Quirk's Blog

Are wearables the key to the mobile wallet revolution?

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

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

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

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


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

You want to put that chip where?

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

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

Good news for smartphone makers

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

What about payment companies?

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

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


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

New studies show effect of trap questions

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

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

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

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

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

Here is an example from a social scientist:

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

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

1)    Basketball

2)    Soccer

3)    Running

4)    Hockey

5)    Football

6)    Swimming

7)    Tennis

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

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

Bridgekeeper: Stop. What… is your name?

Galahad: Sir Galahad of Camelot.

Bridgekeeper: What… is your quest?

Galahad: I seek the Grail.

Bridgekeeper: What… is your favorite color?

Galahad: Blue. No, yel…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hybrid research: combining methods for smart results

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

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

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

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


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

Step 1: Choose your method(s)

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

Menu of qualitative options:

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


Step 2: Choose your vendor(s)

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

Step 3: Connect the dots

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

Some examples:

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


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

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

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

What Twitter can tell us about Father’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Why branding still matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why retailers should stop relying on old strategies to stay relevant

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

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

So what are some trends that retailers should adopt?

Battle of the generations

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

Can’t buy my loyalty

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

 What an experience!

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

Do you care?

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

Where’s the data?

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

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

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

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

Building the consumer story using smartphone capabilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

Personal privacy matters

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

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


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

Food and beverage brands connect with fast-moving consumers

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

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

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

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

Recognize that your consumers are always connected through mobile

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

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

Remember, consumers are researching your brand while moving

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

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

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

Create a seamless experience across mobile devices

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

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

Embrace and encourage consumer generated content (CGC)

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

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

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

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

What Whole Foods risks by relying on demographics to define new chain’s consumer base

Editor’s note: Jake Sedlock is vice president of client development at research firm CivicScience, Seattle. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Pack up the old timers – we’re off to the new whole paycheck!”

My wife calls me cheap. I prefer “thrifty” or “careful.” I can’t be the only father in America who grimaces every time I see a Whole Foods bag on the kitchen counter. Perhaps the Whole Foods executive committee finally heard my silent screams of agony when they decided to green-light the lower-cost Whole Foods concept. But, the Whole Foods execs did announce that the stores would be hip, cool and high-tech. I just hope during the design phase they are thinking about me too.

Hark! The unmistakable marketer’s siren call to Millennials.

Whole Foods is in a pickle because the hip-but-costly chain can’t simply say it wants the new stores to appeal to “people likely to buy groceries in stores” because it doesn’t play to Wall Street or reinforce its brand positioning. While both are very relevant concerns, designing for the marketing industry’s darling, the Millennial segment, could be exclusionary – which is ironic because it appears Whole Foods has realized it needs to be more inclusive.

To be successful, the aisles of New junior Whole Foods lite Millennial edition (NJWFLME) can’t be solely populated by app-obsessed “youngsters” attracted to accoutrement such as reclaimed wood floors, the hushed buzz of carefully aimed LED track lighting and sleek, satin-black shopping carts.

NJWFLME must attract people like me – the Gen X/Boomer straddle generation (did I just coin a new segment?) – and give me reasons to pull my car (a car that I own outright and is not part of a smartphone app car sharing consortium)  onto new, freshly paved parking lots.

Creating an entirely new brand and shopping experience may seem drastic but desperate times must be requiring desperate measures in the hallways of the Austin, Texas Whole Foods headquarters. Desperate times are clearly illustrated by data we have on Whole Foods that indicate a brand losing differentiation and strength. What’s surprising is how long it took to get to this point: the company must have seen it coming for years.

I know this because we have been tracking consumer attitudes toward Whole Foods since 2012. Take a look at the trend line for both Adults 35 – 64 (top chart) and Millennials (defined here as 18 – 34, bottom chart) over the past three-plus years:

The trend line for adults 35 – 64 (top chart) and Millennials (defined here as 18 – 34, bottom chart) over the past three-plus years

I don’t have the specific insights Whole Foods used to commit to its new significant strategic shift but the two charts above are clear harbingers of the loss of Whole Foods brand power, which is accompanied by loss of pricing power and in the end, foot traffic. Clearly, both groups, Millennials and adults 35 – 64 (straddle generation!), are increasingly neutral about the brand and not nearly as favorable to the brand as they were when we started tracking them in 2012.

Clearly the company has a problem with both segments – so why launch the hip, cool and high-tech NJWFLMEDid Whole Foods look closely at who is cooking and therefore probably buying groceries?

Think about the segment I alluded to above – people likely to buy groceries in stores – when you review the next two charts. CivicScience asked the U.S. consumer how they usually prepare (or don’t prepare) dinner every night:

Adults 35-64 are much more likely to be cooking than Millennials, so without a doubt, that group is going to be buying more groceries:

Adults 35-64 are much more likely to be cooking than Millennials

Now, another interesting tidbit that could tantalize an upstart grocer is how many people each of these segments typically cooks for. We questioned the U.S. consumer about the number of people each tends to cook for when they cook dinner:

Number of people each of these segments typically cooks for

The data indicates Adults 34-65 would need heavy-duty bearings on their shopping carts for their extra grocery load, given they are more likely to cook for more than one.

So, should NJWFLME invest in micro-location-based shopping apps, screw some flat panel displays onto those sheik shopping carts and ensure the aisles are stocked with products tuned by the trendiest Millennial taste-makers? The company should be attuned to what is hip, cool and high tech across a broad demographic rather than the demographic group it is likely paying close attention to.

And anyway, it won’t be long before those Millennials are reaching for their bifocals and wondering why all these grocery stores are so darn dark inside …


Posted in Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Findings, Marketing Best Practices, Millennials, Shopper Insights | Comment

Why anticipatory design could change MR

Editor’s note: Leslie Townsend is CEO and Co-founder at research firm Kinesis Survey Technologies, Austin, Texas. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Choice is overrated: How anticipatory design will change the market research industry.”

Business person walking around confusion and chaos on a straight easy pathStand back … it’s not about responsive design any more. According to an article published by Fast Company, the next big thing in the marriage of design and technology is to reduce the number of choices people have to make by introducing anticipatory design.

Technology has undeniably revolutionized the way we live and do business. However, in almost every industry great digital design has put users in control and has effectively increased the number of decisions we have to make, resulting in decision fatigue causing shorter attention spans.

Anticipatory design has the potential to provide products, services and experiences that eliminate needless choices from our lives by making them on our behalf, freeing us up to focus on the ones we really care about.

How will this anticipatory design translate to the market research industry?

To start, anticipatory design could affect how we design surveys. Anticipatory designed surveys would be increasingly shorter as many panelists’ answers would be predetermined. A well-designed survey already needs to be tailored to each panelist based on his or her previous responses and personal preferences through conditional logic. With anticipatory design personalization may extend well beyond this reach: the ability to pre-populate data where known; show most frequently selected choices first; and reach to external data sources such as social media, web analytics and even geolocation data to offer answer choices are all moving into the realm of possibility for the data collection platform of the future.

In order to achieve the level of convenience promised by anticipatory design, data must be collected, analyzed and then repackaged in the form of predetermined selections which could cause serious concerns around panelist and data biases – not to mention the privacy and security nightmare it could create!

Panel management and community
While panel management is already increasingly automated, there may be ways to use anticipatory design within this function. Again, much of the advances may come at the risk of response bias. In terms of panel management, anticipatory design might best come into play under more algorithmic means such as scheduling invitations to fit specific individuals patterns and determining if panelists are likely to download apps or engage in longitudinal research based upon prior responses and patterns.

We certainly don’t have the answers yet but two things are clear:

  1. In the future, the best interface will be no interface at all and the best decisions will be made without having to make them (but according to your personal preferences and goals).
  2. As design and technology advances continue to merge into increased automation, we in the market research industry will need to start having some serious conversations about advancing our own products and services while upholding the integrity of our data.


Posted in Behavioral Research, Consumer Research, Innovation in Market Research, Market Research in the News, Market Research Techniques, Panels, Survey Development | 1 Comment