Archive for August, 2011

By Walt Dickie, Executive Vice President

Many of you may have probably seen the recent announcement of a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project on cell phone usageReporting of the findings has been a bit hyperventilated, focusing on odd behavior, such as turning phones off to get a break from using it (between 26% and 32% for all age groups under 65) and pretending to talk on the phone to avoid talking directly to someone (30% of 18-29 year-olds in past month).  More about this last one later.

The report, however, highlights some genuinely interesting trends.

  • The increasing dominance of cell phone use generally, but especially for text messaging and photography.
  • The fact that African Americans, Latinos, and to a lesser degree those with college educations, urban- and suburbanites, and parents over-index on cell usage.
  • The enormous difference between “Smartphone” users and other “Cell/Feature Phone” users.
  • The diminishing differences between the ways different age groups under 65 use smart phones.

With 83% of adults owning cell phones, and ¾ of them using their phones for text messaging and photography, it is clear that research techniques based on text messaging and/or picture-taking should be considered as fitting quite nicely into “normal life.”  While text messaging can be seen as roughly analogous to writing or typing answers to traditional survey instruments, “picture taking” now has a place primarily in specialized methods such as ethnographies and MROCs.  But, as research becomes increasing mobile, might not the normal way to answer many typical questions be with a picture?  What groceries did you buy this week?  What do you use to clean the floor?  What snacks do you eat regularly?  There will be no forgetting key parts of the answer when it is a picture.

Future of Mobile Market Research It seems equally clear that Smartphone Owners (35%) are a distinct segment of the population whose use of phones for messaging, internet access, games and entertainment, and retrieval of information needed “right away” index over Cell/Feature Phone Owners by anywhere from two to five times or more.  It seems likely that we will need a new survey grammar when we create mobile instruments directed at this more impatient target who craves immediacy.  It may not be the place to ask questions about the restaurants visited six months in the past.

Smartphone owners have a distinctive demographic profile, but age is clearly becoming a salient variable – although the youngest age segments over-index on pretty much everything, all Smartphone Owners under about 50 clearly share a core set of behaviors that is distinct from the behavioral set of Cell/Feature Phone Users.

By the way, if Smartphone Users are a distinct population, how will we talk to people about cell phones vs. smartphones?  Pew doesn’t seem to have a term for devices that aren’t smartphones. When they screen, they use awkward questions like, “As I read the following list of items, please tell me if you happen to have each one, or not. Do you have…a cell phone or a Blackberry or iPhone or other device that is also a cell phone?” The industry sometimes uses “feature phone,” but I’ve never heard a normal person use that term. “Dumb phone?” My son had a pretty nice phone with a touchscreen that wasn’t an iPhone, Android, or any other obvious “Smartphone” type.  He called it “a wannabe phone.”

Back to people who pretend to make cell phone calls to avoid contact with others.  Instead of wringing our hands about the end of civilization, we need to recognize what it truly indicates.  It is interesting that this is behavior of young adults, those most at home with all things mobile.  But, also no surprise.  Cell phones truly have become rooted among young adults.  The gestures of their usage have generally accepted meanings within the “culture.”  And, nothing demonstrates this more powerfully than the fact that faking a call works.

By Lynne Bartos, Vice President

There is nothing more embarrassing for a researcher than to hear a client say “…this doesn’t really address the business questions that we set out to answer.” This is more common an occurrence in research reporting than most of us would care to admit. But unfortunately, much report writing these days falls short of expectations for those on the client side.  This is likely due to more emphasis on methodology or analytic technique at the expense of clear graphics, creative story-telling and actionable direction.

What often happens during the report-writing process is that market researchers have their direct research client in mind.  They neglect the fact that their direct contact must present these findings to the ultimate stakeholder in the process — someone in senior management or the head of marketing who does not function in the research realm.

Market Research Analytics ReportingWe need to take conscious steps to break out of our little bubble to avoid some of the lingo that is prevalent in research circles. You know what I mean if you’ve ever found yourself presenting your findings to marketing folks.  While peppering them with terms such as “mean,” “monadic,” “DK/NS,” “latent class,” and the like, you suddenly notice the deer-in-the-headlights reaction.  Worse yet, your audience’s eyes glaze over completely.  These terms are foreign to many marketers and, frankly, most of them couldn’t care less about such things.  They simply want a viable solution to the particular business need they set out to address.

So, when writing a research report for my clients it helps me to keep a few things in mind….

Speak to Marketers in Their Language

Focus on what marketers care most about — getting customers, keeping customers, and increasing their share of the customer’s wallet.  So tell them what is meaningful to them….

  • How to position their brand
  • How best to price it
  • Who their best prospects are and how to reach them
  • What message should they be communicating
  • Who are their most loyal and valuable customers
  • How do they keep them loyal to their service or brand

Net, net — put some Marketing-Speak into your report, and leave out the Research-speak.

Tell a good story

A good report tells a good story.  So, how do you tell a compelling story?  Start by getting organized!

  • Develop an analytic plan that focuses on business issues and objectives — the questions that need to be answered.
  • Outline how the questions will be.
  • Once the data is in, all team members should know how the data relates to those question, and they can craft the best story together.

Remember, every page in the report should contribute to the story!  If something doesn’t contour well with your story, stick it in the Appendix.  How many hundred-page reports have you been subjected to where the charts are all in the same order as the questionnaire?  Where is the story?

It’s also important to stick closely to your analytic plan when crafting your story. The analytic plan is what helps to keep everyone focused on why the research was conducted in the first place.

Insightful Headlines and Bullets

What I also find helpful in getting my arms around the story is to write effective bullets and headlines for the data presented.  Too many people think an insight is reiterating the numbers that are in the charts.  Remember, anyone can read the numbers on a chart – our job, as researchers, is to pull the deeper insights from seemingly obvious data.

Be Creative and Have a Llittle Fun

Creativity also comes into play!  Package the story in a creative way. No one wants to see rows and rows of data. Make the report visually appealing so you don’t intimidate those who are going to be using the findings to help drive strategy.  Avoid too much text and too many numbers.

And, don’t be afraid to insert some humor here and there. It reminds your clients that you are human and helps to lighten the tone and keep things relaxed.

Get to the Heart of It

And finally, probably the hardest part of the report process for any researcher is to get straight to the heart of it… what is the story – conclusions, implications, and recommendations.  Go to the next step to tell them what the data MEANS, and what they might consider doing to maximize their investment.

And there is nothing sweeter to a market researcher’s ears than to hear a client voice saying, “Thanks, this really addresses the business questions that we set out to answer!”

By Hillary Stifler, Research Director

As someone who is on the upper-edge of the Millennial’s age group, I identify more with Generation X, but find Millennials fascinating. They are truly of a different mindset. This is the largest generation since the Baby Boomers, and, so as co-workers, parents, peers and marketers, it is important for us to understand them.

This generation has grown up with convenience at their fingertips. They didn’t have to go to a library and flip through an encyclopedia to find information. They didn’t have to ride their bikes down the street to see friends. And, they didn’t have to leave their homes to go shopping. Everything they’ve needed, all their lives, was literally at their fingertips. However, for them, experience trumps convenience. For them, convenience is expected.

Michelle Fenstermaker, Executive Director, Consumer Insights from WD offered a glimpse into the future of grocery, as driven by Millennials. She reminded us that the grocery format is really no different today than it was 50 years ago. Yet, technology has changed the way we shop, and Millennials’ desire for convenience and an experience eventually will too.

Shopper Insights in ActionTwo grocery chains that are doing it “right” are Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Visiting the Whole Foods in Chicago is like an adventure. Recently, my friend from California who used to live in Chicago was visiting. In addition to seeing her friends and visiting a few of her old favorite restaurants, a trip to Whole Foods was on her weekend agenda. “A place where I can get lunch, and then get some groceries while sipping a glass of wine? I can’t wait.” Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer this same experience, but it does offer shoppers a culinary trip around the world, and at an affordable price. You can find food inspired by every corner of the globe, and the employees are always helpful and very friendly. On top of the experiences these stores offer, they offer personalization (you can always find something that suits your tastes), healthy choices and fresh foods. All of which, in addition to convenience, are important to Millennials.

It would appear that Millennials, who have become so used to using the internet and their mobile devices to research and discuss purchases, look to the actual store for something else.  The store is no longer the “library” where we research and find items, but it is a “playground”where we find and interact with experiences.

Millennials are a huge market, and as such they have the power to influence change in the well-established grocery industry. How will they impact your industry? Knowing Millennials and keeping up with them will ensure your brand keeps up. You must know them because they’re a generation who has the technology to find a solution to meet their specific needs, and they are not afraid to go after what they want. After all, they expect instant gratification. Providing a consistent presence across digital and physical that is an experience and gives them the information they need when they want it is a start to stay ahead of the curve!

Are Emotions Less Emotional?

August 1st, 2011

By Robert Relihan, Senior Vice President

I am staring at a series of collages I had participants create for a project I just completed.  I have always loved this sort of creative exercise.  It helps (forces?) people to stretch their right brains.  They make more connections and associations when they create the collages and discuss them than they would in almost any other exercise I use in a focus group.  Also, I discover symbols and metaphors reflected on the collages and in the responses of their creators than with almost any other analytic approach.

I was surprised to read an article in the New York Times recently that seemed to suggest something novel in the technique.  I have been using it for years.  One of my approaches is to have participants create collages out of whatever pictures and objects they have around the house.

As I looked as those collages, I realized they said much about the ways a group of young men and women felt about one of their favorite activities, which shall remain nameless.  I could see changes that had taken place in the way creativity is expressed by people who are not specifically trained to be creative.

  • Emotion in market research Fifteen years ago a typical collage would contain pictures from a range of magazines.  And, they would also be taken from both the advertising and the articles.  Now, it seems that people’s image frame of reference is much more restricted. It is not unusual to see the same pictures repeated in several collages.  It is evidence that magazines are much less a part of everyone’s daily life.  When I conduct ethnogaphies, many houses I visit have no evidence of magazines.It was commonplace for collages created by men to have pictures from the sports page of the local newspaper or from Sports Illustrated.  No more.  All sports news is on-line.  And, as more and more people use smart phones, they are getting their sports news in such a way they can’t even print a picture.And, the images that do appear on the collages are almost exclusively from advertising. This change is a bit more difficult to explain.  What qualities do the images from advertising possess that other images do not?  As I listen to men and women discuss their collages, the answer becomes obvious.  Advertising magnifies and simplifies the representation of emotions.  Its images are designed so that consumers “get it.”  I can only conclude that generations raised on the media can understand their own emotions only through the intensifying lens of advertising.
  • The collages also reveal what is a complementary trend.  The Internet, in effect, has short-circuited creative thinking.  I used to see collage creation as a serendipitous process in which my participants wandered through magazines or their homes and happened upon pictures and objects that triggered a response they might not otherwise have felt.Now, however, collages have become more logical and literal.  I see a trophy in a collage, and I ask its creator to explain it.  Oh, he says, I felt successful, so I Googled “trophy” and printed the first picture I found.  So the search for images had become less about metaphorical and and more interpretation.I can’t help but feel that this presents a problem for my collage exercise.  The Internet enables consumers to get THE answer, and that answer more often than not is verbal and logical.  The emotional dimension is lost.

What this all suggests is that in the age of the Internet, with Millennials as targets, we need new ways to tap into the emotions of consumers.  Or, we ourselves need new metaphors for that emotional response.