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New Consumer Pulse: Mobile Users Upending Hotel Path to Purchase


By Judy Melanson

Our latest Consumer Pulse report—a study of 2,000 leisure travelers—found that mobile, social, and online factors influence travelers very differently at separate stages of the hotel booking purchase journey.

We know travelers have a ton of information at their fingertips as they plan and book hotels for their vacations. The challenge for hotels is to decide how to align marketing budgets to best intercept potential travelers—delivering desired content on the appropriate device and through the right channels and partners.

For more information on how technology is changing the path to purchase download the full report here and see an infographic with a few of the findings below:

The New Hotel Booking Path to Purchase

Download the full report.

For more on our mobile stitching methodology, please see CMB's Chris Neal's webinar with Research Now: Watch the Webinar

Judy Melanson is the head of CMB's Travel and Hospitality Practice. She just returned from a very leisurely trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Stephanie Kimball is CMB's Senior Marketing Manager and created the infographic above. She can't wait for her upcoming trip to London, Amsterdam, Munich, and Prague!

In-N-Out Serves up a Side of Innovation


By Hilary O'Haire

innovation, innovative, In-N-Out BurgerI've just returned from a week-long vacation to California, and I'm still feeling the joy (and guilt) from satisfying my ultimate indulgence: In-N-Out Burger. Since I’m an East Coaster without frequent access to their locations, my trip would not have been complete without going at least once. I have another confession: I ate there three times in ten days. I may have overdone it, but my love of the brand is predictable. In-N-Out Burger is the one chain Millennials will return to time and time again—we just can’t seem to get enough of it. This is not new nor surprising news. As a Millennial myself, I am enamored by the restaurant, which offers a simple four item menu, fast service, and garden-fresh ingredients.

A report by Technomic states, “In-N-Out Burger is the chain most likely to be revisited. Millennials place greater emphasis on the concept's brand image, agreeing more strongly than other generations that In-N-Out Burger supports local community activities, offers new and exciting products and is an innovative brand.” To me, the most interesting finding is that In-N-Out’s brand is seen as innovative. This begs the question: how can they be innovative if they only offer four items? Devout fans may point to the success of their “not-so-secret menu,” which is listed only on their website and boasts creative burger combinations, as a reason. However, I’d like to think In-N-Out serves as a gentle reminder: innovation doesn't always mean complexity. Although customers may continue to eat up crazier menu choices, the actual menu at each location remains clear and unchanging: burgers, french fries, shakes, and beverages.

Although it's impossible to avoid complexity at all phases, the root of innovation or product development should remain simple. When beginning to think about innovation—perhaps a new product or new process to improve your business—let this be a helpful reminder to have a focused core set of objectives in mind. Using In-N-Out’s magic number four, take a step back and ask yourself: What are the (up to) four innovation objectives that I need to guarantee success? Your success will be defined by multiple outcomes, from stakeholder support to the ultimate goal of application or use. However, keeping clear and consistent objectives will ground your innovation through execution and management. The end result of these objectives may be unknown, but who knows?—you may find yourself concocting your own “not-so-secret menu” of innovative ideas.

Hilary O’Haire is Senior Associate at CMB. If you find yourself at In-N-Out Burger in the near future, she recommends not-so-secretly ordering your meal ‘Protein Style.’  

Join us at The Market Research Event! Use the code CMB2014 and receive 25% off your registration. 

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6 Questions with Allstate’s Bob Pankauskas


By Anne Bailey Berman

allstate, innovation, Bob Pankauskas  Allstate Insurance’s Director of Consumer Insights, Bob Pankauskas, sat down with CMB President Anne Bailey Berman to talk innovation, mobile, and what clients need to expect from market researchers.

Anne: Innovation isn’t a word people typically associate with insurance, yet the industry’s changed drastically in the past 5 years. How has that impacted you as a Market Researcher?

Bob: Innovation is a big part of what my team is charged with supporting. We’ve been doing a lot more exploration in terms of coming up with new products and services. This also means we need to broaden our toolkit with more exploratory and discovery work. For example, we’re rediscovering the world of ethnography to try and provide products and services for the future. We’ve done several ethnography projects, and we’re using new tools. We even had one of the ethnographies we did turned into a video that was used by the board of directors to showcase some interesting pain points consumers have with their cars. We’re also doing more and more concept testing and developing and exploring ideas.

Anne: So when you’re talking about innovation, you’re talking about two types of innovation. You’re talking about innovation for products and services for Allstate, but you’re also talking about the innovation of information tools in your bucket. How do you determine if the tools you’re using for innovation are really helping you more than traditional tools?

Bob: The thing we’re always searching for is that insight—that visceral reaction that consumers have. Consumers are behaving in a certain way. Why are they behaving that way? Anything that helps us get to a good insight is really useful, and a lot of the nontraditional ways seem to be more useful than the traditional quantitative approach. You have to work a little harder to get insights out of a quantitative approach, so using qualitative helps a great deal. Our CMO will say, “Great, what’s the consumer insight? What is the pain point?”  We need to focus on the problem we’re solving for the customer. It’s very easy to ask, but often we find we’re solving a problem for Allstate and not really solving the problem for consumers.  We work hard to address that.

Anne: What research challenges are keeping you up at night?

Bob: A really pressing topic of the day is the migration to mobile. It’s only a matter of time before we migrate all of our research platforms to mobile devices. We want our respondents to be able to choose when, how, and where they answer our questions. At this point, we do optimize our surveys for mobile. We pay a lot of attention to question length, simplifying response options, and usability. Our goal is to make our surveys engaging and rigorous.

Of course, trackers are a bigger challenge—it’s painful to live through that period when you say, “. . . and then we changed everything and our numbers are different.” But there are incremental opportunities that mobile provides—being in the moment, getting a real-time view of sponsored events, and just the ability to capture insights when customers are in the midst of an experience. We’re also really excited to utilize consumer-generated images to get more color and context from mobile cameras and not just words and numbers.  The shift is inevitable and the opportunities are there. We just need to be mindful of what we lose and what we gain as we make trade-offs in terms of trending.

Anne: What about target markets?

Bob: We’re trying to go after Millennials like everybody else. Everybody is chasing them, and it’s hard to crack the code. Going after a target means going after them well—understanding their motivators and having a product or service that is tailored to them. I think we have found how they liked to be talked to. They want to be treated with respect. They do want to research things online, but they still want to talk to somebody and touch base with them. It’s more about the “how” and less about the “what.”

Anne: What consumer insights get you most excited? Which tools?

Bob: It isn’t necessarily the tool that gives you the best insights. It’s creating receptivity and listening carefully. One of the most powerful insights we had at Allstate was the need for tangibility. Insurance is an intangible product or service. When you’re getting it, you really don’t know what you’re getting.

The thing is that we’re trying to solve the same problem again and again. So the issue is, how can you—as a smart marketer, researcher, or innovator—change your perspective just a little bit and look at the same thing you’ve been looking at for a long time and say, “Oh! Wow! Look at that! That’s new!” Now maybe it wasn’t new, but you changed your perspective and suddenly saw it. Many of the new techniques allow that change in perspective, and that’s pretty powerful.

Anne: And finally, what would you tell market research vendors about how they can best support the decisions you need to make?

Bob: Partner with your clients. Experiment as often as you can because you’ve got to make changes. You don’t put all your bets on the stuff, but you do have to test and learn. And then the second thing is TLDR—too long, didn’t read. It’s a great feeling to know there’s a 100 page deck of tables to support whatever the project is and that you’ve got your money’s worth. But that’s not at all what we pass on to our internal clients. We live in an ADD world. We’re all time starved, so we need to get to that 1 page summary. Tell me the 2 things I need to know—what’s your recommendation and how this is actionable? The ability to do that is what I’m looking for in a partner.

Check out our new case study to see how we helped a top 25 global bank develop a new value proposition and evaluate perceptions of various service channels and transactions.


Qualitative, Quantitative, or Both? Tips for Choosing the Right Tool


By Ashley Harrington

quantitative, qualitative, methodologyIn market research, it can occasionally feel like the rivalry between qualitative and quantitative research is like the Red Sox vs. the Yankees.  You can’t root for both, and you can’t just “like” one.  You’re very passionate about your preference.  But in many cases, this can be problematic. For example, using a quantitative mindset or tactics in a qualitative study (or vice versa) can lead to inaccurate conclusions. 

Below are some examples of this challenge—one that can happen throughout all phases of the research process: 


Clients will occasionally request that market researchers use a particular methodology for an engagement. We always explore these requests further with our clients to ensure there isn’t a disconnect between the requested methodology and the problem the client is trying to solve.

For example, a bank* might say, “The latest results from our brand tracking study indicate that customers are extremely frustrated by our call center and we have no idea why. Let’s do a survey to find out.”

Because the bank has no hypotheses about the cause of the issue, moving forward with their survey request could lead to designing a tool with (a) too many open-ended questions and (b) questions/answer options that are no more than wild guesses at the root of the problem, which may or may not jibe with how consumers actually think and feel.

Instead, qualitative research could be used to provide a foundation of preliminary knowledge about a particular problem, population, and so forth. Ultimately, that knowledge can be used to help inform the design of a tool that would be useful.

Questionnaire Design

For a product development study, a software company* asks to add an open-ended question to a survey: “What would make you more likely to use this software?” or “What do you wish the software could do that it can’t do now?”

Since most of us are not engineers or product designers, this question might be difficult for most respondents to answer. Open-ended questions like these are likely to yield a lot of not-so-helpful “I don’t know”-type responses, rather than specific enhancement suggestions.

Instead of squandering valuable real estate on a question not likely to yield helpful data, a qualitative approach could allow respondents to react to ideas at a more conceptual level, bounce ideas off of each other or a moderator, or take some time to reflect on their responses. Even if the customer is not a R&D expert, they may have a great idea that just needs a bit of coaxing via input and engagement with others.

Analysis and Reporting

In reviewing the findings from an online discussion board, a client at a restaurant chain* reviews the transcripts and states, “85% of participants responded negatively to our new item, so we need to remove it from our menu.”

Since findings from qualitative studies are not necessarily statistically significant, using the same techniques (e.g., descriptive statistics and frequencies) is not ideal as it implies a level of precision in the findings that is not necessarily accurate. Further, it would not be cost-effective to recruit and conduct qualitative research with a group large enough to be projectable onto the general population.

Rather than attempting to quantify the findings in strictly numerical terms, qualitative data should be thought of as more directional in terms of overall themes and observable patterns.

At CMB, we root for both teams. We believe both produce impactful insights, and that often means using a hybrid approach. We believe the most meaningful insights come from choosing the approach or approaches best suited to the problem our client is trying to solve. However, being a Boston-based company, we can’t say that we’re nearly this unbiased when it comes to the Red Sox versus the Stankees Yankees.

*Example (not actual)

Ashley is a Project Manager at CMB. She loves both qualitative and quantitative equally and is not knowledgeable enough about sports to make any sports-related analogies more sophisticated than the Red Sox vs. the Yankees.

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The Clear Writing Solution to Critical Insights


By Kirsten Clark 

clear writing, cmb, insights,

A few weeks ago, thirty of my colleagues and I attended a clear writing workshop. When I first got the calendar notification for this workshop, I thought, “Oh, God, not another one.” As a recent college graduate and a current graduate student, I can’t tell you how many writing workshops I’ve attended over the years. And each time, I find myself walking away thinking that my time could have been much better spent.

However, this workshop was different. I actually learned something! And, even better, it relates to how we, as market researchers, can tell the story of our insights in the most effective way.

At this workshop, our instructor insisted we abandon fancy phrases and just say and write what we mean. Instead of focusing on the words, we should focus on the ideas. Our instructor even suggested we practice not looking at our screens. This allows us to focus on expressing our thoughts and ideas rather than on the words we use to articulate them. Sounds like a simple premise, right? Maybe in theory.

I’ll admit that I’m one of those people who will sit and stare at a computer screen until the right word or phrase comes to mind. Instead of focusing on what I need to say, I find myself caught up in how I want to say it—which is exactly the problem our instructor wanted us to address. We all use unnecessary language from time-to-time to make our writing seem more intelligent or more “professional.” However, that’s when our writing runs the risk of being unclear.

Unclear language in market research can cause a lot of problems. For example, a convoluted report can lead to problems interpreting the data or results. Our writing impacts the validity of the work we do, and when that writing is compromised, we could have a lack of buy-in from stakeholders, waste research dollars, and so forth. We need to always make sure we’re answering the right questions, which often boil down to:

  1. Who wins here? And how do we make sure they know it?
  2. Who loses here? And how do we help them win somewhere else?

We shouldn’t be asking, “What do I want to say?” Instead, we should be asking, “What do I want this person to learn?” When you think about it, these are two totally separate concepts. I might want to tell you about how awesome Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s concert was, but does that help you in any way? Probably not. Furthermore, we need to ask ourselves (1) whether it’s worth the reader’s time and effort and (2) what will the reader get out of it. This is where those “right” questions above come into play. Those are the questions we should be answering for our clients. Those are the questions that will allow us to demonstrate what we want them to learn. Those are the questions worth answering.

So, here are my answers to those questions as they relate to this blog post:

  • What do I want you to learn? Communicating clearly and effectively by keeping your reader in mind is critical. At CMB, we’re constantly thinking not just about what we need to say but about what we want our clients to learn—information that will empower them to make meaningful decisions. 
  • Was this worth your time? Did you get anything out of it? Let me know! What do you think makes an excellent report? What makes recommendations useful? Tell me in the comments!

Bonus answer:

  • Was that Beyoncé and Jay-Z concert really as awesome as you say? It truly, truly was.

Kirsten Clark is a Marketing Associate who’s also pursuing a M.A. in Integrated Marketing Communications at Emerson College. As a lover of the English language, she’s thrilled by all the possibilities present when writing. She also has a deep, unconditional love for Beyoncé.

Check out our new case study to see how we helped a top 25 global bank develop a new value proposition and evaluate perceptions of various service channels and transactions.


For the Love of Disney: A Look into the Power of Loyalty


By Alyse Dunn

loyalty, Chadwick Martin Bailey, DisneyHow many times have you done your favorite thing? It doesn’t matter what your favorite thing may be, or if your favorite thing varies by season. Just think of the number. Does it seem lower than you would expect? Does it seem higher? Or, does it feel just right?

Have you ever been to Walt Disney World 50 times? I have. And I continue to go every year. Why? That’s an excellent question and even though, at this point, I have a fairly automated response to that very question, people still don’t seem to understand.

Let me start by addressing the most typical questions I am asked:

  • Don’t you ever go anywhere else? Sometimes, but why would I want to? Ever since I was little, Disney has been (and continues to be) where we have our family vacation every single year. I have expanded my travel as an adult, but the Disney allure still pulls my whole family back annually.
  • Don’t you get sick of going? Not at all. When you’ve been as many times as I have, you get to see Disney through a new lens. There is less of a focus on getting everything in and more of a focus on taking it all in.
  • And the pièce de résistance: Aren’t you too old for Disney? This is my favorite question to answer—not just because I am much younger than most people would assume given my record. I love this question because I get to respond in a way that would garner Disney’s approval—you are never too old for Disney World.  In youth, I was drawn by the enchantment. In adulthood, I’m now just drawn by that feeling I get each time I step through those gates.

I may be able to sing “A Whole New World” without musical accompaniment and relay unnecessarily detailed quips about every ride in the park, but I don’t find that juvenile. I find that—for lack of a better word—magical.

All of my trips to Disney have done a lot for me, but at the end of the day, there is far more to this than just ample travel—and that’s loyalty. I am 100% loyal to Disney. I own their dinnerware, clothing, and toys. I name my pets after their characters. I see all of their movies and know almost everything about them, and I still can’t sleep the night before a trip.  

What makes someone loyal? Lots of things can sprout loyalty, but not all loyalty is equal. In fact, there are a few different kinds of loyalty that a person can experience, including:

  • Captive Loyalty. In colloquial terms, “I will stay with you because it’s too difficult to change.” How frequently do you change your bank or cable provider? Not often, right? That’s because changing providers can be more trouble than it’s worth. That’s not to say that some people don’t love their bank, but maybe that love is a little more conditional.
  • Uninvolved Loyalty. How much thought have you put in to your car insurance provider since purchasing the car? (Bueller?) Maybe that’s because the automated processes that are in place for paying this type and other types of insurance (mortgage) have made you consider it less. Loyal? Yes. Actively loyal? Maybe not so much. It may be part of the reason why companies are encouraging automatic withdrawals for payments.
  • Distribution Loyalty. What is your absolute favorite beer? Is it easily/readily available? If you answered “yes,” it could be that part of your choice is based on distribution—the fact that you can easily get what you want, when you want it. Why are some brands so successful? Perhaps it’s because they have the market bandwidth.
  • Heritage Loyalty. Did your parents always use the same detergent when you were a child? Do you use that same one in your own home today? Sometimes loyalty happens based on what we grow up with. Think back to some of the everyday products you choose. Does your family use them as well? There you go.
  • Loyal Loyalty (aka True Loyalty). The following are elements of true loyalty: you think of the brand first, you believe the brand is the best at what they do, you believe any new line extension they introduce will be a winner and is definitely worth trying, and you have an emotional attachment to the brand. This is the kind of loyalty brands are looking for—the kind I have for Disney.

Loyalty plays into all of the daily choices we make like which brand of soap, chips, or shoes to buy. We find something that works, and we stick with it. Loyalty is often hard to shake. How many times have one of “your brands” upset you, and yet you’ve still given them another chance?

The question that market research should strive to answer is: what can drive this loyalty? As researchers, we need to help companies deepen emotional attachment and better understand their loyal customer base and develop products and services that suit their needs.

Alyse is a Senior Research Associate on the financial/retail practice and still travels to Disney with her family at least once a year. Through her multiple excursions, she has discovered EPCOT is more fun the older you get.

NEW WEBINAR 7/24 at 12:30 PM EST:

Concept Optimization Tools for Introducing a Suite of Products: This webinar will provide insights into the tools that can be used from early screening of features to a ready to launch optimization and demand estimation of the final offer.

Register Today!

Do you Uber? Taking a Ride with the Future of Customer Experience


By Dana Vaille

CMB, Uber, Customer ExperienceIf you live in a city, you probably know about the current battle between Uber car services (and others) vs. taxi companies. Maybe you’ve seen stories in the news or actually found yourself in the middle of a taxi driver protest yourself—like the one that happened just outside our offices in Boston, where cab drivers protested by honking their horns for a solid two hours. 

The gist of the story is this: taxis are highly regulated forms of public transportation. Depending on local laws, they may have permits to pay for, extra insurance to carry, etc. Then along comes a private, unregulated, service like Uber that is (mostly) offering cheaper fares and taking business away from the taxi drivers.  The taxi drivers are understandably frustrated that companies like Uber don’t (for now) have to follow the same guidelines, pay the same fees, etc. I can certainly empathize with the taxis on that front, and I don’t want to under-emphasize the importance of their perspective here. That said, for the purposes of this blog I will focus only on the customer’s perspective…and the potential differences in the customer experience. 

I have taken taxis for years and also recently tried a ride with Uber. Thinking about the taxi vs. Uber experience, excluding the fares, here’s my take:


  • Uber: The company makes it easy to request pickup, regardless of where you are

  • Traditional Taxi: I either need to see a taxi and flag it down, or have a taxi company phone number on hand and be able to identify my exact location—not always easy in an unfamiliar city 


  • Uber: The app tells me the driver’s name and what he/she looks like, so I know who is picking me up (I can also share that information with my family/friends for safety reasons)

  • Traditional Taxi: I wouldn’t be able to identify the taxi driver until I’m already in the car


  • Uber: Payment is charged to the credit card on file—it doesn’t get more convenient

  • Traditional Taxi: Taxis require that I either have cash on hand, or pull out my credit card and wait for it to be processed

As a customer, I can easily understand the appeal of a service like Uber.  Even if the fares were the same, or I had to pay a little extra, I might still choose Uber just for the convenience.  As a researcher, I see an opportunity for taxi companies to evaluate the customer experience to find out what they can do better. It’s time for taxi companies to start asking customers…why do you Uber?

Dana is a Research Director at CMB. She loves traveling and exploring new areas, but is admittedly bad with directions. She is uber-excited about the availability of car services like Uber, where she no longer needs to be responsible for providing directions.

NEW WEBINAR 7/24 at 12:30 PM EST:
Concept Optimization Tools for Introducing a Suite of Products: This webinar will provide insights into the tools that can be used from early screening of features to a ready to launch optimization and demand estimation of the final offer.

Register here!



Upcoming Webinar: Modularized Research Design for a Mobile World


By Chris Neal

The market research industry is at a crossroads as client demands push survey length longer while respondents increasingly take survey from smartphones (see our previous blog on mobile market research trends and best practices). In our upcoming webinar, Melanie Courtright of Research Now and I will share insights from a recent experiment in modularized research design. Below is a brief summary:


Many advanced analytical techniques require ~15-25 minutes (or more) worth of questioning to function, but many smartphone survey-takers drop out after ~5-10 minutes worth of content. Personally, I’ve seen drop-out rates over 5x on smartphones compared to what I see from the same profile of people taking the exact same survey on a computer or a tablet (note: I don’t see much of a difference between computer and tablet survey-takers…it’s smartphone survey-takers that are different). This can happen even with the most mobile-optimized survey user experience possible (e.g., no banks of rating scales requiring horizontal scrolling, minimal text on each screen, no vertical scrolling, no images or watermarks).

This trajectory is unsustainable but most people I know—quite understandably—want it to just go away.

The bad news is: it won’t. As an industry, we need to adapt to this new reality, kicking and screaming.

The good news is: we’re actually well equipped to do this, and we’ve been forced to make major adaptations before. Many of the sampling approaches and analytical tools we’ve been using for a long time can be applied in new ways to new situations we will increasingly find ourselves in with mobile market research. The key for us is testing and learning which tools work for which situations; which don’t, and updating our “conventional wisdom” about research best practices to be relevant in an increasingly mobile and increasingly modularized research world.


With this in mind, CMB partnered with Research Now to self-sponsor a research-on-research study where we purposefully sampled blocks of smartphone survey-takers alongside computer survey-takers and modularized our research design so that different “nodes” of smartphone survey-takers only answers specific parts of the overall questionnaire. We then experimented with different approaches for imputing all the missing data we ended up with to see which worked and which didn’t.

The Topic: We examined the purchase journey for:

(a) Recent tablet buyers in the U.S. and…

(b) Recent hotel bookers (for personal travel) in the U.S.

For each category, we examined the original purchase triggers, how they became aware of different brands and options, research and evaluation, the final purchase decision, and the channel through which they ultimately purchased their tablet or booked their hotel.

Sampling & Weighting:

Whenever doing a modularized survey design, it is important to balance the various smartphone survey-taker nodes so they are comparable to one another on the key dimensions that could impact their attitudes or behaviors. All the rules we have used for doing this in longitudinal tracker studies come into play here as well. For this study, we ensured that our four different respondent nodes (one group of respondents who took the full survey on a computer, and three separate groups of respondents who took parts of the same survey on smartphones) were identical to one another on the core demographics (age, gender, and household income).

We first fielded all the computer survey-takers who answered the entire questionnaire, doing census-balanced click-throughs so we had a reliable read on the true demographic composition of recent tablet buyers and personal hotel bookers. We then fielded the smartphone survey-takers so that each node matched the demographic composition of the computer survey-taker node. We used RAKE weighting to correct any fielding imperfections:

modularized survey

Each smartphone survey-taker answered a core set of questions that all respondents answered (e.g., screeners, which brands they were aware of, considered and ultimately purchased), then were routed to one purchase journey node to answer in detail (but they skipped the others).

modularized survey


The real fun began once we got the data back. There were two primary techniques we compared for imputing data:

1)     Fully conditional imputation

  • What it is: iterative Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method

  • How it works: for every variable with missing data, it creates a predictive model using all other available variables with real data as predictors.

2)      Hot decking

    • Replaces missing values with values from a similar respondent

    • Sorts the file by the key criteria to match (e.g., age, gender, income)

    • Impose randomness to the sort with a random number (deck)

    • For each respondent that has missing values (“recipient”), it looks to the next respondent that matches on all key (deck) measures (donor)

    • If the 2 respondents match on the specified criteria: it fills the recipient’s missing data with the donor’s data

     CMB Hot Decking


    Join us on July 9th for a webinar where we will review lessons learned from this project and implications for modularizing surveys in an increasingly mobile world.  There is simply too much detail and good stuff to spill the beans all in one blog post. Suffice it to say for now that it was a learning journey for everyone involved (which was indeed our mission), and we are sharing everything we learned along the way to further the industry’s collective knowledge base of how to adapt to this sea change in consumer research participation.

    Register Here!

    Chris leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing.

    The Market Researcher and the Psychic: A Lesson in Divine Inference


    By Hannah Jeton

    describe the imageWith both feet planted on the ground (guaranteeing my ankles are uncrossed for proper energy flow) and my palms out in front of me, Clarence’s** palms rest against mine, reading my energy. His mouth twitches slightly, and his eyes are closed.  There is silence, a sigh, and an “okay.” Then our session begins.

    A few weeks ago, I finally cashed-in my LivingSocial voucher for a 30-minute tarot card reading at a tearoom in Boston with two co-workers. I left the session totally blown away. I will never make a major life decision based on a tarot card reading. However, as an insights professional, I did come away with some surprising takeaways into the power of putting a little art into the science of insights to create a story that resonates.

    Back to the reading: I draw my first 10 cards, shuffling them back and forth between my hands—transferring more energy. Then, I hand them over to Clarence, the moderator between me and the stars. He dutifully lays them out. More silence. We both look at the cards.

    “Girl, you are playing with all my favorite cards! Everything is spinning around you, and you can’t quite get enough information to make any decisions.” I look more closely at the tapestry of cups, swords, kings, queens, skulls, hearts, and wings. Again, I’m skeptical. I’m 23—of course my life is crazy and of course I don’t have enough information to make any decisions!

    I still try to seem unfazed. We begin to go into details, and he starts listing specifics about my life.  He reads different sets of cards for family, health, career, and romance. The claims he is making are correct. Everything he says is just vague enough that I can back code it to some recent event or situation. So, yes, I am being skeptical, but I am also wow-ed. Boy is he good! He knows!  

    With each “revelation,” I can see how his customers become convinced. Clarence here possesses extra sensory skills. His ability to assess what bothers me allows him to eliminate wrong guesses and focus on communicating statements that are more accurate.

    Probability, statistics, and good old-fashioned story-telling are all at play in simple and fundamental ways here. From the moment I entered the office, Clarence went to work building a narrative with the highest probability of accuracy. Through observation he carefully took in as much information as he could: my clothes, my manner of speech, my apparent age, my physical attributes, my socioeconomic status, and my mannerisms. Mix those inferences with some pop statistics (see any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books), and my reader had a very, very good chance of being correct.

    Unlike tarot card readers, we market research insight professionals take a more rigorous approach to validating our observations. After all, there are real decisions being made here beyond whether to take a dark, handsome stranger up on that drink. But the fact remains that in readings and in research, there is often no one “right” answer. The most useful insights and solutions are most often a balance of statistical validity, real-world usability, and a really good story.

    **name has been changed to protect my destiny

    Hannah is a senior associate on the Technology and E-Commerce team and is due for check-in to see what’s in store for her next at CMB. She, like Clarence, has a knack for predictive analysis and enjoys reading our clients’ minds from time to time.

    Join us and Research Now on July 9th at 12PM EST to learn about the modularized traditional purchasing survey we created, which allows researchers to reach mobile shoppers en mass. We'll review sampling and weighting best practices and study design considerations as well as our “data-stitching” process. 

    Register Here!

    Parents at the Tumble Gym: A Segmentation Analysis


    By Jessica Chavez 

    segmentation, parenting, cmb, chadwick martin baileyOn Saturdays, when the weather is not fit for the playground, I take my toddler to a tumble gym where he can run, climb, and kick balls around with other kids his age.  Parents must accompany kids in the play area as this is a free-form play center without an employed staff (other than the front desk attendant).  As a market researcher and a perpetual observer of the human condition, I’ve noticed that these parents fall into three distinct groups: the super-involved group, the middle-of-the-road group, and the barely-involved group.

    The super-involved parents take full control of their child’s playtime.  They grab the ball and throw it to their kid. They build forts. They chase the kids around.  They completely guide their child’s playtime by initiating all the activities.  “Over here, Jimmy!  Let’s build a ramp and climb up!  Now let’s build a fort!  Ooh, let’s grab that ball and kick it!”

    The middle-of-the-road group lets the kids play on their own, but they also keep an eye out and intervene when needed. For example, a parent in this group would intervene if the child is looking dangerously unstable while climbing the fort, or if the child steals another kid’s ball and sparks a meltdown.

    The barely-involved parents tend to lean against the wall and stay on their phones—probably checking Facebook. They don’t know where their kid is or what their kid is doing.  For all they know, their child could be scaling a four foot wall and jumping onto another kid’s head.

    This just demonstrates this simple fact: people are more the same than they are different.  This is why I love segmentation studies—it’s fascinating that almost everyone can be grouped together based on similar behaviors.

    At CMB, we strive to make our segmentation studies relevant, meaningful, and actionable.  To this end, we have found the following five-point plan valuable for guiding our segmentation studies:

    • Start with the End in Mind: Determine how the definition and understanding of segments will be used before you begin.
    • Allow for Multiple Bases: Take a comprehensive, model-based approach that incorporates all potential bases.
    • Have an Open Mind: Let the segments define themselves.
    • Leverage Existing Resources: Harness the power of your internal databases.
    • Create a Plan of Action: Focus on internal deployment from the start.

    Because each segmentation study is different, using appropriate selection criteria ensures that segments can be acted upon.  In the case of the tumble gym patrons, we might recommend that marketing efforts be based on a psychographic segmentation.  What are the parenting philosophies?  In what ways does this motivate the parents, and how can marketing efforts be targeted to the low-hanging fruit?

    Incidentally, I find that I fall into the middle segment.

    Jessica is a Data Manager at CMB and can’t help but mentally segment the population at large.

    Want to learn more about segmentation? In the “The 5 C’s of Great Segmentation Socializers,” Brant Cruz shares 5 tips for making sure your segmentation is embraced and used in your organization. 

    New Webinar: Modularized Research Design for a Mobile World

    Join us and Research Now on July 9th at 12PM EST to learn about the modularized traditional purchasing survey we created, which allows researchers to reach mobile shoppers en mass. We'll review sampling and weighting best practices and study design considerations as well as our “data-stitching” process. 

    Register Today!

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