Quirk's Blog

A remembrance of William “Jay” Wilson

Editor’s note: Simon Chadwick is managing partner of Cambiar, a Durham, N.C., consulting firm.

It is with extreme sadness that I must report the death of one of the market research industry’s most famous and beloved icons, William “Jay” Wilson.

Many people in today’s industry will perhaps remember Jay as the chairman and CEO of Roper Starch Worldwide, a company that, under his inspired management, rose to become the 15th largest in the world before its sale to NOP World and the absorption of that company into GfK. Others will remember him as the highly effective and passionate chair of both CASRO and CMOR. Yet others will remember his work at the Roper Center for Public Opinion. Some, maybe, will remember him as a co-founder of the consulting company, Cambiar.

Whichever incarnation of Jay you relate to, it is almost certain that you, like me, would be amazed at the sheer breadth of his contribution to the market research industry over the last 50 years and the impact that he had on its development.

Jay Wilson was part of only three father-and-son pairings to have been elected to the MRC Hall of Fame, along with his father Elmo C. “Budd” Wilson. The others were Elmo and Bud Roper and the Arthur Nielsens (Sr. and Jr.). Jay was early to enter the industry, working as a coding assistant in Audits and Surveys as a summer job, in the 1950s while still in high school.

From there he took a break, graduating from Yale and then traveling to Europe to take a position with Reader’s Digest as their international advertising development manager. While living in the leafy London suburb of Wimbledon, the thought struck him that he would love to do a post-graduate degree at the University of Cambridge. Being Jay Wilson, he attacked this initiative with gusto, writing to all the colleges at Cambridge, unaware that many of them were for women only. In later years, he would delight in showing friends his rejection letters from these establishments. But go to Cambridge he did, graduating with a master’s in historical studies from Corpus Christi College. He was also to study at the University of Vienna, his field of inquiry there being European economic and political institutions. His choices of these fields of study were no coincidence: Jay was always intensely curious about the development of the world around him, its historical roots and, tellingly, how human beings functioned in their everyday, economic, social and political lives.

In 1948, Jay’s father, Budd, had founded International Research Associates (INRA) and had grown this into the first truly global group of market research companies. Returning from Europe in 1967, Jay joined the organization as an executive vice president. This did not impress the mailroom clerk, who called him “the kid.” Upon his father’s death a year later, Jay jointly assumed the leadership of INRA alongside George Gaither and Helen Dinnerman and was to remain in this position for the next three years.

INRA fed one of Wilson’s abiding passions: exploring and understanding life in different and far-flung parts of the world. His next move, however, was to feed another of his passions: marketing and advertising. In 1971, he was invited to become president and CEO of the venerable advertising research firm, Daniel Starch and Staff. Starch was one of the first commercial research companies, founded in 1923 and its founder, Daniel Starch, was still active (though not the CEO) when Jay took the helm at his company. All was not well at the firm, however. It was losing money at a terrific rate and had delisted from the Stock Exchange in April 1970. It was taken private by Loeb Rhodes, the investment bank that had invested in Starch and helped take it public, and it was up to the young Wilson to turn it around. To hear Jay tell it, there were times when the company was not sure it could make payroll and creditors were literally pounding at the door. At one point, personnel from the phone company arrived to cut the lines. Jay threw them the keys to the front door, saying, “Here, it’s all yours. No phones, no business. No business, no payment.” The lines remained uncut.

Over the next two to three years, Wilson nursed the business back to robust health, so much so that he was able to acquire INRA in 1974, thus uniting his present employer with the firm that his father had started over 30 years prior. In the early 1980s he then moved to acquire the Roper Organization, the firm that had given Budd Wilson his start in the business, thus squaring the circle of his family’s involvement in the development of the research industry. In 1993, the firm changed its name to Roper Starch Worldwide and grew steadily, both organically and via multiple acquisitions (including those of Friedman Marketing Services Inc. and Response Analysis Corp.), to become the 15th largest research company in the world.

Jay always used to be highly self-deprecating about his abilities as a researcher. He was, he would say, a businessman in the world of market research. Indeed, long before selling was an acceptable part of life in commercial MR companies, Wilson had a sign on his desk that read, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” Nevertheless, while it is true that he brought a businessman’s instincts to what could be an overly academic and insular profession, it is also equally as true that he was indeed a great researcher. It was Wilson who, in the early 1970s, led methodological research into alternative questioning procedures for estimating magazine audiences; and it was he who, in the mid-1970s, led a major piece of research on the topic of purchase influence and introduced the concept of “interspousal influence” to the world of advertising. This was not too long after David Ogilvy had famously opined that “the consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.” Jay put that concept on a more modern footing. In those days he was, as Phil Dougherty, the ad columnist of the New York Times, put it, “Mr. Wonderful.” Continue reading

Posted in Market Research in the News | Comment

Advertising works but its function is shifting

Editor’s note: Jordan Rosenblum is a research analyst for a New York City-based international marketing firm.

It isn’t easy to think of a time where advertising had moved me to action. I choose TV shows and movies based on critic reviews, like Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB, and recommendations from friends. I found an apartment by mining Google for listings. Even for a small, temporary purchase like beer I might look at reviews online. I doubt my experiences are extraordinary. How did you initially learn about your most beloved products and services? What convinced you to give them a shot? Perhaps advertising is responsible for generating an initial awareness, impacting me in ways I’m unaware of.

colorful adsA 2011 meta-analysis of over 700 studies conducted by The Journal of Market Research titled, How Well Does Advertising Work?– exhaustive, comprehensive research advertising efficacy – showed a 12 percent correlation for advertising spend to sales in the short-term that jumped to 21 percent in the long term, $100 spent on advertising resulted in a $12 increase in the short-term and a $21 increase in the long-term. The study goes on to show advertising effectiveness in 1984, where each dollar spent correlated with a 25 percent relative increase of sales in the short-term and over a 40 percent increase in the long-term. Put more succinctly, advertising is around half as effective as it was 20 years ago.

Why is advertising getting weaker? Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen take on the challenge in their 2014 book, Absolute value: What really influences customers in the age of (nearly) perfect information. Their argument is this: modern advancements in technology have created an increasingly social environment with easy access to trustworthy sources like friends and experts – sources many consumers value more than marketers. More than ever before, we can get closer to knowing our actual experience with a product or service, i.e. its absolute value. Simonson and Rosenson elaborate:

“There’s a lot of talk these days about the ‘the new consumer’ – a smarter, skeptical person who’s immune to marketing. We don’t buy that view. People are fundamentally the same as they were fifty years ago and will be fifty years from now. They are becoming less susceptible to marketers’ influence not because they are smarter or more logical. It is tools like advanced search engines, reviews from other users, unprecedented access to experts and easy access to friends and acquaintances that are changing things.”

To date, advertising has claimed responsibility over generating interest, building consumer preference through persuasion and encouraging purchase behavior. If Simonson and Rosenson are correct, encouraging purchase behavior through incentives – e.g. promotions and coupons – won’t change but persuasion will increasingly become less relevant. “It’s almost pointless to try and persuade people to consider your product when they can (and do) easily turn to more reliable sources,” the co-authors write. I spoke with Simonson and he reinforced this view, placing little importance on creative strategy: if Simonson is correct, in categories where consumers care enough to consult with sources other than marketers, neither credential-based nor entertainment-based messaging will be enough to break through.

While persuasion’s power is softening, generating interest stands to become more important. Moreover, generating interest by “help(ing) consumers get closer to knowing their likely experience with a product” – this goes beyond top-of-mind awareness. Rosenson and Simonson suggest marketers do this by connecting consumers with credible, independent sources that are timely and helpful. Moreover, they recommend: “Generating awareness by soliciting, monitoring and syndicating reviews, transparently recruiting honest opinions from experts or actual consumers (and) releasing genuine content that helps consumers evaluate their likely experience with a product.”

In a marketplace where consumers can now easily share their opinions and consult with sources they trust, Simonson and Rosenson advocate a shift in market research from predicting to tracking. Whereas traditional market research focuses on predicting actions based on consumer preferences and claimed actions, modern market research will increasingly be about monitoring and responding quickly to consumer needs, i.e. tracking consumer demand rather than predicting it. The authors discuss social analytics companies like Bazaarvoice and Bluefin Labs to exemplify this approach; each company keeps a pulse on consumer buzz with social media and other technology so that clients can quickly respond to changing consumer desires. When I asked Simonson if he thinks social analytics were more predictive of behavior than traditional research tactics, he said, “I think such techniques (social analytics), the now widely available big data, and easy to conduct experiments allow marketers to get better, quicker insight into actual purchase behavior; such insights in turn allow them to respond quickly and effectively.” Market researchers may no longer have to rely on positioning questions to try and predict how well advertising is working as modern technology allows them to track behaviors and perceptions directly.

Absolute value acknowledges that consumers will not seek out additional information for everything; traditional advertising will still play a role for commodity-type, low-effort decisions, for example, deodorant and toothpaste. However, for more significant matters, technology has made it easier than ever for us to turn friends, family and experts for advice. While the Journal of Marketing Research study demonstrates that advertising works, its utility is undoubtedly shifting. Success will increasingly be about bringing consumers as close to their actual experience with a good or service as possible.

Posted in Advertising Research, Behavioral Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Findings | Comment

The need for authenticity in the marketplace

Editor’s note: Christopher Baldwin is a European marketing coordinator at social media SaaS company Bazaarvoice, London. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Inflation and authenticity. What do they mean for the marketplace?”

News that U.K. inflation has fallen to its lowest level in decades recently hit headlines and was warmly welcomed. Reported figures show that prices in January of this year were only 0.3 percent higher than the same time, last year. The trend is not restricted to the U.K. either, economies as far-flung as China and Japan are also feeling similar movements in.

As wage growth outstrips inflation, competition is about to become fierce – forget Black Friday, forget January sales, forget Christmas advertising – brands are not only preparing to battle, they are preparing to go to war. After all, consumers may have more money but what they spend it on is up for grabs. As marketers, we must find a way to stay ahead of the competition.

There are many weapons available in a brand’s arsenal to do this but one of the most valuable is authenticity.

Today, the market may not be confined to a town center or cobbled street but consumer demand for connectivity with genuine companies is at an all-time high. All you have to do is think about your own experience. When was the last time you had great customer service? How about a direct response over social media? Maybe a brand over-delivered? All of these customer experiences celebrate authenticity. Being transparent and opening your brand to the marketplace conversation is bold but now is the time to try it.

The proliferation of social media and technology has also brought businesses crashing back down to street-level. Companies can no longer hide or silence the voice of the marketplace. Conversation has been truly reincarnated and is largely uncontrollable. It is authentic and powerful.

Brands and retailers who embrace this shift and are prepared to change the way they think and operate will be well-equipped to reap the rewards. And let’s be honest, they’ll probably sleep a little easier too, knowing their company is on the pursuit of authenticity both operationally and commercially.authenticity

One thing we can be certain of is that authenticity isn’t a goalpost or finish line, it can’t be found in a marketing brief or a PR boilerplate. It’s a journey, one for the whole company to embark on.

So, where do we start?

Remember the customer? No, I don’t mean your marketable universe. No, I’m not talking about prospective generated revenue or total potential sales. I mean your customer. Whether you sell shoe laces or business intelligence software, you need to remember that at the end of every e-mail, phone call and transaction is a human being. There’s a word for the realization that everyone around you – the person standing on the train, the girl who served you your morning coffee, your customer – is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. It’s called sonder . Build it into everything you do and you’re already on your path to becoming authentic. Why? Because you’re finally looking beyond the numbers.

From your social media strategy to your Web site, what you put out there says a lot about your company and what you value. Make sure you’re putting out the right message. How would you read your own messaging – as the customer and not as the executive VP of marketing? Internal communications are often undervalued for their role in authenticity. What your employees read, see, hear and experience shapes their outward work. In the same way children learn from their parents and guardians, employees learn to behave like their superiors. If you remember that every other department or function is also a customer to you and work with their benefit in mind, you’ll soon see the difference, internally and externally.

Now, for the tough stuff: operations. I know it doesn’t sound thrilling but I promise that it’s extremely important. People always forget about the operational implications of authenticity but that’s what leads to inconsistency. If you’re going to start looking at your customer differently and change your tone of voice, then you need to take a look at your infrastructure too. So many companies forget this piece of the puzzle and it causes headaches for everyone. One example: you’re going to talk on social media more openly and honestly. To do it properly, you’ll need the capacity from PR to man the decks. In turn, PR needs to be in touch with engineers for technical questions, which will also need a process for ensuring consistency. That was an easy example. Now, imagine re-writing your entire customer journey and things get way more complicated. The more heads you bring to the table from the beginning, the better equipped you’ll be.

There is no definitive route to authenticity – I know, that’s what they all say. But start off with the above points and everything else will begin to fall into place. Authenticity is a mindset and a new way of thinking about business. It won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen easily but it’s worth it.

One thing that is certain: now is the time to strike. If you don’t, then you can be sure that the competition will.

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

From The Quirk’s Event: Combining old with new and partnering with customers

Editor’s note: Julie Wittes Schlack is senior vice president, innovation and design at Communispace Corporation, a Web-based software and services firm out of Boston. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Bagels, buzzwords, and business challenges: A quickie synopsis of the Quirk’s Market Research Event.”

working together, connection and collaborationEvery conference has its buzzwords, and at the recent Quirk’s Market Research Event, the terms speed, qual/quant and agile were as ubiquitous as tiny hotel bagels. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; these are exactly the concepts that today’s consumer insights specialists should understand and embrace. The earnest and occasionally substantive conversation about how to quickly capture novel, high-quality insights and act on them compensated for the relative scarcity of bright and shiny new tools or techniques. Indeed, if there was a single over-arching theme, it was probably the challenge of how to combine old methods with newish ones to achieve greater impact.

That question was answered in multiple ways.

Robin Pearl, Estee Lauder’s vice president of consumer insights for North America, noted that “television isn’t the only medium in which reality is the trend” and welcomed the benefits of social media listening and market research online communities (MROCs). But she warned listeners to avoid over-reliance on technology at the cost of human interpretation. And while she stressed the importance of quantitative data quality, she told some compelling stories that illustrated the understanding and empathy that could only be derived from exploration and interpersonal communication.

Over at Etsy, Katie Hansen seems to be practicing the mantra of combining data science and analytics with consumer insights. She shared an elegant piece of research comparing self-reported buyer and seller tracker data with their actual behavior. Not surprisingly, she found that both buyers and sellers were very accurate reporters of both their past and ongoing behavior, and lousy predictors of their future actions. Will this be enough to kill the standard purchase intent question once and for all? Probably not but maybe it will whet people’s appetite for alternatives of the sort that prediction markets provide.

Several presentations echoed the importance of walking in consumers’ shoes, of getting as close as possible to their actual behavior and subjective experiences in life. Kathy Doyle of Doyle Research and John Dahl of Red Wing Research shared case studies of how live and technology-enabled ethnographies can surface opportunities and drive innovation.

And speaking of innovation, there were some cool new tools on display. Luminoso continued to dazzle with their advances in text analytics and visualization, while Synapsify demonstrated some simple, friendly tools for coding open-ends and social media posts. LRW managed to induce vertigo, amazement and a dollop of shame with their Occulus Rift demo that sent this queasy subject up the side of a virtual skyscraper in Century City. While I think we’re a long way from seeing virtual reality as an affordable, scalable approach to research, it was sobering to experience such a strong internal battle between my sensory driven emotion (Help! I’m about to fall off a building!) and my rational mind (No, it just looks like I’m about to fall off a building.) Guess which won.

But perhaps the most compelling and useful sessions were the panel discussions in which consumer insights professionals such as Eric Whipkey from Navy Federal Credit Union, Steven Cooley from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Jeff Barry from Nestle Purina and Jenni French from Microsoft shared their scars and successes in trying to bring the customer voice more broadly and deeply into their organizations. For all of these leaders, regardless of whether their corporate cultures were innately adventurous or conservative, the ultimate challenge was to actualize and convey the business benefits of partnering with customers.

To my mind, that’s the question worthy of a two-day conference. In fact, for the chance to have in-depth discussions about how to effectively design the customer into every aspect of a business, I’d happily give up the virtual aerial tour of Century City. Hell, I’d even give up the tiny bagels.

Posted in Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Ethnographic Research, Innovation in Market Research, Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Case Studies, Market Research Techniques, Marketing Best Practices, Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, Research Industry Trends, State of the Research Industry, The Business of Research | Comment

Halal food: 3 insights for breaking into a $1 trillion food industry

Editor’s note: Steve Murphy is co-founder and director of Malaysia-based market research firm Green Zebras. Yazid Jamian is director of the same firm.

The global halal food market has gone from a specialist market to one valued at $1.1 trillion in 2013, according to a study by Thomson Reuters.

Hala foodAnd thanks to the surge in consumers who require halal-prepared and certified food products, it shows no signs of slowing down. The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life has forecast the world’s Muslim population to grow 35 percent from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion in 2030.

Arguably, markets with growing Muslim populations and fragmented/non-existent sources of halal food represent the most opportunity. For instance, the halal food market in the U.S. was worth $170 billion for a market of 8 million in 2010, according to Ogilvy Noor.

For any business looking into markets like the U.S. where demand for halal food far exceed supply, here are three insights that may be useful in constructing a go-to-market strategy. Malaysia is one of the world’s largest producers of halal food, exporting more than $10 billion worth worldwide in 2013.

Halal RTE (ready-to-eat) options will increase in popularity due to Muslims’ younger demographic

Because of the ‘youth bulge’ – in Muslim-dominant nations, 60 percent of the population is under 30 – the Muslim market is more likely to be younger. They are also as connected, savvy and modern as their non-Muslim counterparts. Packaged food is definitely part of their repertoire.

Halal is often construed with permissible meat products but it goes well beyond that.

Frozen meals, condiments, snacks, instant ramen, and confectionery – these are just some of the ready-to-eat products that, if produced in alignment with halal principles, would resonate well with a younger Muslim consumer.

Supply chain doesn’t just matter; it is critical

To be truly halal, food not only has to be produced or prepared in accordance with halal principles but also handled, transported and stored according to Muslim halal precepts.

The halalan toyyiban food supply chain (HTFSC) process ensures that halal food is not contaminated with pork or other disallowed products. In the case of poultry, for example, chickens must have enough space to roam and be far enough from pig farms so as not to risk contamination. Post-slaughter, halal chicken requires dedicated storage and handling as recommended by Syariah Islamic law.

Given the demand for halal food, we believe that there is unrivaled opportunity for logistics and supply chain firms to be HTFSC-compliant. It will require a deep understanding of halal principles and a willingness to invest in and commit to halal-approved systems and processes.

Proponents of organic food are an unexpected market for halal food

Not surprisingly, halal food has earned new custom from an unlikely source: non-Muslims who are concerned about the provenance of what they eat. In particular, organic food proponents have discovered that halal food meets their requirements for conscientious eating.

Halal doctrine emphasizes quality of life for animals, even those bred for the table, and merciful killing. Battery farms, growth hormones and feed made from processed animal byproducts are certainly not halal. It’s no wonder then that a new generation of diners is seeking out halal foods, even though they’re not Muslim.

How big is the global organic food market? According to Transparency Market Research, it will nearly double from $57.5 billion in 2010 to $104.7 billion this year. This growth is more marked in countries with higher purchasing power, such as Japan.

The concept of halal may be centuries old but its benefits are very much of our time. Today’s focus on food safety, ethical sourcing and conscientious eating are perfectly aligned with halal food. There is no better time than now to be part of this movement.

Posted in Advertising Research, Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Ethnic/Multicultural Research, Food/Sensory Research, International Research, Shopper Insights | Comment

Vocal brand advocates: Targeting the market maven

Editor’s note: Laura Albert is a marketing insights associate for Pittsburgh-based research firm CivicScience.

Everyone has that friend or family member who tells them about the latest new tech gadget they bought or a really great band that they started listening to. Those individuals may be defined as market mavens, and they are a very important consumer segment for advertisers and marketers to understand.

early adopters of new products Outside of the traditional, financial markets definition of a market maven, in the context of general consumerism, they stand apart for their propensity to have information on the latest products and trends, they know the best places to shop and they are more likely to be early adopters of new products and offerings. Not only are these individuals early adopters but they are also vocal advocates: telling their friends and family about their new purchases and the new offerings, essentially making them unofficial grassroots-marketers for businesses. They are a trusted source of information among their friends and family and a recommendation is going to make much more of an impact than an ad online or on TV. It is essential to understand the market mavens of your specific brand or company as they have the potential to impact other consumers’ purchases that you may not reach on your own.

A recent report published by CivicScience analyzes the fabric of these market mavens among U.S. adults, looking into their shopping habits, interests and technology usage – all of which will help businesses better target this desirable group of consumers.

One interesting revelation in the data is that market mavens have very similar demographics to the general population; however, there are some slight differences. For example, 33 percent live in a city, which is only 10 percent more than the general population.

The juicier information was discovered when our team mined the data beyond demographics, to learn more about their preferences and behaviors across a wide range of attributes.

Here are the top four things we found that we recommend marketers and researchers to consider when targeting the general market maven:

They are very involved with their purchases. When compared to the general population, market mavens are bigger product researchers: they are 45 percent more likely to always seek out online reviews for items they want to purchase and 24 percent more likely to always compare prices before deciding to purchase a pro­duct. Much of their path to purchase is done online, as they are 24 percent more likely to do at least half of their shopping online.

They can be reached on social sites. Market mavens are more likely to use social networking sites in general, especially Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. They are 60 percent more likely than the general population to use Twitter, 50 percent more likely to use Instagram and 50 percent more likely to use Tumblr. Social media sites are a great way to share new product offerings since market mavens are not only more likely to be on those sites but they are also more likely to say social media influences their purchases more than TV or the Internet. Offline, market mavens are 30 percent more likely than the general population to say they are outgoing in social situations, which correlates strongly with their vocal nature about trying new things.

The majority follow trends in technology and fitness. Eighty-three percent of market mavens follow trends and current events in electronics and technology, which is 2.5 times more likely than the general population, and 52 percent follow trends and current events in health and fitness, which is 33 percent more than the general population. Insight discoveries like this suggest that this group will be ideal for areas where tech and health collide, such as with wearable fitness trackers and wellness monitors.

They don’t need financial incentives to spread the word about your brand. This is why targeting the market mavens of your brand may be lucrative – they don’t need an incentive to be a mouthpiece, it comes naturally to them. They enjoy trying new products and they like to share their experiences with the people around them. By understanding how to reach them, you can inform them of new products or offerings, and in turn they will become a spokesperson for your brand.

Market mavens have the potential of reaching consumers that are difficult to target or influence, casting a wider net of prospective customers for your business.

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

Event recap: 5 takeaways from The Quirk’s Event

Editor’s note: Jen Golden and Ashley Harrington are project managers at market research and consulting firm CMB, Boston. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “5 key takeaways from The Quirk’s Event.”

Last week, we spent a few days networking with and learning from some of the industry’s best and brightest at The Quirk’s Event. At the end of the day, a few key ideas stuck out to us, and we wanted to share them with you.

1. Insights need to be actionable: This point may seem obvious but multiple presenters at the conference hammered in on this. Corporate researchers are shifting from a primarily separate entity to a more consultative role within the organization, so they need to deliver insights that best answer business decisions (vs. passing along a 200 slide data-dump). This mindset should flow through the entire lifespan of a project – starting at the beginning by crafting a questionnaire that truly speaks to the business decisions that need to be made (and cuts out all the fluff that may be nice to have but is not actionable) all the way to thoughtful analysis and reporting. Taking this approach will help ensure final deliverables aren’t left collecting dust and are instead used to lead engagement across the organization.

2. Allocate time and resources to socializing insights throughout the organization: All too often, insightful findings are left sitting on a shelf when they have potential to be useful across an organization. Several presenters shared creative approaches to socializing the data so that it lives long after the project ends. From transforming a conference room with life-size cut-outs of key customer segments to creating an app employees can use to access data points quickly and on-the-go, researchers and their partners are getting creative with how they share findings. Effective researchers use research results as a product to be marketed to their stakeholders.

3. Leverage customer data to help validate primary research: Most organizations have a plethora of data to work with, ranging from internal customer databases to secondary sources and primary research. These various sources can be leveraged to paint a full picture of the consumer (and help to validate findings). Etsy – a peer-to-peer e-commerce site – talked about comparing data collected from its customer database to its own primary research to see if what buyers and sellers said they did on the site aligned with what they actually did. For Etsy, past self-reported behaviors (e.g., number of purchases, number of times someone “favorites” a shop, etc.) aligned strongly with its internal database but future behavior (e.g., likelihood to buy from Etsy in the future) did not. Future behaviors might not be something we can easily predict by asking directly in a survey but that data could be helpful as another way to identify customer loyalty or advocacy. A note of caution: if you plan on doing this type of data comparison, make sure the wording in your questionnaire aligns with your existing database. This ensures you’re getting an apples-to-apples comparison.

4. Be cautious when comparing cross-country data: A multi-country study is typically going to ask for a “global overview” or cross-country comparison but this can lead to inaccurate recommendations. Most are aware of cultural biases such as extreme response – e.g., Brazilian respondents often rate higher on rating scales while Japanese respondents tend to rate lower – or acquiescence – e.g., China often has the propensity to want to please the interviewer. These biases should be kept in the back of your mind when delving into the final data. A better indication of performance would be to provide an in-country comparison to competitors or looking at in-country trending data.

5. Remember your results are only as useful as your design is solid: A large number of stakeholders that are invested in a study’s outcome can lead to a project designed by committee since each stakeholder will inevitably have different needs, perspectives and even vocabularies. A presenter shared an example from a study that asked recent mothers, “How long was your baby in the hospital?” Some respondents thought the question referred to the baby’s length, so they answered in inches. Others thought the question referred to the baby’s duration in the hospital, so they answered in days. Throughout the process, it’s our job to ensure that all of the feedback and input from multiple stakeholders adheres to the fundamentals of good questionnaire design: clarity, answerable, ease and lack of bias.

Posted in Marketing Best Practices, Research Communities, Research Industry Trends | Comment

How to drive revenue growth out of existing stores

Editor’s note: Nikki Baird is managing partner at Retail Systems Research, Denver. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Maximizing the box.”

I want to explore the individual store’s ability to grow and make money. The theory I heard recently went like this: retailers can no longer depend on opening new stores in mature markets as a method of growth, and so their efforts in those mature markets must turn to maximizing the potential of the existing store base.

To pursue this line of thinking, you must first agree that the underlying assumption is true: retailers in mature markets can no longer depend on opening new stores to drive growth. RSR published a study – Retail Growth Strategies in 2014 – last October that defies this assumption. The study found that retailers in mature markets continue to believe that one of the top opportunities for growth is in opening new stores in existing geographies.

I’m not sure what to make of this perception. I suspect that it’s a bit of the tragedy of the commons, the economic principle that, as Wikipedia puts it, “states that individuals acting independently and rationally according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource.” In this case, the self-interest is expansion of the store base as a relatively easy way (certainly a well understood way) to drive growth, and the common resource is consumer spending.

mature retailers in mature markets I do believe that it will eventually be true that mature retailers in mature markets will not be able to drive enough growth to satisfy investors purely by opening new stores. When that moment comes, the question retailers will have to ask themselves is, “How do I drive more growth out of my existing stores?”

Omni-channel retailing holds a lot of the answers. Here are just a few ways to drive revenue growth out of your existing stores.

Store as physical touchpoint for online order pick-up and returns: A lot of retailers are doing this today, and even more of them are looking to a future where they leverage the store’s inventory to meet the online demand, rather than ship from an e-commerce distribution center. But I don’t know if retailers look at how to drive store growth out of that touchpoint. Do you place in-store pickup and returns right at the front, like Best Buy? Or do you put it all the way at the back, like Walmart? You have to strike the right balance between ensuring that the store gets a shot at the incremental trip vs. annoying a customer by forcing them to trudge through the entire store to get their online order. Retailers need to have specific plans and strategies for turning an online order visit into a store visit.

Store as local DC: This might seem, on the surface, like deciding to use a penthouse apartment on Park Avenue in New York as storage space. Retail stores are expensive real estate because they are expected to drive sales. But I’ve heard a lot of complaints from some local retailers lately: their landlords are raising their rents, and the retailers are pushing back, saying, “You’re not driving traffic to my location.” If people don’t come, then why should the retailer pay more? Well, it may be that retailers need to bring the products to where the traffic is – the home. And if stores are considered more holistically as part of a supply network, it will enable the retailer to drive more overall customer value, by being faster and more responsive to local shopper needs.

Store as call center: With telecommunications technologies what they are today, it’s not inconceivable to support a virtual call center – one that routes calls to a lot of distributed locations, rather than force them all into a central facility. I think there are a couple of advantages to the idea of having store associates step in to sometimes fill call center roles. One, they get a lot more interaction time with customers this way, which will only help them become better at customer service. Two, you have an opportunity to connect local callers to local resources. This is an invaluable way of building local relationships – relationships that translate into a greater willingness to come to the store to meet that helpful associate in person.

Store as customer service center: Here, the emphasis is on service or rather services – the kinds of things that require a person to physically do something to a product. For stores to pull this off, they must first be invested in services that support the products that they sell. REI provides bicycle repair services and Best Buy has Geek Squad. I firmly believe every retailer can come up with services to accompany their products. Ultimately, consumers buy products to fulfill needs. Retailers must figure out how else to solve those needs. Executing this is not easy. It’s even more difficult than getting the right products to the right shelves at the right prices – and that is challenging enough. But if you want to drive additional value out of existing stores, services are a great way to foster repeat visits and build a local relationship with the local consumer.

I don’t have enough space to list all the ways that you can rethink the store to drive more revenue. Some of these things require investments in order to generate a return. You can’t just wave a magic wand and expect change to happen. And some of these things challenge what retailers expect out of stores today, most especially what they expect from store associates.

But I think the retailers who look at their existing stores this way – not “marketing must drive traffic to my stores” but “how do I use my store current location more to drive sales” – those retailers who tackle the latter question have an opportunity to differentiate themselves. Selling stuff will always be the primary objective of a store. But omni-channel–is changing how the store achieves that objective. For good.


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

Why big data needs big understanding

Editor’s note: James Forr is director at Olson Zaltman Associates, a global market research firm based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “The dangers of data.”

Shortly after taking office, John F. Kennedy’s rough-and-tumble Vice President Lyndon Johnson visited his old Texas mentor Sam Rayburn, the former speaker of the house, to gush about all the wonderful things the cabinet and staff glittered with Ivy League degrees and exalted pedigrees – such as then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara – would do for the country.

Big data“They may be just as intelligent as you say,” Rayburn replied. “But I’d feel a helluva lot better if just one of them had ever run for sheriff.”

While McNamara never ran for sheriff, he earned his degree in economics from Berkeley and his MBA from Harvard, became assistant professor at Harvard at age 24 and then displayed his remarkable talent for statistical analysis in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He went to work at Ford where, among other achievements, he started up a market research division.

McNamara embraced big data long before the term existed and he brought this mindset to the Pentagon – specifically to the escalating tensions in Vietnam. As Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger write in MIT Technology Review:

“Only by applying statistical rigor, he believed, could decision makers understand a complex situation and make the right choices. The world in his view was a mass of unruly information that  if delineated, denoted, demarcated and quantified  could be tamed by human hand and fall under human will. McNamara sought truth, and that truth could be found in data.”

This coldly rational way of looking at the world has gained increasing currency in market research circles – and elsewhere – in recent years as technology has put ever more data at our beck and call. Marketers have access to information about practically anything they want to know about consumers – click-through rates, browsing behavior, social media interactions, spending patterns, etc.

All of this information is extremely valuable. However, data is not meaning. Data does not equal understanding. For a marketer, knowing what people do is only half the equation. The other side of the equation is understanding why they do what they do. Insights into how people feel – about a product or service, about an experience or about their lives – are central to building a strong a brand.

For all of McNamara’s brilliance, he lacked wisdom and perspective. In Vietnam, he and others on the foreign policy side of the administration almost went out of their way to avoid deep insight. Advisors who had spent years in Southeast Asia and had an intuitive grasp of the history and culture were shunted aside, largely because of McNamara’s reluctance to give credence to viewpoints different from his own.

In place of wisdom came numbers: body counts, ships intercepted, bombs dropped, land controlled. By any statistical reckoning, the U.S. won the Vietnam War. In reality of course, the U.S. lost – and 58,000 Americans died in the process.

Armed with only data and not meaning, McNamara never could understand why our allies, the South Vietnamese, wouldn’t fight as hard as the Americans. He never could understand why the North Vietnamese didn’t waver, no matter how many bombs were dropped or how many of their soldiers died. (As the Vietnamese Foreign Minister told McNamara years later, “Don’t you understand that we have been fighting the Chinese for 1,000 years? We were fighting for our independence. And we would fight to the last man. And we were determined to do so. And no amount of bombing, no amount of U.S. pressure, would ever have stopped us.”)

McNamara also deeply misunderstood (or just ignored) how the collective emotions of the American people would impact the war effort. When CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite publicly declared the war a lost cause in 1968, then-President Johnson reportedly said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” No amount of number crunching could have anticipated that.

Forbes contributor Jonathan Salem Baskin has described several lessons that marketers can take from McNamara’s big data blunders but perhaps the most important one is that some things are impossible to quantify. Indeed, often the most important things in life are impossible to quantify. Do you love your spouse? Do you love your children? Fine – quantify it. In the minds of people like McNamara, if you can’t put a number on it, it can’t be true.

McNamara came to regret his role in the war but it isn’t clear he fully learned the lesson. He left the administration and became president of the World Bank in 1968. His tenure there wasn’t particularly successful, either. His belief that the bank could alleviate poverty in the developing world simply by pouring money into rural areas proved to be a fallacy – again, because he blinded himself to the political and human factors at work in those nations. His legacy at the World Bank also suffered because he ignored burgeoning global environmental concerns – he did so largely because those concerns could not be quantified.

Later in life McNamara stated, “I try to separate human emotions from the larger issues of human welfare.” This is where he went wrong. One cannot hope to solve the larger issues of human welfare without understanding the role of human emotions.

We are not making decisions on the scale of Robert McNamara. No one is going to die if our pet food isn’t properly positioned or if that new laundry detergent campaign doesn’t work. Nonetheless, his career in public service is an object lesson in the hubris of numbers. Big data is a wonderful tool but without big understanding it is nothing.

Posted in Big Data | Comment

Consumer engagement: television vs. digital

Editor’s note: Tyler Loechner is a reporter at MediaPost Communications, New York. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Pay attention to this: TV engages people half as long as digital, Neilson Lab study finds.”

Consumers may tune into TV on a regular basis but they mentally tune out rather fast in favor of the array of second screen options.

On average, television holds a consumer’s attention only 39 percent of the time – a rate that pales in comparison to the attention rates that laptops (70 percent), tablets (76 percent) and smartphones (77 percent) command.

TVThat’s according to a new report from digital video ad tech firm Nielsen and YuMe.

Over a two-month period, Nielsen and YuMe conducted in-lab observations on 200 consumers in Las Vegas. The consumers were told to engage with any of the devices (TV, smartphone, tablet and laptop) as they would at home for 20 minutes, and their actions were recorded. Nielsen and YuMe ended their experiment with 50 hours of video footage and they claim the footage was then analyzed second-by-second to measure consumer attentiveness.

The television was on more than half the time (53 percent) during the experiment – tops among all screens. Laptops (48 percent) were second, followed by tablets (38 percent) and smartphones (17 percent).

Tablets and smartphones are both passively on at all times, sending users’ notifications and vibrations as alerts that something new is happening. That passive on mode – compared to televisions and laptops, which are of little to no use when off – may help partially explain why the TVs and laptop screens were turned on for significantly more time.

On the flip side, TVs have a passive effect once they are on. After a consumer turns the TV on and chooses a channel, there is little interaction required. On a smartphone, unless a video is being watched, constant interaction is required if the consumer wishes to engage with new content.

Perhaps that’s why consumer attention to television rapidly deteriorated shortly after the screen was turned on during the test. Nielsen and YuMe note that attention to television dropped from over half in the first four minutes to under 20 percent in the final 16 minutes.

In addition to overall attentiveness, the report also notes how much consumers paid attention to ads on the respective screens.

When multitasking, consumers become even more focused on the second screen. In multitasking situations – defined as situations in which consumers had at least two screens on at the same time – ads on television were only paid attention to 30 percent of the time, compared to 71 percent on laptops, 93 percent on tablets and 100 percent on smartphones.

Paul Neto, director of research at YuMe, acknowledged that the smartphone sample size was low, and that smartphones are likely more similar to tablets.

“Ad load was not controlled during the experience, thus they would occur as they naturally do on the devices being used,” Neto said to MediaDailyNews. “Ad attention is when an ad occurs while they were paying attention to the device thus in attention view. For example, respondents were paying attention to the television 39 percent of the time it was on, and during that time, 30 percent of total ads were seen on average. Thus, 70 percent of ads were missed as the respondents attention was elsewhere.”

Neto said attention was defined “as when the respondent [was] looking at the screen.”

“No one is debating that consumers are multitasking. This ethnographic study was specifically designed to garner insights into users’ behaviors and preferences while multitasking,” Neto said in an earlier statement. “Despite distraction levels among consumers, it will be important for brand advertisers to continue running campaigns cross-screen, as viewers continue to show they are more attentive on laptops, tablets, and/or smartphones while ‘watching’ TV.”

The study also found there’s significantly more multitasking done in group settings than when alone; consumers multitask four times more often when with other people.

Nielsen and YuMe also found that Millennials multitask 33 percent more than those over 35. However, among all age groups, the report found no significant relationship between gender and multitasking habits.


Posted in Advertising Research, Behavioral Research, Consumer Research, Ethnographic Research, Market Research Findings | Comment