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The REAL Mobile Opportunity

Posted by on in A Day in a (MR) Life

Sometimes it seems like the future of quantitiative mobile research has already been determined.

onlinemobilesurvey- Real-short surveys, 5 to 10 questions long.
- Simple-response controls like big radio buttons.
- Small screens = small tasks = limited data sets.

At a time when clients, budgets and timelines are demanding that we do more with less, mobile quant would seem to do a pretty good job with the "less" part of things. If we're being honest that makes us primary researchers a little nervous, and prone to think of mobile as an interesting but ultimately niche methodology.

 

The change is a comin'

But I'd wager that the current definition of "short" and "simple" will change over time as more consumers come to live fully mobile lives, and mobile devices become an increasingly "best" way to reach people for feedback. Conventional wisdom says ask only 5 to 10 questions and use the simplest of instructions, but how can that be the end of the story when people - right now - are browsing, shopping, and buying on their Smartphones?

Thoughts on TMRE 2011

Posted by on in Conferences

tmre_banner_250x250_nodisI recently came back from the 2011 The Market Research Event (TMRE) conference in Orlando, the biggest marketing research conference of the year. There was plenty to like, not the least of which was the scale of the event. Rarely, if ever, do we get to see an exclusively market research event that is so big. Kudos to IIR for putting it together.

The highlight of the event for me was the Keynotes, of which there were eight. I couldn't catch all of them, but my favorite was Sheena Iyengar from Columbia, author of the best seller The Art of Choosing (and sister-in-law of my friend Raghu Iyengar from Wharton). In a beautifully choreographed and clear presentation, Sheena (who is blind) talked about the problem of plenty in consumer choice and ways to avoid it for both sellers and buyers. The Keynotes were all held in a massive room and very entertainingly emceed by Cayne Collier, an actor and improv artist from Second City Chicago. Discussions with a variety of people indicated that the Keynotes were the favorite part of the conference for many.

Tagged in: Market Research
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  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    Thanks for the comments Rajan! I agree with you, though I do think TMRE did a fairly good job reporting on the NGMR Disruptive In

As I sat down to write I realized that this is not a simple question. Consider the conventional meaning of necessities (defined as must-haves) and luxuries (defined as nice-to-haves). Which category market research falls into may depend on the eye of the beholder.

Researchers (or more accurately research sellers) may want to think of themselves as producing necessities rather than luxuries. But in the consumer world necessities are also generally commodities and often sold based on price. Researchers of course want to be seen as producing something valuable, something that is worth a premium -- in other words, a luxury.  So, which is it?

Now let's look at it from a research buyer's perspective. The buyer may think of research as a necessity, something that is indispensible for making good business decisions. But in keeping with the popular perception of necessities, perhaps they feel that more than one company can provide it and are hence unwilling to pay much of a premium for it. This view would support the many research sellers who complain about the commoditization of research.

Numbers That Don't Add Up

Posted by on in Better Graphics

In my last blog I talked about a simple chart on Morning Joe, which was presented by Steven Rattner. I submitted that when we see data presented in the media or especially by politicians, we should judge it in terms of how a researcher would have presented the same data (because of course researchers are free of bias...well let's leave that for another blog). I gave Mr. Rattner a pass last time, but his presentation of a chart on infrastructure was misleading and would only have pleased a client who wanted misleading data to prove a point.

In this case he presented a chart showing infrastructure spending as a percentage of GDP . It showed a massive drop from the high in the 1950's to the low of today. The chart had a y axis that went from 0% to 1.5% which made the drop easier to see. Nothing wrong with that (assuming those viewing the chart understood that it was not based on 0-100%).

A  few blogs back I talked about how the political season would bring on a rash of misuse and abuse of numbers. I've had my ears open for examples and a couple that came up recently got me to realize that a more nuanced view is necessary here. The real rule should be that pundits and politicians should be held to the same standards as we are by our clients. Namely, the numbers should help in the decision making process...not mislead or confuse the facts.

In the next two blogs I'll use some charts presented by Steven Rattner on the Morning Joe television program. For those of you who don't know, Mr. Rattner was the President's Car Czar. While this probably means he comes with his own bias, I have generally found that when he presents data he does so in a pretty fair way.

two_dollar_billMy seven year old son gets a $2 per week allowance. He doesn't really do anything to earn this money. Rather I give him (and his brother) an allowance to teach them how to save for things that they want. Implied, and in fact part of the bargain, is that they can't hassle me for Pokémon cards, or Wii games, or anything else they "need", because they have their own money. Well, about a month or two ago my seven year old mandated that I start paying him with a $2 bill. Yikes! Where was I going to get even one $2 bill, let alone one every week?

As we consider my situation, let's juxtapose something we've all been hearing for 10 plus years now. The brick and mortar (fill in the blank) is antiquated, and on its way to irrelevance. The Internet is the way that EVERYBODY is going to shop for and do EVERYTHING! Heck, I've heard it so many times and for so long that I agree with it, which is odd since the only items I consistently buy online are books, DVDs and music.

center 4 neural decision makingRecently I was invited to attend a neuroscience conference at Temple University in Philadelphia, organized by their Center for Neural Decision Making, along with MIT and the University of Michigan. It turned out to be a very interesting experience with excellent speakers, great interactions and a terrific panel discussion. Some highlights:

  • Michael Norton of Harvard spoke with humor about the sensitive topic of racial paralysis. This is the tendency of people to refrain from making any decisions when faced with a situation where they could potentially be perceived as racist. His approach used data from experiments, surveys and neural imaging, a nice way to triangulate the results.
Tagged in: Neuroscience

esomar logoLast time I talked about how we as an industry worry about response rates and respondent engagement either too much or for the wrong reasons. This time, I'd like to expand on that point by picking up on a comment made by Joan M. Lewis of Procter &Gamble.

The second day of the ESOMAR CONGRESS conference featured a panel of big research buying clients. They talked about the things they wanted and were not getting. Two big areas were boiling data down to as few charts as possible and to help them drive innovation and change. Both are related. In essence, don't give me a 100 page report or a chart with 100 numbers on it. Boil it all down and tell me what to do!

Tagged in: Reporting
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  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    In his book "Never Confuse a Memo with Reality: And Other Business Lessons Too Simple Not to Know", Richard A. Moran has the follo

esomar logoTwo other topics that came up a lot at ESOMAR were respondent engagement and representativeness.   Personally, I think discussions of the former are often misguided and discussions of the latter are a waste of time. Not that I oppose engaging respondents or high response rates, just that I'm practical enough to recognize that neither will happen without a good business reason for them to happen.

With regards to response rate, the boat has clearly sailed. Surely this is clear now that huge research buyers like P&G suggest moving beyond focus on response rate. I suspect they, like me, would love higher response rates, but they have come to realize that it isn't going to happen. The massive increase in the number of surveys being done (I get one every time I take my car in, and I was just handed on here on my plane trip back from ESOMAR) has caused the public to tire of doing them. Add in that improving response rates involves greater costs (more attempts, mixed modes, higher incentives) and greater time. 

magical_eyeThere's a lot of discussion today about the researcher as story-teller. Most of it has to do with the choices we make as analysts - what to focus on and what to discard; all important stuff.

Ultimately, however, we have to step up and tell those stories and good visual display is critical to that effort. Too often we fall short of effective in this area, and that's a problem. Market Researchers are fighting everyday for respect, but we'll never get it if we can't communicate the good (or bad) news we have to tell about brands and products and customers. To quote "Information Is Beautiful" author David McCandless from a recent interview in "Research:"

...everything you create now design-wise is competing with everything else that everyone ever looks at. So market research stuff is looking worse and worse as time goes by, because the web and good design are becoming more and more of a daily experience for people.

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  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    Thanks for this very good advice. I've often talked about the need for the market researcher to stand with one foot outside the m

Time For More Game Playing in Market Research

Posted by on in Conferences

I'm on the plane heading back from ESOMAR. I found the diversity of opinions and ideas shared there to be both interesting and thought provoking. Over the next couple blogs I'll share my thoughts on what I got from the event.

First off, gaming; no subject divides researchers more. Several presentations showed tests that used game elements to engage the respondents. One effort by MSI created a sort of fantasy backdrop in which players answered questions to get things they would need on their game quest. The idea was to engage respondents and with that get better data. Sadly, the results didn't back that up at all. Results did not vary much (specifics are available on the ESOMAR site), but respondents who did it were more engaged. At the same time, response rates were lower (loading time put some people off and some had no interest in the game). Easy enough to theorize that the mistake here was that the game was a sort of reward for doing the survey, but not related to it. As such, it does little to engage the respondent.

talking_webPrior to my current tour at TRC I was a partner at a small data mining boutique that had a simple objective: support the sales and marketing goals of our clients by helping them stem attrition. While the goal may have been simple, how we set out to do this was not. See, we took upwards of 30 months of time-series data on all of their customers and applied some mind-numbing statistical techniques that identified patterns in the data that preceded an eventual behavior. In most cases that behavior was a customer terminating their relationship with our client. Once our system identified the patterns that preceded attrition, we would then continue to feed it customer data each month and it would dutifully output a list of customers that were likely candidates to attrite. In addition, for each customer on this golden list we provided the prediction "trigger", or the thing that they did that was responsible for the system flagging them as a high-risk customer.

chessIn a recent post, my colleague Bob Hull reported that many of his clients start talking about segmentation by emphasizing all the data on their customers they already have. Bob pointed out that such demographic and behavioral data can often answer "what" questions, what customers do and what they look like, but to understand "why" customers do what they do, and how apparently similar customers differ from one another, survey research to collect attitudinal and needs-based information is necessary. 

In segmenting business markets, we have found another major advantage of including attitudinal and need-based information in segmentation studies. Very likely, a company's competitors have demographic and behavioral data similar to what the company has.

Tagged in: segmentation

Was at Il Tartufo* in Manayunk the other night, waiting near the bar after dinner when a waiter - who was not my waiter - surprised me. "How'd you like the Fettuccine Cinghiale?" she asked.

I had liked it just fine, but was curious to know how she knew what I'd eaten. I hadn't seen her near my table all evening.

"I just saw the bill for your table," she replied. "Guys always get the wild boar pasta."

Part waiter and part analyst - new competition for us market researchers?

Why MasterCard Ads Are Priceless

Posted by on in Advertising

You remember the MasterCard "Priceless" ad campaign, don't you? It first ran during the 1997 World Series.

"Two tickets: $28. Two hot dogs, two popcorns, two sodas: $18. One autographed baseball: $45. Real conversation with 11 year old son: Priceless."

It was an ad campaign that was so successful that it helped MasterCard move from a distant second to near parity with Visa. The question is, why? What was it about that ad that was so powerful, asked researchers Jeffrey LoewensteinRaj Raghunathan and Chip Heath  (who is incidentally a co-author of the best seller Made to Stick). What they found holds lessons for companies looking to create successful ads.

Tagged in: Advertising

I Look at Data From Both Sides Now

Posted by on in A Day in a (MR) Life

caddie and golferI was watching the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational and my 14 year old son came in to the room.  I told him the established narrative. After a difficult two years Tiger Woods had returned to golf, but not before firing his long time and very loyal caddie.   Most saw this as just plain nasty on Tiger's part.  

I then told him how another golfer, Adam Scott, hired the caddie and was now on the verge of winning the tournament. I summed it up by saying that justice had prevailed.

He didn't even miss a beat before asking me, "Did Adam Scott fire his caddie so that he could hire the caddie Tiger fired?"

I don't follow competitive golf closely enough to know the answer. Worse, I had not even considered that the narrative "Tiger mean/Adam good" might be a bit off.  

A good lesson for any analyst to learn.

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knowing enough to make the right decisionSometimes as researchers we get too hung up on knowing everything.   We get frustrated by interesting findings that can't be explained with the available data and this can cause us to miss important insights. I suspect that the proliferation of available data will do little to help fill in the blanks...in fact, it might make the problem worse. A simple exercise in text analytics highlights this point.

There are now an array of tools available to help quantify and understand massive amounts of text.  For example,  at one of our conferences last year, Oded Netzer of Columbia University presented an amazing tool that analyses message boards and other online forums to learn about specific markets (slides can be found at:  http://www.trchome.com/research-knowledge/conferences/437). Tools like these provide a rich and valuable source of data, but insight can also be gleaned from far more simple approaches.

Tagged in: Statistics Text Mining

Quick. What kinds of data are needed for a successful segmentation?

Well, most clients I talk to about segmentation excitedly lead with the data they already have..."we have a TON of data...yes, yes, we can get it all...what's the rule for what data are good for segmentation and which aren't?...how do we tie it all together?...we really do have a lot, (sheepishly) do we really need it all?".  This focus on their data issue is quite understandable. Companies have spent a lot of time, money and resources getting their data house in order, and darn it they need to leverage it somehow. While, in fact, there really is a lot of valuable information in the data that many companies already have, it isn't always enough. In fact, I would argue that in some instances it only provides half the answer.

istock_000000237809xsmallThe recent New MR Virtual Festival on presenting data had a number of really useful and interesting presentations. Mike Sherman’s presentation, “Less is More: Getting Value (Not Just Reams of Data) From Your Research” led to an interesting exchange that I think highlights the change in thinking that Market Research must make.

Mike reiterated the point that many have been making…we need to focus our reporting on the key things we learned and not waste executives’ time with a lot of superfluous information. In addition, the report should not just summarize the data, but rather it should synthesize it. He gave an example of a data set with these facts:

  • · Jim broke his knee
  • · A burglar broke Jim’s car window
  • · Jim got a speeding ticket.

A summary of these data might be “Jim’s knee and car window were damaged and he got a speeding ticket”.

A synthesis of that data would be “Jim has been living dangerously”.

mrmwsignI really enjoyed my time last week at Merlien’s Market Research in the Mobile World 2011 – a great place to meet and exchange ideas with the people and companies working to make effective mobile research a reality. We discussed the nitty-gritty of mobile survey applications, and the big picture of mobile adoption around the world. Taking it all in it’s hard to argue that mobile won’t play a major role in the future of the market research industry, both in the developed and developing worlds.

Here’s the thing, though. Most of the conversation during the conference focused on the “what” of mobile research – how to reach people, or whether or not to keep surveys short(er). Very little was said about the “so what,” even though that’s where we as research professionals can earn respect and remain relevant.

Tagged in: Market Research
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  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    Great points Mike; I agree that once we nail down some of the practical methodological issues the real point is how can we use the

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