As an analyst, my job is to examine the emerging research methodology landscape and see what trends are evolving and how market insights professionals are leveraging and integrating these new techniques into their research toolkit. While this type of research is extremely enjoyable, every now and then I am lucky enough to be able to get my hands dirty and play with some of these methodologies. This time around, I got to play with passive mobile behavioral measurement data.
Similar to online behavior tracking, mobile behavior tracking passively records the activities that consumers perform on their mobile phone. With this data, you are able to know, for example, how many inbound and outbound texts are made, when and for how long a person uses an app like Facebook, or how many megabytes of data they downloaded or uploaded. Vendors that provide this tool include Arbitron Mobile, comScore’s MobiLens product, Research Now Mobile (formerly iPinion), and RealityMine (a spin-off company from Lumi Mobile).
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I love talking about cool, emerging, and innovative research methodologies. Over the past two years, I have been focusing a lot of my time on researching these techniques and have written several blog posts on this topic. For example, how prediction markets can help determine which concepts will succeed or fail in the marketplace. And how 2012 is the year of mobile, and market insights (MI) professionals need to leverage this channel.
In continuing with this theme, I am launching a blog series focused exclusively on highlighting emerging methodologies that MI professionals should take notice of and examine whether to incorporate into their research tool kit. I will highlight any cool research techniques I come across, as well as any vendors that are building interesting technology tools for market research purposes.
For this inaugural post, I will highlight location analytics. Essentially, market insights professionals can use a consumer’s location information that is transmitted by their mobile phone to understand what they are doing in their daily lives. For example, you can understand where your target customer is shopping, how she got there, and which competitor stores she drove past. The consumers being tracked do not have to “check in” every place they go to gather this information. Instead, all of the location data is passively collected after a consumer opts in.
I just returned from the IIR Market Research Technology Event (TMRTE). These were three action-packed days of industry leaders delivering great insights on what’s important for the market research industry, as well as the challenges and opportunities that technology presents. It was a pleasure to meet and connect with so many thought leaders in market research. Here are three main themes I gathered from the event and what I think market researchers need to pay attention to:
Big data is here. Many of the presenters highlighted how intimidating the flood of digital data can be for market researchers. Christopher Frank from American Express and Paul Magnone from Openet say it’s like “Drinking from the Fire Hose.” But Stan Sthanunathan from Coca-Cola reminded us that big data is a reality — so we’d better embrace it or get left behind. As a result, market researchers will need to move from viewing technology as an enabler to viewing technology as a driver.
Last week, I ran into an infographic on Ad Age about The People of Walmart. It compares the demographics of Walmart, Kmart, Kohl’s, and Target shoppers: for example, age, sex, income, and region of the customers. It shows that more women than men shop at Walmart, and that their audience is quite equally spread across age as well as income. Recently, Forrester conducted a survey where we gained insights on customers of retailers like Walmart. We found that while it’s great to examine the demographics of shoppers, it’s much more powerful (and actionable) to look at other insights about these retailers’ customer base, like marketing preferences, spend levels, and brand consideration.
Below you'll find some of the results from this Forrester study. You'll see that the average US online adult who shops at Walmart spent about $848 on average in the past year, but that only about half are likely to recommend the retail giant to a friend or family member. When these results are compared to other retailers, and by demographic, you create real insights.
I’d love to hear from you: How do you target your customers? Are there any behavioral and attitudinal variables that have been very helpful in defining your target segments?
My colleague Reineke Reitsma and I have been championing mobile market research for quite some time. In fact, we published the first Forrester report on this emerging and innovative methodology back in 2009. In the report, Reineke wrote about the value of its mobility and flexibility to gather insights into consumers’ behavior anytime and anywhere. And for mainstream adoption to occur, hurdles such as cost, technology, privacy, and representation must be addressed.
I love this time of year. As a real nostalgic I enjoy all these ‘best of 2011’ lists and ‘year in review’ overviews and it feels there are more every year. In the past two weeks we also have been bombarded with opinions about the developments in the market insights industry in 2011, as well as what people expect to happen in 2012 (and beyond). We’ve seen Twitter 2011 reviews, crowd sourcing activities, expert views, and so on. And I read them all. However, I do this with my favorite end of year activity playing in the background: The Top2000. This is an annual five day event that counts down the 2,000 best records ever produced - as voted by 3 million Dutch adults.
As some of you know, I really have a thing for doing research in multiple countries. I’ve been working in market research for two decades now and have always conducted international research projects — and experienced all the challenges that come with them. But I believe that conducting international research is even more challenging now than it was 20 years ago when I started my research career.
I see three key challenges that market researchers must deal with when doing multicountry projects:
1) How to collect globally comparable data. As soon as the surveyed cultures are so different that you need to adapt research methodologies and localize questionnaires, you’ve lost the chance for global comparisons. How do you walk that fine line between globalization and localization?
2) How to put this data into a local context. It’s really hard to understand the real drivers of behavior in different regions. Just looking at the results and comparing them with those of other countries might result in the wrong conclusions.
3) How to distribute and communicate these results back. Collecting information is one thing, but communicating it back to the local organizations and having them act on it is quite another. Will your local market insights teams use, share, and implement the data that you’ve collected globally?
With mobile usage becoming increasingly widespread and companies testing the water with mobile strategies, market insights professionals need to uncover consumers’ mobile behavior today and tomorrow. But with the pace of mobile innovation moving so rapidly, how can you keep up with all of the things that people are doing with their mobile phones?
In the next three years, would you expect people to use their mobile phones as wallets? What about as electronic passports? What about for space exploration? While that seems like a long shot, a New York state resident did just that — attaching an iPhone to a weather balloon, videoing the journey, and using its GPS feature to map its voyage (see link for the footage).
What do autumn’s cool breeze and changing leaves signal for market researchers (especially those who live up north)? The beginning of the fall market research conference season. This is where we move past our virtual conversations via blogs and Twitter and meet face to face to talk about what really matters to us. For me, it is all about the benefits of emerging and innovative methodologies and what place they will have in our immediate future. Looking over my conference schedule, my conference season “theme” has primarily shaped up to be all about mobile, which doesn’t surprise me. As I wrote back in July, we need to wake up and start thinking about mobile. Mobile offers us the unique opportunity to close the distance between the consumer’s experience and our assessment of that experience. As such, I firmly believe that mobile research will be one of the most critical methods we have at our disposal to help us understand the empowered consumer in this new Age of the Customer.
Where will my “mobile-themed” road show take me this conference season? Here is where I will be in the next month or two.
First, I will be speaking at CASRO’s Annual Conference in Palm Beach, October 19-21. Here, I’ll be joined by some great colleagues on a panel discussing how firms can identify which emerging methodologies to invest in and what the process entails. Mobile will definitely be highlighted here as an example of a methodology that delivers a significant ROI.
Companies like Coca-Cola, Nike, Unilever, Procter & Gamble (P&G), McDonald’s, and Johnson & Johnson have done a great job converting their brands into household names in Metro China, mainly by investing big in advertising and promotions. Having pockets deep enough to put these messages in front of the Chinese people is great, but if your firm is interested in entering this market of 1.37 billion people but doesn’t have access to the advertising financial resources of a Coca-Cola or P&G, what do you do?
Start thinking about word-of-mouth (WOM) campaigns. Due to historic events and their family teachings, Chinese people tend not to trust content coming from strange sources. However, Chinese people are known to be loyal to their friends and family. Forrester Technographics® data shows that “recommendations from friends and family” (44%) is the primary source of content people trust in Metro China. Interestingly, among the top five sources, we also see “email from people you know” (40%) and “social networking site profiles from people you know” (25%). These are both forms of word of mouth that have transitioned from the offline world to the online world.