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?
Successfully reaching online shoppers during the critical holiday season is crucial to the Q4 success of eCommerce businesses. Forrester recently published its “US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2011”; it predicts strong growth despite the current economy. My colleague Sucharita Mulpuru shared in her blog that November and December alone are expected to pull in nearly $60 billion in online revenues in the US, a 15% increase over 2010 and about one-third of the overall volume of online sales for the year.
But what are the drivers for purchasing? How do consumers discover a good deal? Forrester collaborated earlier this year with the eCommerce company GSI Commerce to answer these and other questions and to create a picture of online buyers’ purchase journey in various categories during key periods of the Q4 2010 holiday season across 15 eCommerce sites.
We found in this study that search and email were the most effective tactics in driving sales, and shoppers were heavily influenced by retailers’ marketing efforts during key dates such as Cyber Monday and the Thanksgiving weekend. But in many cases, it's a combination of marketing tactics that makes people buy: More than half of US consumers purchasing products online in the soft goods category experienced two or more marketing touchpoints prior to the completion of their transaction.*
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).
Although data nowadays shows that young consumers in particular are moving away from traditional media in their daily media consumption, our Forrester data also shows that traditional media are still powerful means for advertising/promotion. In Roxana Strohmenger’s recent report, “Young Hispanics Lead In Mobile Activity But Don't Trust Mobile Ads Very Much,” she discovers that the two top channels are TV and magazines; American youth trust them twice as much as other online or mobile channels, and ads on mobile phone are being trusted the least. No wonder TV spending continues to top other forms of media in America and continues to grow, according to Nielsen; even search engine giant Google is getting into the TV advertising business by offering unique targeting and measurement capabilities.
I’d like to share with you some of the highlights from our annual The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2011, US report. This data-rich report is an institution in the US, covering a range of topics on consumers and technology. For those of you who aren't familiar with our benchmark report, it's based on Forrester's annual survey that we've been fielding since 1998 and for which we interview close to 60,000 US adults. In fact, almost anything related to consumers and their use of and interest in technology can be found in this study.
In this year’s report, like last year, we segmented consumers by generation, examining Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and the Golden Generation. This view continues to provide some very interesting and actionable consumer insights into how technology behaviors vary across generations. For example, younger generations are more active on social networks; however, of those Boomers who are using social media, a similar percentage has a Facebook account or a LinkedIn account as their younger counterparts. The younger generations are far more likely to have a Twitter or MySpace account, though.
The theme of this year’s report is connectivity: How are the different generations using technology inside and outside the home and which devices do they use? Here are a few interesting general insights that we uncovered:
My colleagues Charles Golvin and Thomas Husson recently published a report that reveals The Global Mainstreaming Of Smartphones, and they found that while the majority of smartphone owners are high-income adopters, the low-income optimists (who Forrester defines as Techno-Strivers, Digital Hopefuls, and Gadget Grabbers) and high-income pessimists (who Forrester defines as Handshakers, Traditionalists, and Media Junkies) are the ones who together make up the majority of the US population. They are the potential consumers who will lead to smarthphone sales growth.
Mobile banking adoption among US online adults more than doubled in the past two years. However,Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that 85% of online adults in the US have never used mobile banking. When we look more in depth at the reasons why, we get answers such as “don’t see the value,” “don’t believe it’s safe,” and “don’t want to pay for fees.”
US consumers have plenty of alternatives they can use, like ATM machines, online banking, and retail branches. For them, the benefits have to outweigh the hurdles. Yet it’s a different story in other parts of the world. Due to a lack of existing banking infrastructure, we see mobile finance penetration picking up quickly in developing markets like China, India, and even Africa, fueled by the growing cellular penetration and mobile Internet penetration in these regions. In fact, in the most recent World Economic Forum’s Digital Asia panel that Forrester CEO George Colony moderated, Michelle Guthrie, JAPAC director of strategic business development at Google Asia Pacific, stated that for the next hundred million users coming onto the Internet in Asia, primary access to the Internet will be on mobile, and maybe only on mobile due to the infrastructural challenges (and costs) of fiber and broadband.
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.
Over the past year, my colleague Andrew McInnes and I have immersed ourselves in the world of enterprise feedback management (EFM), which we define as follows:
A system of software and processes that enables organizations to centrally collect, analyze, and report on feedback from key customer groups and tailor insights for various internal users.
During this time, it has been a great experience talking with vendors and clients about how this technology tool enables companies to bring all of the customer data and information collected across channels together into one platform. This ability is more important than ever given that we have entered the “age of the customer” — a period marked by the rise of the empowered customer, who is armed with more information than ever before and who is now using a rapidly evolving set of devices as a means of engaging not only with friends and family but also with companies anytime and anywhere. To be successful in this new world, companies must understand how consumers interact across these multiple touchpoints; failure to do so can lead to a fragmented view of the customer.
While it is clear that companies must embrace EFM, what is not as clear is how they should navigate the EFM vendor landscape. This is due to the dozens of small vendors, evolving market segments, and increasing M&A activity. To help professionals within the marketing and strategy organization, Andrew and I decided to conduct a Forrester Wave™ evaluation of the EFM vendors.