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What is the Next Normal & How To Plan For It?

Posted by Courtnie Hallendy

Wed, Apr 22, 2020

Think about this…is your “normal” household (i.e. the one you remember from February) going to be changed, in some way shape and form, by what we are going through right now? If your household is like mine, the answer is probably yes. For example, do I think my husband will continue to get excited about making dinner? No. But do I think that the way we shop for food will be different for some time? Absolutely. This got me thinking about incidence and impact…how many consumers are going to be impacted (both foreseeable now and not), and to what degree?

Honestly, I don’t know, which is especially unnerving for someone who gathered consumer sentiment and helped inform business strategies for Toyota Financial Services during the financial crisis and a massive product recall – both impacting millions of people. After the initial shock of those unique situations wore off, we realized that we quickly needed a plan. We needed to know what was going on, what could potentially happen in the future, how does this impact our brand equity, and what do we need to do to come out just as strong, if not stronger. I’m not saying that those two incidents are anything like our current crisis, but I do think that the need for a plan is just as strong. Right now, we don’t know what is next, but that doesn’t mean that we can't be learning all we can to help our businesses during and after this crisis.

After listening to my colleague Lori Vellucci, VP of Financial Services, and Mack Turner, a Global Insights & Innovation leader, discuss insights from the second wave of our COVID-19 consumer sentiment tracker in “Navigating the Next Normal”, I started to chart out what we need to be looking at (and looking for) to wrap our heads around this.

OUR VALUES

The current crisis is different than any I have been through in large part because of the cause. Health. Global health, health of our communities, and health of individuals. We are inundated with messaging about being in this together and getting through this together. The call for collective values to align is something that will likely impact consumers, to some degree, forever. Our sentiment tracker data shows that in a three-week time period, people express an increased concern for the health of their family and communities, while concerns for their own health is unchanged.

COVID Wave 2 Next Blog Slide 11

Mack and Lori talked a bit about this data point in the discussion and I agree that this is an indicator that people are thinking more about others than themselves. So, how does this factor into our plans? What do we, as an organization, need to think about (or change) in how we build and communicate our products and services?

To answer those questions, our plan needs to look at how shifts in values impact our brand, products, and/or services. I had a discussion last week with a client that touched on this – when can we include non-COVID messaging in our advertising and communications? How will people perceive us when/if we do? What are the things we need to focus on in future communications? This is not something we can get the answer to immediately - it may be quite some time before we really know the degree to which things have changed. This is where is it important for us to include monitoring of these shifts in our plan and insights.

OUR BEHAVIORS

Building off changes in consumer values, our plan should include information on how consumer behaviors changed. If we agree that values, to some degree, will be forever changed then it is safe to believe that behaviors will as well. Said in marketing research terms: how are my customer’s journey and consideration set impacted?

Let’s take the example above about community health. We are already seeing behavioral shifts to demonstrate this through face masks. But, how long and for how many will this continue to be part of their decision process? If I were in the retail or dining industries, I would want to know what behaviors, related to masks, people expect within my establishment.

Another part of the plan would be to understand how things that I “have” to do now may impact how I consider doing things in the future. In the discussion, Lori and Mack talk about grocery delivery, but another related example is online shopping. 42% say they are doing more than before and about half plan to continue to do this more when life goes back to normal.

COVID Wave 2 Next Blog Slide 17

A behavior shift like this doesn’t just impact big box store traffic or Amazon shopping. Consider for a moment a small business located in the nearest downtown to you. If you are the small business, then forecasting a decrease in foot traffic will be important in future planning. If you count small businesses as customers of yours (financial services or telecommunications, for example), then what will they need from you to adapt to this shift?

WHAT'S NEXT?

Many businesses are going to continue being impacted by this global pandemic. Our consumers’ forced behaviors should be part of your plan to deliver on their evolved needs. Consider how your goods/services align with their shifts in values and behaviors; are some of these shifts only temporary? What if they are not?

Mack brings up the example of a shift to online app usage for financial services. These “new” customers to the app may have different needs or expectations from our previous customers. The values and behavioral data informing the plan should provide the business with the information needed to address this. Let’s not forget, though, we will need to understand internal data as well. How does the increase in usage impact other areas of the business (call centers, online agent chats, etc.)?

Navigating Next Normal Quote - Customers

These are challenging, frustrating, and uncertain times, to be sure. That said, I am looking forward to helping my clients plan for the next normal. Consumer behaviors, psychology, and motivators have always interested me and that is why I went into this field. So…what’s next?


Courtnie HallendyCourtnie Hallendy is an Account Director at CMB, with more than 15 years of experience in market research on both the client and vendor sides of the business.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Topics: strategy consulting, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, market strategy and segmentation, COVID-19, consumer sentiment

The Anxiety Gap: Discovering a Normalcy Bias in COVID-19

Posted by Brant Cruz

Mon, Apr 06, 2020

As someone who has been deeply involved with the art and science of segmentation for over 20 years, I am an ardent believer that the most insightful story in any data set is found at the segment level. The fact is that examining the total population (whatever that study’s population is) washes away the “aha” moments. My much-smarter colleague, Jay Weiner (Ph.D.) constantly reinforces that any total column is usually made up of some multimodal distribution, and our job as researchers is to track down and highlight the key ones.  

Finding those stories usually requires sophisticated segmentation analytical techniques (e.g., Latent Class and k-means, clustering, C&RT modeling, BayesNets and Ensemble) to coerce the data into sharing its news.  Only occasionally, the data shouts its own news loudly when examining a few simple cross tabs. 

In the case of CMB’s recent self-funded research on how Covid-19 is impacting US consumer sentiment, our baseline wave from two weeks ago revealed (practically shouted) some obvious differences in the data based on region, age, and the sources people trust to communicate honestly.  And while I typically love to find stories in data with such little sweat, this discovery was far more bitter than sweet given the seriousness of the topic.

For example, it is clear that even as of two weeks ago, Americans living in urban areas were much more likely to be feeling negative emotions related to their lives (independent of COVID-19) than their suburban or rural counterparts.

COVID Normalcy Bias Geographies with Callout-1

On slide 16 of the report, we break out much of the study’s data by generational cohort.  The top right data from the slide that I’m showing below is a summary of the impact that each generation perceived that COVID-19 was having on their lives right now (“now” being around 3/18).  Millennials were feeling on average (note: there are multi-modal distributions underneath these cohorts, they definitely don’t all feel the same) that COVID-19 was having a more positive than negative impact on their lives.  Boomers and Matures on the other hand, were feeling far more negative impacts than positive. 

COVID Normalcy Bias Impact On You Now

I know what many of you must be thinking: how can anyone say that a disease that had already claimed thousands of lives by the time this was fielded has had a positive impact on their lives?  I can’t say for sure, but I have some theories:

  1. There is a pretty strong normalcy bias at play here, which is described by Wikipedia as “a tendency for people to believe that things will function in the future the way they normally have functioned in the past and therefore to underestimate both the likelihood of a disaster and its possible effects.”  While COVID-19 had greatly impacted many thousands of American lives by the time we fielded, there were also many of thousands of Americans who hadn’t had their lives, or the lives of their inner circle, negatively disrupted.
  2. We, as researchers, marketers, and like-minded professionals tend to consume and process lots of data, viewing things from our professional perch.  I see this when working with big tech companies very frequently, and sometimes use “Valley Goggles” to describe the fact that adoption curves--and the use cases that underlie them--that are mainstream in California are more likely to be considered early adoption in middle America.  That isn’t a value judgment, just an observation that we all tend to view nearly everything through our own personal experiences.

Additionally, there appears to be a relationship between the brands/sources individuals trust to communicate honestly, and how concerned they are (or “were” as 3/19) about COVID-19.  Big caveat that the sample sizes get thin here, but directionally these word clouds (from slide 15) that segment people based on whether they feel COVID-19 is having a negative/neutral/positive impact on their lives reveal that:  

  • Those who feel the virus is having a negative impact on their lives are disproportionately likely to trust left-leaning and center/neutral news sources to communicate honestly
  • Those who feel the virus is having a neutral/no impact on their lives are disproportionately likely to trust right-leaning news sources to communicate honestly
  • Those who feel the virus is having a positive impact on their lives are disproportionately likely to trust big consumer brands like Nike, Amazon, Apple and Whats App to communicate honestly

In most cases, I’d be celebrating about how easy and clear these key findings were to find.  Typically, at this point, I’d be discussing implications and recommendations with my clients regarding how they might change aspects of their business to capitalize on opportunities that serve their customers and the broader market more effectively with better marketing and/or better products/experiences.  And I’d probably be slightly wistful about how long these changes would likely take to implement, and how imperfectly we’d be able to measure the impact (ROI) of strategic segmentation initiatives, given how much both the element of time, and the hundreds of other changes they make to their business over time confounds precise quantification.

Sadly, in this situation, none of those problems mentioned above are materially present, or (if they are) meaningfully important.  I read this article from CNN a couple days ago, which reinforces the glimmers we saw in our study about the dire circumstances urban areas face.

I’m sure everyone reading this knows that COVID-19 is here, and getting worse every day.  We are about to field a second wave of this study, and I know that sentiment is going to change, but I am not sure by how much.  Just like I am confident about the very substantial impacts that CMB’s segmentation work has had on our clients over time, even if I can’t precisely quantify it, I know the same is true about social distancing and sheltering in place. 

CMB is committed to (but not necessarily “looking forward to”) sharing results from our research on this topic as we track sentiment over time.  In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy.


Brant CruzBrant Cruz is our resident segmentation guru and the Vice President of CMB’s eCommerce and Digital Media & Entertainment Practice.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

Topics: market strategy and segmentation, COVID-19, consumer sentiment

Wear Your Brand Hat to Ensure Segmentation Adoption

Posted by Brenda Ng

Tue, Sep 24, 2019

Wear Your Brand HatThe best segmentation is wasted if your internal teams and agencies aren’t using it.  Compared to a one-time launch event, an adoption campaign takes place over time, and allows for new behaviors and an understanding of the target segments’ lens to groove.   

Brand Hat

Create and have fun with an adoption campaign by putting on a brand and product management hat.

  • Target: Which groups should adopt the new segmentation?  Marketing, sales, product, executive leadership, agencies, finance, customer service?  This determines the scope and reach of the campaign.
  • Goals: Focus on deep understanding of your prioritized, target segments, not necessarily every category segment.  What behaviors do you want to see?
  • Duration: Like any product launch, the campaign could be broken down into three parts: pre-launch to anticipate and raise awareness; launch to introduce; and post-launch to provide reinforcement.
  • Naming: Own it!  Create a name for the campaign that links to the segments or the benefit of transitioning to a new segmentation.  It can be activated during the pre-launch, teaser phase.  For example, “Coming soon.  A Fresh Perspective.”  Or “They’re arriving.  The Fabulous Four.”

Fun. Fit.

A bevy of fun, engaging ideas can be modified to fit your company’s culture or industry.  Everyone has a different learning style, so mix it up to dial up the reach.  A few jump-start ideas:

  • Create each segment’s LinkedIn profile. Or create Tinder profiles.
  • If each segment had an Instagram account what would that look like? If you have the budget, provide instant cameras, assign a segment to a team (or better, have a team member complete the algorithm to determine their segment), and have them complete a scavenger hunt using snapped pictures.  Use cellphone cameras for a no-budget option.  Or create a Fun Friday where each team dresses up like a segment, brings a segment’s favorite foods to share, plays their anthem in the background—and the other teams guess the segment.
  • Create an internal website or database that has the facts, figures, sizing, valuation, etc. to be used in estimates, forecasting, and modeling.
  • Rename conference rooms by segment name, for 3-6 months. One conference room per segment. Further bring the segment to life through decorations, and interactive experiences.

Brief Details

Small details matter to reinforce adoption of the new target segments. 

Refresh templates for creative briefs, new product briefs, and market research briefs to include a trigger:  Which target segment is this effort for?  Leave space to include important insights and numbers.

Now, you have the keys to a successful segmentation.  We’re happy to help.


Brenda NgBrenda Ng, VP of Strategy and Account Planning, spearheads CMB's engagement solutions from product development to strategic planning.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Topics: product development, marketing strategy, market strategy and segmentation, brand tracking, experiential marketing, engagement strategy

Socialize your Segments to Inspire Action

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun

Wed, Aug 28, 2019

Blog_Ofsthun

My segments are defined, my typing tool is working, and my personas are created … and you’re telling me I’m not done yet?!

Yes, the end of the research is really the beginning of your segmentation. Once you’ve landed on an excellent model and algorithm for defining and distinguishing your new segments, you need everyone to know them!

At CMB, a standard part of our Segmentation program is to workshop with our client’s internal teams to obsess over the persona behind each segment, e.g. understand more deeply what can motivate “Defensive Donna” or how to pin down the “Explorer”. For B2B and B2C segmentations, the process is very similar, though all workshops are customized to account for the uniqueness of your segments and the needs of your stakeholders.

Typically, we plan and facilitate workshops of 2-4 hours, depending on the needs of the participants. The goal of the workshops is always the same: socialize the key insights about each segment, then apply that learning to real business needs.

For one large client, we brought the entire 100+ Marketing staff through an interactive 2-hour workshop (four workshops of 25-30 people each, over two days). After a discussion of the pre-work (there is always a creative homework assignment to inspire participants), the groups were split into diverse functional teams who rotated through stations focused on one segment each. The stations included video that brought the personas to life, infographic-style banners depicting the key elements defining the segment, take away “baseball cards” with key stats and insights, and more.

Once everyone has had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the archetypes for each segment, small group breakouts focus on one segment each. They are tasked with developing messaging for this person, choosing or developing fitting products for them, as well as tackling other business issues. Often, we will look to adjacent industries to examine how they appeal to this target. As appropriate, we may fill backpacks or briefcases with products fitting the persona. We then look across all breakout groups to see how distinct the segments are in vivid detail.

There are myriad exercises that we can and do engage in—from in-person workshops to VR experiences. All of them deepen and hone your understanding of the segments and compel you to apply your learning to critical business issues. Our clients solve for their targeting needs, including and especially for messaging and product development, but also for perfecting pitches for your sales team.

Participants walk away from the workshop with memorable and actionable insights, and as enthusiastic evangelists.


Kathy OfsthunKathy Ofsthun is CMB's VP of Qualitative Strategy + Innovation.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Topics: qualitative research, market strategy and segmentation

The 5 things to do BEFORE you Begin a Segmentation

Posted by Athena Rodriguez

Tue, Aug 13, 2019

planning

Segmentations can be big endeavors—organizations investing time, money, and people, need to see meaningful outcomes. While it’s tempting, especially for seasoned researchers, to dive right in, solid up-front planning is critical when it comes to building a segmentation your organization will accept and implement.

With decades of segmentation experience, we’ve found the key to a successful outcome lies with engaging stakeholders early and often.  Follow these five steps to ensure alignment prior to questionnaire development.    

  1. Set expectations. Engage with end-users early in the process to clarify what the segmentation will and won’t do. Often time, LOBs have competing priorities which one segmentation may not be able to satisfy.  It’s much better to identify and address potential disconnects prior to getting started.  To ensure data quality (i.e., keep your questionnaire a reasonable length), you’ll likely need to negotiate trade-offs.  Consider using additional follow-up studies to gather additional insights that aren’t crucial to segmentation. 

  2. Understand relevant initiatives. Questionnaire real estate is at a premium so use it wisely. Examine relevant existing research to make sure you’re building on rather than replicating it.  Are there ongoing initiatives that could provide some direction?  For example, what marketing campaigns are planned, who are they targeting, and why?  Alternatively, is there upcoming work that could benefit by examining through the lens of segments—product development comes to mind here.

  3. Learn from the past. Understanding how your organization has used (or not used) segmentation in the past can help you to avoid potential pitfalls. Examine past segmentation efforts in your organization.  What worked—and perhaps more importantly, what didn’t? 
    • How was the segmentation used? What decisions were made? 
    • If it wasn’t used, why? Was it overly complicated?  Was it too simplistic? Did it lack face validity or contradict how the organization currently sees the market? 

  4. Define success. It’s crucial to know how end users want to use the results prior to questionnaire development and analysis. What does success look like?  The answer will differ based on the end-user.  A product manager may want to develop products designed to meet target segment needs (an if you build it, they will come approach) while your marketing team might expect to pinpoint target segments within an existing database—two very different uses. 

  5. Identify your audience. Are there portions of the market that don’t make sense to include in your study? Alternatively, are there people that might not currently use your products or services but have the potential to in the future.  One obvious example of this is in the financial services sector.  Young investors might not have enough investable assets to be profitable, but given the stickiness of the relationship, it’s important to attract young investors who have the potential for future profitability (well after they’ve paid off student loans and saved up for a down payment).

Making the most out of your segmentation investment means more than choosing the right scheme—it means translating insights into decisions. Ask the right questions from the beginning and you’ll be on your way to helping your organization gain the clarity and focus the best insights initiatives provide.

Athena Rodriguez is CMB's Senior Project Director and leads our Senior Resource Team.

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Topics: market strategy and segmentation