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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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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24
Aug

5 Myths About Being a Moderator

5 myths about moderators

By: Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

1: Travel for work = vacation

Being a moderator and traveling for work, people often comment on how “lucky” I am to travel for my job.  It is true that I am lucky to have a career that I enjoy, but being “lucky” because of my work travels is an overstatement.

When I travel for a project, I usually work 9-12 hours per day inside of a temperature controlled, windowless facility. After my interviews are complete, I stagger out into the night air in search of food and beverages and then hurry back to my hotel room to write-up my notes for the day…then repeat. I know what you’re thinking “wait, that sounds like…work.” Well it is work.  And this cycle could last for 1 day or up to 10 days if I am participating in a clinic. So travel yes; vacation it is not.

2: Traveling gets you away from the office

When I relate my tale of what it is truly like for me to travel for work, I often hear “well at least you are away from the office.” With the advent of smart phones, and other mobile devices, is anyone ever truly away from the office? Not really. And this holds true for moderators too. Just because I am not physically positioned at my desk in our office building, does not mean that I am “away” from the office.

Once back at my hotel in the evenings, I am answering all of the emails that I received while I was conducting interviews. The work back home doesn’t stop while I’m out on the road and neither do the email/text notifications.

3: Moderating is easy

This is my favorite moderator myth.  There are some who look from the outside and see me “talk” for a living. But moderating is much more than simply talking to someone. It is engaging in conversation about topics that consumers may not even know they could converse about at length. When I conduct interviews about a topic or product that consumers take for granted, such as a cleaning product, my interviewees wonder, “What is there to talk about for an hour?” Once we are engaged in the conversation and our time together has expired, respondents are shocked to realize that we did, indeed, talk for an hour.

I will say it is easier to speak to someone about a concept vehicle, but it takes skill to keep a somewhat natural conversation going about toilet cleaner.

Besides maintaining a conversation, my job also entails observing what is happening around me and determining my next move.  In all things, body language is important. And as a good moderator, this should always be taken into account. Body language tells me when I need to follow-up on a response, when I need to ask another respondent what their position is on a subject, or when I should let a line of questioning lapse until the respondent feels more comfortable speaking on a certain topic.

So yes, I talk about everything from consumer concept vehicles to toilet cleaners, but if I didn’t also observe what is happening around me, I would only be getting part of the conversation.

4: Report writing is a breeze

I once had a colleague tell me that every time he tries to write a qualitative report, it goes something like this, “I write some people said this, some people said that…and then I die a little inside.”  I don’t know if I would equate qualitative report writing to the withering of your entire existence, but for those accustomed to reading tabs and writing reports from the data, qualitative reports can be daunting.

The hardest part about writing a qualitative report as a moderator is trying to make sense of a ton of unstructured data. Not only are you looking for the answers to your questions and behavioral themes, but you are also searching for any context that may be important for a client to understand.

And while a quantitative report is sometimes rated on how many charts and different data cuts can be obtained, a qualitative report is judged by its ability to tell a story in the briefest possible manner.  Think more twitter post, than blog. And while not as soul crushing as my colleague indicates, you may just be a little more bruised after your report is finished.

5: We don’t like numbers

I call foul on this. I like numbers.  Numbers are necessary as they help to get a story across to a large number of people.  This will never change. But what I will say is that in today’s world, you need both numbers and the human context behind the numbers to truly make a difference. Think about all the times you hear people say “I don’t want to be just another number.” It’s not that they don’t want to be counted. What they don’t want is for companies to treat them as only a widget to be tallied and tossed into a heap of others to be tabulated and charted. They want to be regarded as a person.

Qualitative helps to define the humanity behind the numbers. And once you can define the humanity, that’s where change can truly occur in how a company produces and markets their products and services. Once this change occurs, consumers flock to these companies as one that “gets” them.  And that will add numbers to a company’s consumer base, its likes, its shares, and its sales – all numbers. Who doesn’t like that?

While there are certain myths about my job as a moderator that I have to contend with, I still love what I do. And I’ll admit sometimes the stars do align and I can tack on a few extra days to schedule a vacation after a project is complete. Not as glamorous as all the myths, but the truth never is.

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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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