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The Rise of Multiplayer Shouldn’t Be Sus to Anyone

Posted by Blair Bailey

Thu, Dec 03, 2020

Among Us Blog Opener

Ask any CMBer what they love about CMB and there’s a good chance they’ll say it’s the people. Social distancing hasn’t been easy on anyone, but it’s been especially difficult for a company that works so collaboratively and regularly schedules social events and club meetings. Since March, we’ve been looking for ways to stay connected and recently, a group of us hopped on the bandwagon for a game of Among Us.

THE SOCIAL IMPACT OF MULTIPLAYER GAMES

Multiplayer has been a part of the gaming community since the 1970s. But the desire for social connection in a year of social distance has increased their popularity. At the start of lockdown in March, Microsoft reported a 130% increase in multiplayer gaming among Game Pass users, and 23 million new friendship connections over Xbox Live. Research on massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) show that benefits of this genre include a stronger sense of social identity, more social competence, and lower levels of loneliness. Nurturing social connections through multiplayer online gaming can create and build friendships as strong as those IRL.

HOW AMONG US IS BREAKING BARRIERS

Even so, many online multiplayer games have an air of exclusivity. The idea of joining an MMO or jumping into a game of Fortnite is daunting to non-gamers and even some casual gamers. Both in terms of gameplay itself – a battle royale situation feels more isolating than ever these days – and hardware – if you don’t have a console or PC for many games, you’re out of luck.

It’s Approachable

Among Us dismantles some of these barriers. The overall gameplay is familiar to many who spent their childhoods playing neighborhood games like Mafia: the crewmates works individually and collectively to build trust and uncover who among us are the Imposters (or if you’re an Imposter, to avoid being suspect…or “sus”), all while engaging in micro-tasks—quick little puzzles and games—throughout the spaceship. It takes a few rounds to get into the groove, but overall, the gameplay is very approachable and a lot of fun.

It’s Accessible

Making the game even more attractive is how accessible the program itself is – Among Us can be played on either PC or mobile, and it’s cross-platform so your friends can play together using whatever technology they have available. You don’t need a high-powered gaming rig to play the game, but if you already have one, that’s fine too! With the rise of video conferencing during COVID, players can easily enhance their games. While discussions in Among Us are typically done via in-game chat, you can invite your friends to a Zoom call and have those conversations “in person.”

Its Connecting Us

It’s no wonder that Among Us reached over 80 million players by mid-September, a number previously met by Pokémon Go in 2016. It’s the perfect game for this day-and-age. The definition of a “gamer” has been expanding for a long time, and the major change in everyone’s lifestyles has helped with that expansion exponentially. We saw this with the major success of Animal Crossing in the spring and it’s continuing with Among Us and other games now. With both Animal Crossing and Among Us, there’s a social aspect – either through direct multiplayer or a larger game community. Recent research showed that the longer a player played Animal Crossing, the happier they felt, possibly due to the social features the game presents. The only question remaining is when social distancing ends, will these newly minted gamers continue to play?

While the first impulse once the pandemic is over may be to rush outside and connect in-person, being isolated in lockdown has highlighted the importance of social connections, both as a human need and within the gaming industry. Gamers will be drawn to these new types of social connections made in quarantine, and developers should continue to build games within this space.


Blair BaileyBlair Bailey is a Data Manager at CMB, and avid gamer who graciously coordinates our Among Us games at CMB.

Follow CMB on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

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

Topics: marketing strategy, digital media and entertainment research, Market research, Identity, Gaming, Social Benefits, COVID-19

Human Motivations Amid Disruption: 5G, COVID-19 & More

Posted by Chris Neal

Mon, Oct 26, 2020

Question: What do a global pandemic, 5G technologies, and puberty have in common?

Answer: Massive disruption as we know it.

Let’s start with the global pandemic. Like everyone, my household has had to adapt drastically in the face of a pandemic. In addition to stocking up on toilet-paper, our family’s digital dependence has sky-rocketed. It has exposed the limits of our internet access and Wi-Fi functionality, and frayed the fragile fabric of our family’s functionality. Our use of streaming video apps is much higher now, and it’s unlikely to go back to pre-pandemic levels long after the pandemic is gone. And we are not alone—in CMB’s COVID-19 tracking research, streaming video app usage across the US has also increased dramatically, and most people don’t expect it to return to pre-pandemic levels even after the virus is contained:

5G Blog COVID Data

Putting this problem into the Fogg model, we see our motivation to try something different/better for our internet access situation has increased dramatically. But, like most zip codes, broadband ISP competition is scarce. Better internet access is competing with toilet paper now in that upper left-hand quadrant of Foggville:

5G Blog Oct 2020 Fogg Model Internet Access-1

And this brings me to 5G technologies, the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks and the successor to 4G LTE.* This technology will increase the ability of many people to significantly improve their internet connectivity and potential, either as a fixed internet access substitute alternative, or for some households who may want to use 5G cellular connectivity as their only internet access (both inside and outside the home):

5G Blog Oct 2020 Fogg Model 5G-2

Oh, yeah: and puberty? My household is also navigating this pandemic with two teenagers, which is a miserable time of life to be stuck in the house with your parents pretty much 24/7. GenZ is the first generation to grow up not knowing life before pervasive mobile internet connections. One of their first waking memories was discovering the delights of a mobile fart app on the iPhone. And while I personally thought that was the pinnacle of potential for the mobile internet at the time, the industry has since risen to much greater heights. 5G is going to open a whole new world of application possibilities, and GenZ will be key in determining which of these take off. Video-enabled communications with friends (TikTok, FaceTime, Zoom, etc.), and online gaming will benefit most from 5G in the near-term. Usage has gone through the roof since the pandemic, and is unlikely to ever fully return to “normal”. The next wave may well be driven by Virtual Reality and/or Augmented Reality-enabled applications. Coincidentally, GenZ have the strongest interest in VR/AR gaming, and we know this generation is using online multi-player gaming for socialization more than ever during the pandemic.

UNDERSTANDING HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE FACE OF CHANGING TECH ABILITIES

Any company trying to capitalize on the opportunities presented by a dramatically increased ability to deliver new and better 5G-enabled services to people can benefit by analyzing which specific human motivations are most important for any given new service, and how the pandemic may have altered these.

BrandFx Four Benefits Pillars

Let’s take basic broadband internet access in my household as an example:

  • FUNCTIONAL (what I want to do): our existing internet access is insufficient now that two teenagers are doing remote learning most days and two adults are teleworking: all four individuals are spending much more time on video streaming platforms, often simultaneously. This impacts the adults’ work productivity and the kids’ learning. Additionally, we are all streaming more digital entertainment (TV shows, movies, and online gaming for the kids) now that we don’t go out anymore. The Functional motivation is very clear.
  • SOCIAL (where I want to belong): Other people I know have switched to a 5G internet service. I’ve heard through online forums from people I don’t know about their experiences with 5G.
    • My kids rely on fast internet service with low latency for social connections. Problems with Facetime glitching or high ping/latency while playing Sea of Thieves with friends increases their (already high) sense of social isolation.
  • IDENTITY (who I want to be): I’d like to think I’m smart, leading edge, and open to change. I won’t keep to the status quo just because it’s familiar. And I solve practical problems around the household.
  • EMOTIONAL (how I want to feel): I am very frustrated and annoyed by my current internet service plan: the internet quality and reliability doesn’t meet my family’s current needs during this pandemic, I don’t feel like I’m getting value for the price I am currently paying, and I don’t feel respected when I call customer service.
    • I feel anxious, however, that switching to 5G may compromise the security of my internet access. And I am concerned that it may be unreliable (e.g., glitchy when there is severe weather, because I’ve heard about this with satellite TV connections).

Across many industries and products, we have found that the emotional, identity, and/or social motivations are just as—and often more—important determinants of a new product’s success than the functional ones. And the interactions across different types of motivations can be highly prescriptive for laying successful go-to-market plans in the face of extreme uncertainty.

We are neither soothsayers nor oracles, but we do know how to leverage the power of psychology to help navigate a future that promises to be full of change and more disruption.

*No, this is not another conspiracy blog about how 5G technologies caused the Covid-19 outbreak. They did not.


Christopher NealChris Neal, VP of CMB's Tech & Telecom Practice, has over 20 years of experience in high tech, online, consumer electronics, telecom and media insights, analytics, and consulting.

Follow CMB on Facebook, InstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Topics: technology research, strategy consulting, technology solutions, mobile, business decisions, consumer insights, millennials, internet of things, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, emotional measurement, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation, Market research, emotion, Artificial Intelligence, BrandFx, consumer psychology, technology, Gaming, Gen Z, AR/VR, collaborative intelligence, COVID-19, consumer sentiment, Next-Gen Gaming, customer centricity, AI, Habit Loops

Expanding Possibilities in Path to Purchase Research

Posted by Marty Murk

Thu, Jun 25, 2020

Marty Expand P2P Blog Opener (1)

With most of the country moving through stages of “reopening,” consumers’ path to purchase has been disrupted. New habits and behaviors are forming on the fly. It feels like now, and in the coming months, reassessing the “new path to purchase” will emerge as a priority for brands big and small.

Path to purchase/consumer journey research is about exploring what moves people towards the business outcome: a purchase. The framework is relatively similar across industries, categories, and products, and typically includes a heavy focus on the actions a consumer takes towards their final purchase. The words may differ however the research typically covers:

  • Trigger: A need or want emerges moving you to a more active state in the category
  • Discovery: Initial stages of research and learning performed
  • Evaluation: Options narrowed and evaluated in more depth
  • Purchase: A decision is made, and a product is purchased

At CMB, this approach is one of the subtle differences between thinking about path to purchase versus consumer journey research. The journey being broader, more inclusive and including pre-category engagement and later stage customer experiences. Prior to COVID-19, CMB ran self-funded consumer journey research on the gaming industry.  We designed the study to be broad and inclusive of “consumer journey” stages AND in a few other ways worthy of consideration in future consumer journey research.

We went BROAD, expanding categories beyond what would typically be included.  And we think you should too. Think industry not category. In gaming, a typical approach would look at a tightly defined category within the gaming industry, the “Games” category, for instance, might define the category into gaming genres (e.g., Role-Playing-Games, First-Person-Shooters, Sporting Games). While this category approach generally yields fantastic insights - one thing that has always stuck with me is how VERY FEW differences often exist between narrowly defined categories (e.g., RPGs paths aren’t all that different form FSP paths).

Cast a wide net—in our case covering Games, Consoles, Peripherals, Cloud Gaming, AR/VR Devices, and Gaming PC/Hardware—and the differences will JUMP off the page. Take the duration of the journey for instance, the time from Trigger to Purchase:

Gaming CJ Timeline Micrographic (2)

With broad context, it becomes obvious how quickly decisions are made in the Games category (Fast, System-1 Thinking). With an easy implication on the priority of the Evaluation and Purchase moments of the path, we discover that AR/VR Devices is a much harder, slower path (Slow, System-2 Thinking) requiring heavy touches in the Research moments of the path (e.g., Discovery, Consideration). Marketing tactics need to follow suit.

As an Insights professional, the context helps with interpretation. It also sets the research up to serve broader business objectives, rather than driving an action for a solo category. In a past life, I worked in athletic industry and led some similar work on athletic footwear. After a while, we thought it would have served the business well to think more broadly and capture athletic apparel, equipment, and accessories in the same initiative.

We were INCLUSIVE, expanding to include incomplete paths. We looked at products “considered but the purchase was not completed.” Doing so allowed us to model touchpoints that drive purchases. It also allowed insights to include the idea of friction and barriers hindering the path forward. For instance, in the AR/VR category, the consumer journey creates a lot of friction with consumers. Forgive the corny gaming analogy here, but the AR/VR category is making consumers slog through an “Oregon Trail” journey, and they’re dying of exhaustion (or dysentery, or measles or fever).

CJ Friction Micrographic

Expanding in these areas doesn’t have to mean a lack of “depth” either. It may mean you need more sample/participants to support the analysis, however the right questionnaire design can still grab the granular details needed to support key business decisions. In this study, there’s a clear consumer need for those interested in AR/VR to experience the product(s) more easily. In Cloud Gaming, consumers are asking for more trustworthy reviews that are less self-serving. By comparing these two categories, key business decision makers are provided context to their data, which helps in better defining where the needs are, and what you can learn from.

P2P Gaming Challenges Categories Micrographic

So, if you’re exploring path to purchase / consumer journey work, it’s worth a pause to ask yourself, “should I expand my world?” This experience shows that there may be more categories of the business that could be included that would lead to easier interpretation and would set the research up to serve the broader business. It also open opportunities to gain more clear actionable insights by including both completed and incomplete paths. These two ideas are great additions to traditional path to purchase work.

Please reach out if you’re interested in learning more about path to purchase/consumer journey work or seeing more of the great work with did in the gaming industry.


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

Follow CMB on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates. Also, read "Fast-Moving, Slow-Thinking: How Friction, Challenges, and Barriers Derail Customer Journeys" to understand the consumer psychology behind decision-making.

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, Market research, Gaming, consumer journey

Fast-Moving, Slow-Thinking: How Friction, Challenges, and Barriers Derail Customer Journeys

Posted by Josh Fortey

Thu, Jun 25, 2020

The modern consumer journey is as fast as it’s ever been. Faster internet and an “always connected” mentality have ushered us into an age where consumers quickly transition through the phases of the consumer journey; an evolution that Google dubs “Impatient Consumers”.

Just this week I was reminded of the hyper-speed at which modern consumer journeys occur as I upgraded my phone, and compared it to the first smartphone I ever bought. It couldn’t have looked anything less like my first journey towards a Blackberry 8800 purchase (a top of the line phone for the time I will add…). My first phone journey involved visits to electronic and phone carrier stores, trialing and testing numerous handsets, and speaking to friends, family and sales associates about the best brands or models. And sure, my most recent phone purchase experience could have looked something like this, but it didn’t. After some googling, watching tech influencers breakdown product, and some final product and price comparisons, my most recent smartphone path-to-purchase was complete within just a few hours.

F_S Thinking Social 2 Photos

Though these two journeys are nothing alike, there are a number of common themes that underpin decision-making. At CMB, we look at this decision-making mentality through a continuum of Fast or Slow Thinking:

FS Thanking Chart

Fast-thinking (i.e. System 1) is the more instinctive, emotional, and impulsive decision-making that is more commonly associated with early-stage consumer journey decisions (e.g., do I pay attention to an ad, do I click on a video review). As we shift into the later stages of the consumer journey, where we evaluate and form purchase criteria, we become more critical and deliberate, shifting into the slow-thinking mindset of addressing concerns or weighing the benefits.

In slow-thinking, the consumer journey can become more challenging and can ultimately derail the entire journey. Our recent self-funded consumer journey research, A Gamer’s Journey, identified three examples of this.

FRICTION:

As consumers shift into the critical and deliberative slow-thinking mindset, they begin to put substantially more effort into weighing the benefits and disadvantages of different options. This increased effort can begin to create points of friction in which challenges are met, and barriers formed. In our gamer journey research we observed both buyers and non-buyers encountering friction, however, it was universal across all gaming categories that the more friction a consumer encountered, the more likely they were to ultimately drop out of the journey:

Friction FS Thinking

To prevent friction-churn, we must focus on making the consumer journey as seamless as possible; this involves isolating and remedying any challenges consumers may face.

CHALLENGES:

Challenges are the components of the consumer journey that make it difficult to learn, evaluate, and inform decision-making; they lead to hesitation or barriers that could cost your brand. We found that those who felt more intense friction experienced almost 2.5 times more challenges through the consumer journey than those who felt less friction. For cloud gaming, some of these slow-thinking challenges were more heavily related to trusting customer reviews, comparing service providers, but importantly (especially for an emerging category), finding product roadmaps and updates. Potential cloud gamers still indicated some hesitancy about whether developers will remain dedicated to advancing the technology, and if game studios will begin developing or porting games to the platform.

Challenges FS Thinking

PURCHASE BARRIERS:

In any consumer journey there is a critical juncture where a final decision gets made. It’s at this point where the consumer has either overcome any (or enough of) the rational fears that cause hesitation and purchase, or they encounter a significant enough barrier that prevents their purchase or results in a competitor winning. Slow-thinking occurs in both of these scenarios: either you’ve succeeded or failed at rationally persuading consumers enough to overcome their barriers.

Revisiting cloud gaming again, the top barrier to adoption within this category is indecision. Consumers remain skeptical about the future of the technology and question the performance benefits or effectiveness of current solutions. The positive for cloud gaming is that many gamers aren’t completely rejecting it, rather, they’re waiting for the tech to prove itself, and/or for more compelling arguments to emerge, and convince them of purchasing.

Barriers FS Thinking

MAKE FAST-MOVING, SLOW-THINKING AN ADVANTAGE

No matter the speed or channel(s) at which today’s journey happens, consumers will always be faced with making decisions. Challenges exist at both ends of the fast and slow thinking spectrum: capturing attention and driving consideration when consumers are thinking fast, and overcoming fears, pain points and barriers when consumers are thinking slow. Brands that comprehend and tackle both of these, are the brands that will win the consumer journey. To learn more about integrating a Fast+Slow Thinking framework in your consumer journey work, contact us here.


Josh ForteyJosh Fortey is an Account Director at CMB, and avid gamer.

Follow CMB on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates. Also, read "Expanding Possibilities in Path to Purchase Research" to know what to consider in the new path to purchase.

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: technology research, path to purchase, consumer insights, Consumer Pulse, Market research, consumer psychology, Gaming, consumer journey, Fast+Slow Thinking

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.

Follow CMB on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

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