we wait in line for coffee.

So the moment of truth is always in flux, always changing. The “moment” isn’t one specific point in a shopper’s journey – it’s whenever they decide it to be. And you have one chance at this moment, so that content and context better be right.

For a long time now, the most effective content at that moment of truth has been reviews. But recently, the value of reviews has changed and not for the better. Some errant companies decided to try to get the same value from fake content and they paid people to write positive reviews. They edited or even threw out negative feedback. And frankly, that’s deplorable.

Because of a few cheaters 70 percent of consumers have now questioned the trustworthiness of reviews on the Web. Because of a few cheaters your honest and authentic reviews have less value. This is why it’s so important to develop an authenticity policy and communicate it to your customers. Authentic content is:

  • unedited by anyone but the author; 
  • transparent, in that any incentives given to reviewers are stated and employees identify themselves; and
  • free from fraud and spam.

We encourage clients to add trust marks to their sites that let shoppers know that their reviews are authentic and came from real people. You’re then delivering the content consumers say they want, in a context that lets them know it’s authentic, at the moment of truth. And having a policy like this makes your content more trusted – 44 percent of consumers are more trusting of reviews when they’re accompanied by a trust mark and a description of the authenticity policy.

When you’re capturing the user-generated content that matters most to consumers – be it text reviews and Q-and-A or customer-created photos and videos – and delivering it at the moment of truth, you can stay ahead of the changes. By following your customers’ preferences for things like visual content and trusted context your business can ride the wave of change, while others wipe out.

Dealing with change involves first and foremost providing the information your consumers want the most – trusted user generated content. By doing so you provide a foundation for feedback that identifies the most important changes you need to better align with your customers. At the same time, you are giving them the most influential information they can have at the moment of truth. Enveloping your program with a true commitment to authenticity increases trust and transparency with your customers for years to come.

Posted in Advertising Research, Big Data, Brand and Image Research, Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Market Research Findings, Marketing Best Practices, Research Industry Trends, Retailing, Social Media and Marketing Research | Comment

In-N-Out reminds us innovation doesn’t need to be complex

Editor’s note: Hilary O’Haire is the senior associate at Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB), Boston. This is an edited version that appeared here under the title “In-N-Out serves up a side of innovation.”

I’ve recently returned from a vacation to burgerCalifornia and I’m still feeling the joy (and guilt) from satisfying my ultimate indulgence: In-N-Out Burger. Since I’m an East Coaster without frequent access to their locations, my trip would not have been complete without going at least once. I have another confession: I ate there three times in ten days. I may have overdone it, but my love of the brand is predictable. In-N-Out Burger is the one chain Millennials will return to time and time again – we just can’t seem to get enough of it. This is not new or surprising news. As a Millennial myself, I am enamored by the restaurant that offers a simple four item menu, fast service and garden-fresh ingredients.

A report by Technomic states, “In-N-Out Burger is the chain most likely to be revisited. Millennials place greater emphasis on the concept’s brand image, agreeing more strongly than other generations that In-N-Out Burger supports local community activities, offers new and exciting products and is an innovative brand.” To me, the most interesting finding is that In-N-Out’s brand is seen as innovative. This begs the question: how can they be innovative if they only offer four items? Devout fans may point to the success of their “not-so-secret menu,” which is listed only on their website and boasts creative burger combinations, as a reason. However, I’d like to think In-N-Out serves as a gentle reminder: innovation doesn’t always mean complexity. Although customers may continue to eat up crazier menu choices, the actual menu at each location remains clear and unchanging: burgers, French fries, shakes and beverages.

Although it’s impossible to avoid complexity at all phases, the root of innovation or product development should remain simple. When beginning to think about innovation – perhaps a new product or new process to improve your business – let this be a helpful reminder to have a focused core set of objectives in mind. Using In-N-Out’s magic number four, take a step back and ask yourself: What are the (up to) four innovation objectives that I need to guarantee success? Your success will be defined by multiple outcomes, from stakeholder support to the ultimate goal of application or use. However, keeping clear and consistent objectives will ground your innovation through execution and management. The end result of these objectives may be unknown, but who knows – you may find yourself concocting your own “not-so-secret menu” of innovative ideas.

Posted in Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Food/Sensory Research, Innovation in Market Research, Millennials | Comment

Are consumers ready for digital wallets?

Editor’s note: Richard Snoxell is the research director for Marketing Sciences, Winchester U.K. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “Mobile Wallet: It’s not about the payments.”

Since 2011 we have been monitoring consumer sentiment toward digital wallets. In this year’s study we also look at features that drive appeal, concerns that could hinder take up – and which brands the U.K. consumer would trust as providers.mobile wallet

Now usually referred to as mobile wallets, a PIN protected app on your smartphone will hold digitized versions of your loyalty cards, vouchers, payment cards and travel card. Further into the future some might even hold your building access cards and ID card(s), although I think Passport Control will still prefer to see the original for a few years yet.

So, as an overall concept, does it have appeal? The answer is a resounding yes – and that appeal is broader than you might imagine.

We found that 66 percent would be “open to using mobile wallet” on their phone. As you would expect this varied by age, with the sweet spot amongst 25-to 44-year-olds (75 percent interest) – due to a likely combination of tech confidence allied to a desire to shop smartly as they start earning and spending more; both for themselves and their family.

Interestingly we also found that 50 percent of the 65+-year-old smartphone owners we surveyed also expressed openness to the mobile wallet concept. This is encouraging for a technology service and should serve as another reminder that older consumers should no longer be stereotyped or ignored as a legitimate customer group when it comes to mobile or digital services.

Openness to using specific mobile wallet services

Contrary to what some might think interest is not being driven by mobile payments but by the lure of digitized loyalty cards and vouchers. Consumers can easily imagine the benefit of freeing up space in the purse or wallet by leaving all those loyalty cards and paper vouchers at home.
The loyalty card feature is also appealing because there is little or no perceived risk from using mobile wallet in this way – it’s a win-win. And these two features have the best chance of helping mobile wallet with crossing the chasm from niche to mainstream as they appeal to a much wider group than mobile payments.

Mobile wallet is coming

It will not necessarily be about who is first to launch a full wallet service, but who can do it in a simple and easy way, ideally giving users control over payment limits and with reassuringly visible (but not complex) security. And for tech brands –clear backing from a finance brand.

It goes without saying that no provider will gain traction without support from the retailers and although the near-field communication (NFC) payment technology should work with existing contactless payment readers these still need to be rolled out more widely.

However, as important as being able to use mobile wallet in store will be its promotion by confident, informed staff and positive word of mouth – that old fashioned human element.

It will be very interesting to see how the myriad providers slug it out in the coming wallet wars of 2014 and 2015. as Along with the financial institutions, we will be keeping a close eye on developments from WEVE and the networks, Google Wallet’s next iteration (and U.K. launch) and of course Apple, when they enter the fray with a full offer.

So, tell me – who’s your money on?


Posted in Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, New Product Research | Comment

Auto dialing poses legal challenges as Americans ditch the home phone

Editor’s note: Abby Willman is the director of government and public affairs for CASRO, Port Jefferson, New York. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here the title “Rise in mobile phone-only homes poses legal challenge for auto dialing.”

Research needs to discern black and white in the considerable gray areas of the TCPAcell phone

Do you have a home phone? If so, you’re part of a rapidly shrinking majority. Two in every five American homes have only cellular phones, according to the June 2013 National Health Interview Survey. As Americans abandon landline telephones in favor of their smarter and more portable counterparts, research faces many new challenges. One of those challenges is complying with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which is the primary federal regulatory framework that places restrictions on unsolicited calls.

What the law says: It prohibits, absent consent, virtually all non-emergency calls or texts made with an “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS) to cell phones. TCPA defines ATDS as “equipment which has the capacity (a) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (b) to dial such numbers.” TCPA’s restrictions on calls made to landline phones is limited to commercial telemarketing and does not apply to non-commercial calls, such as those for survey research.

What it means for research companies: TCPA means research companies cannot use ATDS to make calls to cell phones unless the participant has given “prior express consent” for ATDS calls to his or her cell phone.

The gray area: The TCPA definition of ATDS raises questions about what existing technology runs afoul of the law and what technology falls outside the TCPA definition. Additionally, the “prior express consent” requirement leaves questions as to the duration and breadth of any consent given.

Is it time for a change? Courts across the U.S. have been taking on issues raised by the TCPA, including developing new interpretations of the regulation. For example, courts have wrestled with defining ATDS in real world terms, and they have explored what constitutes “prior express consent” under the law. There seems to be a trend to limit the definition of ATDS and to expand the breadth of “prior express consent,” but the courts’ rulings have not been consistent. In addition, a number of business and public interest groups have asked the FCC and the courts to apply more reasonable interpretations of the regulations that meet the realities of growing cell phone use.

Posted in Telephone Interviewing, The Business of Research | Comment

Brands, it’s time to get social

Editor’s note: Cat Nunnery is the client success director at Bazaarvoice. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “Encouraging social sharing.”

Social media provides a wealth of personalized content, harnessing this is one of the most popular marketing strategies to drive conversion. For some brands, there is already a healthy stream of user-generated content coming out of social media. For others, there is a need to encourage this social activity:

  1.  More people talking about your brand and products leads to more brand awareness as friends and followers view the content.
  2. Well-crafted campaigns feature two-way interaction between the brand and consumers, which fosters engagement and brand loyalty.
  3. A higher quantity of brand mentions means more content to curate and put to work on category and product pages to drive online conversion.

Long-term messaginghashtag

Short-term campaigns keep brands top-of-mind, increase brand followers, and engage users with the message. A user contributes to the brand’s content library and amplifies their content message when he or she posts about a campaign in social media.

It is best to think about short-term campaigns through the lens of long-term messaging and communication strategies.  A consistent message, one that works with a year-long campaign that highlights each season or holiday, resonates more with fans. It is also better to promote one hashtag throughout the year instead of a unique hashtag each month. Fans can commit one hashtag to memory and use it consistently, enabling you to track a growing library of content throughout the year.

Many brands do not need to create the conversations or the hashtags. Always start by researching the content that is already out there. How are people talking about your products? Are there nicknames and hashtags your fans are already using that you can utilize? In addition, where are they talking? What channels resonate with your fans and create the most natural environment for the kind of content you want to see?

Category and product hashtags

Some brands might not have native content yet. If you are one of these brands, it is time to get creative. Start the conversation by asking people to share their favorite thing about a product. Keep hashtags short, sweet and easy to recognize. Encourage rich media like photos of the product in action, or short Instagram/Vine video product demonstrations.

If you have hundreds of products, you will not be able promote individual hashtags for every single product. Instead, you can take a categorical approach, promoting tags like #brandboots and #brandflats. Promote the hashtags on category pages, packaging and in-store when relevant.


Social media contests are popular and can be a great way to engage your customers. They are fun to execute and have the potential to engage new audiences in conversations on social that they would not have joined otherwise. They can link to a secondary objective like gaining new social media followers or growing your e-mail database, but their primary value lies in gathering content.

Contest hashtags should be unique without being too long or obscure. If a brand chooses a common hashtag like #selfie or even the name of the brand, it will be next to impossible to determine which posts were a result of the contest and which were unrelated. A unique hashtag is the cleanest way to qualify a post as a contest entry, but if the hashtag is too long it will discourage users from entering.

The simpler the contest entry rules, the more engagement a brand can expect from its fans. Contests that require multiple steps to enter, especially inauthentic gimmicks like posting a brand-chosen image or canned brand mention to the user’s feed can expect lower engagement overall. To get the most entries, keep the rules simple and the content as natural as possible. A general rule of thumb is to make content requests that are reasonable for your audience and reflect their lifestyle.


Posted in Advertising Research, Brand and Image Research, Public Opinion/Social Research, Shopper Insights, Social Media and Marketing Research, Storytelling, The Business of Research | Comment