Joining forces to take on the latest changes in market research

Joining ForcesTime Magazine recently ran an article on corporate mergers and the effects they are having on business.  The outlook was not pretty for most of the M&A activity that has happened in the industrial sector, with business innovation suffering the most due to the focus on short term results.  Even in our own research services sector merger activity has had mixed results, leading some to be skeptical of these shiny new organizations.

However there are some very bright spots in recent M&A, and our combination with MetrixLab is one of the brightest.  Why?  Because unlike so many other combinations in the research space, this was a merging of equals.  Both organizations share the same digital DNA, and the same type of entrepreneurial approach to solutions.  This is the first time in the research industry that two new generation agencies have combined to create an online agency with the global reach previously only available with the largest of the legacy research organizations.  With one agency, brands are able to gain insights about the entire product lifecycle, from new product development, to advertising, to e-commerce and customer satisfaction.  All the distinct consumer touchpoints can be measured digitally, and globally.  This is much more than the short term gains popularized in other industries, this merger is based on sound, forward-looking reasoning of what it will take for products and brands to succeed into the future.  We are going back to our roots – flexible, digital and fast.  The joint organization will bring value to the industry by merging best practices in the EU and US and applying them globally.

From our perspective, we see that research industry changes will continue to accelerate in 2013. For the US market, they will be especially significant at the shopper level.  New economics will put pressure on consumers and this reality will drive marketing strategy for the next several years.  Here is what we see:

  • Shopper Marketing profoundly changes - again
    Shopping channels are blurring as are the communication strategies that go with them.  There are as many as 4 screens, plus the physical communication aspects within the store and all provide a purchase opportunity.  Shoppers are using multiple devices including phones and tablets and using them at varying points in their decision process.  The communications plan must change to seamlessly interact across devices, and at multiple points.  Messages to shoppers must adjust to be relevant in context of the shopper’s state of mind and relevant to the mode of delivery.  The consumer decision journey must be measured with both qualitative as well as quantitative tools.  The transformational shift in power from Manufacturer/Retailer to the shopper will drive efforts to maximize the outputs of shopper research and shopper marketing.  A shopper’s “first moment of truth” can now come digitally or physically.  We are continuing to innovate ways to develop insights that support brand impact in all of these environments.
  • SoLoMo adds Glo
    While there is a continual rise in the number of surveys that are taken on smartphones and tablets, regardless if the survey was optimized for the device, there will be a greater emphasis on mobile devices used as a tool to reach specific demographics, whether this be in formal quantitative surveys, or other methods.  With the ability to use optimized web experiences, as well as mobile applications, clients are asking us to expand our mobile research methods into areas where target audiences may only be reached through mobile devices or social media outlets.  With this turn, the social, local and mobile aspects are turning global as well.  This is a foundationally different way to approach research in that these respondents are not the tech savvy users who are research veterans, but instead are new voices with new shopping habits and represent an entirely new consumer base.  The economic shocks of the past recession and the future cliff are part of the everyday fabric to these new consumers, and their opinions will be increasingly necessary for informed brands.
  • Imperatives for testing across media channels
    The synergies between media environments are making it possible to get a large bang for a small amount of bucks.  However the corollary is also true.  Brands are expanding their reach more widely across media options, however the results are difficult to measure and therefore difficult to duplicate.  As we have refined cross-media testing into a disciplined approach we learned that optimization, which plays a key role in providing the right offer to the shopper, can be used to determine the best mix of different media outlets.  Realtime understanding of how channels work together enables real-time optimization of those media channels.

By using the digital space to have a more holistic view of products & brands, we are able to connect the drive for technical excellence with clients insight needs.  Research has moved from being the purveyors of data to the storytellers of insights.  In the past, macro insights were enough guidance to “move the needle”, but in our increasingly fragmented markets the granular nuances of consumer behavior will be necessary to uncover the truly new opportunities for brands.  The combination of MarketTools and MetrixLab provides us with the ability to innovate our research approach and tell a richly insightful story while delivering exceptional experiences to respondents at the same time.  As the global economies adjust to the latest changes in fiscal reality, we will actively participate in measuring consumer attitudes, and informing creative strategies.

Mobile Surveys – Supporting Global Research

Mobile Research in Emerging MarketsAs we move into a truly global marketplace, major CPG companies are looking to expand their brands’ presence in emerging markets.  The economic growth in countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China continues to outpace growth in developed nations, driving increased demand for global brands. The push to get products on the shelf for the enthusiastic new consumers in these markets is happening at a frenetic pace.

With this push comes the realization that the “infrastructure” for CPG product movement is quite different in emerging markets. Supply chains are different, alternate channels such as kiosks and open-air markets are more important, marketing spend is far less impactful, and tastes differ regionally. Each of these challenges can give local brands a huge edge over global brands.

Concept Testing: Can Norms Help?

Concept Test Comparison In the innovations arena of market research, norms can provide critical insight into determining whether your company’s latest concept is likely to succeed.  But when you compare your concept test scores against a normative database of results from other studies, you need to look beyond just getting a “good” test score (as in, “will my new concept make the top 10-percentile benchmark?”). 

As you evaluate the merits of your idea against the norms for research scores achieved by other concepts, keep in mind the following issues:

Simple Market Research Analytics That Extend Report Value

Awareness to Trial conversion for snack cakes For marketing research projects that collect product awareness and usage data, there are some ratios that are easy to calculate and which lead to deeper insights.  These simple analytics are often called “conversion ratios”.

One such ratio is Awareness-to-Trial, which tells the percentage of trial received from consumers for each point of awareness generated by a product.  “Trial” is the proportion surveyed who have ever used/purchased the product, and this can be gauged against top-of-mind awareness, total unaided awareness, and total awareness levels overall.  Here’s a simple example:

Thoughts on Market Research for 2012

Market Research Predictions 2012 Every year ends with dozens of prediction pieces looking back on the past year or ahead to the next.  Heading into 2012, some of the “Top 10” lists are expanding to 12 to celebrate, with topics ranging from beer to mobile infrastructureWhile there are many year-end lists for the market research world, I’ll offer a single theme instead – Convergence.

Mathematically, convergence may signal the arrival of computational limits or even the irrelevance of sequence order.  However, in market research  “convergence” is more like what happened in the convergence of the telecommunications industry – where several services are available from the “same pipe”.  Here are some examples of areas in market research where we might see convergence in the year ahead:

Social Media Predicts 250 of the Next 10 Trends

Professor Xavier With the year’s end coming, pundits are looking to the social media sphere to come up with their predictions for the newest trends for 2012.  But when it comes to looking for practical direction from the wild and wooly world of social media, I’d advise a little caution. 

Imagine asking a person on the street for directions to a nearby restaurant.  You follow those directions, but you can’t find the restaurant.  You backtrack your route to find the person who gave you the faulty information.  “Hey, mister,” you say.  “Your directions were useless!”  The stranger answers, “But you never asked me if I knew where the restaurant was!”  Social media can seem like it’s populated by people who are more than happy to give you directions even though they have no idea where the restaurant is.

What Will It Take to Move Market Research Forward?

Progress in Market Research There have been many calls of late for Marketing Research to become more progressive (for example, see the recent blog post from Jeffrey Henning taking off on Coca-Cola’s Stan Sthanunathan’s view that “the industry must change”).  Technology adoption and creating meaningful analysis of social media were hot topics at The Market Research Event (TMRE) held last month, and both the client and supplier sides are experimenting with new trends. 

But while it’s true that the industry needs to move quickly to adopt technologies, blend methodologies, and broaden the reach of research, there is precious little information on how to make these changes.  As a supplier, we at MarketTools have seen that there are a couple of key ingredients in the partnership with clients that make innovative projects worthwhile:

Market Research ROI Vs. Pay for Performance

This is a follow-up to a previous post about Measuring the ROI of Market Research.

ROI on Market Research A recent Greenbook blog post by Edward Appleton, exploring the question “Should Research Agencies be Paid for the Value of Their Insights?”, got me thinking again about the ROI on MR Conference organized by Bob Lederer last summer.  We had extensive discussions about the fact that the hard part of calculating the ROI (Return on Investment) for market research is the “R”, which is usually measured in dollars generated. 

Because market research projects endure a long and complex process from initial definition to final execution, the specific value of the output can be difficult to determine.  That value is also dependent on how companies use their research data to develop actionable plans that directly impact business results.

Shopper Insights from the Center Aisle - and Beyond

Shopper insights from the Supermarket Aisle What do furniture polish, toothpaste, books, crackers and spaghetti sauce all have in common?  They are all placed in the center aisles of the grocery store.  They also face a lot of competition for consumer attention (and dollars) – so each brand in these product categories is trying to connect with shoppers in ways that will resonate, and understand their path to purchase.

Today’s sales channels include grocery chains, specialty stores and online outlets, so it’s imperative to understand the entire decision process that consumers go through in order to deliver great products with great experiences.  There was a time when most brands clearly knew who the competition was, and what their competitors were capable of, in terms of products and programs.  Take spaghetti sauce as an example.  Ragú had the market fairly well-cornered as a familiar, reliable name.  Then came specialized brands like Newman’s Own, founded by Paul Newman, with a new “boutique” paradigm.  Now, micro-producers like Tortellini Originali can become major competitors in highly defined markets. 

Why Does Anyone Go to a Market Research Conference?

TMRE The upcoming TMRE (The Market Research Event 2011) is taking place in Orlando November 7th through 9th, and I am looking forward to attending as part of the MarketTools market research team.  I have to admit that prior to last year’s conference in San Diego, I didn’t put a lot of consideration into participating in this kind of event.  I had spent over 30 years on the client side and, other than when I was a speaker, conferences were rarely on my radar.  And with budget cutbacks hitting market research organizations from all sides in recent years, travel to an event often seemed like an extravagance anyway.

So, it was an eye-opener for me that during the course of last year’s TMRE conference, I found myself drawn into the event for a number of reasons:

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Blog Honors

MarketTools Blog Team

Alan Cutler
VP, Client Development, Market Research

Mark Glassberg
Regional Vice President, Market Research

Hank Khost
Senior Research Manager, Market Research

Laura Newton
Senior Manager, Marketing Communications / Blog Editor

Jay Pluhar
Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Market Research

Larry Praml
Director, All Channel Tracker, Market Research

Kathleen Relias
VP, Client Development, Market Research

Russ Rubin
SVP, Client Services, Market Research

April Turner
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Market Research