I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the time of year and the fact that my upcoming holiday makes me a bit introspective. Maybe it’s the weather, as it’s been a horrendous summer so far in the Netherlands. Or maybe it’s just me, being inundated with tweets, blog post, articles, white papers, vendor briefings, etc., about market research. Whatever the reason, the outcome is the same: I’m currently struggling a bit with the pervasive authoritative voice in the industry. Don’t get me wrong; I’m well aware that I’m as guilty as everyone else. But we all seem so certain about what’s going on in research, what needs to happen, what’s wrong, and what’s right; about who’s in and who’s out. I feel we’re losing an important skill that distinguishes good market researchers from great ones: the ability to doubt.
With market research, there is no absolute truth. Research is about interpretation of results, placing numbers into context, finding the story behind the numbers. Any data set can have multiple stories; it’s the market researcher who uncovers and shares the story that he or she believes to be most powerful for the business. In the end, however, it’s just one perception of the truth. Great researchers know this, and they always challenge themselves, trying to pick holes in their story, finding examples that prove the opposite. The problem with today’s business environment is that it doesn’t leave much room for doubt or uncertainty. In fact, doubt and uncertainty are seen as weaknesses. So, what do we do? We cover up and only show our best side.
For the past decade, the number of customers using the Web to manage their bank accounts and policies and to research and buy financial products has grown steadily. For many customers, the Web has already replaced bank branches, financial advisors, and insurance agents as the heart of their relationship with their financial providers. For example, in the Netherlands and Sweden, less than one in 10 consumers go into a branch on a monthly basis — they do most of their banking activities online or, increasingly, on mobile phones..
But this doesn’t mean that these consumers don’t need support. Forrester’s European Technographics® Financial Services Online Survey, Q4 2011 shows that although uptake of money management tools is still low in Europe, already one-third of online Europeans are interested in tools that will give them more insight into their spending.
Even with the increased use of instant messaging, SMS remains the workhorse of mobile — with a 14% increase in the number of SMS messages sent in 2011 compared with 2010. More than 2 trillion SMS messages were sent in the US in 2011, which equates to more than 6 billion SMS messages sent per day. Text messaging users send or receive an average of 35 messages per day. Although by 2017 SMS will dominate mobile content spend less than it does today, it will still remain significant.
Talking to someone you have nothing in common with isn’t fun, and this is even more true when you are online. This is something you need to take to heart when you’re thinking of launching a community. Apart from coming up with a content plan, you need to take the time to clarify your objectives and participant pool.
The objectives of the community (i.e., what you want to learn from your community) and your participants (e.g., the people who will help you accomplish your objectives) are what we market research online community (MROC) experts call the “social glue” — they bond your community together to ensure it has a proper foundation to build upon.
The stronger the social glue, the better engagement you will have. It’s easy to start adding to your objectives and demographic requirements for participants, but it’s better to hold back. Sticking to one point of focus will get you the most in-depth and detailed results. A recent blog post by iModerate highlights this point for research objectives: “We tell many of our clients from the outset that they can either snorkel (cover more range, but stay shallow) or scuba dive (cover less, but go much deeper). If they want the richness that comes from thorough exploration, they need to follow our lead and we as researchers need to stay focused and diligent.” This also applies to the participants you select. Essentially, the broader the pool you have, the less in-depth your results will be because you have such a diverse group that you only can cover a wide variety of objectives superficially.
Does your brand include Seniors (those ages 65+) in its digital marketing strategy? It should. Here’s why. Forrester recently published a demographic overview of Digital Seniors, and the findings are suggestive: 60% of US Seniors are online — that’s more than 20 million online Seniors in the US.
How are US Seniors using the Internet and technology? While they trail behind younger generations when it comes to device ownership and online usage, they integrate technology into their lives in ways that are relevant for them. For example, they use it as a way to connect with family and friends — 46% of US online Seniors send and receive photos by email, and just under half have a Facebook account.
Seniors aren’t as active on the Web and are less likely to own a smartphone or tablet as younger generations, so many campaign managers don't see them as an obvious target for digital campaigns. But they do have a number of advantages compared with younger consumers, including 1) their size — there are about 21 million online Seniors in the US; 2) their income — they have far more money to spend than 18- to 24-year-olds; and 3) their brand attitudes — they are more brand-loyal, with 63% of online Seniors agreeing that when they find a brand they like, they stick to it, compared with 53% of all US online adults.