Trends

Using Technology for Virtual Shop-Alongs

I am honored to have co-authored an article with Jessica Ritzo of Insights in Marketing that appears in the July issue of Quirk’s Marketing Research magazine.  I’m not sure how I was listed first as author as Jessica did most of the heavy lifting.  The article is titled, “Be There Now.  Leveraging mobile and online qualitative to get inside shopper’s heads.”

Quirks

Here is a quick abstract of the article and a link where you can read it in full.

Consumers’ use of technology and researchers’ understanding of how to use that technology have opened new frontiers for all types of research, including shopper research.  When planned and executed carefully, the technology boom can eliminate the need for a researcher to be physically present with the shopper for some shopper research while gathering rich, in-the-moment data.  The article outlined a three-phase methodology that includes a text-based online discussion platform  combined with a mobile in-store phase and ends with an online discussion follow-up.

  1. Phase 1 — Pre-Shopping Discussion.  Questions help the researcher understand pre-shopping opinions, expectations and ideas.  Respondents answer questions individually or as a group at the researcher’s discretion.  This format also gives the researcher and opportunity to set the stage and expectations for Phase 2.
  2. Phase 2 — In-Store Mobile Methodology — Researchers give shoppers a streamlined list of tasks to accomplish while shopping.  Shoppers often take pictures and add commentary related to their preferences, observations and reactions.  Data can be rich with visuals accompanied by shopper insights.
  3. Phase 3 — Post-Shopping Engagement — Using a discussion platform, the researcher has the opportunity to probe issues related to the shopping data collected during Phase 2.  As with Phase 1, these discussions can be private, one-on-one discussions, or be a discussion among groups of shoppers.  Because the respondent provides thoughtful, post-shopping feedback on actual shopping behavior, the learning from this phase can be richly insightful.

The article concluded with a case study from the beverage industry to highlight the methods and a use case.  To access the entire article click here.

This entire project can be conducted on the20|20 QualBoard(R) Discussion Platform utilizing its online discussion and mobile capabilities.

Topline Report from ESOMAR 3D Conference

The ESOMAR 3D Conference was held in Boston this week.  20|20 CIO Isaac Rogers attended and provided some key take-aways.  Here is his post-conference report.

Major themes were Big Data, the Problem with Researchers, and the Reality of Mobile.

Big Data:

1.  Still a lot of debate on exactly what this term means for the industry; both in a literal sense and what its long term impact on research will be.  ATT mobile did a case study using mostly CRM data sources mixed with survey responses and even qual.  Good example of how to use big data as a “third step” in the process; (1) Qual to uncover insights; (2) Quant to verify them and size them; (3) Big Data to double-check your hypothesis.

2.  Even in the ATT example, I didn’t see anyone present a direct way to use Big Data to generate insight independently.  But it’s clear researchers are seeking a way to turn Big Data into a new resource for insight and innovation.  How best to apply these principles is still a mystery to most.

3.  By the end of the first day, people were groaning about the fact that everyone’s talking about big data, few people are really doing it.  In fact, when you really get down to it— outside of social media resources, most market researchers don’t seem to even know where to find big data.  I was part of a lively discussion about the most obvious source we can tap— point of sale data.  But weren’t we ALREADY using POS data?  So what’s “new” about this whole Big Data idea?  Most people are still scratching their heads (outside of seeing social media as a source).

Problem with “Researchers”

1.  Over and over we heard about how MR agencies have to change.  The clients claim to be “done” with 600 page research reports nobody reads.  They want a strategic partner, delivering real advice and being an expert on the voice of their customers.  But, when you start to ask about how MR firms can build a business around that… the room gets quiet.  Nobody wants to pay a research to be another voice at the table— they pay them to do research.  So MR firms are ill suited for the task today, and it’s not clear that Clients will begin to pony up the $$$ required to pull in a real strategic partner.  So the MR firms hear what clients are saying (more strategic partnerships), but they only win business today by delivering traditional research results.  Somebody has to be willing to change the paradigm.

2.  MR firms agree they’re poorly staffed for tomorrow.  Lots of discussion about how they will need to hire “techies, IT people, and data wizards” to be relevant in the future.  They don’t have those people on staff now, and don’t even know how to begin the transition.

3.  Clients want “storytellers” who craft the story about their consumers.  I heard that over and over the last two days.  They’re tired of boring research and want Agencies to deliver insight they can sink their teeth in to.

Reality of Mobile

1.  Mobile is still a hot property, but the flames have tempered somewhat.  Now that researchers are starting to actually use mobile, they see it’s not the “holy grail” that makes all other methods obsolete.  Great presentation from Vision Critical on some real-world testing they’ve done with AOL.  They found that participants tend to dislike doing mobile surveys (Vision Critical expects that mobile cooperation will only get worse as the novelty wears off); that 80+ percent will choose to do surveys from a PC vs mobile when given a chance; and that it take participants 50% longer to complete online surveys from phones.  They feel the data is valid coming from mobile, and that it correlates nearly perfectly with traditional data (so no bias, etc), but that it’s more difficult to do surveys from mobiles and that the “halo effect” of neat mobile surveys will die off and participants will actually engage in mobile surveys less.

2.  QR codes came up a few times.  Pretty much dismissed as novelties.  Consumers don’t get them.  There’s not standards.  Funny— 2 years ago everyone thought QR codes were the future, and I remember one firm printing their business card ONLY as a QR code… woops!

“April Fools” Joke Becomes Technology Breakthrough

“They said it couldn’t be done… that there was no way to get a software platform to translate from one language to many others on the fly, but the technology team at 20|20 has done it. They’ve cracked the code and have added an amazing new feature to our QualBoard platform.”

This was the opening line to a now infamous “April Fools” email sent out by 20|20 on April 1, 2010.  At that time, we thought the idea of instant translation so far-fetched that no one would really take it seriously.  That was then…this is now.

Today, 20|20 announced its newest innovation in online qual research, QualTranslate.  What does it do?  It translates QualBoard posts from one language to another “on the fly.”  Today’s announcement echoes the joke from 2010, “the technology team at 20|20 has done it.  They’ve cracked the code and have added an amazing new feature to our QualBoard platform.”  Now, its true.  For us, the irony is stunning.  This is truly a Back to the Future moment.

So, what is the breakthrough?  QualTranslate uses a sophisticated language algorithm to translate one language into another within 60 seconds of it being posted to QualBoard.  In the asynchronous QualBoard environment, this is virtually instantaneous.  This machine translation will be hugely helpful for clients or project managers interfacing with multi-national, multi-language projects.  Now, from anywhere in the world, they can keep up follow the discussion in real time waiting for the post-project translation to be completed.

The virtually instant translation was a breakthrough, but the 20|20 team did not stop there.  They realized that machine translation is great for following a discussion, but is not best for analyzing it.  So, they added an on-the-fly native-speaker translation capability as well.  When this feature is activated, each post is sent directly to a native speaker for translation.  When completed, that speaker sends the translation back to QualBoard. The system immediately inserts the translation into QualBoard for viewers.  The entire process usually happens within 3-6 hours of the original post.  On a multi-day QualBoard, a viewer is never too far behind the discussion to draw insights and make course corrections.  Also, no more waiting days or weeks for translated transcripts.  The entire transcript will be translated within a few hours of the final post.

Speed is crucial in today’s business environment.  Waiting for transcript translations often slows down multi-national projects by weeks.  No more.  Also, project directors often cannot monitor research in many countries because they cannot simply follow the discussion.  When things go wrong, no one knows often until the project is over and its too late.  That problem is now solved.

We are constantly amazed at how fast technology advances.  What seemed impossible just three years ago, is reality today.  I could not be more proud of the 20|20 Tech team.

 

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 [email protected]  You can also download a product description here.

QRCA Panel Speaks Out on Social Media Recruiting

“Social Media.”  Everyone is talking about it.  Everyone wants to use it.  Everyone is trying to figure out how.

At the QRCA Conference in Montreal, I recently participated on a panel discussion titled, “Social Media Recruiting: Way of the Future.”  The goal was to discuss how social media is currently being used to recruit face-to-face and online qualitative.  The panel was organized by the QRCA Field Committee and led by Michelle Finzel of Maryland Marketing Source.

Some of my take-aways related to social media sites were:

  • Most “social media” recruiting started with Craigslist.  Craigslist still has a bad reputation though its discussion area is really no different than other social media sites.
  • Linkedin seems to have promise for B-B recruiting, but so far few have found methods that work.
  • Facebook is the primary social media site used for qual recruiting.  Facebook is being used in two ways.
  1. Many firms have their own Facebook pages that they use to troll for participants who have previously “Liked” them.
  2. Firms are getting adept, through trial and error, at paid advertising for particular respondents on Facebook

Social media recruiting seems to work best with consumer recruits.  Facebook and others are able to target ads at specific consumer demographics or other measures they can access.  Such targeting can make certain difficult-to-recruit consumer groups much easier.  However, if such criteria is not available, difficult recruits can be extremely expensive since the recruiter must pay/click for each respondent who clicks through to the screener.  For low incidence studies, this can be cost prohibitive and, therefore, not helpful.

The panel discussed the ethics of client disclosure.  Do we need to disclose to clients that the recruits came from social media sites?  Generally, the panel agreed that, in most cases, such disclosure was not necessary.  The burden is on the recruiter to ensure that the participant qualifies in every way regardless of the respondent source.  If the recruiter is doing his/her job correctly, the source is largely irrelevant.

Bottom Line:  Social media recruiting can help with certain recruiting problems.  However, the panel agreed that traditional recruiting rescreening and verification steps still must be taken.  Social media recruiting is a way to broaden the recruiting reach but it does not relieve the recruiter of the responsibility to thoroughly screen and verify their respondents.

Social media recruiting is likely here to stay.  However, it is not stand-alone.  It still requires some form of traditional recruiting process to ensure that ethe right respondents fit the right project.

QRCA Members can go to the QRCA Website to get a copy of the presentation.  I was honored to serve on the panel with Ben Smithee of Spych Research and Jeff Henn of Baltimore Research.

Using Mobile with In-Person Qual

Here at 20|20, we are seeing more and more projects that utilize technology in tandem with in-person research.  The trend has accelerated recently with the introduction of LifeNotes mobile journaling tool.

LifeNotes gives respondents the ability to respond to moderator requests by posting a picture, video and/or comment to their personal “wall.”  The moderator can monitor the respondent’s “wall” to peek into the respondent’s life.  Now, we see researchers using LifeNotes to replace the old paper journals we once asked respondents to keep prior to a focus group.

Four advantages that such mobile “homework” has over paper journals are:

  • More accurate information than journaling. Since respondents record activities and opinions “in-the-moment” the results are more accurate than methods that rely on memory.
  • More interesting information than journaling. A picture is worth 1000 words.
  • More timely than journaling. No more paper journals completed in the facility parking lot just before the group starts.
  • More efficient for the moderator. Since LifeNotes™ posts are available immediately, the moderator can analyze them prior to the group. This allows the moderator to adjust the discussion guide accordingly and leaves more group time for discussion.

Because of the mobile phone and other technologies, we researchers are not just changing, we are getting better.

“7 Revolutions” by 2030

2030 will usher in a much more interdependent, less secure world dominated by Asian economies.

This is the “sound-bite” conclusion I draw from an article titled, “7 Revolutions Ahead” that appeared in the Farm Journal’s March issue. The article is summarized from a presentation made by Johanna Nesseth Tuttle, VP of Strategic Planning for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Here are the “7 Revolutions.”

  1. Population growth and shift. The developing world will grow with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Plus, continued urbanization worldwide.
  2. Resource Management. Food and water will become more scarce and unevenly distributed. We are headed toward a “global water crisis.”
  3. Technology. 6 BILLION mobile phones in 2012. Technology advances are driving progress at an ever-accelerating rate.
  4. Information. Through the Internet and mobile devices, virtually any information is available virtually anywhere. Information changes lives, perspectives and economies.
  5. Economic shifts. Asia is emerging as the world’s economic force as their economies grow and the “developed world” accumulates ever-greater debt burdens.
  6. Security. The world becomes less secure as threats move from conventional wars to terrorism, Internet hackers, diseases and even individuals.
  7. Governance. As the world is more interdependent and complex, governments have to understand how to govern in an interdependent world of free information flow.

As a company that innovates, we think about these issues.  The implications for market research are huge.  These “7 Revolutions” explain a lot about our own “Revolution” in research and in the evolutions yet to come.  There are many implications.  Here are 3:

  1. Online research and mobile research will become ever more prevalent.
  2. The emergence of the consuming class in Asia will drive significant market research.
  3. Data security will only grow in importance.

The next few years are going to be fun.  Enjoy the ride!

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