Quirk's Blog

Political polling: When a public poll affects the process it’s measuring

Editor’s note: John Dick is president and CEO of CivicScience, a Pittsburgh-based research firm. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Beware the political horse race poll.”

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me what our numbers say about the Republican Presidential Primary, I could pay for an expensive phone survey by now. Yes, we show Donald Trump having a healthy lead. Yes, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are in a dead heat for second and third. Yes, it’s a jumbled hot mess from there.

Normally, we would just share our results at will, like it was a study about chicken wings or sunscreen. There’s little-to-no money in political horse race polling; most firms just do it for the PR. We’re happy to give plenty of our political research away for free.

But we’re also very careful. Polling the U.S. electorate is an imprecise science. Every honest person in the field will tell you that. We won’t publish horse race polls within a couple days of an election, for fear that imperfect data could influence one person to change their vote or stay home altogether. Too many voters (and donors) allow high margin of error polls to sway their behavior – as if electability or momentum is more important than ideology or character.

Our reach is miniscule by major media standards. At worst, our poll results might be seen by 5,000 people on Twitter and a few thousand more who read our blog on a regular basis. Mass media outlets who publish horse race polling, without effusive caveats about its weaknesses, can have a powerful and dangerous impact on the political process.

Fox News is now taking things to a harrowing level, using polls to position GOP Primary candidates in the first major televised debates. Make no mistake – the difference between winning a podium at the prime time debate and being relegated to the 5 p.m. “kids’ table,” will be enough to send several contenders packing. In a race where 75 percent of the candidates are separated by just a few percentage points, we’re left to trust the judgment of Fox News and the handful of pollsters they bless. Do you?

The decline in poll response rates is well-documented. Land-line phone ownership will soon dip below 50 percent. Few people answer their cell phones when called from a number they don’t recognize. The people left over represent a small and distinct group. The fact that some pollsters come close, even some of the time, is a testament to their resourcefulness.

Mobile phone answering habits

The Wall Street Journal published a national poll of 252 Republican voters, conducted over five days. You read that right: 252 people. Barely five people per U.S. state. The poll had a margin of error of 6.17 percent – meaning that every candidate outside the top three could be ranked anywhere from fourth to 14th. If we reported data from a 252-person survey to one of our corporate clients, they would have security escort us from the building.

Another poll from Monmouth University yesterday cited 423 Republican voters. This is better than 252 but still boasting a margin of error of over 4.8 percent. Are these sub-500-person poll samples reflective of tens of millions of Republican voters across the country? Maybe they are. Maybe they’re not. Regardless, when these polls can have such a profound impact on elections, is maybe good enough?

At the same time these polls were being indiscriminately broadcast over traditional and social media, a quiet event occurred that sparked a bunch of atta boys around the CivicScience office. The Marist Institute for Public Opinion, a well-respected polling organization, and the McClatchy Company, one of the remaining bastions of professional journalism, suspended their polling of the GOP Primary. Their justification? According to Marist, “too much precision” is being attributed to polls where candidates “are just a small fraction apart.”

Moreover, they added, “It’s making candidates change their behavior [to gain even a small bump in the numbers]. Now the public polls are affecting the process they’re supposed to be measuring.”

Right on!

None of this is to say that opinion research can’t be trusted and actionable when used properly. Most of our research is conducted on behalf of consumer companies across industries like media, retail, technology, finance and consumer goods. The insights professionals who digest and act on our data, however, are trained to understand the shortcomings and risks. If a topic we’re studying comes back 51 percent to 49 percent, our clients don’t base million-dollar decisions on it.

Holding decisions that have such a significant impact on the democratic process to a lower standard is simply reckless.


Posted in Consumer Research, Data Collection/Field Services, Data Processing, Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Findings, Market Research in the News, Public Opinion/Social Research | Comment

Are consumers breaking up with mass market?

Editor’s note: Dave Fish is responsible for global marketing and product development for Maritz Research, St. Louis. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “It’s not you, it’s me. The quiet breakup with mass market.”

If he were alive today, Henry David Thoreau might breathe a sigh of relief at having made it to today through the greed and materialism of the late 20th century. Simpler living, individualism, localization, thrift and respect for the environment have made an incredible resurgence in recent years. Words such as “curated” and “craft” have become code words for high quality and holding respect for one’s own body and the environment. Also, I have noticed lots of guys with wicked large beards.

There is a latent but powerful revolution going on. It’s a quiet war against the mass market and it is making large corporations very nervous. Consumers are gradually breaking up with large, established brands and choosing local and personalized products instead. Younger generations want the unique and the different. According to a study I recently conducted, 75 percent of Millennials said that they actively seek out new and unique products and services, eschewing mass market options. Traditional claims such as best-selling and most popular may actually be hurting brands, as more and more consumers regard big as bad, and smaller niche players are becoming hugely popular. People don’t want what everyone else has anymore. They want something special. Finding that one-of-a-kind tweed bow tie in the bargain bin at Plato’s Closet sends chills down the modern hipster’s spine.

Chart: I actively seek out new and unique products and services rather than mass market ones

Younger generations also want local. According to our research, 50 percent of Millennials prefer shopping exclusively at smaller, locally-based stores rather than at huge mega-marts. It would seem that, once again, human beings might want to live in small villages while still getting the convenience of giant metros. The long tail of technology makes this possible. Companies like Etsy provide a storefront for extremely small businesses to sell unique products. Kickstarter is an entrepreneur’s playground and a consumer’s dream world of possibilities. The rise of home delivery options makes getting stuff easy and fun.

Recently, Fortune published a special edition on the war on big food as people move toward smaller niche brands rather than traditional CPG stalwarts. The evidence is ubiquitous. We went from 199 breweries in 1988 in the United States to over 3,400 today, most of them regional microbreweries. People want craft. People want unique.

There is a zeitgeist of entrepreneurship underwriting this trend; young start-ups are taking aim at mature industries and throwing dynamite at long held beliefs of “how it should be.” Mobility, data promiscuity and the low cost of storage are all making success possible for even the smallest of players.

Let’s take a look at mobility. Today, more people are checking their email on a mobile device than at their laptop or desktop. Wearable technology is creating an increasingly cozy cybernetic relationship with us on a day-by-day basis. Buying mobile capability is easier than ever.

To say that data is everywhere is understatement. Not only is it everywhere but young people are, by and large, more open to sharing it than ever. According to our research, 38 percent of those under 22 state they are happy to share their information as long as they get something in return. Think about Facebook. Nineteenth-century Catholic priests would tremble and cry at the prospect of gaining access to the data that people volunteer on Facebook versus what can be obtained in confessional. I can find out on your profile your political affiliation, your favorite food, where you’ve been, what books you read, who you are talking to, your romantic status and even if you are taking Lent seriously.

Finally, storage is cheap. The cost of one terabyte of storage in 1980 was more than $400,000. Today it costs three cents. On average, every 14 months that cost is halved again. That allows us to record, store and retrieve a lot of stuff for a ridiculously low cost. So there’s that.

With those three trends in the quiver, small start-ups are taking aim at venerable and slow-moving industries. Health care, CPG, retail, travel, hospitality, utilities, automotive, financial service, insurance … no one can hide from this technology-fueled, neo-Walden disruptive inquisition. In fact, the bigger and slower, the better the target. Even quasi-governmental agencies can’t escape.

To their credit, established corporations are responding. In a rush to get local and organic, juggernaut General Mills bought Annie’s Organic Mac-n-Cheese. There is wide speculation that either Delta or American will try and purchase the revered, customer-focused and local Alaska Airlines. Burt’s Bees was acquired for $1 billion by the corporate giant Clorox. Colgate-Palmolive bought out hippy-infused darling Tom’s of Maine. The list goes on and on. I’m not convinced that consumers, especially Millennials, are buying it though.

What is your organization doing about this? Are you leading the charge to blow stuff up, or are you hankering down and hoping it all goes away? The latter never seems to work. Perhaps it is best to take Mr. Thoreau’s advice and go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” Think of what you and your organization can do to think local, personalized and agile. Imagine being the guy or the gal after the break up with mass market. That’s a good place to be.

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Food/Sensory Research, Market Research Findings, Millennials, Product Research, Promotion Research, Retailing, Shopper Insights | 1 Comment

The lasting impact of crises on brand perception

Editor’s note: Rion Martin is the marketing director of social media technology firm, Infegy, Kansas City, Mo. Dennis Syrkowski is the president of the automotive practice at Phoenix Marketing International, Rochester Mich.

With Ford recently recalling nearly 600,000 vehicles and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announcing an expansion of the Takata airbag recall to include 34 million vehicles, recalls continue to cast a dark shadow over nearly every major automotive brand.

A car dealership featuring a wide variety of vehicles ranging from compact sedans to full size pickup trucks. While data suggests that new car sales have not suffered significantly as a result of all the media attention, survey and social media data both point to erosion of favorable brand impressions and purchase consideration.

A report published by market research firm, Phoenix Marketing International (PMI), and social media intelligence technology provider, Infegy, found several indicators that potentially foreshadow more long-term consequences as a result of continued media coverage of safety-related recalls.

Negative perceptions affect purchase decisions

GM was another automotive manufacturer that issued an expansive recall last year. According to survey data by PMI, during the height of the recall crisis for GM, of those aware of the recalls (around 60 percent of consumers), nearly 33 percent had a poor or average impression of Chevrolet. Compare that to the end of the year, when this number only slightly declined to 29 percent of consumers having a poor or average impression.

For brand consideration, at the peak of the recalls, around half of consumers in the market for a new vehicle indicated they would be somewhat-to- much-less likely to consider Chevrolet or GMC. Nearly six months later, this number dropped to one-third of shoppers.

The most telling finding from the analysis was that while negative perceptions declined in both cases, considerable amounts of negative perception persisted nearly six months after the height of the recall media attention.

A postmortem analysis of the GM ignition recall found that, predictably, throughout the year both negative purchase intent and negative sentiment spiked each time a new recall or finding was announced.

In following this string of analysis, it was recognized that the growth in the number of negative mentions generally declined after six weeks of the initial recall announcement. However, while the number of mentions decreased after six weeks, elevated levels of negative perceptions of quality and intent to purchase remained throughout the year and did not return to pre-recall standards.

The conclusion of the postmortem analysis of the GM ignition recall was that recalls have had a lasting effect on consumer perceptions of brand quality and desirability, as well as sustaining a life-cycle lasting longer than six months.

In analyzing online conversation, what seemed to make the most significant difference in the degree of consequences to consumer opinion was not how many recalls were issued but how each company proceeded to remedy the situation.

Research uncovered that the total number of recalls were not proportionate to the amount of online feedback that was generated about an automotive brand. For example, Honda, the manufacturer facing the highest number of Takata airbag recalls, had a ratio of one mention online for every 100 recalls.

On the other hand, Mazda, the brand with the fewest number of recalls, saw 13 mentions for every 50 recalls. The reason? Mazda took a significantly different approach to remedying problems with their vehicles, recalling vehicles in a select few U.S. states rather than broadening the recall to all potentially affected Mazda vehicles. Partial measures that limited repairs to only select consumers in specific geographies, as enacted by Mazda, tended to have more profound negative ramifications to public perception.

Many of the consumers surveyed were looking to purchase near-term and did not have the option of waiting to see which brands were taking the biggest strides to make quality improvements in response to the recalls. However, consumers whose in-market timing is more than 24 months have the advantage of taking more time to determine which brands have recovered and this could have long-term implications for brands that are slow to adequately repair their reputations.

Publicly demonstrating action will likely be particularly important in addressing long-term impact as it was found that continued reverberations of negative consumer response to recalls tended to be prolonged by automakers dragging their feet on implementing sweeping measures to right the potentially deadly problems with their vehicles.

Posted in Automotive Research, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Market Research Findings, Shopper Insights, Social Media and Marketing Research | Comment

Pixar’s Inside Out and the world of behavior economics: Part II

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

PixarIn my last post, I went head-first into discussing what a magnificent job I think Pixar did providing us with vivid and personified examples of some of the key principles of behavioral economics in the new movie Inside Out.

Given the preference we all have to stay in our automatic zone, it is probably not surprising that I instinctively (if unconsciously) began this series with how well the movie personifies the optimism bias – the tendency that we humans have to err on the side of optimism, even in the face of other overwhelming emotions that should likely be ruling the day. The fact of the matter is that the role of Joy in the movie is to protect Riley (and me) from feeling other, less pleasant emotions.

In truth, however, I actually found the movie to be incredibly poignant. It just took me time (in my reflective zone) and two viewings to sort out why. And here it is: the significant degree of sadness in this film results directly from a second key principle of behavioral economics: loss aversion.

On the face of it, loss aversion is one of the most perplexing dimensions of behavioral economics. In both economics and decision theory, loss aversion refers to our tendency as humans to strongly prefer avoiding losses over the potential of acquiring gains – even when it’s an unreasonable choice. Most studies, in fact, suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains. And Inside Out may be an even stronger demonstration of why we humans have ended up with loss aversion as a driving influence than it is of the optimism bias.

(Spoiler alert – it can’t be helped.)

Loss falling with blue sky background.While it is often buried under layers of humor, Inside Out is premised on a series of truly traumatic losses for young Riley: a move across country away from home, school and friends; the loss of Dad’s time to an intense start-up business; temporary loss of material possessions via a lost moving van; and, ultimately, a loss for Riley of her very essence – her core memories – which eventually led to the near loss of her ability to feel any emotions at all. But the most heart-wrenching moments of the film are reserved not for Riley but for the times when Joy herself is forced to confront loss. Inside Out gets it right: the only thing that can actually undo joy (the optimism bias) is loss.

So it is little wonder that we humans will avoid loss at all costs; the emotional toll is great. But what is surprising is the difficulty that we have acknowledging that. In the 1970s, when Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky first published their seminal work in what is now called behavioral economics, there was considerable angst over this issue. Even today, when we know what a significant role loss plays in motivation, as marketers we often don’t embrace it. If we know that presenting our case as a loss will have twice the impact of presenting it as a gain, why do we hesitate? Very likely it is because no one wants to associate their brands with the negative emotions that engender the loss aversion in the first place – emotional pain – even if the results would ultimately be worth it.

It is simply much easier to align with the Joy than to face the hard realities and emotions that loss represents, no matter the outcome.

Posted in Behavioral Economics, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Research | Comment

5 must-read books for marketing researchers

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

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

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

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

Here they are:

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

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

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

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

Scipione makes a good case for this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad blocking less likely among mobile’s power users

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

How mobile wallet apps are changing consumer habits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are mobile wallet users? (chart))

Unlocking the potential for marketers

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

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

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

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

Mobile wallet users time spent (chart)

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


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


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

Pixar’s Inside Out and the world of behavior economics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Behavioral Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Techniques | 1 Comment

12 tips for moderating health care MR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted in Health Care Research, Moderating | Comment

The rise of commuter commerce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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