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Marty Murk

Recent Posts

Osmosis: What Happens BEFORE "The Path to Purchase?"

Posted by Marty Murk

Wed, May 20, 2020

Osmosis Blog Opener (1)

When I go hiking, when does my “hike” really start? Is it when my shoes hit the dirt path? When I pull out of my driveway? When I park at the trail head? Or...if we go really “deep” maybe it was when I was six, learning to play baseball, and ultimately built an affinity for exercise.

It can be similarly hard to understand when a buyer’s path to purchase truly begins. In a research-heavy category, like TVs for instance, it’s obvious that you need to measure, dig into, and understand the experiences along a consumer’s journey (the Trigger, Discovery, Evaluation, and Purchase phases)

What about a category like fashion?  In some categories... there are a LOT of ideas taking shape prior to that “foot hitting the dirt path.” In fashion, people absorb what’s on/off trend (colors, styles, shapes) well before they start looking for a new pair of pants. At CMB, this approach is one of the subtle differences between thinking about this as a path to purchase versus a consumer journey. The journey being broader and including pre-category engagement and later stage customer experiences.

Customer Journey Approach

At CMB, we think of this early stage as “Osmosis” (the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc.). In the context of consumer journey, it’s the part of a person’s journey, that includes the way they engage with a category prior to a conscious need emerging

Recently, CMB self-funded an online study on the consumer journey exploring the gaming industry.  There’s no silver bullet in measuring the idea of Osmosis, however it’s very easy to miss, ignore or skip during the design phase of consumer journey work.  For this reason, we were extra careful about embedding measurement indicators about the consumer’s background and experience in the category. This study lent itself nicely, given the breadth of gaming categories covered. A few categories that intuitively would rely heavily on Osmosis in the decision process, and few that would rely heavily on the Discovery and Evaluation process.

Below is an example of drivers of the final decision, comparing six gaming categories. You see Peripherals, AR/VR, PC/Hardware relying on traditional Evaluation criteria:  reviews, promotions, etc. However, categories like Games and Consoles, are putting a lot of weight on pieces that have been gathered prior to actively being in the market: trust, and love for instance.

Four Factors Influencing Final Decision

Prior to starting path to purchase or consumer journey work, thinking through internal hypotheses and the notion of Osmosis is critical. Without it, insights risk over-emphasizing parts of the consumer journey, and missing other parts all together. Here are two tips to consider:

  1. When you think about qual, while you are connecting with the consumer—through one-on-one quality time, shopping along, or reliving a purchase—spend some healthy time digging into their background in the category (e.g., the affinity for exercise, the introduction to health and fitness). This knowledge can be invaluable to understanding the consumer broader journey. 
  2. Design any quant to probe on their history in the category, experience with product/competitors, etc. At CMB, we dig into psychological motivations by understanding  the Emotional, Social, Identity, and Functional Benefits to the consumer as well as perceptions of a brand.

In short: be conscious of what happens BEFORE you THINK “the Path” begins.

Marty MurkMarty Murk, Account Director, is an avid runner, and our resident path to purchase guru.

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Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest gaming research: A Gamer's Journey | The Virtual Reality Edition. And stayed tuned for more of our findings--VR and beyond.

Explore A Gamer's Journey

Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: strategy consulting, methodology, path to purchase, consumer insights, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, customer journey, engagement strategy, Gaming, consumer journey, osmosis

The Danger of Painting by Numbers

Posted by Marty Murk

Wed, Nov 14, 2012

I recently learned the story of Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, two Russian-born conceptual artists who, as part of their People's Choice series, captured EXACTLY what America wanted in their paintings. To create “The Most Wanted” (1994) painting in America, Komar and Melamid gathered data from professional polling companies and actually gave the people what they asked for.

Komar and Melamid Most WantedNaturally, by basing decisions unquestioningly on what consumers asked for, Komar and Melamid came up with a beauty. It’s a perfect combination of a pleasant blue sky, scenic mountains, frolicking deer, a picnicking family, and George Washington pondering life smack dab in the middle. It is a scene that has everything, and it's brilliant social commentary—but J.M.W. Turner it’s not.

Pointing out that a complete and unquestioning faith in numbers is a foolish exercise is nothing new. That’s especially true when you’re in the business of market research, consumer insights, or whatever you want to call us. I’m sure you’ve all heard the Henry Ford quote…“if I’d asked people how they’d like to see travel improved, they’d have told you: I want a faster horse.” But I’ve never come across anything that illustrated this better than “The Most Wanted” paintings. 

Besides giving me a chance to channel my inner art critic, the painting, and how it came to be, makes me think about how I design studies, analyze data, and think about its implications for my clients:

  • Sometimes by listening to everyone, you’re hearing no one:  It’s tempting to want to hear from as many people as possible, but more opinions don’t necessarily translate into more insights. Just as Komar and Melamid's data translated into something a little ridiculous, trying to get everyone to answer every question won’t give you a clear picture of what you need to improve or the decisions you have to make. That’s why it’s critical to identify who you want to listen to and determine what you can learn from a specific segment.

  • People can’t tell you EXACTLY what they want:  Consumer research that focuses solely on what customers say they want won’t tell you everything you should know. If you want to understand customer needs and develop products or services that meet them, you have to ask the questions that uncover what those needs are. Are people asking for mountains when they’re really seeking relaxation? Techniques like key driver analysis can help us understand customer needs and goals, and not just what they say they want.

  • If you want insights, you’ll need context: Just like slapping a few artistic elements on a canvas won’t make a great painting, pasting all of your data points onto a PowerPoint won’t add up to insights you can use. I’m reminded to ask what else we know— is there other information or behavioral data is available and can help give us a fuller picture?

Komar and Melamid Least WantedBut above all the biggest takeaway for me, from “The Most Wanted” painting, is that thoughtful actionable research starts with the end in mind. We researchers can’t measure needs, wants, and preferences for specific elements in the design without any forethought about the final results of the potential outcomes.  

And if you’re curious here’s America’s Least Wanted Painting:


Marty is a Senior Project Manager on CMB's Retail Practice. You may be surprised to learn he earned his Master's in Marketing Research and not Art History.

See how CMB and South Street Strategy Group helped Tauck create a successful new travel product through a multi-phase multi-method approach. Click here to read the Case Study.

Topics: consumer insights, research design

Tying Compensation to Customer Satisfaction—A Slippery Slope

Posted by Marty Murk

Wed, Apr 27, 2011

Recently, my wife and I purchased a new car, trading away my old beater for a fresh new ride.  It was a big deal in the Murk household.  We went on endless test rides, popped in and out of a bunch of dealerships, and generally did our best to explore all of our options.  While lengthy, the purchase process couldn’t have been less memorable.  And that’s just what we had hoped for.  We asked questions and the sales representatives politely answered them. Then we bought a car.  

End of story, right?  Nope.Customer satisfaction research

I think we all understand the utility of the post-sale survey, particularly as it pertains to durable goods.  As a researcher, of course I’m okay with participating.  In this case, my experience was unremarkable.  But guess what?  That’s just what I wanted.  Under normal circumstances, that’s what I would have told them.

Instead, what I got was a perversion of the research process – something motivated not by genuine interest in feedback but by sales rep compensation and dealership profitability.  When you tie research results (an impartial discipline) to a sales rep’s compensation (something they feel anything but impartial about), it’s a recipe for disaster and a great way to anger an otherwise happy customer.  And that’s how I felt.  Angry. 

Here’s why:

  • A few days after we bought the car, I got a voicemail from the dealership: “Hi Mr. Murk, please remember to fill out our customer satisfaction survey and return it at your earliest convenience.”
  • Me:  “Hmm, I haven’t even gotten it in the mail yet, but I’m in research, I’ll dig this.”
  • Voicemail from dealership (less than 12 hours later): “Hi Mr. Murk, this is just a friendly reminder to return your customer satisfaction survey as soon as possible.”
  • Me:  “Hmm, 2 calls before it even arrived.  That’s weird.”
  • Voicemail from dealership (3 hours later): “Hi Mr. Murk, just calling to see why you haven’t returned our customer satisfaction survey.  If you’ll be giving us ANYTHING less that ‘completely satisfied ratings’, call me back first so that I can rectify the situation.”
  • Me:  “They’re gaming the system!”
  • 7 voicemails from dealership (spaced about 20 minutes apart):  “Mr. Murk, we need to talk.  We NEEEEEED your top ratings.  Don’t you love us anymore?  Call me ASAP.”
  • Me: “That’s weird, they are starting to remind me of an ex-girlfriend I had and that ended badly.  I am definitely NOT filling this thing out, I can’t reward such behavior.”
  • 7 voicemails from dealership (spaced about 20 minutes apart):  “I’m sorry, baby.  Please just fill this thing out.  Just say you were completely satisfied and you’ll never hear from me again.”
  • Me:  Now I’m scared.  So I relent, and fill dang thing out.  And now I’m ANGRY at the dealership. 

I’m not naïve enough to misunderstand their intentions, though.  In fact, I’m guessing the coupling of feedback with compensation started with the best of intentions.  The manufacturer wants the dealership to care about creating happy customers, so they incent dealerships with discounts on the invoice for quality customer satisfaction ratings.

As researchers, we take pride in the art behind what we do.  It’s our job to remind companies that the whole point of customer research is to listen to customers, not just drive a number.  It’s hard not to be a little insulted when you see research being used in any other way.

Customer Satisfaction

Download our recent Consumer Pulse report on Customer Satisfaction programs.



Posted by Marty Murk. Marty is a Senior Project Manager on CMB's Retail and e-Commerce practice. "Cheapness" runs through his blood and he still can't believe he chose a new car over a used car.

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, retail research