Will We Ever Meet In Person Again? (A Review Of Virtual Events)

Last week, I attended the AMA virtual event, “Unveiling Marketing Research’s Future Online”. I was very excited to see just what this virtual event would be all about. Mentally, I was trying to marry the idea of a Webinar with the experience of a live event and was left wondering what the union would look like. On Wednesday, I logged in and was prepared for technical difficulties but, surprisingly, I connected without a single hitch! I immediately began to explore, trying to acclimate myself to my virtual surroundings. The environment was easy to understand and navigate. Areas were clearly marked so you knew exactly what was going on where and when. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. Overall, I found a great balance between content and exhibitors and enjoyed the ability to listen to a session while also perusing the materials in the exhibition hall — yes, I admit, I was event-multitasking!

The topic of the future of market research (MR) is obviously a big draw, and sessions like those on DIY research and social media research in the B2B sphere could create quite a lot of chatter. But I think the virtual nature of the event itself is a topic to be discussed. Is this the future of events in general? Will networking over evening cocktails be a thing of the past? Will we simply know each other by our avatars? Here’s my take (the good and the bad). For me, virtual events:

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The Data Digest: The Social Technographics Profile Of Facebook And MySpace Users (US)

Forrester's Social Technographics® looks at how consumers approach social technologies — not just the adoption of individual technologies. We group consumers into seven different categories of participation — and participation at one level may or may not overlap with participation at other levels. We use the metaphor of a ladder to show this, with the rungs at the higher end of the ladder indicating a higher level of participation. You can find more background on Social Technographics and the concept behind it at our Groundswell blog.

Overall, engagement with social activities has increased significantly in the past few years. By the end of 2009, almost three-quarters of US online adults were participating in one way or another with social media. But how do users of Facebook and MySpace compare to each other when looking at how active they are? The following graphic shows that MySpace users are far more likely to be “Creators” — the group that actually creates its own fresh content.

We've also asked consumers in which categories they like to express themselves online. The behaviors of Facebook and MySpace consumers are quite comparable for most categories, but MySpace users score much higher on expressing themselves on music, video, or gaming online - true to their 'Creator' profile.

Want to understand your target consumers' social behaviors? Have a play around with our online Social Technographics® Profiling tool.

Online research: Who are we talking about here?

There has been a lot of discussion and chatter around social market research (SMR) lately, fueled in part bythe social sessions at the MRA conference a couple of weeks ago. We’ve had social on our radar here at Forrester for awhile and my colleague Tamara Barber has done a great job looking at social market research and its opportunities and challenges. Some of the issues around social MR are hot topics for online research in general, representivity being one of the key ones. Just who are we gathering data on? Whether we’re talking about new social methods or tried and true online panels, the question is still relevant.

The topic of representivity in online panels surfaced a few years ago as MR professionals began to examine and question the data coming back from online surveys. Vendors began to address client concerns through a variety of approaches like MarketTools' TrueSampleand Peanut Labs’ Optimus initiatives. Some clients seemed appeased by the measures, but the debate has continued to rage within the MR industry -- and rightfully so.

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The Data Digest: What Makes Leisure Travelers Feel Valued?

The recent recession has changed consumers' mindsets. They are more careful and prudent about how they spend their money on everything, including travel. But can price drive loyalty? What makes consumers feel valued? Forrester's Technographics® research shows that price and transparency of costs are indeed very important elements for travel companies to make their clients feel special, but these are followed by support statements like “Make me confident that any arising issues will be fixed.”

To increase loyalty and make consumers feel valued, travel companies should see beyond deals and extend their focus to include support. In a recent report on this topic 'Why Travel eBusiness Misses The Mark By Only Emphasizing Price' my colleague Henry Harteveldt gives an example of how a travel seller can use the recent Icelandic volcanic eruption to show affected customers they care, by offering them a special deal when they log into their account.

As Henry says, travel sellers must remember that they don't own the traveler; they earn the opportunity to serve the traveler from one purchase to the next. Fail and the traveler will consider your competitor — and price will likely provide the motivation to switch.

Good Forecasts Deliver More Than Just Numbers

“What market research is about is adding value to the business.” This line got me a job once. It’s a perspective easily lost in the myriad complications of conducting market research but a value researchers must hold dear. The context in which I obtained that job was customer satisfaction research. I was asked how I might handle the presentation of survey results in a sensitive situation where the audience would be hostile about the results. My response was that companies don’t survey clients because they want a page full of numbers. Companies survey clients because they want to learn how to serve them better — with the end result being increased sales. My presentation wouldn’t be about customer satisfaction scores; it would be about increasing sales.

 This is also a central theme for ForecastView. We have to remember, at the end of the day, that research and researchers are investments that companies make with shareholder money and that the end goal is a positive return on those investments. This applies to forecasts, as well. But this isn’t always easy because forecasts don’t always show steeply upward-sloping curves for all of the products our clients make.

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Marketing To Latin Americans Is A Long-Term Commitment

I am excited to announce that my first report that draws from our Latin American Technographics® data — entitled Understanding Latin American Online Consumers— is now available. (For Forrester clients who do not subscribe to our Latin American Technographics data, there is a shorter version of the report that you can access here.) I hope that our readers find a lot of valuable takeaways in this report. One aspect I want to highlight here is that understanding the Latin American market requires a long-term commitment.

Although the Internet has been around for almost two decades, Latin American’s active presence in the online world is relatively new. Our data shows that 58% of metropolitan Brazilians and 53% of metropolitan Mexicans are online at least monthly or more. While these may sound like exciting numbers for developing markets, two caveats stand out to me: 1) non-metropolitan populations will have much lower penetration, and 2) consumers in these metropolitan markets are just starting to familiarize themselves with the Internet — as evidenced by their generally lower Internet activity compared with other regions we cover. However, certain trends, such as the use of social media, suggest ways in which companies can connect with certain Latin American consumers online.

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The Data Digest: Interest In Mobile Content In APAC

Consumers in Asia Pacific are the most active mobile phone users globally, but does this usage translate into spending money on mobile services?  Our Technographics® data shows that South Korean mobile phone owners lead in buying content or services for mobile phones. Each country in the Asia Pacific region has its specific mobile content preferences. Ring tones and ringback tones are the most popular service, followed by games and music.

Mobile content buyers are mostly young technology optimists with higher incomes. There are, however, a few interesting exceptions in different countries. One-third of South Korean buyers fall into the 30-to-39 age bracket; more than half of Indian mobile consumers are highly entertainment-oriented; and about 40% of Chinese spenders are highly career-driven.

If you're interested in Forrester's opinion on how this translates to the US, you can listen to the following podcast 'Will consumers ever pay for content again?' by James McQuivey.

Are Cell Phones The Key To Reaching Latin American Consumers?

I am back from beautiful Cartagena, Colombia where the ESOMAR Latin American 2010 conference was held. In addition, last week, I met with media and advertising professionals focusing on the Latin American market in Miami at the annual Portada Panregional Advertising and Media Summit. At both conferences, a consistent theme resonated throughout all the talks — the Internet is a powerful vehicle for Latin American consumers to connect with peers and even companies; however, the digital divide still persists in Latin America.

We find that, on average, 56% of metropolitan consumers in Brazil and Mexico are not online. Therefore, companies are still unable to reach a significant number of consumers through social media tools. Does that mean that if you have identified that the majority of your target audience is not connected that you are on the sidelines and unable to harness the “power” of social media? I think the answer is no.

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The Data Digest: How Choosing A Financial Company Differs By Age

What matters to financial buyers depends on who they are and what they are buying. Our Technographics data shows that European customers with different profiles — for example, different sociodemographic or attitudinal profiles — care about different things when selecting financial services firms.

Influencing factors by age

The report 'Why Europeans Choose Financial Firms' also shows that the influence of word of mouth on a customer's decision to select a financial services firm declines sharply with age. A striking 37% of customers ages 16 to 24 and 18% of customers ages 25 to 34 were influenced by their friends' or family's recommendations. On the other hand, nearly half of European financial buyers ages 65 or older chose a company for their most recent financial purchase partly because they already had a product or account there.