Quirk's Blog

Where are we with wearables?

Editor’s note: Eddie Hold is vice president, NPD Connected Intelligence, part of The NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y., research firm. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “Distributing the wearable future.”

475188841The wearable technology market is at the beginning of what could be a long and stunning bout of innovation, with the potential to overshadow the smartphone’s accession. But before the OEMs start popping champagne corks, let’s focus on the “could” part of the above sentence. While wearables have created a strong level of buzz, many of the upcoming products are already looking awfully familiar and repetitious.

To be clear, the vast majority of upcoming wearable devices fit in one of three categories: fitness/health devices, smart watches and glasses. The former category is driving most of the current success, with a couple of key brands leading the charge and a myriad similar devices soon to enter the market. Is there room for them all? Probably not, despite the fact that many of us have a fascination with counting steps and calories. But the good news is that we all seem to understand why we would wear a fitness band, if only to demonstrate to the world in general that we care about ourselves.

By contrast, consumers are still unsure why they need a smart watch and the OEMs are also struggling to find a compelling use case. And as for the glass category, well, that is several years away from being a reality for the majority of consumers.

A key part of the problem is that consumers and OEMs are not thinking on a grand enough scale. Initial “man in the street” interviews conducted by NPD prior to this year’s Consumer Electronics Show highlighted this fact: a key application cited by consumers was being able to use the smartwatch to tell the time. Seriously? We’ve all become so accustomed to using the smartphone as the default clock that a wrist-based device that pairs to the smartphone and supports a clock app is seen as compelling. But even discounting this initial use case, the next few examples, such as checking e-mail and making calls, highlight the issue that the smartwatch is seen as a peripheral smartphone device, or as a somewhat clever second screen for today’s second screen (the smartphone).

Perhaps the key is that we are all struggling to create the single wearable that meets all of our needs – just as the smartphone managed to become the Swiss Army knife of communications (and more) several years ago. This is a mistake: the true power of the “wearable” future is a transition from a unitary world – carrying one smartphone that attempts to be a source of all data – to a distributed device future, where these wearables work together to provide a complete picture. In other words, a personal area network that surrounds us, providing a combined sense of the immediate surroundings (whether that is biometric information, air quality or other proximity-based data) and the macro environment, ranging from e-mail, calls and other Web-related data (such as mapping-based information).

One could argue that this is what the initial set of fitness and smartwatch devices attempt to do, adding contextual information through additional wearable devices. But to get to this point, there is a clumsy interface, and the need for consumers to wear additional devices, such as a relatively clunky watch. A far neater example of the wearables potential is the AirWaves mask concept; a face mask that monitors the air quality around the user and shares this data to create a crowd-sourced air monitoring solution for cities. The mask works as a simple solution because the target audience (in this case, people living in Chinese cities) already wear air masks. As such, the new wearable is not an additional device, but rather a new and improved version of what they already have. Nike+ is another early example of a successful wearable, as it fits into the sneaker, enhancing what one already wore, rather than adding a new “thing” to wear.

So where does this leave us? In the near term, we can expect the term “wearable” to be almost synonymous with fitness bands, with a smattering of smart watches thrown into the ring to try and move the market further along. But we will see a small number of vendors to look at expanding the market further to develop more of an ecosystem around their initial products. Take Fitbit, for example, which also makes the Aria Wi-Fi scales. While not a wearable product, the scale is a logical extension of the fitness/health ecosystem that Fitbit has embraced: I want to track steps, calorie burn and the resulting weight loss. Can I do this without a Wi-Fi scale? Sure, but buying the right products makes the tracking process a more natural part of the day. And this, I suspect, is the true key to successful wearables: a seamless fit with our daily life, and how they interact with all the devices around them, not just the smartphone.

Posted in Business and Product Development, Consumer Psychology, Lifecycle/Lifestyle Research | Comment

Are there too many choices in grocery store aisles?

162586595A MarketingCharts report, via RetailWire, on a study from Catalina Marketing, shows that on average, shoppers bought just 0.7 percent of products available in grocery stores. An analysis of more than 32 million shoppers across almost 10,000 grocery stores during a 52-week period ending in mid-year 2013 also found that this selectivity tends to apply across various grocery departments and is relatively consistent when segregating shoppers by age and income.

Consumers’ selectivity was even more pronounced when looking at their weekly and quarterly shopping habits.

What’s interesting is that the figures don’t appear to have been dragged down by infrequent or low-value shoppers. Instead, the top shoppers in the study – who accounted for 80 percent of retailers’ sales during the period – still only bought 1 percent of available items.

The researchers point out that “the proliferation of targeted products has achieved the goal of meeting the more individualized preferences of today’s consumers.” But Catalina makes the case that traditional promotions don’t work for these selective shoppers, arguing instead for more personalized programs.

As a case study, the researchers present data concerning a major grocery store’s Memorial Day weekly circular. Of the 1,172 items included in the circular, not a single one showed up in two-thirds of the shopping baskets during the week, while another 17 percent of baskets included only a single advertised item (equating to less than 1 percent of the items advertised). A week later, 74 percent of baskets didn’t include any items from the circular, while 15 percent contained just one.

The takeaways? Catalina recommends that:

  • retailers and brands better understand the individual needs and behaviors of shoppers so as to deliver them more relevant offers and communications;
  • marketers examine mobile solutions that can pinpoint shoppers’ buying histories and in-store location so as to get their attention at the point of decision; and
  • marketers retool their delivery of promotions and offers so as to enhance their effectiveness for the customer and brand.


Posted in Food/Sensory Research, Shopper Insights | Comment

Online communities vs. focus groups – who wins?

96133021Editor’s note: Huw Davies is qualitative services manager at U.K. research firm Gillian Kenny Associates.

The battle lines are drawn for a conflict at the heart of qualitative market research, a fight between the old and the new. On the one side is the newcomer, online research – cost-efficient, flexible and with the power to track respondents over time. On the other side are the traditional face-to-face methodologies – tried and tested, effective approaches that boast the personal touch.

The use of online methodologies, particularly research communities, continues to rise as clients and respondents alike accept them as legitimate approaches to primary research.

The movement of travel for the industry may be firmly towards greater use of online research but there are many who are not dazzled by its glitter and continue to rely on well-established methodologies. As with all innovations, it will take time for the final verdict to be reached but, in the meantime, one of the fiercest battles is being fought by the champion from each side – online communities versus focus groups. Both methodologies have their pros and cons but which should market researchers choose?

Online communities continue to offer companies in industries such as health care an impressive range of benefits; they are a cost-effective way to capture insights from respondents (both patients and health care professionals) and track them over time. Size matters when it comes to data, and online communities offer qualitative responses from quantitative sample sizes and communities as large as 1,000 respondents – a figure well beyond the scope of a focus group – can be highly effective market research tools.

Through the use of smartphones and tablets, online communities are increasingly able to log perceptions in real time as respondents record in-the-moment experiences – for example, from patients immediately after a doctor’s visit or from doctors following a treatment decision. The use of video diaries in particular overcomes many of the limitations of online research by putting a face to the respondent as well as allowing emotional responses to be gauged.

In addition to insights from individuals, online communities allow for extensive interactions between members, capturing opinions and experiences from respondents who may not be as forthcoming in a focus groups setting, where stronger personalities can dominate discussions. In front of their computer or smartphone, respondents can be more honest and open in their responses, sharing their personal experiences in vivid and emotional ways.

What’s more, the ongoing nature of online communities allows researchers to track discussions and opinions over time, building a more nuanced view of a patient’s treatment journey or a physician’s decision making process than is possible through a one-off focus group. Online communities are also not constrained by national borders and, when run internationally, cut travel time and costs when compared to running focus groups in multiple countries.

In spite of the formidable armory of online communities, face-to-face focus groups are no pushover in a fair fight. Quite simply, an effectively moderated discussion between a well-screened group of participants can deliver unparalleled insights, as well as helping to put a face to a disease or customer. The moderator’s role is particularly influential, helping to ensure that all respondents take part and offer their own take on a topic. A face-to-face moderator is also able to use the full spectrum of visual and auditory cues to gauge respondents’ emotional reactions and, therefore, guide the discussion.

Focus groups also allow all members of a population to be sampled – participation in online methodologies remains lower amongst older people – and can reduce the potential for dishonesty or misrepresentation that the anonymity of an online group can bring. A focus group also allows a client to be actively involved by watching through a one-way mirror or video feed, which can enable discussion of the research and allow for adjustments in real time.

Inevitably, many clients will opt to carry out their research using multiple methodologies, tailoring this mix to the specific needs of their respondent populations and research goals. Yet, as pressure on budgets continues, driving a never-ending search for more cost-effective methodologies, the rapid advance of technology may well mean that online communities will emerge from the battle victorious.

Posted in Focus Groups, Health Care Research, Mobile Interviewing, Qualitative Research, Research Communities | Comment

Predictions for top social media trends in the retail industry

Seattle-based research and analytics firm Blueocean Market Intelligence has released its predictions for the top social media trends in the 2014 retail industry.

467748551Last year, retailers largely surpassed sales goals, despite a relatively short shopping season, poor weather conditions and weak consumer confidence. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), total online holiday sales grew by 9.3 percent – amounting to $95.7 billion – due to proactive social media campaigns, deeply discounted deals, free shipping and last-minute customer rushes.

Blueocean Market Intelligence analyzed the online data of the nation’s top 100 retailers (as defined by the NRF) from September through December 2013 as part of its Social Media Effectiveness Index for Retailers (SEI Retail), an ongoing global study assessing the business impact of top retailers’ social media efforts.

Based on the analysis, Blueocean Market Intelligence predicts the following top social media trends for the retail industry in 2014:

1. The traditional shopping experience is evolving as more consumers move online. While the holiday season still provides many opportunities for shiny marketing promotions and campaigns, digital advances have changed the game. Retailers have more flexibility on how and when they approach customers. Last year’s Black Friday was not just limited to Friday – retailers offered deep discounts days before to gain more customers. Increased competition and customers’ lack of patience with crowds and long lines will continue to push them online, away from brick-and-mortar storefronts.

2. Pinterest will emerge as a stronger alternative to Facebook and Twitter. During last year’s holiday season, Twitter referrals experienced the most growth, with a 24 percent increase year over year, followed by Pinterest (17 percent) and Facebook (12 percent). While Facebook led the battle among social influencers in the online space, Pinterest emerged as the top social channel for “top of the funnel” advertising with its fast-growing referral traffic and higher conversion rates.

3. Successful retailers will integrate omnichannel communications. Cementing an omnichannel strategy will continue to be crucial and online-plus-mobile will equal strong sales. According to the Adobe Digital Index 2013, consumers shopped 40 percent more from their smartphones this past holiday season than in 2012. Retailers that identify opportunities to create a more a seamless experience with consistent communications across all platforms, as well as improved inventory and transparent pricing, will create a more fulfilling experience for customers.

4. Content marketing will increasingly rely on social media to drive engagement. Brands will move away from a one-way content marketing push, instead leveraging social media to drive engagement, timely conversations and personalized customer interactions. However, 2014 will also bring a shift from text to more visually-oriented elements such as video and pictures, affecting data storage requirements and even broader types of content. Organizations that want to harness data from social intelligence will need to acknowledge unstructured data and determine how it can be converted and made relevant for today’s business strategies.

5. Social shopping will become a reality. Social media engagement has traditionally focused on customers in the consideration phase of the purchase cycle. However, we can now expect companies to launch greater social shopping initiatives by leveraging virtual currencies. Social shopping will not just occur on independent platforms, but will be integrated into social platforms. With a quick click, share or Tweet, customers will be able to purchase a product or service, impacting how organizations track their logistics, customer verifications and inventory management.

“In 2014, we can expect to see increased adoption of next-generation, interactive social technologies that will help retailers gain deeper customer insights and identify new market opportunities. Digital marketing strategies will be more holistic in nature to enhance customer engagement and increase sales, not only during the holidays, but throughout the entire year,” says Blueocean Market Intelligence Senior Vice President Anees Merchant.

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Retailing, Shopper Insights, Social Media and Marketing Research | Comment

Researchers, think of your clients as students

Editor’s note: Kathryn Korostoff is president of Research Rockstar LLC, a Marlborough, Mass., provider of market research training. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here.

459129159Market researchers can learn a lot from teachers. The best data in the world won’t solve or enhance anything if it isn’t understood and used. So, like a teacher, your job is to bring your “students” (clients) to a full understanding of your research results.

You may already be doing many of the things great teachers do.


• Do you always have clear objectives for your research?

• Do you spend a lot of time designing content so that it will be understandable?

• Do you put great effort into making sure that your clients will retain key pieces of information?

• Do you strive to be engaging when presenting research?

Your answer to all of the above was “Absolutely,” right? Great teachers would say the same if we substituted “lessons” and “students” for “research” and “clients.” Take the first question above, for example; great teachers have clear learning objectives for their lessons, just as you have clear objectives for what any given research project needs to accomplish.

So now, let’s do a little exercise.

Step 1: If you were a school teacher, how might you address these challenges?

1. My students are having trouble staying focused in class.

2. My students aren’t reading the textbook carefully.

3. My students are having trouble applying the lesson content.

Write down a possible solution for each of the above before proceeding. Seriously. Trust me. Give yourself at least five minutes for this task.

Step 2: Can you apply those solutions to your market research clients?

Now let’s apply this to market research. Take the solutions you identified above and see if they apply to each of the following:

4. My clients are having trouble staying focused during presentations.

5. My clients aren’t reading the research report carefully.

6. My clients are having trouble applying the research results.

Did the solution you came up with for 1 apply to 4? 2 to 5? And 3 to 6?

For Item 1, one solution might be, “Make classes more engaging by having questions prepared to ask the students after each major point.” In a market research context, this could translate as, “Make presentations less boring by asking the audience for their opinions after every 3-5 slides.”

For example, after a section presenting brand awareness results, stop and ask, “Did you find this surprising? Why or why not?” Once the audience gets trained to expect that you will be asking questions, they will pay more attention. They’ll be engaged. And they’ll enjoy hearing what their peers have to say.

Or maybe, for Item 2, one solution could be, “After each textbook chapter, point the students to relevant video content that would repeat or illustrate key content.” Then for Item 5, the research version could be, “Embed links to videos, focus group montages or executive interviews such that after every report subsection, some interactive content is easily accessible.”

Are we delivering research or teaching insights?

Yes, I know. You’re not in front of a classroom full of hormone-challenged young adults. You’re addressing professionals who are paid to be thoughtful. But we’re all human. We all need to be engaged before we’ll set down whatever personal baggage we’re carrying into the classroom – or the conference room – and really learn something. The most meticulously-gathered data will flutter to the ground like dead leaves if it isn’t understood and retained.

So consider how great teachers do what they do – and be inspired. Even just taking a little time to think of yourself as a teacher, in addition to being a researcher, may lead to subtle changes that will help your students – I mean, clients – have greater comprehension and retention.

Posted in Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Findings, The Business of Research | Comment

What do manufacturers expect from 2014?

Editor’s note: Joe Langner is executive vice president of mid-market solutions for Sage North America, a business management software firm.

153173660The economic uncertainty of the past few years has clearly had a stifling affect on some businesses but one of the bright spots in the economy was the modest growth seen in the manufacturing industry. Given the new year, many are curious to see what will come in the next 12 months and how the industry will evolve. Manufacturers are heading into 2014 with increased confidence in the economy as a whole and an optimistic outlook for growth in production and hiring.

Overall, things are looking up for the manufacturing industry in the coming year with an anticipated increase in orders, production and exports. According to the second annual Sage Manufacturing Survey, small and midsized businesses are conservatively optimistic about business growth in the next year. More than one third of surveyed manufacturing firms in the small and midsized business (SMB) sector expect the economy to strengthen in the next six months, while half expect it to remain the same.

These numbers are up from Sage’s 2012’s manufacturing survey – only 27 percent anticipated an improvement in the economy last year compared to 36 percent this year. Almost half (48 percent) of respondents expect the economy to remain relatively the same over the next six months.

During the same period of time, 49 percent of surveyed manufacturers expect orders to increase, 42 percent believe that production will rise and 25 percent anticipate more exports.

The reasons for all the anticipated growth? There were three main areas that manufacturers believed would positively impact their business in the next six months:

• stronger domestic demand (68 percent);
• the global economic recovery (36 percent); and
• the “re-shoring” of manufacturing (26 percent).

“Re-shoring” stands in contrast to offshoring, a practice which has had significant impact on the manufacturing industry as a whole. Many manufacturers surveyed are gaining new business by offering customers greater flexibility to make product adjustments based on market response and the ability to produce smaller lots. Of those surveyed, 5 percent plan on bringing some production back to the U.S. in the next six months and none plan on offshoring any manufacturing to other countries.

In this new climate, manufacturers are making plans to refocus their efforts on specific areas that will have the biggest impact on their bottom line.

Forty-six percent of respondents are looking to invest to support their top priorities in the next six months, including:

• 53 percent are looking to invest in increasing sales;
• 36 percent are looking to invest in developing new markets; and
• 36 percent are looking to invest in increasing productivity.

The Sage Manufacturing Survey focused primarily on small and midsized manufacturers and distributors in the U.S. (defined as smaller than 100 employees for the purposes of this survey). About nine out of 10 of the businesses responding have been in business longer than 10 years. The survey included 139 small and midsized manufacturers and distributors.

The results from the Sage Manufacturing Survey were echoed in other industry reports as well. The December jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also showed that the manufacturing industry continues to add jobs and is expected to contribute to job growth in 2014.

The outlook was not entirely rose-colored, however. In the survey, manufacturers revealed some areas that still hold uncertainty for them in the future. When asked about influences that could provide a downside for their businesses in 2014, respondents pointed out three areas that could have a negative impact on their businesses. They included:

• a domestic economic slowdown (53 percent);
• additional environmental or financial regulations (35 percent); and
• a global economic slowdown (29 percent).

Barring these challenges, there’s an overall increased confidence in the economy and positive outlook for growth in production and hiring. The growth of re-shoring, the desire to provide flexibility and the investment in productivity will underscore the importance of technologies like ERP in the coming months and years. Manufacturers will need to turn to technology tools in order to help them run leaner, more cost-effective businesses.

If this year’s survey serves as indication of things to come, then the modest growth seen in the manufacturing industry in the past few years is likely to continue.

The survey was conducted in December 2013 amongst 215 respondents in the United States. The margin of error is +/- 6 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent.

Posted in Business-To-Business Research | Comment

Are consumers ready for total-market?

Editor’s note: Brenda P. Lee is a partner at Vision Strategy and Insights, Baltimore.

Multiracial Hands Making a CircleWe have now reached a place of cultural evolution that says that there are unifying themes that make the disparate segments of the U.S. more similar than different.

Ahhh, total-market … finally, we’ve arrived. This is sure to translate into marketing communication efficiencies that in turn translate into cost savings – which works very neatly for marketers. But is this the reality for consumers?

I recently worked on a project with a large Fortune 500 company that went from being totally committed to segment marketing – with dedicated teams and agencies focused on creating and executing the most compelling marketing campaigns against specific segments – to fully embracing the concept of total marketing. This total-market approach has resulted in disbanding segment teams and consolidating agency relationships.

I was asked to research the communication effectiveness of a new advertising campaign that had been developed using the total-market ideology. The messaging, which previously tested well for relevancy, was delivered through casting that represented a variety of ethnic and economic groups. The respondents were a reflection of this casting.

How many times have we heard or commented on the literal-mindedness of consumers? Well, I experienced this in every one of the 12 discussions that took place across the country for this project.

We found that respondents had a really hard time relating to a message that did not reflect their affinity group. Respondents were looking for themselves in the ads and without that, they could not connect with the messaging. Even their interpretation of the main message suggested that ads were directed to consumers other than themselves. Additionally, because of the total-market approach to the research design, many of the discussions became quite heated as respondents struggled to explain why they could not relate to an execution, while still trying to be politically correct. So, for example, a white man inevitably would step on a land mine when trying to explain why he could not relate to an ad featuring an Hispanic woman and offend 1) the other Hispanics; 2) other ethnic groups; and/or 3) women in general.

This really punctuated for me that perhaps we are expecting too much from consumers. The total-market approach still requires marketers to be sensitive to cultural nuances that define each segment. Certainly, given the unifying U.S. experience, we have now reached a point in the evolution of marketing that makes unified global messaging possible. However, to ignore the importance of the cultural nuances that make each segment unique is naïve.

Any unifying total-market messaging can be made more compelling and relatable through customization of messaging with segment insights. Additionally, marketing tactics and research design certainly have to accept that consumers have not fully embraced the dogma of total-market.

The total-market approach to marketing was really never intended to dismiss the significance of connecting with consumers by leveraging distinct and compelling segment insights. Rather, total-market is really the job description of what marketers should have been doing all along. To maximize the effectiveness of marketing initiatives, marketers should have taken the time to fully understand and leverage insights that distinguish segments as well as bridge them. Armed with the unique segment insights, marketers had the opportunity to connect with segments on a deeper level.

The general-market and ethnic-marketing infrastructure of the past came from a realization that the unique insights that characterize the ethnic segments were often lost in the pursuit of those insights that work for general-market. The setup of general-market and separate ethnic market teams was a Band-Aid to address the acknowledgement that marketers were not fulfilling their jobs as total marketers.

Unfortunately, this swing to a declared total-market approach does not appear to correct the problem. Rather, total-market is now often being used as an efficiency tool to streamline marketing planning and execution (e.g., to save money). The premise for this is the misunderstanding that total-market is the marketing Mecca. That is, that place where there is a single unifying message and where segment nuances cease to be important in creating a motivating connection with consumers.

It seems to me that the intent of total-market is really an attempt to get marketers to do their jobs – that is, to be total marketers. Mind-set is far more important in this effort than organizational structure.

Posted in Advertising Research, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Research, Ethnic/Multicultural Research | Comment

Accidental deals trump targeted ones, consumers say

462412977Consumers love a deal, and even more so if it’s customized just for them, right? Not so fast, says Itamar Simonson, a marketing professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Simonson has found that rather than being enticed by them, consumers are skeptical of those personalized offers that flood their in-boxes. His research, “Beating the market: the allure of unintended value,” was published in December 2013 in the Journal of Marketing Research.

Marketers have long assumed that touting a promotion as “customized,” “based on your past purchases” or “especially for you” will persuade customers that the product will fit better, fulfill more needs or otherwise prove more satisfying than others. But “telling consumers that an offer is tailored for them can backfire” and lower the chance that they’ll bite, writes Simonson, who co-authored the study with Aner Sela of the University of Florida and Ran Kivetz of Columbia Business School.

“Maybe that’s not such a good idea,” says Simonson, referring to offers that are promoted as being personalized. Rather, consumers are more likely to respond to what the researchers call “incidental” offers, or ones that consumers think just happen to fit their preferences by chance.

Price is the main reason consumers ignore personalized offers. An electronics aficionado, for instance, might be skeptical of an offer promoted as “just for you” because he assumes the seller has factored in his love of electronics and so thinks he’d be willing to pay a little extra for the latest gizmo. “The assumption is that if you the seller made an offer just for me, you probably already upped the price because you know I’d like it,” says Simonson. In the eyes of the customer, he says, the offer is “not a great deal but a fair deal.”

But if the customer thinks an offer is intended not just for her but rather for a much larger audience, she believes she has stumbled across a great deal and is likely to pursue it. The customer thinks that that “incidental” offer doesn’t build in the consumer’s willingness to pay a premium and therefore makes for a great bargain, says Simonson.

Why are customers so skeptical? They assume that a customized offer intends to maximize the seller’s profit, so if they see an incidental offer that just happens to be a great fit, they feel they can dodge the premium they assume they’d pay in a customized offer and so have found a great deal worth pursuing. Consumers “like to feel that they outsmarted the seller,” says Simonson.

The researchers did a series of experiments, including one in which participants who had stated a strong interest in “financial and world news” were asked to choose between a $5 cash reward and a discounted subscription to The Economist. Half the group, receiving the customized offer, were told that the promotion was “designed especially for the classic reader of The Economist.” The rest of the participants, given the “incidental” offer, were told that it was “designed especially to get the average person excited about The Economist.” More than 32 percent of participants pursued the incidental offer “designed for the average person,” compared with just 12.9 percent of participants given the offer “designed for the classic reader.”

The results suggest that consumers are likelier to act when “certain cues lead them to believe that the offer is more valuable for them than the marketer presumably intended,” the researchers write. “Framing an offer as designed to attract the average person increased purchase likelihood … compared with when the offer was explicitly designed to be valuable for people like them.”

What’s a marketer to do? Sellers needn’t pull the plug on customized offers altogether, Simonson says. Offers promoted as personalized may still be effective with products that require a strong fit with the customer’s personal preferences, such as books, music or clothes. But offers that aren’t overtly customized may be more effective to promote products in which value trumps personal preferences, such as cars, large appliances or insurance policies, the researchers say.

Deliberately portraying a customized offer as otherwise raises ethical concerns. “Marketers certainly don’t want to deceive customers” and need to allow them to evaluate an offer’s true value, says Simonson. One possible strategy is for a seller to extend offers that it believes customers will like but not emphasize that the offers are customized, he says. “Maybe there can be cues to get your attention,” he says. “You want get the attention of the target consumers without hitting them over the head with, ‘We know it’s the kind of product you like.’ Perhaps it’s better to just make the offer and let the customer on his or her own decide that it’s a good fit.”

Posted in Behavioral Economics, Behavioral Research, Consumer Psychology, Retailing, Shopper Insights | Comment

Did automakers lose a generation of car-buyers?

1969-charger-general-lee-1280x800-07Editor’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 “Automotive apathy: Have youth fallen out of love with cars?”

When I was growing up, I loved to watch Starsky and Hutch in their red-and-white Ford Gran Torino catching bad guys using the signature hood slide. Then there were those darn Duke boys and the General Lee, a custom-painted Dodge Charger that performed impossible stunts every Friday night. Oh, and we had the technology too. The Terminator, the Matrix and the Transformers had nothing on KITT, the super-cool high-tech Pontiac Trans Am from Knight Industries. What about Mad Max’s wicked-cool Down Under spec Ford Falcon as the last of the V8 Interceptors? I would give my eye teeth for its nitrous supercharger now and again.

The stars of these shows were as much the vehicles they drove as the actors themselves. What happened? With the exception of Vin Diesel’s Fast and Furious series and some nicely-appointed Land Rovers and Cadillacs on reality television shows, you just don’t see cars that much anymore.

Have young people fallen out of love with car culture? Looking at data pulled from NVCS, a study of new car and truck owners we have been conducting for more than 40 years, the conclusion seems to be that perhaps they take a more utilitarian attitude toward their rides.

We have asked new car buyers how much they agreed with the statement “To me, cars are simply a form of transportation” for the last 16 years. About 27 percent of those under 25 said they regard their new vehicle as “simply transportation” in 1998 (the first year we asked the question). Fast-forward to 2013 and that number increased to 36 percent for that same group. The same pattern can be found for those in the 25-30 group but then it tends to flatten a bit as we move into those 36 and beyond. This indicates that “falling in love with their cars” is on the decline among these younger age groups. Moreover, the flattening pattern in later age groups (36+) would suggest a cohort effect, meaning that as the current late-Gen Xers and Millennials get older they may bring that pragmatic attitude with them. How dull.

What happened? Did we lose young people in the 1990s by making practical but boring cars? Did we fail to inspire? That may be the case, as hybrid vehicles hardly make the heart throb.

But I think it is something much societally bigger: This age group just doesn’t care about cars.

We live in age where younger folks are living longer with their parents, putting off getting a driver’s license, putting off (or never) getting married, putting off having kids, putting off getting an education and putting off getting a career. As an early Gen Xer myself, I can say my late Gen Xer and Millennial brethren are not all a bunch of entitlement-obsessed slackers who want something for nothing. This generation has seen some pretty unsettling economic cratering of their once-prosperous Boomer parents recently. Perhaps it’s made them a bit nervous, conservative and, well, pragmatic.

Moreover, amazing technology surrounds them, and many of the products have lifecycles of just a few months, not the three-to-eight years of the automotive industry. It’s always new and always exciting. And guess what? A lot of the stuff they use is free or practically free. Free music, free movies, free games and other cheap entertainment abounds.

Are we even in the car business anymore? Should we be thinking that way? Zipcar and other car-sharing schemes seem to be growing in interest and utilization. Do you really need that giant SUV with 4×4 all the time or do you need it just to go snowboarding?

Can we make kids fall in love with cars again? I’m not sure. A philosopher once said you can never step into the same stream twice. Perhaps the automotive industry needs to find new streams to step into. What do you think?


Posted in Automotive Research, Consumer Psychology, Millennials | 1 Comment

Three things that really matter in mobile research

460363561Editor’s note: Melanie Courtright is senior vice president of client services – Americas at Research Now.

Most years between 2008 and 2013 have been touted by experts as the “year of mobile.” As we move into 2014, mobile’s significance is still set to increase in the market research industry.

When research made the transition from telephone to online, most took their surveys and simply changed the wording from interviewer to self-completion, leaving the heart of the surveys the same. As we shift from online to mobile, we must not repeat this approach – mobile is not online (and the difference is not just screen size). In order to make the most of the mobile platform, the following points should be kept in mind.

Always consider the participant. This sounds basic, but you must always consider that the respondent you are trying to reach is going to be in the middle of an important part of his/her day and you’re going to interrupt it. I have at times even experienced clients who fail to consider this. For example, asking a diner to capture their whole dining experience from their entrance, to when they’re seated, to when their food arrives, and then when they’re paying. This approach may be too intrusive and even difficult to get through, as we are interrupting their dining experience and inherently changing their perceptions of both the restaurant and the survey process. The method could easily be modified by asking the participant about all of these factors at one time when they’ve had time to enjoy and complete their meal.

People see their phones as a personal extension of themselves. This personal nature of mobile means that the way we get in touch with participants to invite them to take part in research needs to be thought out very carefully.

Don’t let multimedia carry you away. The wonderful flexibility of mobile and the opportunity to interact with participants can sometimes go to a researcher’s head. It is, of course, important to consider the opportunities that mobile presents to the researcher due to the various types of information that can be gathered from a mobile respondent. But at the same time, I would urge researchers to think about the detail of what they are going to ask and to think about the result they are likely to get. Drill down and recognize what information is need-to-know as opposed to simply nice-to-know.

And, realize that if you ask 3,000 people to send you a picture of their favorite aisle in the grocery store, the chances of you going through all 3,000 images are quite slim.

Keep it short and sweet. People interact constantly with their mobile devices but in smaller increments of time than on a computer. In order to minimize drop-outs, the survey should be short and sweet, taking no longer than 15 minutes (but preferably 10). In order to achieve this, you should stick to the point.

Make sure the survey is as easy to complete and navigate as possible – the harder the survey is to get through, the more likely the respondent is to drop out. This can be achieved through minimizing the amount of scrolling involved, limiting the amount of text boxes (which are very difficult to fill out via mobile) and trying to be creative and engaging in your approach. Respondents will be expecting an experience that flows seamlessly rather than one that feels like the 1980s have gone digital.

You should also make sure you go through your survey on every single mobile device; there are online simulators that can help you do this.

In conclusion, make sure you wear the respondents’ shoes. Try to ensure that the survey you design is a seamless mobile experience and that it feels like an extension of their experience rather than an inconvenience. And remember that not every aspect of research is fit for mobile.

Posted in Market Research Best Practices, Mobile Interviewing | Comment