8
Dec

5 Holiday Wishes for the MR Industry

5 Holiday Wishes for the MR IndustryBy Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

It’s the time of year for giving and receiving gifts. While I do believe in the old adage that it is better to give than to receive, who doesn’t like to receive a gift? I particularly enjoy the ones that are able to bring greater joy or more convenience into my life. So, this wish list may skip the items I sent to my family for our annual gift exchange, but it does include my wishes for the market research industry this holiday season and into the New Year.


Wish 1: To be regifted past research.

I know some people look down on regifting, but what could be better in the market research industry? Receiving research that has already been conducted and is relevant to a new study being fielded offers the opportunity to understand what was already asked and what insights were already gleaned. This allows for the new study to confirm what was learned previously, but also to go above and beyond those learnings to find something new.

There is nothing worse than conducting a study and hearing the client say “we already knew that.” Therefore, please regift previous research, so new research can focus on discovering and reporting what is in fact an insight, instead of only confirmation of past learnings. That is something both parties can be thankful for.


Wish 2: To be able to mingle with everyone.

Many times in research studies, we only speak with or survey those consumers who have purchased our client’s product or used their service. If we really want to get fancy, we may also include consumers who purchase or use a competitor’s product and service. But are we missing out on not speaking with those outside of a category entirely?

This is particularly relevant for finding out how a brand is perceived in the market place. These consumers can offer a unique perspective on how they view others that buy a particular brand and why they consider them, to be or not to be, a member of the island of misfit toys.  However, understanding how these consumers perceive others associated with this brand will help companies understand the barriers they need to overcome to entice potential new customers.


Wish 3: To immerse oneself in someone else’s reality.

Just like the different variations of Santa Claus, consumers have different realities from what the client may expect. I have been in debrief meetings where a client wants to entirely reject a participant’s comments because what they said was “not true,”  or “used a product in a way other than originally intended,” or “are understanding the message wrong.”  What some clients fail to realize is that the consumer’s feedback is their truth as it is how they perceive the topic at hand.

Instead of questioning their perception, it is better to devote time on how to overcome the consumer’s perceptions and bring them closer to reality that the company intended.  Ask oneself, if the consumer is using a product in a different way than suggested, how can the instructions be clearer? If the message is being taken in the wrong light, what language can be changed to make it more relevant? Asking these questions will provide an avenue to more actionable and relevant tasks for the research team.


Wish 4: To have more time to tell stories.

The must-have item on everyone’s list, in and outside of the market research industry, is story telling. Story telling has been touted as the way to establish a connection between the audience and whatever is being presented. But in market research, we are held to producing a report with details about all of the findings from a particular study.

While some of these findings go into making a story, not all are necessary in telling the story. However, one will quickly be put on the naughty list if they don’t provide an answer to all of the questions asked or all the observations witnessed in a report of some kind.

With this evolution, two deliverables are becoming necessary — the story presentation and a detailed appendix report. One client researcher describes this growing desire in the 2016 Quirks Corporate Research Report:

I wish I would receive two reports – one for me, the client researcher, with all the detail including crosstabs, and one for presenting that REALLY boils down the learning to an easily digestible story that we can take action on.

But the lump of coal in this wish is the fact that reporting time lines are regularly being reduced. Two reports will take more time, energy, and a greater budget to complete. If presentation stories and a detailed appendix report is truly the wave of the future, it must come with the expectation of either increased reporting time lines or increased budget for more people to report simultaneously. Bah humbug.


Wish 5: To get invited to the party.

If the end of many of my projects could be summarized in a sentence, it would be “all dressed up and nowhere to go”. There are plenty of projects where we have fielded the study, created our story, and are asked to hand over the findings with no invite to present to the larger client team. While we strive to create presentations and reports that can stand on their own, having the voice of the one who fielded the research participate in presenting the findings can add so much more richness and depth to the results. But rarely are we asked to the big dance.


Perhaps it is time for market research professionals to throw their own party? What can be done to make our voice indispensable at meetings? Perhaps we need to be better at presenting our findings to our internal contacts. Let them see that our voice – our passion – cannot be duplicated and it’s best to bring us as a date to the big meeting. So, scratch this wish, maybe I’ll wish for stellar hostess abilities instead.

That concludes my holiday wish list for the marketing research industry for 2017 and beyond. Let’s see if I made the nice list and St. Nicolas brings me these gifts. If not, I could always follow up with the Easter Bunny – I hear he can be bribed with chocolate.

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5
Oct

The Question Remains, Have You Lost Sight of Your Target Customer?

The questions remains, have you lost sight of your target customer?

By: Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

Last week we talked about how population subsets identified with the help of segmentation algorithm screeners can help reach out to a target market and target customer in a more personal way.

So what’s the solution to using segmentation algorithm screeners in Qual recruiting?

Segmentations and their series of algorithm questions will not cease to exist. They are a valuable tool to marketers and market researchers alike. But how might one integrate these algorithm questions into qualitative recruitments? I would argue that if you are looking for the perfect target, then the algorithm questions should be the entire screener. If it has already been proclaimed that those who answered the questions a certain way, these are your “Savvy Savers,” and so why ask anything else?

There are instances where the addition of certain types of questions to an algorithm screener cannot be avoided.  For example:

  • Gender:
    • Know the product and the objectives and you will know if you need to recruit only one gender.
  • Household income:
    • Asking household income may be wise, such as in luxury goods research, as the participating consumers need to be able to afford the product or service being discussed.
  • Lifestage:
    • The introduction and/or removal of a spouse or children into or out of the home changes priorities, which changes a consumer’s needs and wants. This ultimately changes how they consume.
  • Age, but sparingly:
    • Age is just a number and shouldn’t be used if it is not relevant to the product or service. This is the same for generational cohorts. Boomers and Millennial Savvy Savers should “look” the same, at least on paper.

But overall, I encourage the addition of outside questions to a segmentation algorithm screener be used judiciously. If it is found that more and more questions are being added to a screener to get to the “perfect target,” it may just be that the screener is not being used to reach the desired customer identified in the segmentation study. The screener has instead become a tool to find consumers who may want the product/service the company has produced.

The greatest advantage of limiting the number of additional questions to an algorithm screener is that it will provide a purer recruit to the original algorithm. A purer recruit will lead to the right target group. And the right target group will provide better and more actionable insights to be gleaned from the qualitative study. That’s a win for the entire company.

Secondary advantages may include:

  • Qualitative projects are easier to recruit as there is a larger number of people that may qualify for the research
  • There may be more recruiters that are willing to take on the challenge of finding the people for the study
  • It may just keep that nagging voice in the back of your head that says “can we even recruit this?” at bay

Whichever of these advantages may speak to you the most, remember, the goal is to get back to recruiting the desired target market to find out the collective opinions about your company’s current line-up of products and services. By doing so, you may just rediscover your true target customer.

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22
Sep

Have You Lost Sight of Your Target Customer?

Have you lost sight of your target customer?

By: Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

Imagine if your boss told you that she had found the perfect target group based on attitudes and needs segmentation, called Savvy Savers, and wants to conduct research with them.

But once you head off to find this target group, your boss tells you these Savvy Savers also have to drive a certain type of car, be aware of a certain brand, have 2.5 kids, see themselves as innovative, like to try new things, and must be located in Dallas. Welcome to the world of recruiting qualitative research with a segmentation algorithm screener.

What is a segmentation algorithm screener?

Traditional screeners use a set of questions to identify qualified consumers to participate in qualitative research. These questions usually revolve around criteria such as demographics (i.e. age and income) and can include category preference questions.

A segmentation algorithm screener is more complicated. Companies usually segment their market into subsets based on criteria such as attitudes, usage, or needs. These segmentations are usually done through a national quantitative survey. The results provide population subsets that companies usually name in order to speak about these segments of their target market in a more personal way.

Once the segmentation is complete, companies have a list of questions that they feel every named segment, such as the Savvy Savers, will answer the same way regardless of where they live. These series of questions is called an algorithm.

Why are segmentation algorithm screeners problematic?

Not all segmentation screeners are a bad thing. When applied effectively, they can bring companies closer to their target market. Issues arise when expectations are different from reality.

Issue #1: The algorithm target may not be the real target audience

Let’s use our Savvy Savers target as an example of being “the perfect target.” If the potential consumer answers the algorithm questions in a certain way, they fit the desired target market and qualify for the study. However, “this perfect target” is never perfect on an algorithm screener. Clients want potential participants to qualify for the study by answering the algorithm questions a specific way and, in addition, meet a host of other criteria. This means that the “perfect target” is indeed perfect on paper in the segmentation report, but not when it comes to who they want to actually attract in the marketplace.

Issue #2: A national incidence does not always equate to a specific market’s incidence.

Segmentation surveys are typically fielded with a broad geographic scope. This produces a national incidence or incidence rate. For example, if a company determines that the incidence to find a Savvy Saver is 20% nationally, that means that if 100 people across the country were called and screened, one should find 20 people who can be classified as Savvy Savers.

This seems reasonable enough. But qualitative research is not based on national representation. For the most part, qualitative research is conducted in 1-3 markets. This makes it harder to find and recruit the desired target group.

Issue #3: Qualitative research may be completed at a fixed location.

In some Qualitative research methodologies, it is necessary for participants to come to a specific location to participate, which further limits the number of potential recruits because respondents must be within a certain radius of the facility. Couple the limited location with the need for consumers to attend the research on a specific date and at a specific time and the pool of potential Savvy Savers to recruit may have dropped from 20 to 3.

Issue #4: The algorithm may be outdated.

Segmentation studies can be expensive and time consuming. So it is understandable that companies may only conduct a segmentation study once every few years. This may be acceptable for items that take more time to change such as attitudes and beliefs, but things such as needs and usage can change dramatically in a short amount of time. Circumstances can create lower incidence, which means less potential respondents for the qualitative study being recruited.

Issue #5: Algorithms can increase costs and may reduce the number of willing recruiters.

Recruiters dislike algorithm recruits. Seriously, dislike them. This disdain can result in higher per recruit costs or recruiters flat out refusing a project.

One of the reasons recruiters dislike segmentation algorithm screeners is because the algorithm “key” is a huge secret known only to the client and the supplier who conducted the segmentation study. This minimizes the ability for recruiters to “pre-screen” their databases.

Without the pre-screen option, Maya Middlemiss, the Managing Director of research recruitment consultant Saros Research Ltd in the UK and Casslar Consulting in Spain, warns recruiting costs could resemble that of cold calling. In Middlemiss’ article, Recruiting qualitative participants research using quantitative algorithms, she  explains,

If we are provided a locked tool, the only thing we can do is apply it after the event during the telephone interview stage – this is more cumbersome and expensive, because it does not enable us to rule out people who are not a fit before the calling stage.  Depending on the expected incidence of the desired segment(s), the strike rate – and therefore costs involved in recruitment – may even approach that of cold-calling. That is often a surprise to clients, but it is a consequence of trying to use quantitative tools in qualitative research (April, 2016).

We’ll continue this discussion in part 2 of our post on the use of a segmentation algorithm screener next week, where we will discuss solutions and the value that this type of methodology can provide.

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5
Feb

The ‘Off Recipe’ Advantage

pasta-pot-photo

By: Donna Taglione, Vice President

I love to cook but I hate to bake.

I can break out in a cold sweat at the thought of baking a batch of cookies, but my BFF Chili with its 25+ ingredients is one of my “go-to” winter meals. Seems weird, right?

Cooking and baking both need bowls and tools, pots and pans. Both have recipes. But cooking allows for personal expression–a little more of this and a little less of that is OK. Most of the time it is more art and less science. Take the garlic out of chili because it gives you indigestion and no one is any the wiser unless you tell them – it’s still chili.

Adding some heat to “kick it up a notch” (thank you Emeril) takes a knowledge of ingredients and makes the experience of cooking and eating more individualized.

Baking, on the other hand, isn’t just science – it’s chemistry. Alter the ingredients or recipe by even a little and all your hard work could end up in the garbage can when the cookie drops come out of the oven like flat, over-done pancakes (trust me on that one).

As I was cooking dinner on Sunday, I was thinking about this blog post and decided maybe that’s why I’m drawn to qualitative research. While I rarely cook with a recipe, I would never bake without one. The flexibility and creativity I find in meal preparation is much like the flexibility I find when conducting qualitative market research.

Just as I like adding a little more of this and a little less of that in my meals, during an in-home I can go “off recipe” and let the consumer guide the discussion. Of course, I am well aware of all the ingredients needed to get to the end result. But does it matter how we get there? Will a little more of this and a little less of that hurt the outcome? For the most part it doesn’t, as long as you don’t forget any of the key steps.

With qualitative, just like in cooking, it’s often the occasions you go “off recipe” that make the difference between the same old thing, and something that turns a “standard” into the dish that everyone really enjoys.

So next time a qualitative project comes up and you want to stick with the same ingredients and follow the tried and true recipe, try to find a way to add your unique flavor to the method or topic.

You never know, you just may like it!

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