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Should I Be Innovating Now?

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun

Fri, Apr 17, 2020

If Jimmy Kimmel can do it, so can we!

Stuck at home, it’s easy to understand why so many marketers and insights professionals feel like the world is paused. How can we move forward amid so much uncertainty? I understand the impulse, but through conversations with my CMB, and industry colleagues and clients I strongly believe that this is a time to be bold, not to sit back and wait.

This advice is part of an evolution. We have seen client mindsets shift from an early “wait-and-see” approach (early- to mid-March) to “let’s not waste this moment to understand what our customers are thinking and doing” (late-March to early-April). Given the disruption, you need to know which old habits will recede, and which new habits will stick. What new products and services will define the new normal? For consumer insights professionals, this is your opportunity to shine.

An article from Bain speaks to this very well: Decide where to be bold and build a roadmap to get there. Companies that win in downturns don’t just play defense—they play offense as well. Determine the products, customers and underlying capabilities where doubling down now can accelerate growth during and after whatever lies ahead.

If you’re wondering whether your company should be innovating during this pandemic, I ask you to consider the following:

  • If you think your competition is continuing to innovate, then YES
  • If you think the COVID environment will shape how your customer will think going forward, then YES

And importantly, innovation can happen in a quarantined world. If Jimmy Kimmel can do it, so can we!

Jimmy Kimmel

Using digital/virtual tools, we can, of course, see and hear each other, and additionally 1) screenshare 2) whiteboard collaboratively 3) work in plenary and break out groups and 4) perform exercises, quick polls and other methods for ideating and prioritizing. To combat the obvious barriers at play, we recommend accomplishing this in multiple 90-minute virtual workshops. Ideally, about 15 people, including stakeholders and consumers, would e-meet twice in one day to ideate on your topic.

At CMB, we apply a Design Thinking framework to innovation, with #3 being the collaborative ideation:

Design Thinking-2

Related to our February blog on empathy, it’s important to stay connected to your customer. Continue to talk to your consumers throughout this pandemic, because they want to be included in conversations. Nine out of ten surveyed during the shutdowns and quarantines say they want to continue doing research. Researching/innovating fulfills several needs for consumers: a feeling of normalcy, a sense of control over things they can affect, and some (needed) cash.

COVID Innovation Kathy Blog Research Micrographic

CMB is talking directly to consumers now, successfully moving all research online, including workshops. We can help you stay connected, build empathy and importantly, continue to innovate with your customers at this critical time.


Kathy OfsthunKathy Ofsthun, VP Qualitative + Innovation

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Topics: technology solutions, qualitative research, growth and innovation, co-creation, COVID-19

Welcoming a New Year and New Opportunities

Posted by Jim Garrity

Fri, Jan 05, 2018

2018-for social.jpg

It’s 2018 and I truly believe there is no better time to be in the insights business. Yes, our industry and our clients face daunting challenges—new market entrants, digital disruption, political and regulatory upheaval, and increasingly empowered consumers are just a few. But it is also true that these disruptions have the potential to reveal—to those organizations prepared to tackle them—more opportunities than ever before. 

I firmly believe that CMB has never been better positioned to help our clients face both the challenges and the opportunities head on.  As we enter this new year, I want to reaffirm our commitment to you—to continue to be your collaborative, decision-focused, creative and forward-thinking partner. I also want to share just a bit about how we are investing in your success—ensuring we help you meet your objectives today and in the years to come.

Investment in groundbreaking Consumer Psychology solutions: Brands that will thrive in the future understand consumer motivations are both critical and complex. Our Consumer Psychology team lend their innovative thinking on the self, identity, and emotions to all of our work.

Developing configurable solutions to solve common problems quickly and cost effectively: Time and cost pressures will only increase over the coming year(s) and we are committed to leveraging technology and processes to deliver tailored results without resorting to cookie-cutter approaches.  We’re also excited to offer expanded solutions in partnership with our new parent company—ITA Group—delivering insights into the world of incentives, engagement and cultural transformation.

Staying on the forefront of the latest in predictive and advanced analytics techniques: Massive computing power paired with our Advanced Analytics Team’s expertise give our clients the advantage—providing a best assessment of the future under a variety of scenarios. Clients have LOTS of data that tells them what DID happen, we leverage predictive analytics to tell them what WILL happen—a critical need in a changing world.

Thoughtful and creative solutions from innovative design to co-creation: While a creative approach to a quantitative research design might seem worlds apart from an inventive co-creation workshop—we know meaningful insights aren’t about numbers on a slide and that creativity, curiosity and a relentless focus on decisions lead to the biggest breakthroughs.

Our people are your partners: Your CMB team is smart, client-focused and fun to work with. From our most tenured and expert senior consultants to our incredibly bright and creative associates, every member of your CMB team is focused on helping you and your business succeed.

Thank you for your partnership and here’s to a new year full of successes for you and your team.

Topics: technology solutions, business decisions, data integration, Market research

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.

Join us at The Market Research Event in October! Use the code CMB2014 and receive 25% off your registration. 

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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.

Join us at The Market Research Event! Use the code CMB2014 and receive 25% off your registration. 

Register Today!

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

Hold the Phones: Chat as an Alternative to 1-800 Helplines?

Posted by Jessica Chavez

Mon, Sep 26, 2011

1-800 beauty hotlines

I recently read Mike Albo’s piece in W Magazine about beauty hotlines where operators are standing by to answer questions and deal with “emergencies,” like accidentally using an antiperspirant cream as a hand lotion.  This got me wondering , in a 24/7 online world filled with IMs and chats, are most beauty companies still relying only on 1-800 numbers to answer their customers’ questions and concerns?Curious as to whether beauty companies offered a customer service chat option, I did an impromptu investigation of 10 product websites based on products I have in my bathroom.  Most products are from well-known, deep-pocket companies (e.g. Neutrogena and L'Oreal).  A few were organic-type products produced by smaller companies (like Earth Science Naturals). I was surprised to find none of the product websites I visited offered live chat with a representative.  Not one.  If chat was available, I couldn’t find it anywhere on the sites I looked at, and I searched.  Usually, all I could find were the 1-800 hotlines from the back of the product itself. 

As a marketer I acknowledge there are some definite pluses to beauty hotlines, they are great for building customer relationships. As a market researcher I see other benefits too: the calls are recorded, and companies get the pulse of the customer, potentially driving further research on hot topics.  It's essentially free qualitative research that comes to them.  But the world has changed from a decade ago, customers expect answers now and limiting feedback to phone calls could keep companies from getting the most accurate information. Also, there are a couple of problems with limiting interactions to 1-800 numbers.

  • First, these hotlines are usually available during office hours: Monday to Friday 9-5. These are the prime hours counted against cell phone minutes (800 numbers still count as minutes used).  Plus they’re closed nights and weekends, the time that most cell plans offer free calling.  With fewer and fewer people owning landlines; companies must consider that their toll free numbers aren’t free for most.  And hey, people work too!

  • Second, if you can’t, or don’t want to call during hotline hours, there’s usually an email option. The rise of IM can make even email feel like a pain in the neck. And sometimes an email answer generates more questions.  Sometimes you need a little back-and-forth to get to the root of your question.  People want reassurance: a real live person to answer questions and hash it out with you until you get the information you need. 

There’s a huge opportunity here folks. I’m talking to you, Bath and Beauty Products Industry.  With the implementation of website chat functionality, just think how much easier data collection could be.  Think how you could be getting more contact with a wider variety of people with a wider variety of questions. Think of the potential increase in customer satisfaction by offering another option for contact, and the chance to drive future strategy.  Think of the “Cool Technology” factor and who might be inclined to use it. 

As both a researcher and a consumer of beauty products, this seems like a no-brainer.  What do you think?

Posted by Jessica McClelland.  Jessica is a senior associate researcher at CMB who does her best thinking and magazine reading while exercising.

 

Topics: data collection, technology solutions, customer experience and loyalty, retail research