Field

Research Coming to Emerging Markets

Emerging markets are exploding with growing economies and the growth of the middle class. As consumers in these huge markets gain disposable income, CPG and other categories must be ready. Without a doubt the emerging markets are the global consumer growth engine of the future. That is why companies are racing to establish distribution channels and brand identities in these countries.

Research can help. However, the lack of easy access to consumer respondents in many markets has kept research from providing effective, efficient information. Google and others have initiatives under way that will create pathways for research to access emerging market consumers faster and more effectively.

I was asked to write a guest blog for Optimization Group.  You can find it here.

Facility Shake-Out on the Horizon?

Is a shake-out looming among focus group facilities?   Its definitely a topic among researchers at conferences and wherever “old quallies” gather.  The conversation usually revolves around the obvious fragmentation of our industry with all the new methodologies and capabilities popping up.  The speculation is that many facility owners may simply be holding on until their expensive, long-term leases expire so they can close down the facility.  There is no way to know if this is true.  If so, it represents a major shift in our industry.

The specter of a facility shake-out was raised anew with Leibowitz Market Research‘s announcement that it sold its facility building in Charlotte after 50 years in business.   They are “retooling” to better meet today’s needs.  Stay tuned.  Even so, it reminded me of other friends who have closed and moved on.  I wonder if there are more closings just over the horizon?

I don’t expect the facility business will completely go away any time soon.  But, we have to ask the question, “Will there be enough business to go around?”  If not, “What will the surviving industry look like?”  I think we will see many more closings.  The trends suggest it.  Business is fragmenting.  Owners are aging.  Leases are expiring.  Big firms are flexing their muscle.  Schlessinger keeps growing, Focus Pointe Global had a capital infusion. Fieldwork seems to be maintaining its network.

MRA’s 2012 Blue Book lists 424 facilities in the U.S.  The 2013 edition will come out soon.  I wonder how many will be listed then?

Fortunately, at 20|20, our facilities have been healthy and are adding capabilities to “retool” for the times.  So, its a little difficult for me to judge.  However, the signs point to a new age in the facility business.  If a shake-out is coming, lets hope for a soft landing.

 

Mobile: “The Pocket Ethnographer”

“Mobile is an ethnographer in their pocket.” said Chris Jones of BrainJuicer today at the ESOMAR Qualitative Conference.  He was speaking of their success using mobile phones to conduct “self-ethnography.”

His case study highlighted the differences between a brand’s segmentation definitions and how that people interact with that brand in real life.  For example, an oatmeal brand may think of oatmeal as being consumed in at the family breakfast table  in a cereal bowl with some fruit on top and a sprinkle of sugar or cinnamon.  In reality, that oatmeal may be consumed in a plastic bowl direct from the microwave and eaten in front of the television while the consumer also catches up on facebook posts.   Digital ethnography is becoming so much easier and less expensive that brand teams can use it to create a much more robust understanding of their brand segments.

A Nokia case study presented by Sharmila Subramanian of Face and Katherine Gough of Nokia also demonstrated the power and capabilities of mobile diaries used as ethnography.

These case studies support a trend we are seeing at 20|20 with LifeNotes mobile app.  Mobile is finally gaining the capabilities and penetration that we have been expecting for some time.  Researchers are taking advantage of these tools to take ethnography research methods to a much broader consumer base.  The triad of mobile limiting issues consisting of cost, capabilities and reach have now intersected and the research community is embracing it.

New Online “Homework” Tool for In-Person Qual

Lets face it, focus group “homework” has not entered the 21st Century.  For decades, we sent respondents paper and pencil assignments or “diaries” and crossed our fingers hoping they will complete them.  Sometimes, you can find them completing the homework in the facility parking lot.  Some people forget completely.  Even when such “homework” is successful, it is hard to distribute, hard to collect and hard to analyze.  Plus, we researchers rarely get the assignments completed and analyzed in time to actually use the insights in our focus groups.  So, homework becomes yet another item to analyze when the groups are over.

Recent “innovations” such as email have helped marginally.  Email helps get assignments out faster and helps us to collect them.  But, it does not expand our capabilities or help us organize and analyze the homework.

So, 20|20 went to work to begin to solve this problem.  The result is a new  “Homework Tool” that is a modified version of our online qual software, QualBoard®, QualBoard Mobile™ and LifeNotes™ smartphone app.  Researchers can ask open-ended or closed-ended questions.  Respondents can respond with text and they can upload pictures or video from a desktop or mobile device.  Researchers can see respondent submissions almost instantly for virtually in-the-moment analysis.  So, the findings can be incorporated with the discussion guide to make the groups more efficient and insightful.

Because the Homework Tool is a modified version of the popular QualBoard, QualBoard Mobile and LifeNotes software, it is already fully-featured and battle-tested by 1000s of researchers and respondents worldwide.  Compared to current “homework” methods, this tool is faster, easier, more efficient and secure than today’s typical methods.

Why is such a tool important to a researcher?  Here are some reasons:

  • Accuracy.  Respondents can record activities and opinions from their desktop or mobile device.  These “in-the-moment” responses are more accurate than methods that rely on memory.
  • Compelling.  A picture is worth 1000 words.
  • Timely. No more paper assignments completed in the facility parking lot just before the group.
  • Complete.  20|20 monitors participation so non-participants are identified early and prompted to get started.
  • Efficient.  The researcher can analyze the information as it comes in allowing thoughtful changes to the discussion guide, resulting in deeper insights in the overall project.
  • Secure20|20’s software and process are secure to keep your data confidential.  We are compliant with the following standards:  PCI, HIPAA, ISO27002, and EU Safe Harbor.

Importantly, 20|20 provides project managers to manage the homework so you can focus on your research.  A 20|20 project manager helps customize your homework for online, monitors participation and helps with timely delivery of the results.  The researcher does not have to figure it out on his/her own.  Plus, 20|20 can manage the homework assignments anywhere, not just our facilities in Nashville, Charlotte and Miami.  Currently, the system is available in English and Spanish.
Susan Brelewski is taking the lead on the rollout.  If you are interested or for more information, you can contact her at 704.494.7873 or susanb@2020research.com.  You can also download a product description here.

Guerrilla Warfare in Social Media?

Social media monitoring is hot and a lot of companies are putting a lot of money into social media monitoring.  We did a little investigating and found several firms who provide “tweet for hire” services.  So, how does one person with a grudge and $500 give a engage in guerilla warfare with a major brand?  Actually its not difficult.

We did a quick analysis of social media volume of a couple of well-known consumer brands, one fairly large and one not-so large.  Tweeters mentioned the large brand an average of about 40 tweets an hour or 960 tweets a day.  The smaller brand averaged about 100 tweets a day.

Now consider the world of “tweeting for hire.”  In a previous post, I talked about some of the re-tweeting sites that people are using to increase their SEO.  Even social media monitoring firms use them, so they are no secret.  These firms make their living from increasing website SEO which requires a high volume of social media at a low cost.  Therefore, they have devised methods to sell high volumes of tweets for very little.  For example, here is the pricing page for www.twitterbacklinks.com.

So, for $150/month, this site will re-tweet your message 125 times a day.  What would that do to a brand’s social media monitoring charts????  For a small to mid-major brand, it would be more than half the total tweets they see.  If taking on a major brand, a single person could provide a third or more of the daily tweets (375 of 960) for $450/month.

So you ask, “Can’t I easily block re-tweeting from my social media monitoring?”  Of course you can.  However, Twitterbacklinks.com also provides the following option,  “Alternatively you can just give us the message you want promoted and we will create the original Tweet for you.”

You might say, “Well, it would be monitored so all those identical tweets would be discounted.”  True.  But a person could include different messages to make the process more difficult.  Plus, the tracking data would get really unreliable.

If you had a devious mind and a little cash or if you were an unscrupulous competitor, what could you do?  A little subterfuge would go a long way to create chaos among the brand team or to alter marketing and branding decisions.  At minimum, such an attack would undermine the trustworthiness of the system.  Its the very definition of guerilla warfare.  Its simple.  Its inexpensive.  Its effective.

How long would it take a few guerrilla attacks on brands to undermine the credibility of our industry?

Google Breaks Old Research Rules…and New Ground

They say one of the keys to innovation is to break a rule that really doesn’t matter anyway.  Google has done it again.  This time, they have broken the paradigm that a respondent must answer an entire battery of questions.  Why was this necessary before?  Simply because it was the most efficient way to do it…back when we were doing paper surveys.  Today, it is simply not the most efficient way. Congratulations to Google for seeing through the cloud of common practice and providing a faster and cheaper way to obtain research data.

As reported the past few days by Bob Lederer of Research Business Daily Report, Google Consumer Surveys now offers survey questions a la carte for as little as $.10/response.  Its pretty simple.  In the past, to access a free premium content site, you often had to sit through a 30-second ad.  It was irritating but bearable because you knew that it paid for your free content.  Google has replaced that ad with research.  Answer a question, you get access to content.  Its faster for both the reader and the researcher, a win-win.

Some researchers express the concern that people won’t take the question seriously.  Seriously?  Do they really believe that respondents will be any less serious when they have to answer a single question than when they are 18 minutes deep in a 25 minute survey?   This concern is typical of the industry when innovation comes along.  It will prove to be moot.

So, who really benefits most?  DIY researchers.  Its easy.  Its fast.  Its cheap.  Time will tell about the validity.  If privacy concerns and legislation do not stop this train, this type of research will grow into a major option for researchers.

Will this be the end of survey research?  No.  Like the telephone, CATI and online before it, it will prove to be yet another tool to help make research faster and better.

As I have said before, this is the most exciting time EVER to be in research!

Are Focus Group Facilities Dead?

“No more viewing studios. Clients can either come out from behind the mirror, or not attend groups at all,” says Andy Cooper in a recent online issue of research. His article, “Hear me out: Let’s get rid of viewing studios” argues that viewing clients too often use it as a crutch. He says viewing groups is not worth giving up an evening of “The Apprentice.” Mr. Cooper seems to believe that viewing studios (focus group facilities in the United States) are unnecessary and actually can be counter-productive. Why not just shut them down?

Since October is Conference month, I have spent a lot of time discussing the fate of focus group facilities recently. As online qualitative research has exploded, researchers are beginning to wonder about the fate of the facility with the mirrored window. Most people, including me, believe that qualitative research will grow.  However, with the proliferation of online qualitative research techniques and the new-found freedom researchers have to conduct qualitative research online have led to valid questions about in-facility research.

My personal opinion is that qualitative research will grow as a percent of total research spending. However, I believe the bulletin board focus group, webcam focus group, mobile qualitative research and other techniques will draw significant share of the work traditionally sent to facilities. Therefore, the facility business has matured and is not likely to grow significantly.

Are focus group facilities dead? I don’t think so. But I don’t see them growing significantly as a category.  Also, though I sympathize with Mr. Cooper’s desire to get clients out from behind the mirror, the method is helpful–and a well-run, interesting focus group sure beats a night with “The Apprentice.”

ESOMAR Online: Facebook Challenges Online Research Firms

Facebook just gave a 40-minute pitch of its research capabilities to 230 researchers at the ESOMAR Online Research Conference in Berlin this morning.  Though presenter rules clearly prohibit presentations that overly tout capabilities, this presentation clearly showcased Facebook’s research prowess.

Facing skepticism from the research firm attendees, the Facebook representative provided substantive support for their capabilities.  “After weighting” Facebook tracking of Obama approval rating has closely tracked the Gallup and Rasmussen polls (r=.91 for you quant jocks). In fact, Facebook tracked closer to the Gallup and Rasmussen polls than they did to one another.

Facebook is creating a new category of research firms. They have a 500 million person worldwide panel on whom they collect volumes of data….and they can deliver verifiably accurate survey results within days. The times they are a-changin…

Conferences Show DIY Market Research on Everyone’s Radar

Everyone wonders about the impact of DIY (do-it-yourself) market research. However, the proliferation of easy-to-use and inexpensive tools on both the qualitative research and quantitative research sides leave little doubt that DIY research will grow.

A couple of weeks ago at the ESOMAR Congress in Athens, we noticed organizations attempting to better understand the depth and speed of DIY proliferation. This week at the AMA Marketing Research Conference in Atlanta, a session on DIY research was one of the best attended break-out sessions. In addition, when talking to end-user “client” researchers, I notice that they show a high level of interest in easy-to-use solutions that allow them to save their budget and conduct more research.

Currently, most researchers think of DIY as “fast and dirty” Zoomerang surveys or maybe a large community that they can access themselves. However, DIY will grow into many other methods as social media gets easier to access, qualitative research software becomes simpler and mobile qualitative research grows.

Everyone is anxious about this trend. Research firms worry about the amount of business they may lose. End user research teams wonder how much more work will be added to their workload, yet they also see opportunities for broader research capabilities on limited budgets.

So, a significant trend to watch is the spread of DIY research and the support it gains (or loses) among the various industry players who have skin in the game.

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