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.*
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.
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.
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.
Earlier this week, I attended the Esomar Congress in Amsterdam. It was a home game for me, but even I was impressed by the location and its very Dutch look and feel; I felt proud of my country (of course it helps that I’m a big fan of stroopwafels, poffertjes, mature cheese, and bitterballen).
Not only were the surroundings impressive, but so were the presentations. Only a couple of the 20 or so that I saw were average. Most presentations gave a good overview of a new methodology, the client side of the story, and the challenges faced. My personal highlights included the Heineken/TNS presentation, in which they used neuroscience (or more precisely electroencephalography [EEG], biometrics, and eye-tracking) to measure how relevant viewers felt the ad was to them, how excited they were by it, and what areas of the screen they looked at while it played. You can find the summary by Robert Bain of Research Magazine here.
One of the responsibilities of my role includes analyzing data in complex ways to help our clients understand how their target groups behave and if there are more relevant ways to segment them based on the results. However, sometimes it just makes sense to take a step back and look at some basic demographic profiles as a starting point for further analysis. We developed a new deliverable that we call Demographic Overview, and we kicked off the series with digital dads, followed by digital moms, and these will soon be complemented with digital natives and digital Seniors.
So why is it important for companies to look at dads? Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that s lightly more than one-third of US online men ages 18 to 50 are parents of a child younger than 18 living with them. Companies need to understand how the digital profile of dads differs from non-dads, as their behaviors influence the tech behaviors of their kids.
Some of our findings include that in general, dads are more likely to use the Internet as a resource, while non-dads are more active in entertainment-focused activities such as social networking. But dads know how to use social media to get their point across: 72% of dads who regularly engage in social activities have posted a review of a product or service on Twitter in the past 12 months, as compared with only 57% of non-dads.
Videos are definitely one of the strongest forms of media in our society nowadays, and there are 48 hours of video uploaded on YouTube per minute: from consumers sharing their creative expressions to companies uploading how-to videos about their products and brands.
These videos help many people in their purchasing process. My colleague recently had to shop for a car, and it’s been interesting to hear about her car shopping journey and how online videos helped her make the ultimate decision. She was interested in one specific car — the 2012 Ford Focus with the Sync with MyFord Touch comes as standard package. The challenge she, and Ford for that matter, encountered was that the majority of car salespeople aren’t that tech-savvy. While they are familiar with the horsepower and the smart-key entry feature, they really struggle to explain how to turn the car into a Wi-Fi hub or how the Sync system can read incoming text messages.
Trying to learn about every available optional feature, my colleague had to turn to the Internet for help. She was able to find demo videos on the Ford Focus website, on YouTube, as well as on her cable TV widgets. These online videos, produced by Ford, auto review sites, as well as tech-savvy online peers, really helped her understand how the optional features of this new product will enhance her ultimate driving experience. Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that videos created by other people are the most watched online type of video:
When you follow the market insights industry as closely as I do, it’s easy to get submerged in the doom and gloom of our role. Of course, there are great presentations and case studies at conferences on emerging methodologies, and we have the awards ceremonies — like Esomar’s Young Researcher of the Year or the AMA 4 under 40 — that highlight the talent in our industry. But in many cases it feels a bit like an in-crowd to me — like we’re the last of the Mohicans.
But I’ve come to realize that market research is still a very interesting profession for many (young) people, who see it as a great career and put their heart and soul into it. I’ve been hiring market insights professionals for my team for close to a year now: first a senior analyst, then a junior position, and finally two consumer insights analysts (one of which is still open). And it has been a great experience!
I’ve met a lot of smart people and I’ve been impressed not only by the candidates’ passion for data and how to link it to business issues, but also with the type of projects they have been working on at their organizations and their interest in new ways of doing research. Most of these projects never get presented as case studies at conferences, and not many people are sharing this knowledge via social media (yet), but the hiring process has left me with a good feeling about the state of our industry. There are plenty of smart young people out there that love doing market research and are very good at it!