11
Dec

The IoT Frontier: As Seen In Trade Shows

By Lucas Lowden, Research Director

As professionals, we often hear about expanding our horizons. How frequently do we actually do so? In reality, not very often. We get comfortable, and, we are experts at what we do anyway, right?

Commercial Vehicles. Fleets. Construction Equipment. I’ve done plenty of research projects with these professionals.

Big Data. Internet of Things. I’ve heard plenty about these concepts, and do work with a lot of data.

Now put all those ingredients into a pot and distill them into something useful for professionals in those industries?  That’s a different kind of problem. It requires new tools. New skills. A new way of thinking. A new understanding.

Truthfully, everyone’s reality is different and being made uncomfortable is not easy for most.

The last two years of my career have been a whirlwind of discomfort for me. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Learning, growing, helping – each in parallel with teammates and partners alike. In establishing a data-driven mindset we’ve embraced a new way of thinking to get to a new understanding. It’s been incredible!

It’s now late into 2017, and I recently attended the North American Commercial Vehicle Show, NTEA Executive Leadership Summit, and EquipmentWatch’s Traction 2017 show.

Interacting with fleet and equipment professionals at the trade shows forced me to personally broaden my horizons, and embrace the pain points that may make those professionals uncomfortable. I quickly realized that my reality as a Market Research professional differs greatly from that of a Fleet Manager or an Equipment Manager.

Which brings me to the first theme that became apparent to me.

Theme 1: Big Data Is A Big Deal, Getting Bigger With IoT

Let’s start with something that most industries in existence are familiar with – Data. Data. Data.

Data has long been available from an enterprise perspective – financial data, employee data, customer data, and transaction data, among others. Most have utilized each source of data independently for their own practical, everyday needs. Some have integrated the data for a broader application.

Operational data is becoming much more prevalent today – passive data coming in from sensors integrated with all types of equipment and applications used to conduct our everyday business and in our personal lives.

With the IoT I expect the growth curve of data to be an exponential factor the likes of which we may have never seen before. I’ve heard the term 4th Industrial Revolution thrown about. I’m not totally sold on that scope just yet, but it seems more possible than not from my perspective.

Getting the data is often not terribly difficult. Making sense of it is slightly more difficult. Harnessing the power held in these disparate data sources? Broad success stories are far and few between.

So how do we get past this hurdle?

Theme 2: Integration Is Key

Everyone has data. Few have truly harnessed the power of integrating their data to the extent it could be today.

To use an example from a long haul transportation perspective, integrating truck telematics data can give you the amount of fuel burned while a tractor is idling. Layer contextual feedback from a driver survey to understand the idle situation to deem an idle event necessary or unnecessary from a business perspective. Lastly layering that with fuel spend, and you can see how much money lost due to unnecessary idling.

There are lots of high quality solutions in the burgeoning market that provide services around the IOT ecosystem – telematics hardware, internal/external CRM, database architecture, reporting dashboards. As of yet, not many have fully embraced data integration.

That doesn’t even get into what I feel like is the next technology wave of data integration– blockchain. That’s a whole topic in its own right, so will save this for a later post.

For small to midsize organizations this highlights a challenge – they often don’t have the time available or skill set needed to integrate their own data across platforms.

Ultimately, baby steps are critical to integration efforts. Partner. Discuss. Get smarter. Get better. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Integration of data and systems is a natural progression to the final theme.

Theme 3: Any IoT Solution Has To Be Easy To Use

The integration of data at the business level leads to a “what’s next?” question of sorts.

Sometimes, a reporting dashboard can be a solution. For others, it’s an app delivering their data and insights.

Any solution in this space needs to be data-driven and actionable to be most useful and effective for industry executives.

It also needs to be simple and easy to use. Time is money.  Difficult to use and hard to understand solutions cost a company more time and more money.

Currently I’m contributing to a data-driven solution that delivers descriptive dashboards and actionable light-prescriptive reports that, with ongoing interaction, can develop into full predictive and prescriptive systems.

From my perspective, full prescriptive and predictive analytics come with nothing more than time and data pumped into the appropriate systems. Those claiming the ability to do so already are quite far ahead of the curve.

Recap & Conclusion

To work through these steps requires some keen self-awareness and the desire to embrace a data-driven decision making approach around business and competitive intelligence.

In each case, we get there one way – by data.

New technologies are allowing data to be brought in, analyzed, and presented to stakeholders in ways never before imagined.

Doing so represents a whole new batch of challenges at the same time.

Do we have the time? Do we have the people? Do we have the money?

Yes. Yes. Yes. You have to.

If you answer “yes” to all the above then you’re golden. If you don’t answer “yes, I do internally” to all the above that’s ok too. One way to shorten your timeline is to say “yes, I do by partnerships”.

The risk of not saying “yes” and taking action in this new frontier is potentially greater than taking action and failing, but still learning along the way.

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14
Nov

How to Market Products Using China’s City Tiers

By Jenny Zhang, Research Analyst

Companies looking to market in China will hear about the country’s city tiers and wonder what it’s all about. It’s no question that the world’s most populated country would have the highest consumer demand. Their consumer expendable income is also on the rise, and with a flashy, name-brand-recognizing culture, marketing is more important than ever. The question is, can we market products to these so-called “tier cities” and how can we do so? I’ll start with a little explanation and let’s work on answering that question.

I’d like to reference South China Morning Post’s (SCMP) interactive definition of tiers. Here, they divide 613 cities into 4 tiers, but another popular approach is 6 tiers. As you can see, there is no standard way of defining tiers from the government, but the highest tiers, 1 and 2, are generally agreed upon by economists, politicians and the public.

Name a city in China: Beijing? Shanghai? These are Tier 1. The combination of GDP, Politics and Population classifies cities into the four tiers, however, some cities rank differently in the three areas so the average is taken to identify the tier, says SCMP. You can start to see how companies would want to understand tiers so they can target certain people. Consumers in Tier 1 cities tend to be more affluent and highly educated. Tier 4 cities are in the rural parts of Western China. Population is scarce and so are resources. They include provinces such as Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Are you starting to get ideas?

Advertising needs to appeal to the demographics. Same with promotions or deals. We will start asking what kind of media to advertise on based on what the consumers have access to. So the answer to the question we had in the beginning is “yes”, we can market products to different tiers and the way to do so depends on your product. The next time a client asks you about marketing in China, suggest looking at tiers and see where your research takes you.

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8
Nov

Tactics For Humanizing Data From Connected Devices and IoT To Drive Business Outcomes

By Lucas Lowden, Research Director

Connected devices. Automation. Machine learning. Artificial intelligence.

Just a few short years ago, we would’ve thought we were watching a science fiction movie.

There is much discussion around these technologies – and for good reason! Each are critical components of scalable Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Today, it is the reality of our day jobs. With the support of various functions across the organization, we are actively establishing Morpace’s thought leadership and positioning for what we believe will be the future of the market research industry.

In support of these technologies, the importance of the human element should not be discounted.

There are numerous human interactions that provide crucial inputs to enable successful automation of machine processes. Doing so allows for a broader understanding and application of big data to produce actionable insights for business outcomes.

With several years growing in this space, we have developed a passion about leveraging big data and IoT systems. We have also realized the importance of Big Context – the intersection of man and machine that layers contextual understanding and lends business meaning to these massive data systems.

Are you leveraging Big Context in your business? Are you finding the humanity within your organization’s data?

Join the Strategists on Morpace’s Growth & Innovation Team – Jason Mantel (Sr. VP), Dania Rich-Spencer (VP), and myself, Lucas Lowden (Research Director) – for our webinar from Qualtrics’ Experience Week, Big Context: Humanizing Big Data From Connected Devices” and learn about tactics for driving positive business outcomes. To sign up and view our webinar, click here.

In the webinar, we explore the tenants of Big Context and how we have proven the importance of the human element and answering the question “Why?” for an automotive manufacturer and a transportation & logistics fleet.

We encourage you to reach out to us directly for any questions or further discussion around humanizing your organizations’ data at information@morpace.com.

 

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10
Apr

The Power of One Voice

By: Donna Taglione, Vice President

Prior to the Corporate Researchers Conference in late September 2016, David Almy, CEO of the Market Research Association (now Insights Association), wrote a short email promoting the event. In his message he said, “You only need one great idea to truly succeed, or one great innovation to truly advance.” Even though his note was endorsing seminar content, the notion of “one” got me thinking. In the age of Big Data, how important is one voice?

In my world of one-on-one interviews and focus groups, hearing the voice of one is critical. No matter the location or space, offline or online, one common thread I’ve seen in nearly every interview I’ve conducted is the presence of doubt in the consumer’s mind. I try to reaffirm to them at the start of every conversation that their perception, their voice, is important. I learn something new or different from each and every person I talk to and some of the most insightful comments are prefaced with qualifiers of uncertainty – “I don’t know if you want to know this or not …” or “I don’t know, maybe I did something wrong, but I noticed…” Respondents are always afraid they’re not telling us the “right” thing.

Big, little, obvious and not so obvious – it’s all important and nothing is “wrong”. The collection of individual voices helps to uncover patterns on a larger scale. Patterns that point us in a direction; patterns that help us weave a story. The beauty of qualitative research is that sometimes these patterns and collective voices force a u-turn because some “wrong,” off-hand comment by a few individuals turns into something of sheer brilliance – the “why didn’t we think of that” revelation.

These are the revelations we seek. In the aftermath of these moments, comes insight and direction. But there are times when client observers believe that the power of one voice can be negated, particularly if that voice does not solidify objectives but alters the direction of project. The remedy is to have open and honest discussions between the moderator and observers after the interviews are complete.

The easel is my best friend in a back room debrief, helping me chart confirmations of previous learning, note questions that still linger and record the gems of any project – the a-ha’s – those things that opened eyes to a new or different way of thinking and/or doing. The best intel often comes from an innocent remark; a remark that inspires a packaging engineer to rethink the design of a container or an advertising person to redirect the creative approach with greater clarity and understanding.

John F. Kennedy once said: “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” In qualitative research, I know first-hand the importance of one person’s experience and opinion. It is the everyday experiences of individuals that aid product developers, designers and advertisers to make and market better products. We should all keep trying to hear the customer’s voice. It’s the one voice that can, and does, make a difference.

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7
Feb

Patient Experience: When Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast


By Debra Fin
Vice President

This provocative statement is attributable to Peter Drucker, widely regarded as the father of modern management thinking. In healthcare, strategy can be devoured by culture’s hunger for maintaining the status quo especially with the relentless pace of change occurring in the industry.

Culture is the way of life for a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. You know culture when you hear hospital employees state, “We don’t do it like that here” or management talks about “our way of thinking”. Culture is the soul and traditions of an organization and, most often, the obstacle to embracing change that focuses on the customer.

C-suite directives to improve customer centricity and focus on improvement of the patient’s experience can authorize CX leaders to gather patient data, hold focus groups and build touchpoint roadmaps. Armed with these insights and tools, operational changes are recommended, communications are built and new services are rolled-out all in an effort to meet the expectations of future patients, improve metrics and increase revenue. Everyone from Administration to Housekeeping waits to hear that patient experience has improved.

Only to find out that the culture on 3West devoured breakfast and is on its’ way through lunch!

Changing the structure, staffing and services of the organization will not suffice to improve patient experience based on patient insights alone. As our most recent Patient Experience case study demonstrates, the culture and values of the organization and its’ employee voices are vital to understanding how to meet the needs and expectations of patients. Equal time must be spent clarifying values, needs, and expectations at both the customer level and at the organization’s human capital level.

Engaging employees is as important as engaging the patient population. Doing both gives you a better eco-system view on how to achieve better service, meet expectations and empower employees to satisfy patients and families. Employees are the engine that delivers on your brand promise by meeting the expectations that define excellent patient experience.

Market research gathering employee insights and reactions to the ideas and expectations of patients can identify the barriers and best practices to delivering on a best in-class patient experience. Employees know how things really work and how to get things done; they can identify where the collaboration chain breaks down in bed scheduling and what families of inpatients really need. Best of all, collectively they have many solutions to improving their patient’s experience and want to be instrumental in creating both better health and better customer loyalty. All you need to do is ask them.

Armed with this 360° view, cultural mores and traditions can be addressed and both the patient and the hospital employee are equal partners in designing the patient experience solution.

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22
Nov

Neuromarketing: Market Research’s Magic Bullet?

neuromarketing: market research's magic bullet?

By Artem Violety, Vice President

Exciting new techniques are emerging within the advertising and technology industries, creating fresh disrupters in market research and opening new doors to more opportunities and insights than ever imagined before. However, as with most new findings, additional research and confirmation is needed before these techniques become relevant and widely accepted.

One new field of study that has emerged is “neuromarketing research”- an attempt to leverage learnings from neuroscience to better understand the brain’s responses to marketing stimuli, and thereby better understand consumer behavior. I had the pleasure of appearing on a panel discussing the topic at the ad:tech conference in New York, held November 2-3, 2016.

The panel discussed how face recognition software could uncover consumers’ emotional states; how biometric markers, such as skin conductance, heartrate, and respiration could be used to detect non-conscious response to stimuli; and how brain imaging techniques, including functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG) could potentially uncover consumers “true” reactions to marketing stimuli by measuring actual brain activity.

These techniques are obviously very attractive to marketers. Imagine being able to peer into a consumer’s mind and see how interested they are really in a product, or which of two marketing messages better resonates with them, all without having to rely on what they tell us.

Neuromarketing’s focus is on consumers’ “unsaid” thoughts, so in essence, their inner, unedited, potentially unconscious thoughts and feelings. This is generally called “System 1” or “Fast” thinking, and it refers to a consumer’s automatic response to a given stimulus; it’s a potentially vital aspect in decision-making but by no means the only one.

In contrast, more traditional market research focuses on what is explicitly reported by a consumer. This is called “System 2” or “Slow” thinking, and refers to the more deliberate, logical or conscious aspects of decision making.

As one can imagine, both types of responses are worth considering when trying to understand how the consumer feels about a product or service. Unfortunately, the excitement that usually accompanies a discovery of a new set of tools or techniques often overrides not only previously accepted learning but even basic logic.

For example, the notion that there is a metaphorical “buy button” in the brain that can be accessed via neuromarketing is promise boldly made by some practitioners. However, this claim is akin to those made by proponents of using hypnosis or subliminal messages in commercials – highly attractive but without much merit. Since the brain is an organ that evolved over a much longer period of time than humans have engaged in commerce, there wouldn’t have been an opportunity for a “buy button” to be part of the biology of the brain. There are surely “approach or avoid”, “fight or flight” functions built in, but those reflect a need for basic survival, not the desire to buy a shiny new phone or another pair of shoes.

In order to be useful, neuromarketing research must be placed in the proper context – it’s a tool that can be used in conjunction with other traditional techniques, but it’s not a panacea for all marketing questions. As neuroscience evolves and is able to better explain human cognitive abilities, it will surely play a larger role in how we all conduct marketing research. However, it is unlikely it will ever completely replace  the need to actually talk to people in order to understand them, something we humans have a good deal of practice doing.

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14
Jul

X, Y, Z … Boom! How will Changing Demographics Impact Corporate Culture?

Are you ready?

By: Donna Taglione, Vice President

Full transparency: I am a baby boomer. Born right in the middle of the largest generation–until Millennials. For many of my generation, retirement is a dirty word; it’s an inevitability to be delayed as long as possible. As a group, Baby Boomers have been fighting aging since we turned 30! After all we weren’t supposed to trust anyone over 30 until, of course, we became 30 ourselves and realized we were just getting started.

All kidding and old jokes aside, the reality is that 10,000 Boomers will turn 65 every day between now and 2029. Retirement has already started for many and isn’t that far off for more than half of the Baby Boom generation. My children, Millennials that they are, are probably saying “Finally! What’s taking you so long?” But the sheer volume of pending retirements is staggering and prompts the question how will the obvious “changing of the guard” affect corporate life?

Demographers and business historians estimate that Baby Boomers currently hold 56% of corporate leadership positions. Additionally, two-thirds of all businesses (about 4 million companies) are owned by Baby Boomers. Yet, according to a survey of Fortune 1000 employers, and of critical importance to business in general, 62% of Fortune 1000 employers believe that Baby Boomer retirements will result in a skilled labor shortage sometime in the next five years. In the next 5 years! How is this possible? What should people and companies be doing to prepare for a potential gap in skills? Are companies and their mid-career managers (Gen X and Gen Y) prepared for corporate memory to walk out the door?

Truth be told, with each generation there is always a need for new and fresh perspectives. Somehow it is a lot easier to swallow that new idea when you are on the younger end of the continuum espousing it rather than on the side that finds itself thinking “been there done that”!  Yet companies and managers are going to have to creatively manage the knowledge transfer required as the current generation of executives makes room for the next generation.

Partial retirement or flexible working arrangements–typically a two-year offer with reduced hours and benefits–is one way companies are exploring the retention of certain levels of management so their knowledge can be shared with those next in line for their pay grade. Reverse mentoring, popularized by former GE Chairman Jack Welsh, matches senior executives with 20 and 30-somethings to share experiences. Reverse mentoring closes the knowledge gap for both older and younger age groups and can identity future leaders. Succession planning prepares others internally to assume key business positions. Encore consultancy – when a person “retires” on Friday yet returns on Monday as a part-time consultant for the job they just left – has caught on in some organizations. Are these enough? Are companies paying attention to what corporate life will be like after a generation of workers retire?

I distinctly remember going to my father’s retirement party. Lots of people I’d never met before talking about a side of my dad that I never really knew at home. It was quite enlightening to hear that your dad–the guy who fell asleep on the couch waiting up for you–was a person others looked up to and respected. I don’t think a lot of companies “do” retirement parties anymore. My dad worked for the same company for 37 years. That kind of tenure is almost unheard of now. When I retire, even though I’ve been in the same industry for over 30 years, I’ll have worked at the same company for about 12 years. Certainly not worthy of a full blown celebration. But party or no party, over the course of the next fifteen years, one very large generation, used to setting standards for how things get done (Baby Boomers), is about to retire and be replaced by an even larger generation (Gen Y/Millennials) in the early to middle stage of their careers. Are we ready?

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19
May

Oh The Places You’ll Go With Virtual Reality!

Oh the places you'll go with virtual reality!By: Cory Kinne, Research Analyst

You don’t have to be a tech nerd to know that Virtual Reality is cool. It just is. There’s a reason it is always cropping up in fiction—from early sightings in Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man, to the smash-hit Matrix trilogy and beyond. The idea of transporting ourselves into a simulated world is intoxicating.

Excitement over Virtual Reality (VR) reaches a fever pitch in the realm of video games. Allowing players to visualize themselves in the worlds they are exploring opens new doors for immersive storytelling. Possibly no other industry is positioned to gain as much from advancements in VR technology as the gaming industry, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have utility elsewhere.

After spending an evening playing with my new Google Cardboard headset, I stumbled upon a question: How might VR be useful in Market Research?

Thousands of dollars are spent on product evaluation clinics, especially in the automotive industry; finding an appropriate sized venue and arranging the delivery of vehicles carries a hefty price tag. What if a clinic could be conducted for the cost of shipping a box of VR headsets and the booking of a hotel conference room?

Obviously, examining a 360 degree rendering of a vehicle will never replace the richness of the traditional, more tactile in-person experience. But is there value to be gained from the agility and simplicity of VR? For example, could insights be uncovered earlier in the design process? Could VR technology minimize the likelihood of unforeseen flaws making their way to the finished product?

Of course, we shouldn’t limit our thinking to the automotive industry—there are other areas where this technology could be useful. It is possible VR will open doors to new areas of Market Research, areas that are currently unexplored or, at the very least, underrepresented.

Imagine working with a hotel chain during the construction of a new property—using a VR headset, respondents may be able to explore a digital mockup of proposed room layouts and designs. With the exception of bed comfort, nearly everything could be evaluated! Feedback on room size, color schemes, furniture design, space utilization and even the artwork on the wall could help ensure the satisfaction of future guests.

The history of VR is filled with bumps and bruises, but with an unprecedented number of products entering the market it appears that virtual reality is here to stay. Though the technology is clearly in its infancy, it may be prudent to speculate about its future utility—further progress in availability, usability, and realism has the potential to revolutionize how we conduct our research.

Who knows the places we’ll be able to go…

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4
May

8 Ways to Think like a Market Research Anthropologist

 

8 Ways to Think like a Market Research AnthropologistBy: Erica Ruyle, Lead Anthropologist and Vice President, Qualitative Solutions

Much to my wife’s annoyance, my brain never shuts off. We will go to a movie and I will practically be bouncing in my seat as my brain works through all the cultural messages and implications of the experience.  (So we are all on the same page, I define culture as “the patterns of behavior, thought and feeling that are learned, shared and transmitted across generations.”)  Following the movie and dinner I inevitably babble on about the theories, connections and other positing on the film.  After all in the world of an anthropologist, everything has meaning, a hidden “other” so to speak.

On a recent trip to Las Vegas, my favorite few hours of the entire trip comprised of me sitting in the hotel’s casino, sipping dark, bitter coffee and watching people. Were they there on business or pleasure?  Where did they come from?  What was their link and connection to the people around them; what relationship did they have with those they were drinking, eating, and talking with?  I would draw up entire kinship maps and sketch stories of their life and then give meaning to it.  I would watch their interactions and movement throughout the hotel and casino floor, while my brain worked the patterns and behavior around me. As the old idiom goes, “this is both a gift and a curse.”

As you can see, being an anthropologist means having boundless curiosity. My mind is constantly shuffling information around regardless of which of the five senses it comes from.  Far too often we tend to focus on the words and miss other subtle cues around us such as body language or not so subtle cues that can easily be overlooked such as the material culture around us. As an anthropologist this works to my advantage as we are trying to find patterns of meaning in structures and systems.  Culture is an endless layered facet of the human condition and looking beyond we begin to understand the behavioral and symbolic meaning that drives people is what we do.

With years of training I have learned how to hone my skills to not only see what is around me but also how to talk in a meaningful way about what I have learned. My favorite aspect of ethnography is bringing to life what I experienced.  I’ve done my job when a reader can feel as if they were actually there during the research; they can feel what the research respondent felt and take a peek through the lenses of their eyes.  Of course, this does not always transfer well to market research deliverables but it is all part of the process.  My job is to bring the consumer and their world to life in an actionable way that makes sense.

Even if you are not an anthropologist or do not have anthropological training, you can still think like one. Anthropologists study people and their culture. Everything in market research is based on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of groups of people.

There are eight ways that you can think like an anthropologist for any research project, even if it is not ethnographic /anthropological in nature. Follow these and you are well on your way to thinking like an anthropologist!

  1. Stay on the move
  2. Keep your eyes open
  3. Always be curious
  4. Challenge your assumptions
  5. Ask a lot of questions (to your respondent and yourself)
  6. Dig deeper
  7. Engage multiple point of view
  8. Don’t believe everything people say

In a coming blog, I will delve more deeply into the slippery notion of culture. It is essential to grasp, even if not explicitly used in market research. I will outline what the benefits are to having this knowledge and how it can help you get more insightful, meaningful analytical results, further supporting your research efforts.

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24
Mar

Market Research Methods: A Lesson in Market Research Anthropology

Market Research Methods: A Lesson in Market Research Anthropology

By: Sara Beauchaine, Marketing Associate

On April 20th at 1:00 pm, Morpace is offering a free webinar hosted by our own expert anthropologist, Erica Ruyle to uncover some uncommon market research methods that can be used to derive impactful insights. During this webinar, attendees will learn to look at research differently, find out how to apply the anthropological mindset to qualitative research and learn how to add another layer of depth and insight into the analysis process.

Morpace also offers other avenues for qualitative research. You can learn more about our market research methods by visiting our website.

Q: How does anthropology play a role in market research? To what extent?

Erica: Within market research (MR), our clients are always trying to understand the ‘essence’ of the consumer. They want to understand what makes consumers tick and in what ways they can continue to meet their needs. Anthropologists study people and look for patterns. They look holistically at all the elements that make people who they are—they study culture, which includes both conscious and unconscious factors that drive people to do what they do. Many times, we as humans don’t even know why we are making the decisions we are, nor can we articulate the reason behind our decisions if someone asked. Anthropologists look to uncover unconscious drivers of behavior which can lead to recommendations of unmet needs, white space or new product and service designs. There’s a funny saying about anthropologists: “We solve problems you didn’t even know you had.” While tongue in cheek, this is at the heart of what we do. We are able to gather information about consumers in ways that other researchers don’t.

Q: Why is anthropology an important market research method?

Erica: Not everything in market research can be answered through linear quantitative questions or via a straightforward Q&A style of discussion, which is commonly seen in focus groups. When someone is asked, especially about something that might be difficult to verbalize, people give the most socially acceptable answer. It might not be true, but if they think it’s what they are supposed to say, they say it. In addition, you can’t rely on recall. Stop and ask yourself right now: “What did I eat for lunch 2 weeks ago today?” or “What settings did I use the last time I did laundry?” Much of what we do becomes automatic muscle memory. If I asked you to tell me to describe exactly how you interact with your car during your day, how would you answer? I’m sure you can answer it, but I can guarantee you’ll leave out important details or things you do. This won’t be on purpose, but simply because you cannot recall them or you don’t think they aren’t important.

Anthropology helps us understand the consumer via immersion and enables us to look at things through multiple lenses. Our toolkit has a number of creative methodologies, as well as deep observation.

Q: What knowledge do you have that contributes to your expertise in the area of anthropology?

Erica: I have an M.A. in Anthropology and have worked in the market research industry for more than 10 years. I am what is called an ‘applied anthropologist.’ This means I use the theory and principles behind academic anthropology and apply those to actual issues and/or questions within market research. I studied consumer and popular culture and lived in Japan prior to starting my graduate work. I’ve written articles on ethnography in market research, spoken at conferences on new methodologies, and even conducted past webinars on how to conduct and analyze ethnography in market research.  

Q: Do you have a story of when you used anthropology in the field of market research?

Erica: A few years back, I was conducting ethnography on boys’ action figures. We were in homes, as well as in stores. We started in the homes and talked with the young boys in their own environment, and had them show us the things they play with and demonstrate how they played with them. The client wanted to focus only on the boys themselves, but as an anthropologist I knew they didn’t play with, and/or make decisions on what toys to play with, alone. It was something very much embedded in a strong family dynamic, especially in cases where they had brothers or sisters close in age. By understanding the family dynamic, I was able to provide much deeper insights into how decisions were made and what the reasons were for playing the way they did. Furthermore, I was able to overlay a ‘theory of play,’ which highlighted the importance of play at both a psychological and cultural level.

Q: What key topics will you be focusing on during the webinar?

Erica: The webinar will be a look into how anthropology is best used within market research from project inception to data analyzation. The reality of how you apply something that has been so embedded in academia means understanding the realistic approaches you can take in a quick-turn environment like market research. We’ll be discussing what it means to look at market research through the eyes of an anthropologist, provide ideas on how to conduct applied anthropological research, and most importantly, how best to do ethnography that goes above and beyond the traditional thought of ‘in-homes.’

Q: What do you hope to convey to those attending the webinar?

Erica: That anthropology isn’t just for long-term projects that require you to travel around the world. Anthropology provides a different way of looking at how we not only conduct research, but how we analyze, find insights, and ultimately make recommendations. Adding ethnography or anthropological principles to research projects in a variety of ways means getting at things you otherwise wouldn’t.

Q: Anything else you would like to add/draw attention to?

Erica: While best known for ethnography and its participant-observational approaches, an anthropologist mindset can elevate just about any research project. It’s a way of thinking that can be used on a regular basis to provide additional insights to a wide variety of projects. Today, everyone says they do ‘ethnography,’ but the reality is they are just conducting interviews in a different setting. Anthropology means not only looking at things differently, but it also requires you to analyze it through the anthropological lenses.

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