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McKenzie Mann

Recent Posts

A Rose by Any Other Name Might Smell Sweeter

Posted by McKenzie Mann

Tue, Jun 23, 2015

amazon mom, family, segmentationSince the death of popular dad-blogger Oren Miller in February, there has been a resurgence of an initiative he started: pushing Amazon to change its parenting program’s name from “Amazon Mom” to “Amazon Family.” Amazon Mom is a subscription-based service that allows parents to get deals such as 20% off diaper subscriptions and 15% baby registries. Members also receive emails with messages like “As a busy mom, your time is precious. That’s why we’re offering you two free audiobooks—so you can catch up on today’s best sellers even when you’re on the treadmill, in yoga class, or toning up.” It’s apparent from its name and its messaging that Amazon has chosen a target market for this service, and it is not Oren Miller.However, in other countries, Miller wouldn’t have had to start this initiative. Elsewhere in the world (CanadaFrance, AustriaJapanGermany, and the U.K.), Amazon Mom is already known as Amazon Family. The sites all look similar and offer similar discounts, so why is the name different in the U.S.? While Amazon has not made any comments on this, it is clear that they thought naming the program Amazon Mom would be more successful for the brand in the U.S. marketplace. This one word change has an immense effect on who might use the program. As Miller frequently pointed out on his blog, the name insinuates that mothers are the only capable caretakers and, thus, the only ones who would use this service.

Why would Amazon do this? Probably because even though using the word “mom” instead of “family” ostracizes an entire group of people, it allows Amazon to directly appeal to this service’s primary target market: moms. This is a situation in which a segmentation study could have come in handy. Although sometimes the markets for services or products seem obvious, segmentation studies can identify underlying groups that might otherwise be missed. It can use goals, experience, usage, characteristics, and needs to group similar people together in ways that might not be obvious at first. In this case, a segmentation could show that Amazon was missing a smaller—but vocal—group in dads.

Miller’s petition is nearing its goal amount of signatures. If it hits its goal, will it make a difference? Will “Amazon Mom” actually change to “Amazon Family”? Possibly. It’s at least something to consider as more and more people get involved in the cause, using #AmazonFamilyUS to shine light on the situation and to illustrate how angry they are at being excluded.

McKenzie Mann is a Senior Associate Researcher at CMB. She spends most of her spare time trying to convince her friends that it’s funny to replace the word “man” with “mann.” It's a work in progress, but mann will it be great when it catches on.

Topics: brand health and positioning, market strategy and segmentation, retail research

Incentivized Reviews: A Look at Amazon’s Vine Program

Posted by McKenzie Mann

Wed, Feb 12, 2014

incentivized reviewsOne of my major motivators in life is receiving free stuff. You can often find me walking around Costco looking for samples or signing up for loyalty programs just for the bonuses. So, when I recently started using Birchbox, a monthly subscription service that sends a box of expensive beauty product samples each month, I was ecstatic to learn that I could earn rewards points for reviewing each product in the box. Birchbox’s use of points seems to be working; with around 400,000 subscribers most of their products have over 2,000 reviews with some nearing 10,000.

This program has two key benefits for Birchbox. It keeps users engaged; reviewers need to go to the website at least once per month to review products. And, it gives buyers more confidence in the products. With thousands of reviews and a 4- or 5-star rating, customers can feel safe they’re buying a good product. This strategy, however, might leave you asking: is it fair to ask customers to depend on reviews when the reviewers are incentivized to write them? If you’re not a Birchbox member you might think the question is purely academic. But chances are you are one of the nearly 700 million people who’ve shopped on Amazon, and in that case, you have some things to think about.

Enter Amazon Vine, an invitation-only program in which Amazon’s top reviewers are given free products to review, sometimes before they’re released to the public. According to Amazon, they welcome both positive and negative reviews, and ask only for honest reviews. Despite the fact that Vine reviews are identified with a green stripe, in the beginning many readers of reviews were unaware of the program, they believed they were reading the reviews of people like themselves, who reviewed a product they bought because they wanted or needed it. Instead, they are written by people who are given products by Amazon (sometimes worth as much as $1,000) with the only stipulations are that they have to write a review within 30 days and they can’t sell or give away the product. It’s fair to wonder whether these two types of reviewers may react differently to products based on the circumstances.

amazon vineAmazon has actually confirmed that Vine reviewers act differently than non-incentivized reviewers, but not perhaps the way you might think. On average, Vine reviewers give lower ratings than non-Viners. That being said, Amazon research shows that products with bad reviews still sell better than those with no reviews. In the end, it seems to be a win for all parties: Amazon gets reviews from invested reviewers which then boost product sales; The Consumer can read reviews from both Vine and non-Vine members, and decide themselves who to trust; The Vendor may very well see increased sales due to the reviews; and finally, the Vine Reviewer, who ends up with a lot of free stuff.

The key here is transparency, knowing whether the reviewer received the product for free lets the consumer weigh how much that review counts in their decision. For me, when I’m reading Amazon reviews, if I see the “Vine reviewer” stamp on it, I’ll trust that I’m reading the review of an opinionated, knowledgeable reviewer. And if I get an invitation to join Vine, you’ll be reading my reviews in no time.

McKenzie wrote this blog post from Oregon. She managed to avoid both snake bites and dysentery on her trip west from Boston.

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Topics: customer experience and loyalty, retail research