Quirk's Blog

Seamless turns guilt on its head

Editor’s note: Erin Winters is vice president of marketing strategy at research company Acxiom, New York. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “A Seamless experience … turning guilt on its head.”  

As a daily rider of the New York subway I have my routine down. Whether I get a seat or am a pole dweller I have my newspaper or book ready to whip out to immerse myself in for the ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I believe myself to be a pro at drowning out the din of the crowd, in particular the riders listening to their tunes with the volume at 10 causing you to suppress the desire to politely (or not so politely) let them know not everyone wants to hear their playlists at 7 a.m. The ads on the subway have historically been local ads, although that’s been changing. Taking notice of them was more often with an eye towards how unsophisticated they were, very reminiscent of those local TV ads for a lawyers offering their services for asbestos cases or dentists offering teeth whitening.

food delivery Enter Seamless, an online food ordering services that allows users to order food for delivery and takeout from restaurants. I took notice of their ads blanketing the subway cars beginning early last month. I found myself looking down the car to read those at the other end, turning around to read those on the other side of the car. In a word they are brilliant. Why are they brilliant?

Seamless clearly understands the importance of collecting data on their customers, and mining it to identify highly defined segments. They’ve taken these segments, applied analytics and some creative thinking to infer attitudes and behaviors that have driven their marketing strategy. The result is a campaign comprised of unorthodox segments that communicate “you know me” and in way I appreciate.  But what stands out most is the tone. Seamless’s messaging tone manages to flip the perception of habits Seamless customers might feel highly sensitive to and has told us “it’s OK” and in-fact it’s better than OK. You’re not alone, and you should wear it with a badge of honor. Consider the following headlines:

“Cooking is so Jersey.”

“Shut the fridge up.”

“Thinking about cooking? Don’t even go there.”

“Because I’m only pretty sure how to pronounce ‘gyro.’”

“Avoid cooking like you avoid times square.”

“Over eight million people in NYC, and we help you avoid them all.”

For more a visual representation, check out the series posted by Adweek.

These sampling of Seamless ads illustrate how effectively they recognize their customer segments across gender, age, behavior, demographics and hometown pride. The ads manage both to be highly personalized and broadly inclusive, and the combination drive incredibly effective brand affinity. They’re also excellent messages for driving acquisition. Think about it, from the above message samples, a large percentage of New Yorkers will identify with at least one of those messages. Boom, new customers that feel like they want to be a Seamless customer, it fits their individual brand.

Also, Seamless is laser-focused on the timing of the campaign. As we know, you need to appeal to customers in the right channel, with the right message, and at the right time. With Winter fast approaching Seamless knows they are heading into the peak months for their business, and want to reinforce the value of their service, and bring on more customers as we head into the frigid weather where walking even three blocks to pick up food seams unbearable. I understand this perspective is based on an urban campaign, and urban mind-set but arguably many feel the same way about getting in their car: Why waste the time when you have Seamless? You don’t even have to speak with someone. (The mind-set that makes that preferable is an entirely different discussion.)

Let’s unpack the approach of Seamless for this campaign, as it will offer invaluable best practices for marketers across industries, be it a local or national campaign.

  • A laser-focus on harnessing customer insights.
  • Thorough analysis of those insights to drive organic segment creation. Seamless didn’t put customers in standard buckets simply based on age, gender, location and lifestyle. The company triangulated that to create highly targeted segments that fall outside traditional approaches.
  • Application of those segments to create highly personalized and playful messaging that makes a customer cackle and say “that’s me.”
  • Ability to now measure Seamless customers’ orders across location, demographics, gender, age etc. to determine the efficacy of this campaign across segments and optimize based on the results. The company can likely map back their campaign on a particular subway line to orders received from customers most likely to be traveling on those lines.
  • An acquisition campaign that draws on look-alike models. If Seamless knows that x percent of their customers ordered in the wee hours of weekend mornings, it can apply these models to tap into subway riders that fit this profile.
  • Time of need. Just like any retailer ramping up their campaigns for the holidays, the peak season, Seamless has applied this approach to be in market in advance of their peak season (December – March).
  • Messaging that truly communicates at both the personalized and broadly inclusive level. Customers and prospects find themselves in one or many of the Seamless messages, making them feel both unique and part of a group they want to be associated with, often with a sense of pride.

While this is essentially a local campaign, given the size of the New York City metro area (eight million) it takes on the dimensions of a national campaign the scope of its reach. Most instructively, it illustrates how to effectively create multiple messaging across your varying customer base while retaining a clear tone that always adheres to the brand. Within two campaign cycles it seems likely one would know it’s a Seamless ad by the tagline, regardless of whether you saw the Seamless brand. That is gold!

During the winter months, those of us in cold weather climates will likely see an up-tick in our Seamless orders, and those of us in NYC will likely feel a bit less guilty about it (come on… there is some shame in not getting off the couch to walk a couple blocks) and maybe even good about it.




Posted in Advertising Research, Behavioral Research, Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Best Practices, Promotion Research | Comment

Super Bowl advertising success

Editor’s note: Jeri Smith is president and CEO of Communicus Inc., a Tucson, Ariz., research firm.

American College Football on GrassThe annual frenzy over Super Bowl advertising began early, with CBS announcing back in early November 2015 that the ad inventory for the game was nearly sold out. Costs per 30 second spot have more than doubled in the past decade, rising from $2.4 million in 2005 to an estimated $5 million for a 30 second spot for the 2016 event. Even with an over 50 percent increase in spot pricing, viewership has increased by less than 15 percent, but marketers still pay the price. Clearly, many advertisers believe in the popularity and reach of the Super Bowl to help take their brands to the next level. And of course, the ad agencies with which they partner are hopeful that they will emerge victorious in the USA Today Ad Meter (which relies on votes from the general public to rate winning ads).

All the hype aside: How do Super Bowl ads fare in building overall brand health (awareness, purchase consideration) with event viewers? Based on research that analyzed the impact of over 150 Super Bowl commercials between 2011 and 2015, here are the five strategies that are most likely to lead to success for 2016 Super Bowl advertisers who strive to build their brands.

Be entertaining and surprising but make it about the brand
Many commercials gain high awareness but fail to communicate the brand in a way that is memorable or persuasive. Examples of ads from 2015 that viewers remember but don’t associate with the brand include Toyota Camry’s “My bold dad” and “How great I am,” the Mexico Avocados, Skittles’ and the Microsoft ads. Conversely, ads engaged and entertained in a way that focused on and built the brand included Beats Music (2014), M&M’s “Love ballad” (2014) and “Just my shell” (2013), Best Buy’s Amy Poehler ad (2011) and H&M’s David Beckham ads in 2012 and 2014.

Introduce a new product or tell them something they didn’t know
In 2015, nearly one-third of the most successful commercials were for new or unfamiliar products, while new product ads comprised only one in seven of the overall mix. In 2014, three of the top four commercials were introducing something new, including Beats Music, Butterfingers Peanut Butter Cups, Wix and Squarespace (although the latter two were hindered by weak branding) Automotive brands that introduced new and out of pattern models succeeded, such as BMW’s i3 electric car, Kia’s high-end luxury 900 model and Mercedes’ entry-level CLA. Anheuser Busch has also successfully leveraged the Super Bowl environment to introduce line extensions including Budweiser Black Crown (2013) and Bud Light Platinum (2012).
Utilize your brand’s advertising equities in a new way
Of those who remember the typical Super Bowl commercial, less than one in four remember the brand. Using a brand’s pre-existing equities in association with the brand advertising helps consumers to immediately associate the commercial with the correct brand. But because it’s in the Super Bowl, the spot also has to breakthrough in a highly competitive advertising environment. Advertisers who’ve succeeded include Chevrolet Trucks’ use of the familiar, “A man and his truck” but with a twist (the hero of the spot was a bull who was looking forward to connecting with the ladies), M&M’s with “Love ballad” (2014) and “Just my shell” (2013), both of which used the familiar M&M’s characters in surprising ways.
Be patriotic and emotional in a manner that’s relevant to your brand
The patriotism theme is fairly common in the Super Bowl but it only works if has a relevant connection to your brand within a captivating and engaging execution. Chrysler had two big hits, both of which produced strong impact for the featured brands, in 2014, with the Dodge Ram “Truck farmers” execution and Jeep’s “Whole again” spot with voice over by Oprah Winfrey.

Implement a consumer-involvement pre-game program that focuses on the brand benefit
Consumer activations can be used to draw attention to the spot but can also produce benefits for the brand in their own right. Examples include McDonalds’ 2015 “Pay with Lovin’” promotion, T-Mobile’s Kim Kardashian Twitter program and Chevrolet’s 2014 “Purple your profile” Facebook promotion (in the latter two cases, the activations were actually more effective in building the brands than were the Super Bowl commercials themselves).

The crop of Super Bowl advertisers for 2016 contains many of the expected brands, including Budweiser, Doritos, Coca-Cola and Pepsi. As usual, a number of brands that signed up last year have elected to put their marketing dollars elsewhere in 2016. However – as proven by the increasing price points and the nearly sold out spot inventory, there seems to be a never-ending list of brands anxious to jump into the fray and try their luck at winning – whatever that means to their marketing and management teams.

Posted in Advertising Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Findings, Market Research in the News, Promotion Research, Television Research | 2 Comments

Smart mirrors: innovating the in-store shopping experience

Editor’s note: Sabrina Sandalo is the marketing manager at San Francisco-based strategic insights and innovation consultancy Antedote. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Smart mirrors transform retail.”

Many retailers are experimenting with different ways to engage their customers in their brick and mortar stores, by integrating the advantages provided by online shopping (Amazon) with the advantages of the physical shopping experience.

This year, we’ve seen a variety of high-tech smart mirrors pop up in certain flagship stores. Here are a few examples of how clothing retailers have been using these interactive mirrors to enhance the shopping experience for their customers:

Neiman Marcus,  San Francisco

Neiman Marcus’s MemoryMirror attempts to shortcut the long process of trying and retrying on clothes. The MemoryMirror shows you a 360-degree view of yourself with the outfit on and allows you to compare outfits side-by-side. You can also snap photos to share with your friends on Facebook to ask for their opinion before you make your purchase.

Lululemon, New YorkLululemon’s

Lululemon’s mirror acts more like a digital community board that encourages their customers to engage with their community. The mirror has five options: see community events (where you can see different exercise classes, film screenings and community discussions surrounding healthy living in the area), find places to sweat (where you can see a list of yoga, Pilates and other fitness classes to attend), plan your run (where you can see and view description of nearby running routes), and view our favorites (the favorite go to places of Lululemon customers in the area).

Ralph Lauren, New York

Ralph Lauren’s mirror is located in the fitting room itself to transform the frustrating dressing room experience. Shoppers can interact with the mirror to change the lighting in their fitting room and can select a different sizes or colors of their outfit, which an employee will immediately get for you. The mirror also recommends other items that would go with what you’re trying on. And if you don’t want to buy something that day, you can send the item’s information to your mobile phone.

We look forward to seeing the impact these smart mirrors will have on sales and how retailers will continue to innovate the in-store consumer shopping experience.

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Retailing | Comment

Haute couture collaborations: 4 steps to improving customer experience

Editor’s note: Meg Tronquet is a marketing consultant and Paul Conder is principal at Seattle-based marketing and sales consultancy Lenati. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Improving the retail customer experience for haute couture collaborations.”

Fast fashion retailer H&M recently launched its latest haute couture collaboration with French design house Balmain. Within minutes of the launch, the line sold out both online and in stores, leaving hordes of frustrated and disappointed customers.

Historically, designers pair with fast fashion retailers to bring haute couture to the masses and to make previously unaffordable goods affordable. For retailers, this pairing has provided a chance to offer differentiated merchandise to shoppers. While it does not necessarily impact their bottom line, it boosts the buzz about their brand. For designers, they can reach a new audience and seize an opportunity to build loyalty with shoppers at an early age.

aggressive resale marketYet while retailers and designers benefit from this arrangement, the customer’s experience seems to have been left out of the equation. Target’s 2013 collaboration with Missoni caused Target.com to crash days before the line even went on sale while its 2014 partnership with Lilly Pulitzer flew off the shelves within hours. In each case, customers left not only empty-handed, but disappointed they did not even have a chance to make a purchase. Couple that with an aggressive resale market and the customer experience goes from bad to abysmal. Shoppers desperate for a garment are left to search online resellers – offering a second hand experience for many times higher than the original retail price (and often near the premium brand’s own designer price tag).

If so many customers are left unhappy, how can a retailer use CX tools to help? Before undertaking a collaboration, retailers should remember the following four key points:

  • Measure your customer’s experience throughout the program. Monitor your CSAT or NPS scores before, during, and after launch to understand how the launch is affecting your customer’s experience. Be sure to:
    1. Keep the survey short – these customers are in a rush!
    2. Back up your CX metrics with short qualitative input from the customer to explain why outcomes may have shifted.
    3. Measure experiences – both online and offline – to expose the different experiences in each channel.
  • Learn from history. Learn from past collaborations and adjust your strategy to maximize shopper satisfaction. Although sellouts for these collaborations are expected, don’t assume your customers will be okay with it. Use precedents to find and remove specific pain points in the customer’s journey. Expect high traffic? Let the customers know which hours will be the busiest. Anticipate long checkout lines? Line-bust with mobile checkout to keep lines short and shoppers happy. Is the Web site overloaded at launch? Consider staggering product launch over the course of the day. Observe customer behavior both online and in store, and feed your findings back for better a CX design the next time.
  • Set customer expectations beforehand. What good does it do to offer goods that the majority of customers ultimately cannot purchase? Be transparent and set expectations appropriately so customers are not surprised. This needs to be a consistent message across all channels and touchpoints, including scripted face-to-face service or call-centers before the launch.
  • Prepare your staff. Ensure staff are ready to help customers by keeping them informed of inventory, colorways, shipping options, and size alternatives. Just because a product may be unavailable, it doesn’t mean your sales staff should be too. Prepare them with scripting for common issues that come up at the busiest times. Rehearse and train for the launch. Use service design principles to ensure staff is on point, prepared to help, and equipped with the tools they need to improve the customer’s experience.


These are just a few key elements that will help improve the customer’s experience thus creating a more satisfied, and more likely to return, customer.


Posted in Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Market Research in the News, Retailing, Shopper Insights, Uncategorized | Comment

How to recruit students for consumer fieldwork

Editor’s note: Lisa Boughton is director at Angelfish Fieldwork, a Cheltenham, and U.K.- based marketing research firm.

Most companies are extremely eager to understand the youth market better, from their purchasing habits to their opinions on their favorite products. But for market researchers, capturing this demographic can sometimes be a challenge. So what’s the secret to successfully recruiting students for consumer fieldwork?

Find students online

Cold calling or putting up posters in the student union is probably not going to be your best bet for catching the eye of a busy student. Today’s students do everything online, from socializing to studying to shopping, so the Internet is going to be your first place to look for student recruits.

You should particularly focus on recruiting through social media platforms, since most students use them with great frequency and share their online activities with friends – this means that you can hope to reach an exponentially larger audience via social sharing. There are a variety of ways to communicate on social media, with the most obvious being to set up your own account where you post information and invite people to participate in consumer market research and focus groups.

You can also create engaging viral content, like quizzes or games, which both entertain social media users and ultimately direct them to your landing page. That kind of content is tailor-made for sharing and will ensure you have a much wider reach.

Some social media platforms, like Facebook, offer a number of opportunities for targeted marketing that allows you to specify the audience you want to reach by selecting age and geographical parameters, as well as interests. Well-placed ads on Web sites that students are likely to frequent – a Web site for purchasing textbooks or how to boost your student income, for example – could be a good investment as well.

Meet them at student fairs

College students walking Colleges and universities typically organize a number of fairs during the academic year. Some are specifically job fairs for graduates, while others are broader community-oriented events designed to plug students into local businesses and services that they might need. These can be terrific opportunities for market researchers looking for student recruits. Contact local universities and colleges to find out schedules, and ask what you need to do to set up a table or even just walk around and meet people during these events.

If you are able to attend, be sure to create a nice presentation so that you can get the students’ attention. Signs, digital presentations, flyers and handy giveaways may all prove to be helpful in offering needed information about upcoming consumer fieldwork studies to help them boost their income.

What about incentives?

When you are recruiting students, be certain to decide what incentives you will offer and advertise it as an enticement. Students are often in need of spending money and other resources, so incentives can go a long way with this age group. But make sure it’s something that they will either really want or need. For instance, a gift certificate to the university bookstore, a voucher for a local restaurant or a cash amount could be a strong inducement for them to sign up.

Do your homework

When you try to recruit students or Millennials for consumer fieldwork, don’t just go in blindly. Read up on youth studies, speak to educators and other people who deal with this age group and listen to what the students themselves have to say.

It’s well understood that students are interested in many new technologies but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are interested in all of them. For example, some people may be surprised to discover that today’s students still prefer using old-fashioned textbooks to utilizing e-readers. On the other hand, they are very interested in wearable technology and may be particularly willing to participate in studies that involve that type of tech. Knowing these kinds of specifics about your student audience will help you target your efforts appropriately when recruiting.

Invite them to collaborate

As a part of the digital-native generation, students today like being on the edge of innovation. When asking them to be a part of your consumer fieldwork, make it clear that this is essentially a collaborative endeavor, in which you are seeking to use their opinions and ideas to help create the sorts of products and services that they will desire and find useful. This not only shows them how much you appreciate their thoughts but also lets them know that participating in the research can give them power to be influential among their peers.

It’s a combination of looking in the right places, offering strong incentives and appealing to the values of Millennials that will help you find the best success in recruiting enthusiastic students for your consumer fieldwork.


Posted in Consumer Research, Market Research Best Practices, Millennials, Research Recruiting | Comment

Understanding the overall brand strategy when executing programmatic campaigns

Editor’s note: Eric Paquette is chief operating officer of Copernicus Marketing, Boston.

Meeting Business Programmatic buying and real-time bidding are powerful new tools that provide the promise of reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time. By leveraging data, marketers are able to define the audience that their ads will reach, deliver appropriate creative to those audiences, dictate what they are willing to spend for those audiences and measure the ROI of these efforts.

Given this, it is not surprising that marketers are increasingly embracing these tools. Programmatic ad spending is expected to top $15 billion this year and, by year’s end, it will make up over half of non-search digital ad spend in the U.S.

Programmatic is clearly a powerful tool for marketers. But, as Voltaire, Spiderman and a host of others have said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

While it is easy to focus on the short-term response and return of a programmatic campaign, it is also critically important for marketers to remain focused on the overall brand strategy. The optimal short-term strategy is often not an optimal long-term brand strategy and in some cases can actually work to the detriment of the brand overall.

Given these dynamics, it is incumbent on marketers to clearly understand and consider the overall brand strategy when executing a programmatic campaign, including:

  • who your brand’s target segments are and how they interact with your programmatic audiences;
  • how various creative executions resonate with those target segments;
  • how and why those segments respond (or don’t) to your programmatic advertising; and
  • the short-term response, and the long-term brand effects of programmatic efforts.


Sometimes your best brand targets are not those that are most immediately responsive to digital advertising, and in these cases, you need to take great care in how you optimize programmatic efforts.

We work with a well-known restaurant chain that experiences exactly this phenomenon. They have an overall brand target that has a high propensity to fall in love with the brand and eat there frequently. There is tremendous value from a customer acquisition perspective in attracting members of this segment but because these current customers already frequent the establishment, there typically isn’t a frequency lift in response to a digital campaign.

They also have a secondary segment that uses the restaurant much more opportunistically, for very different reasons and with far less enthusiasm. This group is quite responsive to digital advertising. Digital ads serve as an effective reminder and clearly (and measurably) drive increased frequency for this segment.

The frequency lift is easily measured in the brand’s CRM system but customer acquisition is less obvious – a new customer needs to try the brand, subscribe to the loyalty program, then create enough data to be accurately categorized into the primary target. A narrowly focused optimized programmatic campaign might mistakenly focus exclusively on the secondary target.

Successful programmatic targeting efforts would focus on audiences that efficiently find these secondary targets, and creative would be optimized to drive response for this same secondary target. Unfortunately, the creative and messages that drive behavior of this secondary target are not the defining elements of the brand promise. And they are not the benefits that are most resonant with the brand’s best targets.

Followed blindly and taken to the extreme, the brand would run the risk of optimizing their campaigns away from their best customers and the fundamentals of their best brand positioning. They would drive short-term return at the significant expense of the overall brand positioning and equity.

So, how does a brand take advantage of programmatic and addressable advertising without putting the identity of the brand at risk?

  • Develop a clear understanding of the market and the segments that are the brand’s best targets. Understand their wants and needs and how they currently buy and use your products. Use this knowledge in the creative development of your advertising.
  • Connect the market segments, particularly your targets with the tools used to buy programmatic and addressable advertising. You can link the segments to third party marketing data that can be used to define programmatic audiences for advertising. By making this connection, you allow aim your programmatic buy more accurately toward the brand target as opposed to any potential random user or buyer.
  • If your company has a robust source of first party big data like transaction data or loyalty data, be sure to connect the segments to that database. Doing so allows you to monitor the segment-specific response to different marketing activities. You can better understand which targets are more or less responsive to help refine your programmatic strategies and tactics.
  • If you don’t have access to transaction or loyalty data, you can do the same (albeit on a smaller scale) with your MROC or traditional brand tracking.
  • Finally, test the impact of your programmatic creative using brand-related measures. While the behavioral metrics from programmatic advertising are great, you also need to understand the impacts of that advertising from a brand perspective. Does the advertising enhance the brand image? Does it help to strengthen core elements of the positioning? Is it consistent with the brand essence and personality? Gone are the days when TV was used to build the brand and digital was used exclusively for conversion. Digital advertising plays a much larger role with consumers today and needs to be evaluated more broadly than simply using conversion metrics.


Fortunately, our earlier restaurant story has a happy ending. The brand’s marketing management has a clear understanding of their consumer segments, the behaviors of their best targets and other secondary targets and how this interacts with their programmatic advertising. Even more importantly, they have a clear brand strategy to guide their decisions. They are able to carefully balance the short- and long-term objectives, targeting audiences and using creative that effectively balances long-term brand building with short term response. Without that brand guide post, they easily could have optimized their way into marketing dead-end.


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

4 errors to avoid when using on-site surveys and store intercepts

Editor’s note: Nitin Sharma is CEO of Gold Research, San Antonio, Texas. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Using store intercepts or on-site surveys to measure customer loyalty.”

Happy employee with clipboardMost businesses want to know how satisfied their customers are and what can be done to make them even more satisfied. However, if not done right, then store intercepts or on-site surveys used to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty can produce useless or (even worse) misleading results. Here are four errors even the most experienced researchers sometimes make and how to avoid them.

1. No frame of reference.

Problem: Too often store intercepts or on-site surveys don’t go beyond overall and detailed (attribute) ratings of the client’s business. This means that researchers have little context for interpreting the results and can’t answer key questions.

Solution: Design your store intercept or on-site survey to provide a frame of reference. Consider adding questions about your performance compared to expectations and/or competitors. Conducting a companion survey of employees (especially sales) with similar questions can also be useful.

2. No tracking.

Problem: Many businesses only perform a single intercept or on-site survey study to measure customer satisfaction. There can be logistical, financial or other barriers to repeating this research. In addition, businesses may feel that they’ve achieved their research objectives. However, it’s often valuable to know whether satisfaction is getting better or worse and it’s hard to learn this from a single study. Also, things going on in the marketplace can distort single-study results.

Solution: Track customer satisfaction over time by deploying store intercepts or on-site surveys regularly. The frequency with which you repeat this research depends upon the nature of your customer base (size, churn, purchase frequency, etc.). It may not be necessary to ask every question every time. For example, you could field a full store intercept or on-site survey once a year and a shortened quarterly version – possibly with a smaller sample size – in between.

3. Poor sampling.

Problem: Many researchers pay inadequate attention to sampling when measuring customer satisfaction via store intercepts or on-site surveys. Who you ask is at least as important as what you ask and ending up with an unrepresentative or otherwise inadequate sample can reduce the validity and reliability of your results.

Solution: Planning and attention to detail are vital to good sampling in using store intercepts or on-site surveys for customer satisfaction research. We have several recommendations:

  • do not use convenience samples unless absolutely necessary;
  • try to have respondents from all relevant major customer segments (geography, industry, product/service type, tenure, etc.);
  • make sure you obtain enough responses – both overall and within each segment – to support desired precision and breakouts;
  • stay in the field long enough, and check your data while in the field so you don’t hear from only the most satisfied customers, only the least satisfied or only the two extremes (not the middle);
  • (in B2B research), pay attention to both the number of accounts selected, the number and characteristics of individuals selected within each account; and
  • think about whether you also want input, at least on some questions, from former and/or prospective customers.


4. Flawed attribute lists.

Problem: Many store intercepts or on-site surveys ask customers to rate companies, brands or products on a list of attributes. The problem is that these attribute lists are often too long, incomplete and/or imbalanced. This can reduce overall data quality (respondent fatigue leading to item non-response, lack of variation, etc.). It can also yield misleading results – for example, if your list is incomplete or skewed, what the data suggests is most important may not be what’s truly most important to your customers.

Solution: Take the time to carefully construct your attribute list. Keep it as short as possible (minimize overlap/redundancy), include a mix of functional and emotional attributes (seeking input from multiple sources), use your customers’ vocabulary (e.g., from open-ended responses, interviews, or focus groups) and be consistent in wording and scaling if making comparisons with other/previous research.


Posted in Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Data Processing, Retailing, Shopper Insights | Comment

2015 holiday shopping predictions

Editor’s note: Phil Ahad is vice president at Toluna QuickSurveys, Washington, D.C.

Small child with presentsHoliday shopping season is officially underway, so our team polled 1,000 consumers about their holiday shopping intentions. Perhaps not surprisingly, 88 percent of respondents plan to holiday shop this year, and of those shoppers, 69 percent set a budget for themselves before they begin their holiday shopping.

In a nutshell, marketers should remain vigilant at appealing to not only shoppers searching for gifts for others but also those looking for gifts for themselves. The breaks should not be pushed on holiday marketing efforts until 12/24, as many Americans are self-proclaimed procrastinators and in-store remains the primary way consumers will shop, so do not skimp on in-store experience.

The study looked at consumer’s budgets for the 2015 holiday shopping: 8 percent say less than $100; 41 percent say $100-$499; 23 percent $500 – $999; 16 percent $1,000 – $1,999; and 12 percent $2,000 – $3,000+. Of the budgeters, 67 percent are likely to stick to that budget; 20 percent are unlikely to stick to that budget; and 13 percent are neither likely nor unlikely to stick to that budget.

Who are consumers shopping for:

  • 38 percent will shop for themselves;
  • 56 percent will shop for their spouse;
  • 50 percent will shop for their children;
  • 14 percent will shop for co-workers;
  • 45 percent will shop for friends;
  • 15 percent will shop for their children’s teachers;
  • 19 percent will shop for charity donations; and
  • 76 percent will shop for family.


Takeaway: Don’t just appeal to the gift-giver in consumers but also their selfish sides. Imagine how you’d look in this dress – how great this item would make you feel. Thirty-eight percent of consumers will simultaneously be shopping for themselves while shopping for their loved ones this season.

When are consumers shopping:

  • 46 percent have already started their holiday shopping;
  • 15 percent will start before Thanksgiving;
  • 35 percent will start between Thanksgiving and the week before Christmas;
  • 3 percent will wait until the week of Christmas;
  • 47 percent say they’ll shop on Black Friday this year; and
  • 65 percent say they’ll shop on Cyber Monday this year.


Respondents that found Black Friday appealing because sighted early and extended hours, aggressive deals and discounts as main draws. Those that planned on Cyber Monday shopping noted the convenience of shopping from home or work.

Takeaway: A large percentage of shoppers are procrastinators, so push holiday deals and promotions up until the week of Christmas because nearly 35 percent of shoppers will still be pounding the mall pavement on the 24th.

Where are consumers shopping:

  • 54 percent will do the bulk of their shopping in-store;
  • 43 percent online; and
  • 3 percent via catalog/phone.


Takeaway: The efforts you put forth online and on social media should be mimicked in-store as well – and done even better if possible. Brands need to invest dollars in in-store employees and processes to keep shoppers happy and in their stores. Think shorter lines, free coffee, etc.

How are consumers shopping?

Eighty percent plan to do some research on who’s offering the best prices before doing their holiday shopping:

  • 71 percent will search various retailers’ Web sites for pricing;
  • 44 percent will use a price comparison Web site;
  • 62 percent will look through the circulars; and
  • 12 percent will call retailers and ask when they’ll be having sales.


In terms of their shopping mentality:

  • 42 percent have specific items in mind for each person and know exactly what they’re going to the store/going online for;
  • 31 percent usually browse the stores/Web sites they know are having sales and figure out what to get everyone; and
  • 27 percent usually wait to see what kind of sales retailers are having and tailor their gifts around those.


As related to the role of social media in holiday shopping this year:

  • 28 percent will follow certain retailers/brands on social media to keep an eye out for sales, promo codes and deals;
  • 22 percent will follow retailers/brands on social media to find out what’s popular to get ideas for gifts;
  • 12 percent will follow celebrities on social media to find out what products they’re endorsing; and
  • 58 percent will not use social media in relation to their holiday shopping.


What are consumers shopping for? Study respondents reported:

  • 52 percent gift cards;
  • 7 percent clothing;
  • 4 percent something for the home;
  • 4 percent accessories;
  • 5 percent electronics;
  • 2 percent tickets;
  • 4 percent entertainment (music, movies, etc.);
  • 2 percent toys;
  • 5 percent food;
  • 1 percent something sports related; and
  • 4 percent something handmade.


Takeaway: Make purchasing gift cards in-store easier. Perhaps shoppers should not need to wait on a long line to purchase those little cards, but rather have mobile checkout persons available to quickly complete these transactions.

The study also looked to see how many gifts respondents with children planned to purchase, per child. Thirty-six percent responded with one-to-two, 26 percent said three-to-four, 28 percent five-to-nine and 10 percent responded with 10+ gifts.

2015 Holiday Shopping Predictions

Posted in Advertising Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Findings, Retailing, Shopper Insights | Comment

How to conduct medical market research with children and young people

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

Children and young people are a vital demographic in all fields of market research; they often give more honest answers than adults and can provide a wealth of insights and information. However, conducting medical market research with younger demographics is a very sensitive process and not without its share of difficulties. Not only are there a number of rigorous rules and regulations that must be followed to ensure the safe and ethical conduction of research but it is often much harder to communicate with children and analyzing the information gathered can also be problematic.

Little Girl According to the MRS guidelines a child is any person under the age of 16, with people aged 16 and 17 years considered to be young people. While there is no recommended minimum age for conducting medical market research, it is advised that researchers should only involve very young children when it is absolutely necessary and appropriate to the project. When conducting medical market research with younger age groups, researchers need to ensure that the children’s rights are protected physically, mentally, ethically and emotionally. Furthermore, as potentially vulnerable members of society, they need to be protected at all times and never exploited.


When conducting medical research with children and young people, consent of a responsible adult must be gained before any research is undertaken. A responsible adult is whoever is personally responsible for the young person’s safety at the time of the research – a parent or guardian if it takes place at home or a teacher if at school. There will sometimes be sensitive subject matters that need consent to be waived, in which case the researcher must gain approval from the MRS board. In all cases, however, the most important thing is that the children must choose to take part themselves. Even if their parent or guardian has already given approval, they must not be influenced by anyone else and have the right to decline to participate at any time.


The collection and analysis of data includes all forms of market research such as surveys, psychological investigations, qualitative interviews and group discussions, as well as observational and ethnographic studies – although when conducting research with a younger demographic, especially with small children, it is generally agreed that qualitative research is the best approach. The key to successful research within this demographic – especially when researching sensitive topics – is to communicate with the child in their own language, on their own level and in a safe environment where they feel comfortable. It is therefore often recommended that research is carried out at home, whether face-to-face or on the phone.

Focus groups, mini groups and one-on-ones: Face-to-face sessions using trained moderators are a great way to conduct medical market research with younger age groups and can be really effective when working with very young children. The trained moderator will create a friendly, positive atmosphere with one or more children in an interactive session where they can monitor the child’s response to questions in a reassuring atmosphere. One-on-ones are beneficial when researching sensitive topics such as disease and illness as they allow the interviewer to build a rapport with the child, and as a rule it is generally agreed that the younger the child, the less children should be present in the focus group. This ensures that they are comfortable enough to speak freely without succumbing to peer pressure or feeling intimidated by other, especially older, children.

Online qual: Conducting research using online qual is a good way to reach older children and young people. It involves market research online communities, diaries, video blogs as well as participating in online Webcam interviews and discussions to generate a combination of data.

Telephone interviews: Telephone interviews can be used in place of face-to-face sessions where distance or time is a problem. One of the main benefits of a telephone interview is that it can take place in the child’s home where they feel comfortable, however without face-to-face reassurance and the ability to monitor body language it can be more difficult to discuss sensitive or personal topics, especially when working with younger children.

Presence of parents

Although it is not normally necessary for parents to be present during an interview with a young person, with sensitive subject matters and when interviewing children under 16 years old it would be beneficial to have an adult present. Some methodologies also require the presence of a parent or guardian as part of the research, for example group sessions in which children and parents are interviewed together and their reactions to each other’s responses measured.

Subject matters

With sensitive subject matters such as specific disease areas, it goes without saying that special care should be taken when interviewing children – and in some circumstances it might even be best to speak to the parent instead – especially if the child is under 16 years old. If a child is exposed to sensitive subject matters, care must be taken not to discuss something beyond what they are expected to understand. It is also imperative to avoid any subjects that might frighten or distress them, although the same subject matter might be suitable to cover with an older child or young person – this is a question of both good research practice and ethics. It is also essential that responses be conducted in private where they cannot be overheard.


Common incentives in medical market research include charity donations, non-monetary gifts, prize draws or access to the findings of the research. However, for children, researchers might want to explore other options such as vouchers to particular shops that can be used to buy age-appropriate products. Key things to remember include that incentives should be safe, legal and acceptable to responsible adults as well as the child and that sweets or other high fat, salt and sugar content foodstuffs should be avoided.

Criminal checks on moderator

In certain situations, interviewers in certain areas who have contact with children may be required to register with organizations such as the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme in Scotland or submit to Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) Check. However, it isn’t always necessary for all researchers to apply for a CRB Check and is often only needed if they are to have prolonged or regular contact with children. As a rule, criminal checks are necessary if someone is teaching, constructing, supervising, caring for or providing guidance or treatment, or if a job takes place in a specified location such as schools, children’s homes, childcare premises, children’s hospitals or children’s centres.

If you are looking for more guidance on conducting market research with children and young people visit the BHBIA or MRS Web site for their codes of conduct.




Posted in Health Care Research, Market Research Best Practices, One-on-One Interviewing, Qualitative Research | Comment

Simple e-mail alternatives to end communication frustrations

Editor’s note: Simon Guy is cofounder and CEO of DataChefs, Davos, Switzerland. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared here under the title, “You’re still using what?!?”

When we hear about research innovation, it’s often in the context of shiny new tools that offer new ways to connect with respondents or research subjects – passive data collection, social media listening, emotion recognition, niche targeting and so forth. Or, it can be in terms of turning data into recommendations and business actions – data mining, econometric models, automated statistical analyses, storytelling and the like.

E-mail laptop design of envelopesBut there’s another wave of innovation which sits at the project coalface and needs no more than a change in mind-set to deliver drastic efficiencies and improvements to how you get stuff done. It draws upon the work of very smart people in sectors unrelated to MR. It’s free (or low cost) and will make you a research superhero.

Heard of any of these? You’re already halfway there.

Slack, Asana, Trello, Zapier, Moxtra. Do you recognize the names or what they do? Have you tried them out or do you know anyone who uses them? Mobile communications, and the sheer processing power that lives within your smartphone or tablet, have given rise to a new generation of tools that are changing how people talk to each other, organize work and share information. This is happening across all industries, from start-ups to mega-corps. Are researchers slow to catch on?

Think about your typical project – chances are that e-mail sits at the heart of the communication process. That’s convenient on one level (everyone has an e-mail address) but, being honest, isn’t there a better way?

Are you frustrated by:

  • e-mail streams going off on tangents;
  • having to repeatedly download each document update;
  • spending an inordinate amount of time just searching for that important message (let alone doing anything about it);
  • wondering why no one has responded; and
  • managing a burgeoning inbox?


There are simple solutions to free you from this misery.

You’ve likely heard of Slack – it’s one of those rare unicorn start-ups. Founded less than two years ago, it’s already valued at $2.8 billion, has $25 million in annual recurring revenue and 1.2 million daily users. What does it do? At its core, it’s a messaging app allowing internal and external contacts to communicate without e-mail. And most of its functionality is free (yes, free).

Asana and Trello are different takes on project management. Create stages, populate them with timings and tasks, invite team members to the project, communicate directly, move the project through the stages.
We use Moxtra – with project-specific chat, document storage, to-dos and video/audio meetings (just like Skype) it’s a great fit with our business. We can manage the whole project process without sending a single e-mail.

Zapier connects apps to each other. This is APIs for the masses – an action in Slack, for example, triggers another action in Trello (or vice versa). No coding experience required – just natural curiosity and a desire to free yourself from important but monotonous tasks.

These are just some of the apps and platforms which can help you out. For a more comprehensive list, explore Zapier to see what’s out there. Oh, and this post was written using Quip – another game-changing tool which has made Word and xls redundant in our office.

What’s the common link? Online communication. I said earlier that everyone has an e-mail. Nowadays everyone has a smartphone, and that means anyone involved in a project can download an app which works round the clock. Set your notifications and you’re instantly alerted to updates and queries wherever you are. That’s not to say you need to be running your projects on your phone – far from it, all offer browser-based access which syncs with your mobile app. It just means that when you’re away from the computer, you don’t have to be away from the project.


These are tools to improve project collaboration. Collaboration means working in a distinct way, and this is where we may lose a few of you. To get the best out of these tools, you need a degree of transparency in what’s going on, and to give all project members the opportunity to communicate with each other. For example, a survey scripter thinks a question could be reworked to make it easier for a respondent to answer. Do they ask their project manager to raise it with the client or go direct to the client? Which is more likely to result in a quicker resolution and reinforce a collaborative culture?

We all have partners in a project – whether they be clients, suppliers or our own team – that communicate freely with each other. It demonstrates transparency, speeds up decision-making, underlines personal responsibility and reinforces a partnership approach (everyone pulling in the same direction to achieve a common aim).

Isn’t that dangerous? Only if you’re trying to ring-fence knowledge – but if you’re doing that, you’re not working in partnership; you don’t see the other collaborators as partners but as traditional clients and suppliers who should be kept at arms-length from each other.

Company culture therefore plays an important role here. Broadly speaking, the bigger the organization, the more IT compliance controls are in place, the greater the barriers to test and implement new collaborative platforms in day-to-day work.
At the other end of the scale, smaller agencies are nimble, and have greater opportunities to rapidly incorporate new ways of working but some may feel outside their comfort-zone to test the waters. We celebrate innovation in so many research areas, so isn’t it time we shine a light inside our own businesses? Shouldn’t we be challenging current practices with the same vigor that we apply to a sample plan?

Is e-mail so bad?

It all depends on what you’re using it for. In many cases it’s the default for all kinds of business communication but we think it is a bad fit for project management on a whole load of levels. Here’s one example: there are six people in your project stream, plus a couple of catch-all team e-mail addresses for coverage. You e-mail everyone a spreadsheet with demographic quota targets. Then (such is life) you have to resend a couple of days later with new amends. There are now at least 16 copies of the quota spreadsheet flying around (maybe many more, depending on the members of those team e-mail addresses) – and half of those copies are out of date. Compare that to uploading the spreadsheet to a collaboration platform, and then updating it with the changes. There’s only one version available. Which scenario is more likely to introduce miscommunication and error when the time comes to applying those targets?

Or consider when a project handover is needed, such as for vacation cover. How do you distil all those e-mails and attachments into a coherent chronology? Where are the objectives, timings and next actions? Now let’s assume you’re handing over five projects. How long is that going to take?
But what if everything was available as an ongoing conversation, if all the documentation was in one place, if the to-dos were listed and ticked off and everyone had the same information available? How long would it take you now?

Back to the future

One thing is clear: we can learn a lot from other sectors. We may be the experts at designing a research project but, with the odd exception, project communication needs some serious updating. Why is that? Partly, I think, because the research industry is traditionally fragmented – individual systems and platforms are silos that find it very hard to talk to each other. Meaningful collaboration hasn’t happened to any great degree because, until recently, it couldn’t.
Maybe change is just deemed too risky (but don’t tell that to the NASA JPL scientists who are using Slack while putting robots on Mars). Or perhaps we’re not yet in a position to truly consider project collaborators as partners. Whatever the root causes, think on this: The easier you make it for people to work with you, the more they’ll enjoy it and the more likely they’ll come back for more.

Let’s face it. Research can be an incredibly rewarding career. Can’t it also be fun?


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