Quirk's Blog

How caregivers add insight to health care MR

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

Elderly woman organizing medicine in pill box with caregiver's help When it comes to health care market research, we tend to think of patients and doctors. We may even think of pharmacists and commissioners if we’re taking a broader view. But one group – a silent army of invaluable helpers – is often entirely forgotten, and that is caregivers.

They go by a few different names: unpaid caregivers, non-professional caregivers, informal caregivers. These are the family members and friends who take on the task of providing regular assistance to someone who has limited ability to take care of themselves.

Most often these caregivers can be adult children caring for their aged parents, one spouse taking care of the other or one family member caring for another. In some cases, it may even be a close friend or lifelong neighbour offering essential assistance.

When it comes to health care, the unpaid caregiver has a unique perspective. For instance, when a patient receives a diagnosis, they often aren’t capable of fully processing everything the doctor tells them. The caregiver by their side, though, is usually better able to absorb important information being given by the doctor.

All throughout a patient’s journey, the caregiver will always have a slightly different – if not considerably different – vantage point, from symptoms to diagnosis to treatment. The caregiver, who will likely perceive many things differently from the patient, is also almost certain to have a notable impact on major decisions that are made when consulting with specialists and considering treatment options.

Given the critical role that caregivers play in the lives of patients, it’s obvious that they should be included when it comes to health care market research. By interacting with caregivers, researchers can learn how caregivers help patients with daily activities as a result of their condition. And because caregivers provide vital emotional support to patients, market researchers can gain a better sense of the worries and challenges that patients struggle with.

Health care market researchers will find that caregivers are able to offer a less biased, slightly removed perspective that can be very illuminating. This view is not as personal as the patient’s – nor as clinical as the doctor’s – but it is likely be more objective than one and more compassionate than the other.

For instance, while a patient describes their symptoms as they feel them directly, the caregiver can offer an outsider’s view of what’s occurring. This is particularly applicable when a very sensitive therapy area is involved or when the patient is seriously ill. There will be many times, especially when the patient is in great pain or not in a clear state of mind, when the caregiver will be the only one equipped to offer a true perspective on what the patient was going through.

By being present when the patient is living with the condition or recovering from its treatment (e.g. surgery), the caregiver is better equipped to reveal everyday insights about that particular patient’s experience that doctors and nurses might be unaware of.

Caregiver as researcher and advocate

Frequently, the caregiver is not only helping by doing physical tasks and offering emotional support – it’s common for them to also do research on behalf of the patient to find out more about the condition they are living with. Social media and online support groups are filled with caregivers seeking information about symptoms, diseases and particularly treatment and medication options. They will seek out others who can provide first-hand advice and recommendations that might ultimately benefit the patient.

As a caregiver does more research and becomes better educated about the patient’s condition and its attendant medical options, they are likely to have an even greater role in choosing treatments. Essentially, the caregiver becomes the patient’s advocate and is very influential in the choices that are made.

As such, this makes caregivers a vital resource for health care market researchers. Researchers may find that conducting focus groups with caregivers to discuss their experiences together will yield even greater insights.

Since caregivers are seldom actual medical professionals, they need all the support they can get from the medical community to help them in their efforts. Hospitals and pharmaceutical companies could provide more informational materials, free seminars and other educational support concerning conditions and medications that are specifically targeted to caregivers. Pharma companies are also likely to find that caregivers could be useful allies when it comes to pharmacovigilance and drug compliance.

For too long, caregivers have been an almost invisible, yet critical component in health care. Including caregivers in health care MR will give them a voice in an industry that depends on them. By listening to and engaging with them and understanding their concerns, we may be able to help make their job a little easier.

Posted in Consumer Research, Health Care Research | Comment

A look at the gap between online and in-store commerce

Editor’s note: Brian Kilcourse is managing partner at Retail Systems Research, San Francisco. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “What will it take for commerce platforms to converge?”

Woman shopping for plants in-store while on smartphoneWe hear it all the time: “What’s the future of in-store POS in an omnichannel selling environment?” That’s a really loaded question. Coming from retailers, it’s almost a plea for some direction – in-store technology. From a technology provider, the underlying question likely as not is, “Why don’t retailers just use their (our) e-commerce platform as the in-store POS?” To be fair, the analyst community has hedged its bets when answering the question. It usually goes something like this: “Well, in low volume environments where there is likely to be only one or two POS stations – for example, a mall store, that might work. But for high-volume environments – grocery stores for example, there would likely be some challenges.”

For anyone working for a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) retailer in particular, that answer is likely to trigger a guffaw. You bet there are challenges, like multiple tills, high-volume scanning, scales, change counters, receipt/coupon printers, payment terminals, etc. Most POS systems were built with one thing in mind: that there would never be a single point of failure preventing customers from being checked out. But that point of view also underlines the shortcomings of POS in today’s retail environment – it is made up of checkout systems, not selling systems. And although they can and do interface with upstream systems, they are not integral to an omnichannel selling platform. The systems were designed specifically to be able to run alone if need be.

But there’s a bigger dynamic at work here, and that is that consumers often start their shopping journeys outside of the four walls of the store, and now it’s in retailers’ best interests to facilitate that, and not lose sight of the digital side of the customer path-to-purchase once she walks into the store. So whereas the POS of old enabled the end of the path-to-purchase and nothing else, the modern POS is hopefully at the end of a path-to-purchase that has been technology-enabled from the start. And that is why the question, “What will it take for commerce platforms to converge?” is an interesting one.

We conducted a benchmark study (sponsored by Netsuite). Here’s what we discovered:

  • Retailers already understand that the digital realm needs to influence all consumer touchpoints and support all aspects of the shopping journey, and they understand that the experience they are delivering today falls far short of their desired experience.
  • Retailers recognize the need for better services for today’s information-empowered consumers but they don’t want to spend more money on labor to accomplish that. They expect that more will happen when both store associates and consumers are able to leverage mobile technology as part of that engagement.
  • Retailers also persist in thinking of store technology investments as POS – a highly mature technology category with few opportunities for innovation and little in the way of new ROI. They also resist to the idea of adding technology around the POS for fear it will make their store systems more complex, more expensive, and ultimately more complicated for store employees to use.
  • In other words, when it comes to how to support that convergence of digital and the full shopping journey, retailers are stuck – waiting for something better to come along.


Catching up to the consumer

The new study, entitled Commerce Convergence: Closing The Gap Between Online And In-Store, found that fundamentally retailers are grappling with the fact that technology-driven change isn’t being driven from within the corporation but from the outside by consumers. While retailers’ perceived internal business challenges to investments in in-store technologies as daunting (no clear-cut ROI, rigid legacy technologies, lack of staff or concern about the stores’ ability to absorb rapid fire technology-driven changes), consumers expect retailers to be able to be at least as technology-enabled as they are.

In an effort to catch up with consumer expectations, many retailers are moving forward, prioritizing attributes of a converged selling platform. They want as little duplication of data as they can get; they want maximum visibility across inventory, orders, customers and products; and they want to deliver robust capabilities like assisted selling and in-store fulfillment all in the simplest way possible. Retailers don’t want to face having the pain of replacing their existing point-of-sale without at least some kind of upside benefit that justifies the investment. In short, they want a platform for customer engagement in the store.

This represents a huge opportunity for retailers to create a whole new way of engaging with consumers in stores, and opportunities for technology providers to help retailers envision and enable that future.

The practice of creating different brand experiences in different channels has gone beyond being an inconvenience to shoppers. It’s the central challenge that retailers are grappling with today. While all store-based retailers are basically in the same boat during this time of industry-wide transformation, winning behaviors are already emerging, and form the basis of several recommendations that we outlined in the report. They are:

Design a converged brand experience: There is no one-size-fits-all brand experience. Every retailer should define for itself what a “seamless experience” means in the context of the brand, and then design the total selling environment around that definition.

Recognize and account for differences: There are differences between in-store POS and e-commerce order management systems that must be taken into account. Force fitting e-commerce into the store is not enough, and retailers are not willing to take on more complexity. They want simple, consolidated and real-time solutions. Channel-specific differences shouldn’t be ignored but they should be considered in the context of the specific touchpoints affected. The digital and physical selling systems are not the same but much of the core functionality is, and should be synchronized.

Get relevant in the physical space: The drive toward more personalization of the brand’s value offering is the industry’s answer to consumers’ demand for relevant solutions to their lifestyle needs. Winning retailers define that as bringing more of the digital experience into the store, deeper engagement with personalized offers, and more personalized attention and service from employees. Consumers still complete most purchases in stores. So, how can retailers make it a truly enjoyable experience? Make it relevant to each consumer’s need.

Employees matter more: After years of dumbing down the job of the store employee, retailers now have to react to consumer demands for more and better service. This has to start with making the same information that consumers have at their fingertips available to store sales associates. But it also means using modern mobile technology to optimize non-selling functions too Retailers must train store employees to get the best use out of the new technologies implemented at store level.

Intangibles will drive the investment decision: Retailers are struggling to find the ROI for re-investment in store level technologies. Winners know that they need to look beyond tangibles and consider the intangible benefits of a harmonized digital/physical shopping experience. The most important one: consumers expect it.

Address “the visibilities”: Retail winners are aware of the pressing need to make three data types visible across the entire selling environment, in real time: inventory, product and customer. Those are huge undertakings, and RSR has noted in several recent studies that winning retailers are actively working to address them. There is a fourth which must be enabled across the enterprise: order. This requirement will require a true distributed customer order management capability – that is beyond the scope of this study, but nonetheless critical to success.

We surveyed 88 retailers to find out where they think the future of commerce is headed. Read the benchmark report entitled,Commerce Convergence: Closing The Gap Between Online And In-Store, sponsored by Netsuite and available to everyone.

Posted in Advertising Research, Behavioral Research, Brand and Image Research, Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Market Research Findings, Shopper Insights | Comment

Are wearables the key to the mobile wallet revolution?

Editor’s note: Abe Vinjamuri is a payment-tech and e-commerce project lead, strategist at market research and consulting firm CMB, Boston. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “New study: How wearables will drive the mobile wallet revolution.”

With some trepidation, we ask, is this the year when mobile payments finally take off?

A lot of pieces of the puzzle are finally in place:

  • NFC and tokenization have been accepted as the standard for payment tech (QR is fighting a losing battle although some heavyweights still back it).
  • Networks (Visa, MasterCard etc.) have managed to co-opt the mobile revolution and avoid the threat of disruption.
  • Credit card providers see the opportunity to drive growth.
  • EMV (chip and PIN) standards have forced retailers to upgrade payment terminals which now are NFC enabled.
  • Mobile service providers have given up their bid to control the payments business.
  • Most importantly, consumers are increasingly comfortable with the idea of using smartphones to pay for purchases – they are at a similar point in the adoption curve as they were with online payments a decade and half ago.


phone with mobile wallet on the screen on a table at a businesSo, yes, mobile payments will grow in the next 12-to-18 months. And smartphones will continue to drive that growth. But the big news is that mobile wallets are poised to get a major boost from the proliferation of wearables. In our latest Consumer Pulse study, we surveyed nearly 2,000 smartphone owners about mobile wallets and wearables awareness and habits. Here are a few of the key takeaways:

You want to put that chip where?

Formerly confined to fitness trackers, and to some extent smartwatches, wearables are still emerging for the average consumer. Currently, about 60 percent of the market is at least somewhat familiar with wearables in the generic sense. And with the pace of technology, this is a low barrier. A new product that fulfills a need (perceived or not) can gain attention in the flash of a Snapchat.

As the wearables category broadens to include trackers, shirts, bands and other devices that are an extension of the wearer, mobile payments are a natural offshoot. In fact, beyond table stakes (battery life, pedometers etc.) 40 percent of likely wearable buyers want built-in mobile wallet functionality. Our data shows that wearable and mobile wallet adoption is symbiotic in nature. A majority of those looking to buy wearables say having mobile wallet functionality would bring them closer to the purchase decision. A similar majority say they would use mobile wallets a lot more if it were a part of their wearable functionality. Looks like a win-win.

Good news for smartphone makers

Although at present wearables are primarily associated with fitness trackers (smartwatches are perceived a bit differently though that line is blurring really fast); many see wearables as an extension of the smartphone category – and expect smartphone brands to lead the wearables march. While the top players are as expected – Apple and Samsung – the door is still wide open for a variety of players like Google, Microsoft, Fitbit, Sony, Nike and LG. And perhaps the best news is that, in general, buyers expect highly functional wearables to cost between $175 and $275. Of course, there are always those who are willing to splurge north of $400.

What about payment companies?

In all this excitement around wearables and mobile payments we can’t forget the critical role of payment companies. As mentioned previously, networks and credit card companies have a critical role to play. At the moment, usage data indicates two things: one, usage of credit cards in a mobile first world mimic that in the physical world – card usage behavior (primary card, share of wallet) has not changed. Two, checking accounts, debit cards and PayPal have a large presence on mobile wallets. We continue to maintain that mobile payments present an opportunity to shake up some of the existing stalemates in the industry and at present it seems like no single player has a decisive advantage.

Depending on how narrow or widely mobile payments are defined, the trillion-dollar+ industry is fluid at the moment, with everyone trying to get a large piece of the pie. From a purely consumer-centric perspective, the barriers are lifting, the options are expanding and before you know it a majority of consumers will have access to mobile wallets through smartphones or wearables. The key to winning them over will be to make the experience natural and seamless. The day someone can put together an experience where my jogging shirt tells me to run faster between miles five and seven and then pays for my smoothie is the day wearables would truly achieve their potential. I’m betting that the day is not far away.


Posted in Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Data Privacy, Market Research Findings, Shopper Insights | Comment

New studies show effect of trap questions

Editor’s note: Miguel Conner is marketing director at Chicago-based research and data collection firm qSample. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “New studies claim survey ‘trap questions’ are questionable for market research.”

Two new studies indicate that the conventional method of using trap questions for online surveys may not be as effective as originally supposed. In fact, trap questions might have unforeseen results – according to both studies – and that is a notion that tends to unnerve the methodical market research industry.

The findings came from a pair of University of Michigan studies on instructional manipulation checks, or IMCs. Both concluded that answering trap questions may alter the way people respond to subsequent questions in a survey.

For those not entirely familiar with IMCs, they are principally the same as trap questions – sometimes called attention checks. In essence, not all survey respondents will pay sustained attention to questions – or even follow instructions – effectively blazing through a questionnaire. These respondents, therefore, tend to dilute survey data.

Consequently, it’s not uncommon for researchers to place safeguards in the form of unrelated questions or instructions at certain intervals of a survey. This hopes to calibrate the focus of respondents or cull those who have no interest in providing usable data.

Here is an example from a social scientist:

So, in order to demonstrate that you have read the instructions, please ignore the sports items below. Instead, simply continue reading after the options. Thank you very much.

Which of these activities do you engage in regularly? (Write down all that apply)

1)    Basketball

2)    Soccer

3)    Running

4)    Hockey

5)    Football

6)    Swimming

7)    Tennis

Did you answer the question? Yes? Then you failed the test.

Another example – perhaps more approachable as it’s found in popular culture – would be in Monty Python and The Holy Grail, in the scene where the magical bridgekeeper tests King Arthur and his knights with a series of questions. The right answers test the mettle of the knights, thereby allowing them to pass across over the Bridge of Death and get closer to finishing their hallowed quest:

Bridgekeeper: Stop. What… is your name?

Galahad: Sir Galahad of Camelot.

Bridgekeeper: What… is your quest?

Galahad: I seek the Grail.

Bridgekeeper: What… is your favorite color?

Galahad: Blue. No, yel…

Galahad is then thrown over the bridge into the Gorge of Eternal Peril. He was a respondent attempting to blaze through the bridgekeeper’s questionnaire.

The two studies from the University of Michigan point that the thinking of respondents may be modified following an IMC or trap question.

In the first study, subjects received a trap question in a math test. Half of the participants completed the trap question before the math test, whereas the other half completed the math test first. Researchers found in this study that completing a trap question first increased subjects’ analytical thinking scores on the math test.

In the second study, subjects also received the trap question in a reasoning task assessing biased thinking. As with the prior test, half of the participants finished the trap question before the reasoning task – while the other half completed the reasoning task first. The researchers discovered that completing the trap question first decreased biased thinking and caused more correct answers. Hence, completing a trap question made subjects reason more systematically about later questions.

All of this, as the lead researchers pointed out, indicates that many past studies may have been affected by IMCs. It’s suggested that deeper thinking may not always be the best state for a respondent during a survey. Instead, an optimal thinking state is where respondents are reasoning as they normally would in daily life. As more research is conducted on the efficacy of IMCs for survey research, it might be in order to focus more on other traditional safeguards such as mitigating response bias or response fatigue.

It should be noted that neither of the studies points to any alarming suppositions of past research. In other words, these findings should not unseat market research from its continued quest over bridges of river sample to the Holy Grail of the best possible data. Market research just has to be persistently vigilant that it and its respondents are in the right thinking.

Posted in Behavioral Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Findings, Survey Development | Comment

Hybrid research: combining methods for smart results

Editor’s note: Katrina Noelle is principal of KNow Research, qualitative marketing research consulting firm, San Francisco. Janet Standen is director of consumer insights at JS Strategic Insights, San Francisco.

Green hybrid key on keyboardThe qualitative research landscape is ever changing and is full of new opportunities to embrace digital techniques and reinvent and revitalize in-person methods. However, the most optimal project design is often a hybrid approach as few methods can deliver the perfect solution alone. In these cases combining methods can provide the smartest results. A hybrid approach can be a mixture of different qualitative approaches, or it can be a combination of both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Here we will focus on a combination of qualitative approaches.

Telltale signs that your research objective could benefit from a hybrid approach:

  • You have different targets best reached through different approaches.
  • You have multiple activities for the same target.
  • You want both in-the-moment feedback and reactions over time.
  • You want both individual feedback and group interaction.
  • You want an iterative process.


If any of these situations ring true, then it’s time to consider a qualitative hybrid project design!

Step 1: Choose your method(s)

Understanding the benefit that each approach brings to a project is key. The most effective hybrid projects use selected elements strategically.

Menu of qualitative options:

  • in-person;
  • via phone;
  • synchronous/real time online;
  • asynchronous online;
  • mobile; and
  • social media.


Step 2: Choose your vendor(s)

There is a profusion of companies offering digital platforms and tools as well as evolving in-person techniques. Our advice is to start with your discussion guide. Make a list of the types of activities you want to include in the project design (i.e. concept markup, mini-surveys, video feedback, collaging, projective techniques, co-creation activities, etc.). Then reach out to your vendor partners and make sure that the tools and techniques you are considering will be a good fit.

Step 3: Connect the dots

Make sure that your target participants, desired exercises and chosen vendors come together to form a customized research design that will meet your client’s objectives.

Some examples:

  • mobile shopping homework leading up to in-home ethnographies;
  • in-home interviews before an online bulletin board;
  • Web-cam interviews, asynchronous discussion and surveys within a bulletin board; and
  • in-person groups followed by user-experience mobile journals.


Hybrid design helps make qualitative research agile and effective. By picking and choosing from the array of options available to us today, we have the opportunity to create a unique research plan to meet client’s needs in the most effective way possible.

At times, clients are nervous about using new or unproven methodologies. However, new methods may be the best way to understand the target populations’ thoughts around a specific issue or product. Hybrid projects are the perfect way to dip a toe in the water of new techniques. If you show a client how much benefit you get from participants completing a mobile journal prior to arriving for an in-person group discussion, they may be much more likely to consider a more robust mobile project in the future!

Posted in Focus Groups, Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Techniques, Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, Research Software | Comment

What Twitter can tell us about Father’s Day

Editor’s note: Ian Cain is the director of business development at Luminoso, a Cambridge, Mass., text analytics firm.

Father spending time with his two childrenLike most holidays, Father’s Day represents a great opportunity for brands to connect with consumers. However, in order for brands to connect with consumers around a holiday like Father’s Day, they need to first understand the average consumer and their behavior around the holiday. Last year, we took to Twitter to learn more about how people celebrate Father’s Day. We analyzed nearly 100,000 tweets related to Father’s Day across the U.S., U.K. and Canada over the 15 day period leading up to the holiday. We listened for all Father’s Day tweets related to the seed “Father’s Day.” Here are the top three things we learned about Father’s Day from Twitter.

Sports are huge. It’s not surprising that sports were some of the most popular and recurring topics for tweets across the U.S., U.K. and Canada for Father’s Day. Twenty-eight percent of sports-related tweets were about playing or watching a game with dad.

Interestingly, golf is by far the most-mentioned sport in Father’s Day-related tweets, followed by running, football and baseball. Of all of the sports-related tweets for Father’s Day, golf was mentioned 50 percent of the time. Running came in at second place at 21 percent, soccer came in at third place at 12 percent, and surprisingly, baseball, America’s favorite pastime, came in last place at 9 percent. Of the 21 percent who discussed running or racing, most were participating in Father’s Day 5Ks and run/walks. Other sports that made up less than 3 percent of the conversation included hiking, football, hockey, basketball and tennis.

Discussing the perfect gift. We found that individuals talk about the experience of spending time with Dad rather than what they plan to purchase. This contrasts sharply with companies’ overt gift suggestions. However, the gifts that were mentioned in Father’s Day related tweets varied widely, with special meals and alcohol at the top of the list. Grilling, apparel and barbecuing were also popular.

Of the tweets related to Father’s Day gifts, special meals were mentioned the most at 31 percent, and amusingly, bacon was the top descriptor used in these tweets. Alcohol came in at second place and was mentioned 26 percent of the time for tweets related to gifts, with beer, wine and whiskey as the top descriptors. Grilling came in at third place and was mentioned 16 percent of the time for tweets related to gifts.

The majority of individuals tweeting Father’s Day messages are women. We found that daughters’ personal messages outnumber those from sons. The top relationship term associated with Father’s Day tweets was in fact “Daddysgirl.” We also found that in advance of Father’s Day, people generally use #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday to express Father’s Day greetings. And lastly, emojis are frequently used in Father’s Day messages, especially those from daughters.

One of the most important insights that we gleaned from this study was that instead of focusing on material gifts when it comes to Father’s Day, brands should focus on marketing around sharing a quality experience with dad. In fact, a recent study from Retailmenot found that about 46 percent of dads say that time with their family is one of the things they’d want most for Father’s Day. Our study confirms the same – watching or playing a game or sharing a special meal with dad were the top trends on Twitter around Father’s Day.

With the adoption of social media platforms like Twitter, we now have the ability to understand our customers and their behaviors unlike ever before. There many ways that marketers can take advantage of the holidays to connect with consumers on a personal level.

Check out this Father’s Day infographic for a visual breakdown of the study.


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

Why branding still matters

Editor’s note: David Rauch is senior vice president of RTI market Research and Brand Strategy, Norwalk, Conn.

The rules of brand strategy have not changed. Neither have the fundamental principles that shape and drive a brand’s potential extendibility, that is, it’s “permission to play” in other realms.

brands of earthIn my opinion, what may be changing is the nature and intensity of the pursuit of breakthrough innovation. This pursuit seems to be accelerating, which may be overshadowing the relevance of brand and its core importance as the jumping-off point in the innovation process. Regardless of these trends, there is ample evidence that branding still matters. Brands are very much alive and an integral part of our daily lives.

Each day we are surrounded by, aware of and influenced by branding and we chose to buy or reject offerings of a multitude of both mega and small brands. Some are growing at astounding rates, bringing innovations to market that many look forward to with great eagerness – brand love personified.

To be sure, there are also some brands that have difficulty keeping pace. With sea changes in values and needs, some brands are unable to align with emergent needs as Millennials and other generational cohorts populate the demand-side landscapes. It may be that this dynamic gives some the erroneous impression that the brand concept is dead. But like Newton’s law of gravity, I believe the laws of branding are certain and lasting.

With that said, we can move on to considering the notion of brand strategy as the foundation for brand planning and related market research initiatives. The key is to ensure that brand planning and the research that is conducted connects back to the elements of brand strategy.

When developing a growth-oriented brand strategy, we recommend informing, focusing and building upon a model that consists of four key components:

  1. Competitive market structure
  • What category/market do you compete in?
  • What is the current state of the market? What are recent year category and brand growth rate trends?
  • Which brands are the players?


  1. Source of business
  • What brands currently have a large market share that you will be able to take business from?


  1. Primary market target
  • Who are the heavy users of the expected source of business brands?
  • Who most needs what your brand is offering?
  • Who will be the target for marketing efforts?


  1. Brand equity/unique benefits offered
  • What benefits (rational and emotional/psychological) are offered by your brand?
  • What benefits are offered by source-of-business brands?
  • What are the consumer-perceived advantages and disadvantages of each brand?
  • What is the single most important user benefit the brand can uniquely deliver to the target market?


For research initiatives, the above components of brand strategy are essential checkpoints for insuring study relevancy. The components can help direct and shape tactical and strategic research in terms of: study objectives; sample design and composition; survey design and key metrics; and analytics and insights.

Individual elements of brand strategy can also be illuminating. For example, the brand equity component can be particularly intriguing from the standpoint of brand growth and innovation opportunities. Uncovering and understanding brand equity – what a brand stands for – is a vital element in building brand strategy and identifying pathways for innovation.

There is a fundamental truth that supports every breakthrough innovation: know what the brand stands for in the mind of the end-consumer. That may not always be immediately apparent. It often takes imaginative research initiatives and specialized insight capabilities to surface and understand the underlying equity drivers.

Here’s an example from the world of snacking that I think will help to illustrate the strategic power of underlying equities in shaping where a brand has permission-to-play:

Please think for a moment about two iconic snack brands. Both are known for consistently delivering great taste and high quality. But from that point on, consumer perceptions of the brands differ: one is thought of as a providing a fun snacking experience while the other is seen as a wholesome and nutritious snack.

Clearly the two iconic snack brand’s equities are different, which channels each brand’s permission-to-play to different sectors of the snacking landscape. It follows that to achieve each brand’s potential stretch opportunities within the current and adjacent landscapes would necessitate somewhat different brand strategies.

Knowing your brand’s underlying emotional equity elements, as well as its rational drivers, provides one of the essential ingredients in successful brand planning and innovation.

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

Why retailers should stop relying on old strategies to stay relevant

Editor’s note: Demetrios Tzortzis is associate principal of digital strategy at marketing technology and services company Acxiom, Denver. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Will retailers bend for these trends?”

The latest phone, the hottest social media sites, the trendiest diet, the coolest shoes, the hippest clothing brands … these are all things that many consumers keep up with to avoid the social consequences of exhibiting last year’s expiring trends. If consumers can keep up with all the trends being pushed by retailers, then what’s the deal with retailers lagging years behind trends that can help them grow a business, maximize profits and improve customer value and experience? At the core, consumers and retailers have very similar needs: they both want to be desirable, relevant and efficient, yet retailers’ transition has been slow and painful, requiring much coaxing to put changes into effect.

So what are some trends that retailers should adopt?

Battle of the generations

Let’s start with how the generational gap between Boomers and Millennials characterizes their needs and desires. Boomers – now in their 60s and 70s – hold incredible buying power, yet retailers are challenged with adapting to their needs. The complexity faced by retailers in how to bridge the gap of the equally large Millennial market segment requires a completely different customer strategy. For many retailers, both market segments are equally important, as Boomers are the heavy spenders and Millennials are future high-value customers. Both groups require a distinct retail environment, messaging, communication strategy and product mix. Some retailers may be able to cater to both, while many will have to be selective when focusing limited resources for short- and long-term growth.

Can’t buy my loyalty

Group of loyalty cards As a consumer, you may love or hate carrying loyalty cards. In many cases, you may have a card but not carry it with you, creating a wasted opportunity when you want to use it. Loyalty programs by way of points-for-purchase are going by the wayside. Infrequent purchases, programs that are not integrated into existing channels and programs that are simply not compelling enough to sign up for don’t excite consumers anymore. The solution requires a shift that will look like a hybrid between the points-for-purchase and engagement/action based programs. This engagement can be anything from downloading an app, scanning a QR code in store, playing a game, clicking on content or watching a video among the many other gamified experiences within the retailer’s ecosystem. To scale across these engagement techniques, retailers must begin with updating and integrating their ecosystems to identify value-added engagement points to credit the consumer. These touch points should be tied to high-level KPIs and campaign engagement metrics.

 What an experience!

Consumers often don’t have a linear or rationale purchase journey and marketing will remain forever changed by consumers’ instant access via connected devices, something that will continue to become more complex as technology evolves. Retailers have been talking about the customer experience and omnichannel marketing, and now it is bubbling-up to a critical conversation as retailers are challenged to effectively incorporate content-rich and personalized online and offline experiences through storytelling and POS technologies, as well as all things mobile, including apps, beacons, geo-location, wearables, loyalty and more. It is imperative that retailers bring marketing, IT and operations teams together to make this omnichannel experience a reality.

Do you care?

More than a fair share of retailers have breached the trust of millions of consumers and I suspect we can all recall at least one instance from recent headlines. Let’s face it, no company is perfect but when it comes to data privacy consumers don’t care why or how a data breach happened. Consumers assume and demand that the data they share is secure and will only continue to share that data with brands that apply it in an ethical way, while providing relevant offers and services. Data breaches and the failure of brands to be compliant have cost retailers billions of dollars and much more in irreparable brand damage and long-term trust. This is a symptom of technologies not evolving quickly enough to manage risks and ensure secure and ethical management and application of consumer data.

Where’s the data?

Many retailers exist with far from ideal internal ecosystems, where data is siloed and access is restricted or non-existent. Imagine trying to initiate a product recall without unified access to critical data on affected customers? How about leveraging data from the online ecosystem in the retail space? Wouldn’t that be valuable? Of course but for many retailers, data remains inaccessible, siloed and underutilized. This hurts the brand and the consumer. For a true omnichannel experience, retailers should consider moving data into a single database to access a 360 view of the consumer and more effectively drive relevant and contextual offers and services. At the core, having a single unified database will effectively enable retailers to harness more accurate and scalable consumer insights to be applied across channels and devices.

Retailers dread looking at this list of trends: necessities in the evolution of business and the strength of a brand. If retailers don’t begin understanding the value of current and future consumers, offering them value and incentives all the while ensuring their privacy, then any attempts to break down internal departmental silos, integrating retail, online and mobile channels aligned to corporate goals will be futile. These decisions must come from the top-down to drive cultural shifts that many brands have resisted because the changes are painful.

The retail space is more competitive than ever. Small start-ups are moving quickly, adopting technology and stealing consumers with socially conscious business models that appeal to both Baby Boomers and Millennials. The inevitable will happen: some retailers will sink and others will swim.

Posted in Advertising Research, Big Data, Brand and Image Research, Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Data Privacy, Demographics, Millennials, Product Research, Promotion Research, Shopper Insights | Comment

Building the consumer story using smartphone capabilities

Editor’s note: Erik Olson is the vice president and senior qualitative research consultant at Market Strategies International, Westport, Conn. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “The smartphone revolution: four capabilities you need in your market research.”

Sometime in 2016, more than two billion people – about one-third of people on the planet – will use a smartphone. Smartphone penetration in developed countries is currently over 70 percent among adults 18-54, and the ownership gap between this group and people over 55 should become negligible by 2020. For market researchers and the clients we serve, this trend represents a profound opportunity. These gadgets have become one of the most transformative tools in our quantitative and qualitative arsenal.

Woman traveling by train holding smartphoneUsing the capabilities available to us now, we can capture information that we’ve seldom had access to. Smartphones can be used to build out the consumer story and bring attitude and usage data to life like never before.

Unlike desktop or laptop computers, which don’t know much about their users, smartphones know just about everything. Because they are always with us, they know where we are, how long we spend there, what we are interested in, what we like and don’t like, how we are feeling at the moment and even how healthy we are. Plus, smartphones allow respondents to share personal – sometimes intimate – moments as they occur. We can collect, aggregate and analyze these data to give real, deep insight into the human condition.

Smartphones enable a range of research forms never before available to us, including mobile qualitative research, asynchronous video diaries, in-the-moment micro surveys, computer-assisted telephone and personal interviews, iBeacon-triggered research, instant idea testing and passive usage metering.

As importantly, they help drive out a bias problem we’ve been fighting in market research for some time. The independent and “real time” nature of the data collection on smartphones helps eliminate confirmation, measurement and response biases. Respondents are only responsible to themselves to capture the feelings and behaviors that are occurring at that moment. It’s just them and their smartphone capturing the passive data it collects and the active data that it asks a respondent to complete. We are capturing actual attitudes and actions as they happen rather than relying on their recall or storytelling with a researcher. Now, there is nowhere to hide their behaviors.

Right now, more consumers than ever are using mobile devices to take surveys or participate in online qualitative. Despite slow and glitchy interfaces, long survey lengths, app downloads and poor graphics, between 30-to-50 percent of all online surveys are being done with mobile devices. Mobile has quickly become the survey vehicle of choice.

Mobile surveys will soon begin to use the smartphone’s full assortment of monitors, sensors and collection tools which will allow unprecedented access to data and put pressure on research firms to collect, capture and make sense of the information we have.

Many of these capabilities do not rely on the consumer “reporting” their activity; they work passively or in the background to collect, parse and report data. Here are four types of information you can add to your market research arsenal to better understand your customers:


Smartphones are highly personal devices – users don’t share their device with others primarily because it contains information that is much too personal: posts, photos, passwords, messages and social media conversations. Don’t believe me? Just try clawing a mobile phone away from your teenager. But, it is possible to “audit” these online and in-app usage patterns to paint intimate, aggregated day-in-the-life pictures of a user segments’ attitudes, usage behaviors and usage frequencies that are useful for omnichannel audits and media planning. Couple these data with geo-tracking and tags within the metadata and we get a very clear picture of when, where and what is going on in consumers’ lives.

We also use smartphones in traditional research to communicate with respondents prior to focus groups or IDIs, deliver stimuli while the researcher is engaged in remote research activities and to collect pre-work or homework exercises.

We recently completed consumer journey work for a global FMCG brand that utilized a passive meter to collect shoppers’ mobile device usage habits. The app ran in the background of respondents’ devices for nearly eight weeks collecting data on when and where the device was being used, and precisely which apps and Web sites were visited. These data gave us a deep view of respondents’ emerging omnichannel experience and were a far more accurate measure of usage than a pen and paper diary.


We can use low-power Bluetooth (iBeacons) and near field communications devices to initiate research activities at precise moments of truth to a brand. Once the consumer journey is understood and the touchpoints are quantified and plotted, researchers have an in-the-moment map to identify attitudes, behaviors and message receptivity as it is happening, not as it lives in the respondent’s memory.

In the near future, mobile phones will unlock sophisticated accelerometer and positioning technology to allow triggering within a few feet of a point-of-sale display. They will enable triggered research tools such as virtual diaries, mobile messaging and blogging, micro-surveys and asynchronous video recordings, creating unprecedented access to consumer moments of truth, consumer journeys and customer experiences.


Cameras enable instant behavior or location capture for validation, in-the-moment commentary and the ability to explain something when words fail. More and more consumers are using the video capabilities of their devices, with Instagram being the fastest growing global social network, surpassing the growth rates of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest last year. More than half of the lucrative 18-to-29-year-old U.S. consumer segment has an active Instagram account.

There are now a variety of vendors building applications that recognize brand names or build contextual insights within posted online photo and video streams. These allow researchers to quickly analyze user sentiment, usage habits and brand appeal as we build segmentation storylines or tee off conventional research activity such as ethnographic research, brand tracking or customer satisfaction surveys.

Just a few months ago, two new video streaming apps – Periscope and Meerkat – launched on both iOS and Android operating systems. Each app literally allows respondents to broadcast their actions as they occur. The two apps are further evidence of the change occurring between text and video messaging.


This is perhaps the stealthiest use of the data available on smartphones. Metadata is constantly being collected on the device using very precise accelerometers and gyroscopes to sense motion; GPS to sense location; environmental sensors (temp, light, humidity, barometric pressure) to corroborate location; and biometric monitoring (heart rate, galvanic skin response, voice analysis, facial coding) to track health. Essentially, your smartphone always knows where it is and how you feel. With users’ permission, it’s now able to share that information with researchers.

Personal privacy matters

Of course, this leads to privacy issues that we all must be mindful of as the use of smartphone telemetric reporting and recording devices grow. Smartphones are intrusive devices, and market research is designed to probe deeply into attitudes and behaviors to help brands build relationships with their consumers. There will be a clear temptation to harvest as much data as the consumer is willing to give but as long as the respondent is given the choice to opt in or opt out of the research, we are on solid, ethical ground.

The ability to record videos or images of others the respondent may engage with is another matter. But, by accepting privacy guidelines, encouraging respondents to respect the privacy of others and anonymizing the data we collect, we go a long way to protecting personal rights and security. Society is constantly evolving its definition of what are privileged and protected forms of information – a trend that shows no sign of slowing as people adapt to new technologies. Ultimately, governments may have to define what is acceptable.


Posted in Advertising Research, Behavioral Research, Big Data, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Data Collection/Field Services, Data Privacy, Innovation in Market Research, Market Research Techniques, Shopper Insights, Social Media and Marketing Research | Comment

Food and beverage brands connect with fast-moving consumers

Editor’s note: Alejandra Zubieta is the event coordinator at social media SaaS company Bazaarvoice, Austin, Texas. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Food shoppers are always connected.”

Fruit in cart with couple using smartphone at supermarketIf you’re a food and beverage maker, this is an exciting time.

Due to the incredible rise of mobile technology – consumers spend over 15 hours a week researching on their phones – there are incredible opportunities to gain new consumers and retain existing ones. But there are also increased risks of losing consumers to competing brands.

How can your food and beverage brand thrive in this changing marketplace?

Recognize that your consumers are always connected through mobile

In our constantly connected world, mobile devices have become king. This provides immense opportunities for food and beverage makers.

Grocery stores have some of the highest mobile usage levels of any industry, with 30-to-35 percent of food and beverage product page views being accessed from a mobile device. This means you always have an opportunity to reach new consumers and engage with them quickly.

Remember, consumers are researching your brand while moving

Whether it’s an existing or prospective consumer, they’re most likely researching nutrition and ingredient information, recipes and grocery lists on the go. In many cases, this means standing in the aisle deciding between your brand and a competitor – and 93 percent of consumers that research on a mobile phone go on to make a purchase!

These consumers are using many channels to make purchasing decisions, including searching the Web, blogs, social media, in-store messaging and word-of-mouth.

But how can your business be ready for these fast-moving consumers?

Create a seamless experience across mobile devices

Make sure your branding and content are optimized for any mobile scenario – including having fast load times, simple Web site navigation and displaying the most relevant content first.

You may want to consider mobile-first development, which prioritizes the needs and considerations of mobile consumers.

Embrace and encourage consumer generated content (CGC)

When it comes to mobile, food research doesn’t normally begin with your mobile site or app – it usually starts with search. The fresh, authentic, keyword-rich content contained in CGC-like reviews has been proven to positively impact SEO, improve your search rankings and drive more traffic to your site.

By encouraging consumers to contribute CGC about your products, and by publicly interacting with them on social media channels (including quickly responding to their questions and comments), you can also increase their loyalty and gain new consumers.

There are incredible opportunities and challenges for food and beverage brands. These opportunities are being driven by dramatically increased food and beverage choices, as well as the unstoppable growth of mobile devices and their CGC-contributing users. Brands that adapt to and engage with these excited but fickle foodies have the greatest chance for success.

Posted in Advertising Research, Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Shopper Insights | Comment