Two weeks ago, I spoke at the Qual360 conference in Atlanta, hosted by the Merlien Institute. If you follow this blog, you’ll know that I typically fold qualitative insight into a diverse research mix, so I went to the conference with a broad view of market research methodologies. But after connecting with qualitative researchers, marketers, academics, and thought leaders from around the globe, I left Qual360 with a renewed appreciation for the fundamental importance of qualitative insight, its deep impact on key business decisions, and its differentiated value in today’s data-driven culture. Here are a few of my takeaways from Qual360:
In a world where everything is getting faster, qualitative research must go slower. As Anita Watkins from TNS and Emily Williams of Newell Rubbermaid put it, qualitative research is not about testing, it is about illuminating context and understanding evolving beliefs. That means qualitative insight can’t be commoditized and sold with the promise of fast, bite-size deliveries. The true value of qualitative insight lies not in the verbatim data but in the accurate analysis of those words in the context of social, environmental, psychological, and emotional depth.
Around this time of year, one can’t help but become reflective. I know I’m not alone when I say that, on the one hand, this year somehow shot past faster than the last one, but on the other hand, it was jam-packed with new discoveries, fresh ideas, and memorable experiences. In particular, this has been a milestone year for the data insights innovation team here at Forrester, as we officially launched our Technographics 360 research approach, which synthesizes mobile behavioral, social listening, online qualitative, and survey data. As I think back on my experiences with the Technographics 360 initiative inside Forrester, paired with my industry learnings outside Forrester, a few key lessons come to mind that I will take into the new year:
1. Synthesis is “in.” In fact, I learned so much about this topic, I wrote a full blog post dedicated to it! In essence, we now live in a world where the truest insight is a product of synthesis – building knowledge up – rather than of analysis – breaking ideas down. I recently attended SSI’s seminar featuring Simon Chadwick, who proposed that data synthesis is “the next big thing” in insight skills. I agree: With so many diverse data sources at our fingertips that offer unique perspectives on consumers’ lives, researchers need to put the puzzle pieces together to construct a comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior.
As researchers, we can’t underestimate the power of perspective. When the Eiffel Tower was erected 125 years ago, it became the tallest manmade structure in the world and, more importantly, allowed visitors to look down over Paris for the first time; perhaps it was the first real instance of a “birds-eye view.” At the same time, artists like Picasso and Stein were pushing the limits of perspective by portraying every angle of 3-dimensional concepts in one painting or poem. In many ways, the research world today is akin to this historical period of creativity. With more data at our fingertips than ever before, we are able to observe consumer behavior from new vantage points and produce a fresh understanding of customer trends by analyzing multiple angles at the same time.
Here on the data insights innovation team at Forrester, we’ve called our multiperspective research approach Technographics 360. Officially launched this year, Technographics 360 blends Consumer Technographics® survey output, ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community insight, social listening data, and passive mobile behavioral tracking to synthesize a 360-degree view of consumer behavior. Instead of analyzing research questions by breaking them down, we can synthesize comprehensive solutions by building our knowledge up.
It's been more than a year since Forrester published its original Facebook factor report, which quantified the impact of a Facebook fan on brand interactions for US online adults, and social media has only become a bigger part of consumers’ online experience. Social media is engrained in the lives of US consumers, and we found this to also be true for US youth. Our latest report, “The Facebook Factor: US Online Youth” answers the question, “How much more likely are youth Facebook fans to purchase, consider, and recommend brands than non-fans?” We also analyzed youth engagement with brands on other social networking sites like Twitter and Google+. As in the original report, we used logistic regression modeling to uncover the effect of Facebook fans or Twitter followers on brands for the youth market.
In the report, we analyzed the “Facebook factor” for four brands that are popular with youth: Converse, Disney, iTunes, and Starbucks. We found that US online youth who engage with these brands on social media are much more likely to have made a purchase from, consider, and recommend each of these brands than non-engagers.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Insight Innovation Exchange conference in Philadelphia. There were many vendors that offered solutions to many common challenges that market researchers face. One common theme I noticed was the challenge for market researchers to make sense of big data. Yes, big data has become something of a buzzword, but consumers are creating a lot more data and market researchers can thrive if they embrace it.
For some time now, Forrester has been writing about the importance of incorporating behavioral tracking insights to marketer researchers’ research mix. Don’t get me wrong — survey research is and will continue to be incredibly important for companies to gain insights on consumers. A survey can capture a variety of consumer behaviors, sentiments, and attitudes. In one survey, marketers can assess their market share and find out the profile of their customers and what they want. And survey research can help provide insight into the “why” — the reasoning behind the choices that consumers make — something that is not possible with behavioral data. However, survey research cannot detail granular activities due to respondent recall. Enter big data, and with it many possibilities for behavioral tracking. Yes, this is nothing new for customer intelligence professionals, who analyze customer transactions, online web tracking, and other consumer behaviors. But by combining survey and behavioral data, marketers get the best of both worlds: They get consumer profiles and psychographics, brand health metrics, and a detailed record of the actions that those consumers actually do.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Future of Consumer Intelligence conference in San Francisco. This week, when I reflect back on the conference topics and energy, I realize how fitting San Francisco was as the location of the event: Much like the essence of the city itself, the conference speakers and attendees showed ingenuity and optimism around the challenges and opportunities that the market research industry faces. I also thought about the same conference that I attended last May (IIR Market Research Technology Event 2012) and the key themes that I gathered and blogged about: Big data is here, integrating survey and behavioral data is powerful, and behavioral economics has huge implications for market research. For me, the big difference between last year’s conference and this year’s is this: A year ago, market insight professionals were sizing up their challenges with the future of market research. This year, they are taking the bull by the horns and embracing both the challenges and opportunities that technology in market research presents. Here are the main themes I gathered from the event:
If you read my blog regularly, it should come as no surprise that I am an ardent fan of using mobile devices — whether mobile phones or tablets — for market research purposes. I have discussed how consumers are already forcing our hand into the world of mobile and that market insights professionals are not conducting mobile market research but instead are conducting market research in a mobile world.
Given this, I was both delighted and dismayed when attending this year’s ARF Re:think 2013 conference. Why was I delighted? There was a marked increase in the number of talks that focused on the role mobile plays — whether as a research technique or how it plays a significant role in consumers’ lives. Of just the talks I attended, which were a lot, almost 60% of them discussed the role of mobile. And a lot of these “mobile” talks were in the main track session. Talking with colleagues who attended last year, it’s clear that mobile has definitely moved front of mind compared with ARF Re:think 2012.
But I was dismayed that it was still just talk, talk, talk. At the conference, I was surrounded by tablets and smartphones, and people were using them all the time. And while we’re living this mobile life, we’re listening to speeches telling us how we need to start thinking about the role of mobile. Dare I say that we need to do a bit more than just thinking at this point in the game? We clearly have to get our act together soon.
Late last year, Forrester reviewed and ranked the secure websites of the 12 largest retail banks in the US and Canada. The full reports can be found here (US) and here (Canada). Overall, banks' secure websites earned an average score of 70 points (out of 100), demonstrating a level of quality that meets customers expectations but also leaves room for improvements. Here are some of the highlights:
Citi moves to the top of the US rankings with a website overhaul. In July 2011, Citi launched its first tablet banking app. Based in part on insights gleaned from that process, the bank rolled out a newly redesigned secure website, followed by additional digital features and functionality for online bankers, mobile bankers, and tablet bankers. As a result, Citi moved from second-to-last in our ranking to the top spot this year.
RBC pulls off a historic sixth-straight win among Canadian banks' secure sites. For a record sixth year, RBC earned the top spot in our Canadian rankings. Two factors drive RBC’s digital banking success: First, the bank's secure website offers a wide array of secure site features, including eBills, tax management tools, and more; second, the bank continues to innovate, this year adding customizable money management dashboards and new mobile features such as foreign exchange and mortgage payment calculators on its iPhone app.
I am delighted to announce that our annual report on The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2012, US is now available. This report is a graphical analysis of a range of topics about consumers and technology and serves as a benchmark for understanding how consumers have changed over the years. For those of you who aren't familiar with our benchmark report, it's based on Forrester's annual Technographics® online benchmark survey that we've been fielding since 1998 and for which we interview close to 60,000 US online adults. The report covers a wide range of topics, such as online activities, device ownership — including penetration data and forecasts for smartphones and tablets — media consumption, retail, social media, and a deep dive on mobile.
We analyze our findings through a generational lens, including Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and the Golden Generation. Age is a key factor behind consumers’ usage of and attitudes toward technology. However, one finding spans the generations: Consumers of all ages embrace the opportunity to find information and connect with people and brands wherever they are. And while online penetration in the US remains the same as a year ago — at 79% of all adults — the depth of Internet usage has grown; more consumers go online on a daily basis and they connect on more devices. The graphic below illustrates our point: US smartphone owners use their device almost everywhere. They aren’t just connecting at home but wherever they go; in fact, they’re more likely to access the Internet on their phone in a store than in their own kitchen.
At Forrester, we believe that 2012 is an inflection point for mobile market research. Specifically, 2012 will be considered the “big bang” for a new era in market research — one in which mobile devices will become a critical vehicle to connect, engage, and subsequently understand the consumer. As such, we have recently published two reports that address this very important emerging methodology for Market Insights (MI) Professionals.
The first report, entitled “The Mobile Market Research Landscape 2012,” explains why mobile research will become the heart of market research. Although only a fraction of MI Professionals are currently leveraging mobile, the report reviews the reasons why mobile is here to stay and the advantages of leveraging this approach — such as the ability to capture real-time insights, gain access to hard-to-reach sample, or get more personal with respondents. In addition, given the opportunities to collect different types of data via mobile phones, we provide an overview of the quantitative, qualitative, and behavioral approaches currently available. And, no overview report is complete without a discussion of the current challenges that still face mobile research, such as security and privacy, and our recommendations for what MI professionals need to do to prepare for this shift to this new world.
The second report, entitled “How To Plan For Mobile Online Survey Takers,” addresses a growing issue not often discussed among MI Professionals — the increase of what we call mobile online survey takers. We define this group as: