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Big Data: We’ve Only Just Begun

Posted by Jonah Lundberg

Wed, Sep 24, 2014

big data, chadwick martin baileyData has existed in the modern business world for a long time (think manila folders in file cabinets in every office on every floor). Digitized data has been around for a while now, too (think virtual folders in hard drives connected to seemingly bottomless computer networks). So why, in just the past few years, have all of us become so excited about and actually engaged in data? We even decided to give it a new name—“big” data. Where did all this excitement come from? Why is it happening? If you asked Tom Breur, Cengage Learning’s VP of Analytics who spoke about big data at NEMRA’s Spring into Action event earlier this year, he would tell you that it’s because there has been a recent surge in data volume (mostly thanks to the emergence of machine-generated data and machine-to-machine communication). This surge led to an ever-expanding data surplus—a surplus that would not have had a home if it weren’t for subsequent innovations in the type of software that manages huge amounts of data and the innovations that led to much more efficient data warehousing capabilities.Initially, large companies were the only ones who had any sort of big data capability (credit scores and fraud protection are two early examples), and until recently these companies were the only ones to leverage those capabilities to play the big data game when it came to predicting their customers’ behavior. But in their July-August issue, Inc. Magazine featured an article detailing how smaller companies are now allowed to play as well, thanks to decreasing technology costs and increasing user-friendliness of big data software.

All of this begs the question: will companies, big and small, no longer need market researchers? After all, big data solutions allow companies to learn about their customers and make more informed business decisions, and let’s not forget that the newest big data solutions are so user-friendly that companies can do all the consumer insights themselves. However, I don’t think market researchers will be replaced anytime soon. Big data may be able to tell you the “what,” but it can’t tell you the “why.”

Enter the story of the widely-covered 2013 Google Flu Trends “Epidemic.” By running algorithms based on flu-related Google searches and searchers’ locations, Google Flu Trends had been historically accurate in predicting how much of the U.S. population had the flu. However, in 2013, it inaccurately predicted the number. In fact, it predicted twice the number reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention! How did this happen? The widespread media coverage of the severe flu season in the U.S. spread like a virus throughout social media, which led to an increase in flu-related Google searches. Many of these searches were from people who thought they might have the flu—“I’m sniffling! I’m sneezing!”—but didn’t. Since Google Flu Trends didn’t consider the context and wasn’t able to ask Googlers why they were Googling flu-like symptoms, it thought 11% of the U.S. population had the flu when the actual number was closer to 6%.

Mark Hansen of Columbia University summed it up best when he said, “Data is not a magic force in society; it’s an extension of us.” Can you believe it? Big data is actually quite human. It tells a story about people because it comes from people, and it’s simply a new medium through which people are telling stories about themselves. It’s like collaborative storytelling. Remember those stories that your teachers would have you start and then make other kids add to? It’s similar, but with a simple twist: big data is collaborative non-fiction. But the authors are still people, which brings it back to market researchers. As market researchers, we not only ask people questions about how they feel or what they do, but we also ask why. We’re able to apply the context that, as evidenced by the Google Flu Trends Epidemic, big data is not able to accomplish alone.

Even though we’re not being replaced, we still have to adapt. For example, there is a great opportunity in synthesizing what we do with the data our research partners have in-house. By combining our knowledge of the “why” with a research partner’s “what,” we can identify the error in what would have otherwise been our research partner’s version of the Google Flu Trends Epidemic if they had not been appropriately focused on why the data looked the way it did. For a company attempting to adjust its product offerings, this could be the difference between abandoning its most loyal customers and maintaining those loyal customers by keeping them happy, all while successfully gaining new customers in the process.

The number of success stories that result from combining the best of both worlds—the what and the why—seems to be ever-expanding. Here at CMB, we have had the pleasure of co-authoring a few of those success stories. For market research, big data is a good thing and worth adapting for. Company by company, the market research industry should adapt in order to set itself up not only for survival, but also for leadership in the next century of consumer insights so we can continue to play the role of co-author in a story that has only just begun.

Jonah is a Senior Associate Research at CMB. He enjoys traveling with his friends and family, and he can't wait for the hockey season to start up again.

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Topics: data collection, technology solutions, big data

Mixing Up the Perfect Summer Innovation Cocktail

Posted by Simon Peters

Wed, Jun 18, 2014

innovation, innovation cocktail, insights, big dataRecently, I attended the CASRO Technology & Innovation Event in Chicago and came away with a fantastic cocktail recipe.  But this isn’t a recipe for an exotic mixed drink or even a unique twist on a classic G&T.  It’s a recipe for innovation, and it’s made with ingredients we all need to have in our organizational “bar”:Ingredients needed:

1 part Big Data

3 parts insights

2 parts socialization

Step 1:  Start with a healthy dash of Big Data. While Big Data can give us a whole lot of “so what?” and “who cares?” information, it’s also a tremendously powerful tool.  In case you’re thinking it’s a fad, think about the growth of wearables and virtual immersive technologies—both are growing industries based around Big Data. While a deluge of information can create a challenge, there’s also a major opportunity for companies who can parse, integrate, and leverage it. For those of us working with Big Data, the focus has to be on depth rather than on breadth. Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee), author of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook and guest speaker at the CASRO event, noted that we already have the ability to do this with data from social media.  We should be leveraging the massive amounts of free data already available to us via social media sites—like Facebook and Pinterest—to help us better understand customers at a personal level and engage them even more directly over the same social media sites.

Step 2: Mix in a healthy dose of those meaningful, relevant, and contextual insights. And I’m talking the good stuff—insights that are deep, accurate, and actionable. The kind that pair with recommendations and address real challenges.

Step 3:  Fill the rest of the glass with a heady mix of socialization and distribution. At the CASRO event, I had the opportunity to see and hear about a lot of great technologies for mining and connecting data as well as for distributing results.  Two themes emerged: 1) the importance of socializing your insights and 2) the importance of getting your insights into the hands of the decision makers. One of the easiest and most effective ways to deliver this is via online dashboards. David Mazva, from Infotools, spoke about the journey his company had with a global client and the advancements they had to make in their dashboards to meet this client’s evolving needs.  He specifically noted that people and companies are spending less time analyzing and more time acting on the data, which is something we at CMB have been focusing on for the past decade and is now more important than ever. It’s why we’ve spent a great deal of time developing dashboards that merge the strategic with the tactical.

As head of our Technology Solutions team, I’m the first to shout that dashboards are great—especially our dashboards—but I know they have more of an impact when delivered over the right medium.  Increasingly, this medium is becoming the mobile device. Convenience is no longer just nice to have–it’s a must-have.  We see this playing out now as we design for mobile first since respondents are taking more surveys on their mobile devices today than ever before.  Let’s take this one more step.

Now, you have insights on a dashboard and delivered to you on a mobile device, which enables you to make business decisions faster.  Why not squeeze additional value out of these insights by putting it out on your social networks?  And once it’s on social media, see what connections are out there to drive new insights and opportunities.  There are free tools, like NodeXL, which can map hubs, bridges, groups, and peripheries of a socially connected network.

Step 4: Stir vigorously until innovation is part of your long-term strategy. Jon Puleston, VP of Innovation at Lightspeed GMI, gave a great presentation on companies that have thrived from innovation.  He spoke about GE, Amazon, and others all having a very similar approach to delivering growth through innovation.  These companies all actively search and plan for innovation.  They integrate it into their long-term financial models, which allows them to react quickly to great ideas versus waiting for funding to become available.

The takeaway? If you’re looking to innovate, you’re going to need more than creativity served neat—you’ve got to have the right ingredients mixed just the right way.

Simon leads CMB’s Technology Solutions team. In between developing dynamic and engaging dashboards, he occasionally enjoys a real cocktail.

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Topics: technology solutions, big data, conference recap, growth and innovation

Does Speed Kill (Insights)?

Posted by Mark Doherty

Tue, Mar 25, 2014

Speed and CMBWill big data destroy primary research? I’ve read dozens (hundreds?) of articles that argue both sides, but despite a lot of speculation, I see very little attention paid to what may be the real killer of a lot of primary research: the “need for speed.” The increasing velocity of business (compressed product development cycles, social media and the desire for real-time marketing) often means not having the 6-10 weeks a typical quantitative research project needs. For many, the availability of big data is seen as “good enough” given the time constraints. So big data may be an accomplice, but tightened timelines are what researchers really need to address.

It’s the research vendors who don’t specialize in more strategic research I see hit the hardest by this reality. Big data is already eating into their more basic projects—answering the “who,” “what,” and “where” questions. At least for now, clients are more comfortable with (or at least tolerant of) longer timeframes for the complex, strategic work that CMB focuses on. The good news for us and for our clients is that so many of those projects benefit greatly from primary and big data playing together. In our Segmentation work, for example, our modeling usually integrates third party data, our clients’ CRM data, and the need/preference/attitude-based data we get from primary research. The combination of these data sources nearly always results in a much more robust—and actionable—Segmentation for our clients. 

But the truth is we understand our clients are still looking for us to help them make decisions faster. Here are a few of the timesaving strategies we use to address this reality:

  • For starters, we work with our clients to dig into the specifics of their timing needs. And for many projects, they don’t need a formal report to help inform their decisions—they just need to know the “answers” to guide their decisions. So we will hold “data parties” (they sound fun, don’t they? :)) where we all roll up our sleeves to review what the data is telling us and more quickly get to the answer together. We can then write up a focused summary before we put together the formal report.

  • We’ve recently invested quite a bit of money in a technology solution that helps us move from questionnaire programming through to clean data (and even the inevitable PowerPoint slides) more quickly than we have in the past. This streamlined our processes and helps get us more quickly to those data parties.

  • We also make sure we do a great job in delivering compelling and easy-to-understand deliverables that are “ready to use,” and don’t require lots of time for our clients to redo anything for their own internal use. 

So is the need for speed going to go away? Not a chance. Our clients face more and more pressure to get insights and results faster and we need to keep up. And although we’ll always keep looking for ways to leverage data and people to get our clients the insights they need, we’ll never do it at the cost of meaningful decision-focused insights.

Mark is a Vice President at CMB. He can't help but note that despite the between the increasingly fast speed of business he writes about and the increasingly slow speed with which WIRehe competes on the basketball and tennis courts. 

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Topics: big data, consumer insights

What's the Story? 5 Insights from CASRO's Digital Research Conference

Posted by Jared Huizenga

Wed, Mar 19, 2014

CMB and CASROWho says market research isn’t exciting? I’ve been a market researcher for the past sixteen years, and I’ve seen the industry change dramatically since the days when telephone questionnaires were the norm. I still remember my excitement when disk-by-mail became popular! But I don’t think I’ve ever felt as excited about market research as I do right now. The CASRO Digital Research Conference was last week, and the presentations confirmed what I already knew—big changes are happening in the market research world. Here are five key takeaways from the conference:

  1. “Market research” is an antiquated term. It was even suggested that we change the name of our industry from market research to “insights.” In fact, the word “insights” came up multiple times throughout the conference by different presenters. This makes a lot of sense to me. Many people view market research as a process whereas insights are the end result we deliver to our clients. Speaking for CMB, partnering with our clients to provide critical insights is a much more accurate description of our mission and focus. We and our clients know percentages by themselves fail to tell the whole story, and can in fact lead to more confusion about which direction to take.

  2. “Big data” means different things to different people. If you ask ten people to define big data you’ll probably get ten different answers. Some define it as omnipresent data that follows us wherever we go. Others define it as vast amounts of unstructured data, some of which might be useful and some not. Still others call it an outdated buzzword.  No matter what your own definition of big data is, the market research industry seems to be in somewhat of a quandary about what to do with it. Clients want it and researchers want to oblige, but do adequate tools currently exist to deliver meaningful big data? Where does the big data come from, who owns it, and how do you integrate it with traditional forms of data? These are all questions that have not been fully answered by the market research (or insights) industry. Regardless, tons of investment dollars are currently being pumped into big data infrastructure and tools. Big data is going to be, well, BIG.  However, there’s a long way to go before most will be able to use it to its potential.

  3. Empathy is the hottest new research “tool.” Understanding others’ feelings, thoughts, and experiences allows us to understand the “why behind the what.”  Before you dismiss this as just a qualitative research thing, don’t be so sure.  While qualitative research is an effective tool for understanding the “why,” the lines are blurring between qualitative and quantitative research. Picking one over the other simply doesn’t seem wise in today’s world. Unlike with big data, tools do currently exist that allow us to empathize with people and tell a more complete story. When you look at a respondent, you shouldn’t only see a number, spreadsheet, or fancy graphic that shows cost is the most important factor when purchasing fabric softener. You should see the man who recently lost his wife to cancer and who is buying fabric softener solely based on cost because he has five years of medical bills. There is value in knowing the whole story. When you look at a person, you should see a person.

  4. Synthesizers are increasingly important. I’m not talking about the synthesizers from Soft Cell’s version of “Tainted Love” or Van Halen’s “Jump.” The goal here is to once again tell a complete story and, in order to do this, multiple skillsets are required. Analytics have traditionally been the backbone of market research and will continue to play a major role in the future. However, with more and more information coming from multiple sources, synthesizers are also needed to pull all of it together in a meaningful way. In many cases, those who are good at analytics are not as good at synthesizing information, and vice versa. This may require a shift in the way market research companies staff for success in the future. 

  5. Mobile devices are changing the way questionnaires are designed. A time will come when very few respondents are willing to take a questionnaire over twenty minutes long, and some are saying that day is coming within two years. The fact is, no matter how much mobile “optimization” you apply to your questionnaire, the time to take it on a smartphone is still going to be longer than on PCs and tablets. Forcing respondents to complete on a PC isn’t a good solution, especially since the already elusive sub 25 year old population spends more time on mobile devices than PCs. So what’s a researcher to do? The option of “chunking” long questionnaires into several modules is showing potential, but requires careful questionnaire design and a trusted sampling plan. This method isn’t a good fit for all studies where analysis dictates each respondent complete the entire questionnaire, and the number of overall respondents needed is likely to increase using this methodology. It also requires client buy-in. But it’s something that we at CMB believe is worth pursuing as we leverage mobile technologies.

Change is happening faster than ever. If you thought the transition from telephone to online research was fast—if you were even around back in the good old days when that happened—you’d better hold onto your seat! Information surrounds every consumer. The challenge for insights companies is not only to capture that information but to empathize, analyze, and synthesize it in order to tell a complete story. This requires multiple skillsets as well as the appropriate tools, and honestly the industry as a whole simply isn’t there yet. However, I strongly believe that those of us who are working feverishly to not just “deal” with change but to leverage it, and who are making progress with these rapidly changing technological advances, will be well equipped for success.

Jared is CMB’s Director of Field Services, and has been in market research industry for sixteen years. When he isn’t enjoying the exciting world of data collection, he can be found competing at barbecue contests as the pitmaster of the team Insane Swine BBQ

 

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Topics: qualitative research, big data, mobile, research design, quantitative research, conference recap

All You Need is You: Customer Experience & the Promise of Biometrics

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo

Tue, Aug 13, 2013

Goodbye, plastic hotel room key. So long, wallet. Farewell camera. These days you don’t need any of the above to unlock a hotel room, buy a mojito or snap a vacation photo.  All you need is, well — you. Stephanie Rosenbloom, “Just Tap Here,” The New York Times

biometricsThat quote, from an article in the NY Times’ Travel section, hit me like a wave. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve managed to lose a hotel key card, leave my cell phone at the office before going on a business trip (after carefully placing it where I would see it before dashing to the airport), lose my office and son’s daycare key cards, drop my American Express card somewhere during a 3-mile run, leave my reusable coffee cup next to the register at my local Trader Joe’s, and lose my sunglasses. It’s painfully obvious why this article, on the wonders of biometrics, hit so close to home.Biometrics have come a long way since the retinal scans featured in the old Bond and Batman movies. Now you can do more than imagine scanning your fingers to open the door, or make a purchase; hotels can use infrared signals as a virtual “Do not Enter” sign, detecting body heat and ensuring housekeeping staff doesn’t knock or barge in.

While I look at technology as enabling convenience, others just see more evidence of Big Brother penetrating our lives—all that data needs to live somewhere and that makes many people uneasy. Of course, you could make the argument that the NSA is already collecting vast amounts of data tracking our every move; we may as well use it to our advantage by gaining something out of this sharing.  As Zachary Karabell notes in a recent article in The Atlantic:

…for all of the legitimate concerns about government intrusions on personal privacy, Americans today -- along with many people worldwide -- surrender vast amounts of personal information to companies and seem quite prepared to surrender even more if it adds to the enjoyment and reduces the friction of myriad transactions that are part of everyday life.

With that quote in mind, I thought about how my clients can leverage this technology to deliver a better experience to their guests (while decreasing their operating costs, and gain repeat business and free marketing through advocacy).  Our work in the cruise industry, as well as the JD Power 2013 Cruise Line Satisfaction Report, reveals that the embarkation and debarkation process are very important in driving guest satisfaction. Think about how much more quickly those lines would move if an iris and/or fingerprint scan were all it took to board the ship?  Guests get where they want to be more quickly and cruise lines need fewer embark and debark crew members to manage the process.

Onboard photography is another area that frustrates guests (and represents lost revenue) when they don’t have an adequate number of photos from which to choose. Facial recognition technology that enables onboard photographers to group every candid picture they take, so passengers can easily browse, would solve that problem.

For cruises attracting a mix of guests from all over the world, using fingertips as a purchase trigger rather than cash or credit cards would also help improve the onboard shopping experience for those guests who do not hold currency in the denomination used on the ship and/or who are not fluent in the primary language spoken onboard.

New tools and emerging technologies offer myriad opportunities to improve the customer experience. Biometrics and mobile tracking are giving brick and mortar businesses the opportunity to catch up with their online counterparts. But there’s a real trade-off here—if customers are going to take that leap of faith it needs to be worth it. What do you think?

Lynne is Research Director of CMB’s Retail and Travel practice; she has not lost one personal object since June. She would like to thank the The London Hotel NYC for getting her back in her room quickly (after verifying her identity), Judy Melanson for letting her use her phone to stay in touch with her family while traveling and Sean Kearney for dropping off her phone at home so it would be there when she returned, AmEx for getting sending a replacement card within 24 hours and Trader Joe’s for maintaining a Lost & Found. 

Royal Caribbean Case StudyLearn how we help Royal Caribbean measure guest experience and improve customer satisfaction and retention.

Topics: technology research, big data, mobile, travel and hospitality research, customer experience and loyalty

Myth-Busting Customer Centricity In Healthcare

Posted by Jennifer von Briesen

Tue, Jul 16, 2013

Target consumer or accountHealthcare in the US has been a hot media topic, and the Affordable Care Act’s next key provision that goes into effect on October 1 will bring about profound change in the health insurance industry. Consumers looking to buy individual health insurance will be able to enroll in subsidized plans offered through state-based exchanges with coverage beginning in January 2014.Regardless of the politics and adoption hurdles surrounding the subject, it’s crystal clear that health insurers will need to change the way they approach the market in the coming years. Challenging as it may be, this change represents opportunity as well. Not only will this regulation open up channels to sell direct to new customer segments that have previously been underserved or never served, but the shift to a more retail-oriented business model will push customer-centricity to the forefront of health insurers’ strategy.

So, what does customer centricity actually mean for insurers? It’s not something I have hard and fast answers to yet, but we’re collaborating with our clients to help define a path forward. Here are my top-level thoughts on some of the myths that need to be put to rest in order to build a successful customer strategy in the space:

MYTH: The consumer matters more than the ecosystem.
FACT: Up to now, consumers have generally been “extended stakeholders” in the health insurance ecosystem, and they are definitely an audience that insurers should be learning about and listening to more given the change on the horizon. However, serving the consumer well means also understanding how other players—employers, brokers and providers—are preparing for change. Be careful not to develop blind spots toward traditional stakeholders.

MYTH: If you build technology, the customers will come.
FACT: No doubt today’s consumers are open to social tools, apps and other tech solutions that will help them learn about and interact with companies. But in order for a new technology to really matter to consumers, it has to solve a pain point.  Without a deep understanding of what customers need, and a willingness to address root-level issues (such as consumer trust), a new technology is just a shiny object.

MYTH: You’ve got the right data…and it’s Big.
FACT: Insurers have a lot of data. But it’s primarily based on claims and transactional data, with very little gleaned directly from healthcare consumers themselves about wants, needs, and interaction pain points. The industry’s legacy of being claim-oriented continues to drive consumer dissatisfaction and distrust, so it’s not the ideal source for data that will build customer intimacy.

What other myths need to be busted in order for insurers to be truly customer centric? We’d love to hear from you and promise to share our thinking as it evolves.

Jennifer is a Director at  South Street Strategy Group. She recently received the 2013 “Member of the Year” award by the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP), the preeminent professional association for those engaged in strategic thinking, planning and action.

South Street Strategy Group, an independent sister company of Chadwick Martin Bailey, integrates the best of strategy consulting and marketing science to develop better growth and value delivery strategies. 

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, healthcare research, health insurance research, big data, customer experience and loyalty

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen: Market Research in the Information Economy

Posted by Jeff McKenna

Tue, Jul 09, 2013

Vanilla IceYou know you’ve been to a great conference when the ideas and insights are still percolating and expanding weeks later; the Insights Innovation Exchange Conference in Philadelphia definitely fit that bill.  In part one of my take on the conference I talked about the change we’re seeing in the market research industry.  In this post, I’ll discuss the implications and manifestations for the change.Technology is driving the change, but people will lead it 

Technological changes are a primary piece of the “revolution,” but does this mean we will do more with less? The short answer is no. Technology will not reduce our need for people.  In fact, the big changes introduced by technology and new tools & techniques will require most market research firms to aggressively hire more people, not fewer. The challenge, however, is defining and finding the new talent and skills that will apply to the market research of the future.  Data management skills will be critical, as will business systems knowledge. Most importantly, strong logic and an understanding of decision theory will be big differentiators for the professionals of tomorrow. 

A wider view of consumer behavior
Besides the change in how we conduct our work, technology is changing the way we view behavior.  IIeX focused an entire track on neuroscience and emotional measurement, with a variety of emotional measurement techniques like fMRI, EEG, eye tracking, and facial recognition becoming more mainstream (see Mediapost’s: The State Of Neuroscience In Market Research)

If some in our industry see these new technologies as just measurement techniques, they’re not seeing the forest for the trees.  In fact, the trends and changes in the industry reflect new consumer behavioral models that reflect multiple aspects of decision making processes. During the conference, I even noted the fact that we seem to have reached “critical mass” with regard to behavioral economics.

Gone are the days of the rational economic decision maker.  Instead, advances in neuroscience and behavioral economics reveal the strong emotional components of all decisions.  If you don’t have an understanding of the core value and applications of behavioral economics and the new research in neuroscience, you may as well go back to using MS Office ’98, collecting data on 80-column punch cards, and worrying about how to conduct interviews via that new-fangled Internet.  Cognitive models developed within the past couple decades have gained acceptance and are frequently being applied in market research. The growing regard for intrinsic measurement gives me hope that we will achieve a more cohesive framework for addressing the emotional and subconscious layers of behavior. 

New innovators, new partners, new collaborators
The conference’s final day wrapped up with two presentations around a common theme: collaboration.  Gayle Fuguitt, CEO/President at Advertising Research Foundation (and former Vice President Global Consumer Insights at General Mills), presented “A Call For A New Collaborative Model,” highlighting ARF’s efforts to bring clients and competitors together to address the promises and challenges of biometric and neurological research methods .

Gayle’s central argument is built on well-regarded themes—organizations need to find new ideas and innovations by fostering the diversity of thought and value a broad team can provide.  Her advice:  “work with people who don’t laugh at your jokes” and “seek partners who are frenemies,” highlighting the fact that true collaboration doesn’t occur among the like-minded.  In a similar vein, Kyle Nel, head of International Consumer Research for Lowe’s Home Improvement, presented “Data Philanthropy: Unlocking The Power Of Adjacency Across Sectors.”  For Kyle, the focus for the future will be on “uncommon partnerships” to help companies gain a competitive advantage.    

These new relationships will take market researchers out of their comfort-zone, working with partners who might not bring the same rigor and methodological requirements. The hard work arises from more than accepting compromises; instead, the greatest effort (and reward) comes from working with new partners to find an optimal solution aligning the strengths of each participant with the desired objective.  When working with technology partners, market researchers must be aware of tradeoffs when using the technology; no technology solves all problems. (BTW, technology partners, you’re not off the hook either. You must be aware that you can't solve all problems and will need to partner with market researchers to create optimal solutions for the business objectives). The effort of collaboration is a matter of compromise and acknowledging that “perfection is often the enemy of progress.” 

women looking transA great opportunity
In spite of all of the posturing about the end of market research as we know it—the irrelevance of the “long-form survey” and the un-engaging nature of many online interview formats, I came away from the conference with a positive outlook on the industry.  We‘re in a unique position, intimately involved in the largest trends that are shaping business and the economy: mobile, social and big data. The Information Economy is fully upon us, and market research has the opportunity to seize the value that new technologies are bringing to businesses and the economy.  It’s a matter of hard work, collaboration, and courage to accept new ideas and change that will allow us to take advantage of these opportunities.  

Jeff is VP of Market Science Solutions at CMB. This marks the first, and probably last, post accompanied by a picture of Vanilla Ice. Find Jeff tweeting @McKennaJeff.

 

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Topics: big data, consumer insights, marketing science, conference recap, growth and innovation

More Cowbell? What Market Research Needs Right Now

Posted by Jeff McKenna

Mon, Jul 01, 2013

morecowbellWelcome to Part One of my coverage of the Insights Innovation Exchange Conference (#IIEX) that recently wrapped up in Philadelphia. The event was three solid days of presentations and panel discussion on the changes and innovations that are shaping the future of market research and the business insights industry. The event targeted insights practitioners and anyone who wants to deliver evidence-based business insights to their clients. The event focused on the future of the industry, and the usual suspects were there: mobile, social, gamification, Big Data, neuro-measurement tools (like eye tracking and facial coding), and communities. The vendor space was filled with companies offering technological solutions, and the lion-share of presentations focused on at least one of these tech aspects. I was surprised, and pleased, to discover that this collection of innovation agents focused less on the tools and technology (partly because speakers were limited to just 20 minutes) and more on fundamental elements of change in our industry. In Part One, I’ll briefly summarize our current state. In Part Two, I’ll describe the manifestation of that change for future growth.

The Shift from Old to New Research: 

“We no longer live in a world where information is rare.  In contrast, we are overwhelmed with data, Big, Medium and Little. This represents the most fundamental challenge to the business model of market research since its inception.”

That’s Dr. Larry Friedman, Chief Research Officer at TNS, who packed a comprehensive synopsis of the market shift into his 20 minutes. The key points are nicely summarized here.

It’s true that because we are an industry that has established its value through collecting and managing data, market research faces a difficult future; its fundamental activity has become less valuable. For a hundred years, businesses and managers have turned to market researchers to design studies, collect data, and translate the data back to them. Some market researchers might find additional value in providing insights and recommendations, but it’s rare to be rewarded with full “consulting rates” for this work. 

Given that data can be collected at low cost, the management tasks of sample design are not as important today, and the science behind collecting the “right” data can be glossed over with more (and cheaper) data. Even the translation and application of research data to business decisions are becoming more common with easier-to-use software and training. Tableau, Good Data and (even) MS Excel are some of the analytical tools that now put data directly into the hands of business decision-makers. Heck, even kindergartners are learning the “basics” of market research.

But market researchers still have a head start. As the professionals who have experience with managing and translating data, we should be able to fill a vast need for curating the wide variety of data files and warehouses to support business analyses. Additionally, our knowledge of data types (e.g., categorical vs. scale, just to name one of the many ways we look at the multidimensionality of data) and structure is critical for laying the foundation for information users to access and translate data most efficiently and effectively.

We might not be able to design the right sampling methods, but who among us has not fixed a study where the sampling was done incorrectly? We might not be able to design the questions to get the best data for analysis, but who hasn't needed to come up with a method to fix data that had been coded incorrectly or had incorrect skip patterns applied? (Just to name a few of the complications that can occur). All of these new data streams bring many more opportunities to fix, translate, and apply the results to support the decisions our clients need to make.

The takeaway: there are major challenges but Market Research isn’t dying, and it’s not on life-support. It’s a reasonably secure business that has attracted other companies to its space because companies find great value in evidence-based decision making. Let’s be honest, Google wouldn’t be making a big investment in Google Consumer Surveys if it didn’t see an opportunity to make a lot of money.

But when Google enters your space, you better believe you need to put your helmet on, and get ready…

Jeff is VP, Market Science Solutions at CMB. He is just as comfortable explaining advanced analytical models as he is parsing the cultural significance of "Tommy Boy." Find him tweeting @McKennaJeff.

 

Topics: big data, consumer insights, marketing science, conference recap, growth and innovation

Can an App Make Improving Customer Experience a Snap?

Posted by Kate Zilla-Ba

Wed, May 22, 2013

taco bell snapchatIf you're over the age of 25, are childless, and have any idea of what Snapchat is, kudos on your tech hipster status. For those with tweens or teens, you may have been allowed to see a brief glimpse of this world, and maybe some of you have even heard it called a “sexting” app.Don’t we love our flow of both successful and flash-in-the-pan communication tools!  YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…and now there’s Snapchat. Will it have the longevity of these household names?  It’s hard to say. But there’s been phenomenal adoption for this app that allows instant communication gratification. One of the key selling points of Snapchat appears to be its “self-destruct” feature.  That is, when you take a picture and send it via Snapchat the recipient has, say, 10 seconds to view it once opened before it, poof, vanishes. The idea is that the communication happens but there’s no record—incriminating or otherwise.

Now, a recipient can take a screen shot of the image (the sender is notified in this case), or if they were so inclined could use another device to take a picture of the image showing on the phone… Whew, that’s a lot of work with 50 million snaps a day already flying around as of last December (for reference, 300 million images are uploaded to Facebook a day).  

So with Snapchat, users take pictures or videos of themselves or their surroundings and send them (with a message if desired) to a contact. Once viewed, the recipient’s device in theory no longer retains the image.  This purports to alleviate concerns over the public trail left on Twitter or Facebook, and it has already been used for branding. 

A frozen yogurt shop in NYC, 16 Handles, was reportedly the first to use it for an instant couponing program—if a customer was in the right store and the right time they could get an instant coupon to flash to the salesperson for a discount. It was essentially gamification of the mobile social local aspect of the app – adding something fun and interactive. Early this month, Taco Bell joined the action, urging their fans to add them on Snapchat and reintroducing the Beefy Crunch Taco via the app.

How can other brands use this app to help manage and measure customer experiences? Much like Google Surveys says you can ask a whole survey worth of questions, pieced together one question per respondent at a time, to make the whole picture, instant messaging apps could be used to piece together a more holistic picture of how customers experience and interact with a brand.

mobileOr, shh, what about Whisper—another app phenomenon that recently got $3m in start-up funding. This one allows anonymous posting of secrets. It’s not the first idea of its kind, but it is apparently heavily moderated—good. And here’s where the generation gap really kicks in. Whisper users need this app on a psychosocial level because they have pressure to live such curated lives on Facebook. Living up to the self-brand they create is too much. Whisper is supposedly an outlet for being “real.”

That sounds even more like something that could be a source plumbed for customer experience insights, although their terms and conditions currently say clearly that you may not use the site to mine data. What about a Whisper business account that asked consumers what they secretly do, or wish they could do, with their next vacation, car rental, computer purchase, etc.?

It’s conceivable that the future could be mapped through compiling many blips of information into a coherent story. It is big data of a whole different kind. Yet, a word to the wise: there will always be newer and cleverer platforms, apps, or gadgets to let you connect with customers, but you still need to know your audience’s wants and needs—that’s been the same for centuries!

Kate is a Project Director, working with clients across many industries at CMB. She has been known to perform in local musical theater here and there, speaks three languages well and a few others passably, and loves coincidence.

Click here to read our 2013 Consumer Pulse-The Mobile Moment: Barriers and Opportunities for Mobile Wallet

Topics: big data, mobile, millennials, social media, customer experience and loyalty

Big Ideas to Improve Customer Engagement in 2013

Posted by Judy Melanson

Tue, Jan 22, 2013

Originally published on Loyalty 360

CMB big ideasI love New Year’s Resolutions!  Every December, I enjoy reflecting on what I’ve learned in the last 12 months, and set goals to grow professionally and personally.  On my list again this year, is studying opportunities to drive customer engagement—understanding how companies in the travel and hospitality industries can use new techniques and technologies to drive loyalty and ultimately profits.Every two years, Marketing Science Institute (MSI), a think-tank bridging academic theory and business practice, reaches out to thought leaders to set its priorities for upcoming research and conferences.  MSI’s “Priority Topic” list reflects marketing’s key challenges and opportunities (see the full list here). Topics include: Big Data; insight into people as consumers; rethinking the journey to purchase (and beyond); and mobile’s impact on how people live their lives. 

If you were to improve your organization’s effectiveness in any of these areas, chances are good you will increase your customer’s engagement and loyalty.  My “2013 professional resolution” is to share learnings about each of these Priority Topics.

Today, let’s tackle Big Data:  leveraging the customer and market information available to drive business results.  Although the topic of Big Data is just that— “Big,” the reality is when you break it down into small steps you can begin to drive customer engagement with data you already have on hand.

Big Data: The promise and the pitfalls

As computers and cell phones play an increasingly important role in consumers’ daily activities, mountains of data are collected and stored by travel and hospitality companies.  From customer transactional (e.g., bookings, loyalty program redemptions, web site visits, call center logs) to interactional data (e.g., posts on Facebook) and observational data (e.g., networked sensors in cellphones or cars), the amount of data available for analysis is immense and expanding daily.    

When it comes down to it, Big Data is useful only as we are able to glean useful business intelligence from all this data.  The true value of Big Data (or any data for that matter) is not in the bits and bytes but in using the knowledge gained to help you make better decisions—to reduce the chances of making a bad decision and to help you “sleep better at night.”  Companies can leverage big data in a number of ways including product and service development, process improvements, and revenue management.

Some companies who’ve found success with Big Data engagements (outside of travel and hospitality) include:

  • Amazon.com, eBay, and Google continuously test factors—from where to place buttons on a Web page to the sequence of content displayed—to determine what will increase sales and user engagement

  • Capital One continues to refine its methods for segmenting credit card customers and for tailoring products to individual risk profiles. According to Nigel Morris, one of Capital One’s cofounders, the company’s multifunctional teams of financial analysts, IT specialists, and marketers conduct more than 65,000 tests each year, experimenting with combinations of market segments and new products.

  • The online grocer Fresh Direct adjusts prices and promotions daily (or even more frequently) based on data feeds from online transactions, visits by consumers to its website, and customer service interactions. 

The pitfalls: 

Quantum physics might be easier to explain than Big Data and brain surgery might be easier to do!  Not only do you need to conceptualize the plan, structure the data, acquire the software and/or analysis tools but then you need to do the analysis.  This is hard to get your head around! 

Big Data exercises to predict customer behavior have been met with limited success.  Netflix offered a $1 Million prize to the firm that could improve its movie selection algorithm by just 10%.  Three years later, a group managed to create a model using available data however the formula was too complicated for Netflix to implement.   If you haven’t read it yet take a few minutes to check out this HBR post that talks about the challenge of modeling consumer behavior: Big Data Hype (and reality).

Big Data: Baby steps

Here are some practical ideas for you to begin to look to incorporate some ‘Big Data’ activities into your 2013 plans:

  • Link financial data to your customer satisfaction.  Understand the monetary value (in the short and long-term) of a satisfied guest to make informed decisions on investments and initiatives. 

  • Build bridges between different data sources.  First, use the same categories to code responses in your customer satisfaction study, social media analytics and your call center. Second, ensure a person is tagged with the same identifier in all data sources so you can look at a customer’s responses across the silos of your organization. 

  • What? So What? Now what?  Start your quest for decision-support with the end in mind.  Get agreement on the “Essential Question” you are looking to address, and identify the supporting information (from all relevant sources) you need to support your recommendations.  Make sure your recommendations answer the question:  Now what action should I take? 

We see a bright future for travel clients in using Big Data for building engagement and loyalty.  Develop a plan to answer your Essential Questions and, then you will be in a better position to practically analyze the right data from the right data sources – applying a laser-like focus on the problem you are trying to solve. 

How will you use Big Data (or any data for that matter) to drive customer engagement and loyalty in 2013?

Judy is VP of CMB's Travel & Entertainment practice and loves collaborating with clients on driving customer loyalty.  She's the mom of two teens and the wife of an oyster farmer. Follow Judy on Twitter at @Judy_LC

Topics: big data, travel and hospitality research, customer experience and loyalty