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The Psychology of the Grocery Store

How food corporations are leveraging psychology to get millennials and shoppers to purchase more at the store.

In the infographic below, the University of Southern California’s Online Master of Science in Applied Psychology program took a closer look at the psychology used to sell to consumers in grocery stores around the U.S. Thanks to them for sharing this with us so we can share it with you.

University of Southern California | Master of Science in Applied PsychologyOnline

Shopper Trends

On average, United States households spend up to ten percent of their available income on food and groceries. This amounts to roughly $105 every week, with the average trip to the supermarket costing almost $50. This data was collected in 2012 and remains relatively unchanged up to the modern day. Though consumers will frequently spend this amount on their trip, there are many different factors they consider in their purchases. No two customers are always the same, though spotting trends can help businesses notice similarities that directly relate to their products and goods.


78% of all shoppers report that when they go shopping, they spend most of their time reading the nutrition labels to make a better purchase. Many shoppers also report to spend additional money on organic products for their benefits. Often shoppers also take the time invest in local businesses and shop for goods that are either locally produced or manufactured. 64% of the shoppers that participated in these studies said that they focus on the nutrition labels. 48% reported to watch out for local products specifically. Finally, 30% are more interested in paying for organic products when they are available.

Unplanned Purchases in the Store

Consumers have reported to leave approximately $11 free during their trip to make room for some unplanned or unexpected purchases. This plays a significant part in the consumer data, as studies show that three out of every four grocery store shoppers will make some type of purchasing decisions while they are in the store itself. This is outside of their shopping lists and planned purchases. 64% of consumers have said that they have always been comfortable purchasing private or store owned brands, with many consumers making their purchasing decisions for the brand while they shop.

The Top Marketing Tactics

Studies show that in order to effectively captivate their consumers’ interests, manufacturers focus on a variety of marketing tactics for their products. Many of these tactics are obvious, while others are less so, relying on subconscious cues and subliminal messages to encourage customers to shop with them.

The location of the products can play a significant role in the way that the consumers shop for them. The ends of the aisles are reported to be among the most profitable sections to place products. Often, manufacturers will pay an additional premium to have their products placed there because studies show that customers are often interested in what they will find at the end of the aisle.

Although it might not seem like it would have a large effect, the color of the products can make a significant difference as well. Colors can have a symbolic significance in the products, which will affect the decision making process. Consumers will frequently be on the lookout for brighter colored products, while many colors have individual themes that lend advantages to the products themselves. Colors like purple, black, and gold can all convey certain themes and messages that encourage consumers to shop and browse.

Nutritional labels play a significant part in the purchasing process as well. Customers will often try to make the healthier choice, and these nutritional labels can be a great way to market a product. If the product is particularly healthy, it can bank on that quality for more purchases.

There are many buzzwords that marketers use to sell products. Words such as organic and fat free can make a significant difference in the purchase, especially if it is what the customer is looking for anyway. These words can be combined with the nutritional labels for added effect.

Sometimes, especially in regards to children’s products, there are many characters and themes that can be present on the packaging to help sell the product. Famous brand characters, such as those in cereals and other products, create a more solid and reliable image, which encourages shoppers to buy those products.

Finally, the packaging itself can play a significant role in the way that the product is marketed. Studies show that details such as transparent packaging can help make the product more desirable. Sometimes, if the packaging takes on a more unique form than is typical, customers are encouraged to purchase it.


Monthly Dose of Design

Mahdis Nikou introduces her new series, Monthly Dose of Design, that will go through a wide variety of topics all related to design, branding and visual communications in the world of research.


By Mahdis Nikou

Hello and thanks for reading the first post in my blog series based on design in the world of market research!

At first I’d like to introduce myself by telling you a little bit about my background, what I do and why I’m writing these pieces. I then would like to give you a backstory about the concept behind “Monthly Dose of Design” and what I will write and share with you through the next couple of months. Hopefully this will give you enough reasons to continue reading and get inspired to apply some of the information I share with you into your work!

So let’s get started…

A Little Bit About Me

I studied design for graphic communication and graduated from London College of Communication, University of the Arts London in 2014. Shortly after my graduation I started my career at Northstar where I am responsible for design conceptualisation, visual storytelling and data visualisation.

What is Monthly Dose of Design and What Does It Hope To Achieve?

Monthly Dose of Design is a series of blog posts that will go through a wide variety of topics all related to design, branding and visual communications in the world of research. In each post I will talk about either my view on a specific area in design or a project that I’ve done here at Northstar, what I’ve learnt through the process and what is it that you could benefit from.

By reading these posts you can find out about the psychology behind colours and shapes, how the right font or typeface could help you communicate your content better, why tone of voice matters when it comes to design, character design and its impact in market research and many more other exciting topics!

Why I’m doing this?

I’m sharing my design knowledge and experience here because I believe good design:

  • Adds purpose into people’s lives
  • Solves complex problems
  • Brings concepts to life
  • Communicates complex information in a simple way

Do these sound familiar? Because as far as I know these are all things the modern day researchers should be aiming to do.

So if you want to get closer to achieving all these things, you are in the right place as I will be offering you tips and advice on how to do this through imaginative and creative design! Keep reading my posts to find out more!

What is the topic I will be talking about in my next post?

How can design save us from becoming boring and dull in the world of market research?

Thanks for reading!


Steering Marketers Back on Track: Qualitative Research on Millennials “Fills the Gap”

Marketers’ perception of Millennials isn’t wrong. It’s just incomplete.


By Jane Boutelle

Marketers’ perception of Millennials isn’t wrong. It’s just incomplete.

We drew that conclusion after conducting a series of three qualitative research studies on Millennials. Our goal was to determine the factors affecting Millennials’ purchasing behavior, and to determine if marketers are judging those factors accurately.

In the first two parts of the online qualitative study, we looked at Millennials’ reactions to healthy beverages and household products/brands. In the third part, we studied marketers’ perceptions of millennials, including their predictions of how Millennials would react to marketing campaigns.

(A note on research methodology: We used Digsite Sprints for the study, an online qualitative research tool with an interface that resembles familiar social media. It provides an on-demand market research platform designed to get in-depth insights with a highly targeted audience over a period of four days.)

How Marketers Were Missing the Mark on Gen Y

The results of the studies, which used discussion board, image mark-up and survey exercises to produce qualitative results, revealed some misconceptions among marketers. Here are a few examples:

Study 1: Healthy Beverages (Pragmatic Over Idealistic)

In Study 1 we analyzed healthy beverage marketing strategies. The preconceived notion of Gen Y is that they are idealistic do-gooders who want to save the world, and that this sentiment would spill over into their purchase decisions.

However, when Millennials were presented with a number of beverage options, they proved to be more pragmatic. They preferred “natural” over “organic,” primarily due to cost. They were tired of misleading marketing and wanted transparency in packaging claims. They want to pursue a healthier option, but taste is still important.

Study 2: Household Products (Brands Matter…But You Have to Back it Up)

In Study 2, we found Millennials prefer the established brand over brands constructed to appeal to their Gen Y characteristics. To explore this, one of our activities featured a head-to-head comparison of an established brand, Tide, versus the Honest Company, whose marketing appears to target Millennials.

Overall, participants favored the established brand with a proven track record of quality. There was some skepticism toward the claims made by The Honest Company. “I’m not sure to believe them when they say they use natural ingredients,” one participant said. There was even some resentment towards their marketing copy, “Tide stated their attributes simply and didn’t rely on using buzzwords to try and appeal to people.”

Study 3: Marketers vs. Millennials (Head-to-Head)

In Study 3, we saw these disconnects between the Millennials and the Marketers materialize in graphic fashion.  The study first surveyed Marketers for their opinions on how Millennials would react – then surveyed the Gen Y participants to see their actual response.

In one exercise, Marketers thought the most important factors for Millennials when purchasing a household product would be Eco-Friendly, Natural Ingredients and Safety. Instead, Millennials focused on Functionality, Price and Smell.

Side-by-side studies of ads were also illuminating. What the Marketers picked as winning concepts proved to be off-base. The Millennials favored pragmatism over puffery: Clear headlines. Simple design. Fact-based claims.

Where Did We Go Wrong on Millennials?

Jeff Fromm, President of FutureCast and an expert on Millennials, said, “Millennials are not a homogeneous cohort. They are not broke, unemployed and living in their parents’ basement among a collection of participation trophies they never earned.”

Our studies back that statement up, but where did we go wrong? How did we veer so far off the mark?

Perhaps it was the initial quantitative studies of Millennials that led us astray. In Millennials Rising, Neil Howe and WIlliam Strauss characterized Gen Y as being more civic-minded, and thought to have a strong sense of community.

Those generalizations, based on quantitative research, may have sown the seeds for marketers’ misconceptions toward Gen Y. Our subsequent qualitative research revealed how important it is to clarify just how consumers act when it comes time to purchase.  Often, our preconceived notions of how we think they should act don’t equate with reality.


CASRO Transformation Series: Collaborata – Eruptive Collaboration

This month’s blog profiles Collaborata, a platform that enables the co-funding of market research.

By Jeff Resnick

Let’s begin this installment of Transform with a series of questions.

  • Have you ever found yourself in a situation where there is research you would like to implement, but you don’t have the budget to do so?
  • Do you believe that the issues you would like to explore further are relevant to others in your industry?
  • If you were able to spend less money on the execution of research, would you spend more on the generation of market insights?
  • Do you agree that competitive advantage has less to do with the market information you collect and more to do with how you shape the information into meaningful business implications?

Peter Zollo Head ShotIf you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to explore a platform that its creators believe will be a catalyst for an eruptive flow of market research.

What is it?   Collaborata is the brainchild of Peter Zollo and his son Jimmy.   As is true with most great ideas, the concept is fairly simple – sharing the cost of research allows you to do more of it.  Collaborata provides a platform that enables the co-funding of market research.   The platform is essentially our industry’s version of Kickstarter for launching research on topics you always felt were important but could never fund.

How did Collaborata get started?   The concept started with a call from one of Peter’s clients who asked him for advice on the design of a research project.  Further discussion led to the realization that the client did not have the funds to do the research on their own.  The client then asked a simple question – “Do you know anyone else who might want to do the same research?”  With this simple question, the concept was born.

What makes Collaborata unique?  An obvious question is what makes this different from traditional syndicated research?  First and foremost is the nature of collaboration.  Think multiple interactive conversations among all participants embedded within a co-creation environment.  Second, is a rating system that will provide an overall quality indicator of the provider that executed the research program.

Is it disruptive?  Peter Zollo firmly believes Collaborata is accretive to the industry, not disruptive of it.  When challenged, he pointed out the platform could easily be leveraged by research suppliers to generate more business.  However, there is no doubt the platform represents an evolution of the traditional syndicated study and may be a disruptive force to that segment of our industry.

Are there challenges?   Without a doubt.  Giving birth to a new concept is never easy.  We discussed a number of the challenges Collaborata is currently addressing including:

  • Creating a mindset of co-generating research programs. A significant hurdle is the belief among some that sharing information will hinder competitive advantage.  In discussions with early users, however, the prevailing wisdom is that competitive advantage lies not within the data itself but rather what you do with the data – i.e. the translation into insight and strategy.
  • Designing a platform for a new generation of market research buyer. Who are the biggest participants in the sharing economy today? Millennials.  Active purchasers of market research increasingly fall into the millennial age range.  They are comfortable leveraging the benefits of a sharing economy.  That said, no platform is perfect on launch and Collaborata will be the first to tell you they are continually improving the platform based on feedback from users.
  • Generating traffic. Driving traffic to the site is a major focus of Collaborata.  Traffic has grown by at least 20% each week it has been live.  In addition to a marketing campaign to raise general awareness and educate (as Collaborata is truly a new concept for market research), Collaborata promotes all posted projects individually through Linkedin and Twitter. Collaborata has been designed to incentivize users to invite others to the site, so as to motivate organic growth. However, to grow traffic more systematically and more quickly, Collaborata is currently building a sales team that will both be focused on accelerating the funding of projects on the site and to help socialize Collaborata within various corporate organizations.
  • Ensuring quality. A system is embedded within the platform that allows participants to rate the firm responsible for executing the research.   Much like a great Uber driver will receive a 5-star rating that is helpful in attracting riders, so will a research firm.   In theory, firms rated highly will be called upon more frequently to execute research – growing their business.
  • Gaining trust. Trust is required for any collaborative effort to work.  The bet is that as collaborators begin to reap the benefit of mutually shared research efforts, trust will increase and collaboration will accelerate.

Is it working?  The firm is approaching the two-month anniversary of its launch.  To date, fifteen projects are seeking funding.  If funded, the total value of the projects will exceed $2,500,000. Collaborata is ahead of its targets on the supplier side: already more than 100 research providers have registered on the platform, representing a wide range of capabilities, areas of expertise, geography, and size. Interestingly, while Collaborata was originally envisioned as a tool for small to medium size business market, adoption is actually more rapid among the Fortune 500.

Tips for others embarking on the launch of a new service

  1. A tip not so surprising from a researcher: Do your research first – and lots of it. Collaborata consulted with a full range of clients, including the likes of Coca-Cola, Kraft, Kellogg’s, Wrigley, and the NBA, not only on validating its concept, but also helping shape the platform itself.
  2. Realize that, even if you’ve done your research, you’re going to have to pivot. It could be about your product/market fit, it could be your message, well – it could be lots of things.
  3. The market research industry is rapidly changing. Everybody’s rethinking everything, especially within a zero-based budgeting environment and given new technologies that offer all kinds of lower-cost solutions. So, Peter Zollo advises that if you’re thinking about a new offering within this industry, you need to get a good sense not of where we are today, but where we’re heading tomorrow.

Best of luck to Collaborata.


About Collaborata

Collaborata, the Market-Research Marketplace, crowdfunds market research, enabling brands to share project ideas and costs. Leveraging the sharing economy, the platform showcases the smartest multi-client studies, all at a 90% savings.


Ready, Set, Pokémon Go – MRX and the Augmented Consumer

Pokémon Go has already changed the exercise habits of millions. How might Augmented Reality in general change consumer habits?



By Jeffrey Henning

Pokémon Go has rapidly become the most popular Augmented Reality (AR) game ever. Already, it has more daily users than Twitter and consumes more of users’ time than Facebook.

Rather than travel in a virtual world within the video game, players must walk around the real world to find and collect Pokémon. Pokémon Go augments reality by superimposing Pokémon over physical locations:

Pokémon Go has already changed the exercise habits of millions. How might Augmented Reality in general change consumer habits?

Driving store selection by reviews rather than by brand awareness.

Visiting my father-in-law in Florida, I needed to pick up some pool supplies for him. Google Maps augmented my reality by showing me nearby stores along with their Yelp ratings. I used that information to pick the store I shopped at, selecting a local chain that I had never heard of rather than the national chain. The Yelp app in fact has offered an augmented reality view since 2010 (it’s most useful in urban areas):

Providing more information, and promotions, at the retail shelf.

The app Blippar provides more information about objects (hold the camera up to a starfish, for instance, to learn facts about it) and products. Besides reviews, the app offers product usage tips and product line information; personalized promotions are on the roadmap.

Envisioning purchases in context.

The ultimate type of product information is what your world will look like after you’ve bought and installed a product. You’ve probably heard about apps that show you what a new piece of furniture will look like in your living room:

But how about visualizing what your next tattoo will look like before it’s inked?

Reading automatic translations of foreign languages.

The Google Translate app will translate text picked up directly from the camera. You thought it was hard to convince your high school student to study a foreign language before?! Now consumers you didn’t even target will be able to read product information:

Part of the impact on research will be that researchers will want to know what AR apps are being used, and marketers will want to know how to influence the information provided by such apps.

For Augmented Reality will offer consumers ready access to ever more information, both objective and subjective. While Pokémon Go’s viral success is driven by the twin emotions of nostalgia and attachment, the impact of Augmented Reality on consumers may to be make purchasing decisions less emotional and more rational.

More articles to read:

  1. Pokémon Go: Gamification Lessons For Research – GreenBook
  2. Pokémon Go, explained in fewer than 400 words – Vox
  3. Survey Gives First Systematic Study of Pokémon Go Players – MFour
  4. Pokémon Go’s Success Could be Short-Lived – Euromonitor
  5. Where Will Pokémon Go Take Market Research? – Market Strategies
  6. Pokémon Go will Make You Crave Augmented Reality – The New Yorker
  7. The 17 Remaining Pokémon Go Headlines – The Awl

Can’t catch ‘em all.

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“Future Back” To See Where You’re Going

In the investing world they say, “The only certainty is in retrospect.” In the product world we “reverse engineer”. Using narrative research techniques, MarketResponse is able to bring consumers and business teams to the future and back with increased focus and a new set of priorities.  

future back visual flower

Once participants in Future Back exercises arrived at their desired future, they’re able to re-prioritize the efforts of today.  These groups are then able to define a detailed path for their organizations, products and relationships with customers.

By Mark Murray

The term “Storytelling” has been thrown around a great deal over the years.  When we use the term in a true research context, we’re referring to a highly structured forum designed to prompt a participant driven dialog.  The skill is in observation, not leading.  Respondents own the conversation.
When fielded properly, we believe these explorations are able to go deeper than ethnography.

The fundamental premise of narrative methodologies:

  1. Humans are fundamentally shaped by and shape the narrative structures of their existence.
  2. Narrative stories and anecdotes tell us what people really internalizebased on their experiences.
  3. People’s perceptions are hidden in their stories and anecdotes – What people retain from and take out of their experiences and pass on to others. This “take-out”influences their decisions and behaviors.

Stories include characters, a time and place. We carefully watch and observe behaviors (some of which we can probe if it doesn’t interrupt the narrative).

As you know, stories have an arc. You’re able to get a good idea of the where, who’s involved and what is the focus of the activities.  We’re able to reveal areas of conflict. We’re looking for an incident or trigger event that leads to a specific call for action.

There’s richness in framing the discussion around a “Hero’s Journey”.  In this format or forum we more easily get to core emotions and the struggles that need to be overcome.

The Storytelling consists of Characters, Moments In Time, Location, Incident/Trigger Events, Emotions, Struggles & Conflicts, Transformation, Resolution, Overcoming Obstacles, and a Hero’s Journey.

It’s been our observation that people are much better storytellers than listeners.  The Researcher is the trained listener as participants are in the comfortable role of Author.

A favorite technique for Storytelling or Narrative exploration is “Future Back.”

Step 1:  As a group, participants are instructed to identify elements that would describe a best and worst future imaginable.

Step 2:  The group is then asked to identify a significant event or turning point that immediately preceded and helped shape this future scenario.

Step 3:  This process is then repeated, identifying the events that preceded the “turning point.” The process continues, event-by-event – working back in time to identify how specific events determined the end state (both favorable scenarios and worse case outcomes)

Finally, common elements are combined and organized by the group into coherent paths that lead to future outcomes. Now you’re ready to plan with a future vision that unites teams.

It’s something to look forward to.


MarketResponse International is a full service, global research firm based in Minneapolis, USA.  The firm works on a global scale for leading brands in financial, automotive, retail, and consumer products.  Founded in 1992, MarketResponse is recognized as the most experienced firm in the field of Motivational Research.

For these and other narrative techniques, MarketResponse moderators are accredited practitioners of Cognitive Edge.  Founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden, Cognitive Edge builds methods, tools, and capabilities to utilize insights from Complex Adaptive System theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems.


The Return on Investment from Insights Part 2 – How to grow your budget

A ROI audit is the foundation of a strong client-agency partnership. Andrew Cannon shares his tips on how to successfully implement a ROI Audit at your organization.


By Andrew Cannon, Executive Director, GRBN

Part 1 of this blog focused on why you need to care about the ROI from insights, and just in case you missed it; here’s the link. The first part of the blog ended with a plea for you to make a ROI audit the foundation of a strong client-agency partnership, which unites everyone behind a common objective, which in turn will help ensure that everyone’s budgets grow. Part 2 of this blog shares tips on how to successfully implement a ROI Audit.

The importance of measuring the return on investment from insights was highlighted during our panel discussion at IIeX, which featured Simon Chadwick (Cambiar), Kathy Cochran (Boston Consulting Group), Lisa Courtade (Merck) and Alex Hunt (Brainjuicer). Alex and Simon both shared data highlighting the fact that still today few insights teams are considered to be strategic consultants by their senior management. Importantly the data shows that there is a clear correlation between the measurement of ROI and the perception of the insights team as a value-adding strategic partner.

You can learn more about the findings from the two projects through these links:

WFA Future of insights project in co-operation with Brainjuicer

BCG, Yale CCI, and Cambiar 2015 Consumer Insights Benchmarking Study

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kathy, Lisa, Alex and Simon for being on the panel and sharing their knowledge, and I would like to share with you a few key take-outs from the panel discussion.

Become a Strategic Partner

This is key to budget growth. To be a strategic partner you need a strategic handshakeplan for the insights function, which is aligned to the business functions and processes and has a sharp focus on where and how insights can best add value on a strategic, tactical and operational level. Using this type of framework will not only help you partner with key stakeholders throughout the business, but will help you get the opportunity for C-Suite discussions.

The importance of communication cannot be underestimated, with you need to make insights famous for driving business growth. You also need to be seen and heard within the organization outside of research projects: you need to have a point-of-view and share your perspectives on the issues of most importance to the business, ideally in a compelling story-like format.

The measurement and communication of the business contribution, as well as the return on investment from insights, is also key. Getting senior management buy-in is critical to the success of the insights function and ideally the insights team should be championed by at least one member of the Executive Team. In my opinion the CFO is an ideal candidate for this role, since the CFO if anyone will understand and champion the ROI Audit.

If you work on the client side, I hope above insights help you become a strategic insights partner. If you work on the agency-side, I encourage you to use the above insights to help your clients’ insights teams become strategic consultants.

10+1 tips for setting up a ROI Audit TODAY

I’m a great believer in doing things and doing them now. Doing an ROI Audit is not an exercise in perfection; but it is about being methodological, as well as creative, and it is about employing a healthy mixture of science image2and art.

Few people argue with me about the importance of measuring the return on investment from insights, but not everyone I have spoken to knows how to go about it in practice.

I hope therefore that the following tips encourage more people to take the plunge and start measuring their ROI.

1. Be realistic

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Match the complexity of your audit to your current situation by taking into account how readily available the required information is and the time you have available.

2. Get Senior Executive buy-in

Use an inside-out approach by matching your audit to the organization and the cost/profit centers.

3. Segment your projects

Create a list of relevant segmentation attributes for your projects, including internal client, supplier, type of research, method etc and code each project using those attributes.

4. Define your ROI variables

Whilst direct financial variables are best i.e. dollars earned / dollars saved, the impact of insights on the business is not always straight-forward. Create a list of surrogate measures for the direct financial variables. These will vary from business to business, but could include customer life-time value (one of my favorites), share of wallet, brand consideration, brand loyalty, NPS… Make sure you know the link between each variable and the direct financial variable.

5. List your assumptions

Especially with respect to measuring longer term ROI, no-one expects you to have a crystal ball. When you’re forecasting the ROI on a new factory investment one of the key variables will be the price of raw materials over, say, the next 20 years. No-one has that information, but so long as the assumptions on which the forecast are made are transparent, that is good enough. You should approach the long-term ROI from insights in the same way. Ask your finance team for assistance.

6. Don’t forget cost savings and cost avoidance

We often like to focus on topline growth, but it is just as important is to measure the impact of insights on cost savings, which can often be an even more important short-term metric for the C-Suite. One important driver of costs is time, so don’t forget to look at the ROI of insights from a time-saving perspective either. Finally, insights can also play a major role in cost avoidance, for example a poor investment in a new product, which is also a clear measure of the ROI from insights.

7. Don’t forget qualitative evidence

Whilst numbers are great, stories are just as important. For some projects you won’t be able to come up with a hard number, but perhaps there is a story to tell. For example, a quote from department head explaining how insights made a decision process more efficient and reduced the investment risk.

8. Start with your budget hogs

You probably won’t be able to quantify the ROI on every single project, so start on the ones that take the biggest slice of your budget. If you can demonstrate the ROI on the 20% of the projects which account for 80% of the budget, you’re be well on your way to proving your ROI.

9. Identify the drivers (and barriers) to ROI

If you follow these tips, you’ll end up with a list of projects along with the ROI (actual or estimated) for at least some of the projects along with (hopefully) some juicy stories. You can now use your segmentation variables to explore where you have been most and least effective at delivering ROI. Use this analysis along with a qualitative evaluation of the projects, especially in terms of process, to identify the factors which lead to a higher ROI, as well as the factors which limit the ROI delivered.

10. Get your agencies on-board

Share the findings from the audit with your agencies. Work with them to improve the ROI on the projects they deliver.

10+1 Shout all about it

Present your ROI audit to your boss as well as the CFO. Communicate relentlessly about the value generated across the business, in particular using case studies and inspirational stories of successful partnerships with internal stakeholder. Make insights famous for driving business growth. Finally, don’t forget to ask for a bigger budget for next year based on the ROI you have delivered.

Of course the process doesn’t stop here. You want to take action based on the audit and start planning for next year’s ROI Audit.

In terms of actions; make immediate changes to your processes and your budget in order to capture low hanging fruit. Start planning for longer term changes to your processes and budget allocations. Make your agencies ROI partners and share with them your knowledge about the ROI triggers and barriers. Challenge them to not only change what they are currently doing in order to improve ROI, but to also propose new ROI generating solutions.

In terms of next year’s audit; make life easier for yourself by adding a ROI section to all internal and external briefing documents. Make sure your internal stakeholders include the expected ROI in their briefs, and make sure your agencies state the anticipated ROI in their proposals. Consider using a tracking tool to measure your ROI performance half-yearly, quarterly or even monthly.

If you work on the client-side I hope you find these tips useful. If you work agency-side, why not share these tips with your clients?

Ready to act? Take the GRBN 100-day challenge!

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. I hope I have inspired at least some of you to action. In which case, please go to http://grbn.org/grbn-100-day-challenge/, where you will find a couple of challenges related to value to clients and the return on investment.

The aim of the 100-day challenge is to create a global movement of positive change for the research sector by taking on critical success factors for our sector: one person, one company, one action at a time. So please go ahead and sign up.

If you are a client-side budget holder, perhaps a suitable challenge for you to take over the next 100 days could be:

“I’m going to make an ROI Audit and propose a 20% increase in the insights budget for next year based on that ROI.”

If you are on the agency-side and work with clients, perhaps a suitable challenge for you to take over the next 100 days could be:

“I’m going to ask my clients to evaluate the ROI we have delivered to them over the 12 months and work in partnership with them to make changes needed to significantly increase that return over the next 12 months.”

Is there really any good reason why you shouldn’t act today?

Good luck!


The Extinction of Consumer Feedback: Applying Micro & Macro Lens to Reengage Consumers

Clients and agencies alike need to look in the mirror and realize, to paraphrase Oliver Perry, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.”

By Greg Heist, Chief Innovation Officer & Jill Heist, Methodologist

Organizations have relied on the steady flow of thoughtful, high-quality consumer opinions for decades. They’ve counted on these mostly anonymous groups of people to assess products, provide feedback on experiences, and share intimate details of their lives. This knowledge loop has shaped a flourishing multi-billion dollar industry, while supporting the livelihood for hundreds of thousands of professionals and their families.

The Extinction of Consumer Feedback: Applying Micro & Macro Lens to Reengage ConsumersBut it’s all in jeopardy.

The steady drumbeat of warnings from journal articles, conference presentations, and blog posts (including this one in 2012 “MR Has a Global Warming Problem – here are 5 ways you can fight it”) has been reverberating for so long that we seem to have become tone deaf to it.  Yet old habits die hard. Clients and agencies alike need to look in the mirror and realize, to paraphrase Oliver Perry, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.”


Behind these warnings lies the ever-decreasing pool of willing research participants. Looking at all modes of research, the industry has witnessed 85-95% drops in response rates over the past 15 to 20 years. Response rates are now in the single digits.1 And, even when we do catch someone’s attention, it is fleeting at best, as the average adult attention span is now only eight seconds. 2 It’s time to listen to the drumbeat and change.

As generally optimistic people, we believe that this challenge can be met head-on at both the micro and macro level. Similar to the way individuals and governments must work cooperatively to address climate change, winning back the attention and hearts of consumers will require action at the individual level, as well as at the institutional (client organizations, agencies, and panel providers) level.

In that spirit, we offer a series of recommendations to help confront our discipline’s existential crisis head on.


It’s been said before that in the workplace and in life, we are little more than the sum of our habits. At an individual level, forming new habits takes both repetition and discipline. The below tactics center around following four simple actions: reframe, reduce, reengage,and reimagine.

The Extinction of Consumer Feedback: Applying Micro & Macro Lens to Reengage Consumers REFRAME:
Today, we live in a data-driven society that needs to be leveraged at every available opportunity. Consideration and incorporation of data sources such as social, transactional, and enterprise data should allow us to reduce the volume of primary data collected through surveys and qualitative avenues. In other words, why overtax consumers by asking questions we can obtain by other means?

The Extinction of Consumer Feedback: Applying Micro & Macro Lens to Reengage Consumers REDUCE:
Once we have outlined the primary research objectives, we need to become more economical with our words—incorporating only questions that target objectives. This requires more thoughtful construction on our part, but ironically more design time. Yet, before we sharpen our ability to minimize instructions, scale labels, and question wording, we first must trust that participants will “get” our line of simplified questioning.  In fact, we often confuse the true meaning with excessive language.

The Extinction of Consumer Feedback: Applying Micro & Macro Lens to Reengage Consumers REENGAGE:
The legacy of primary research lies in a formal clinical tone born out of academia. Today, we can gain valid and reliable insights while moving away from formal language and implementing more humanistic approaches. This kind of engagement can be done through gamifying questions, conversational vernacular, inserting humor, and building connections through a variety of techniques. Imagery, audio/video and other stimuli should be employed whenever possible and plausible. Our experience has also shown us that consumer connections are strongest in ongoing member-based community interactions, where response rates hit 40% and higher.

The Extinction of Consumer Feedback: Applying Micro & Macro Lens to Reengage Consumers REIMAGINE:
Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, the current climate of so-called consumer “disengagement” allows us to reimagine the world of research. It forces us to create new ways of interacting with consumers. This often means leaving the sterile four walls of a focus group facility to experience in-the-moment consumer interactions. Or it may be collaborating with analytics teams to employ techniques that effectively use information from partial surveys. Perhaps it is through snack-sized surveys conducted over time to develop a more telling, start-to-end consumer story. Whether it’s through digital or physical means, interactive activities drive consumer engagement.  The two truly go hand in hand.


Many parallels exist within addressing climate change and solving the insight industry’s consumer engagement dilemma. While it’s critical for individuals to take action, it’s also clear that without intergovernmental commitment to policy reform, change would come too little and too late to avoid environmental calamity. Likewise, without shared commitments to change the status quo by client organizations, insights agencies and panel providers, reversing the steady decline in research engagement will simply never happen.

The Extinction of Consumer Feedback: Applying Micro & Macro Lens to Reengage Consumers While the CASRO Tech Conference in early June focused heavily on this dilemma, as a collective industry, we need to move toward unification and action. In this sense, the Tokyo Climate Protocol of 2005 provides a model that the industry would do well to follow. Broadly speaking, it secured intergovernmental acknowledgement of the dangers posed by carbon emissions and established commitments to reducing them over a specified period of time.

The challenge for our industry to confront the extinction of consumer feedback is not unlike the challenge for governments. It requires education, awareness and commitment—all based on a deep understanding that these changes are critical, not just nice to haves. And while there isn’t a United Nations for our industry, an industry-level coalition needs to heed this call-to-action and spearhead a recovery plan.

With such a plan in place, client organizations, agencies, sample providers and technology firms would assemble to collaboratively tackle the root causes of this consumer engagement extinction. Most importantly, though, this coalition would need to establish binding commitments around tactics, such as:

  • Reducing the length of the average survey by 50% over the next 36 months
  • Committing to question length not exceeding a prescribed character limit
  • Targeting average survey completion times to be reduced by 10-20% within 24 months
  • Establishing norms for modularizing surveys and associated data stitching techniques

With agreements of this kind in place, the coalition would also cooperatively work on developing solutions that transform the commitments into reality. In the end, the most profound benefit from these micro and macro changes will come from creating a broader, more reciprocal relationship between consumers and corporations. With this lifeline firmly re-established, the insights industry will find itself on a sustainable path into the future and corporations will make choices that truly reflect a deep connection with the humans they utterly depend upon for their future growth and prosperity.

1 PEW RESEARCH CENTER 2012 Methodology Study.  Rates computed according to American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) standard definitions for CON2, COOP3, and RR3. Rates are typical for surveys conducted in each year.
Online Research response rates based on Gongos’ Emilio Ditrapani’s experience and observations with panel research since 2002.
Attention Spans, Consumer Insights, Microsoft Canada, Spring 2015

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Jeffrey Henning’s #MRX Top 10: Sharing On The Future Of Insight ROI

Of the 7,490 unique links shared with the #MRX hashtag on Twitter in the past two weeks, here are 10 of the most retweeted…

By Jeffrey Henning

Of the 7,490 unique links shared with the #MRX hashtag on Twitter in the past two weeks, here are 10 of the most retweeted…

  1. Five Reasons Why the Market-Research Industry Is Ready to Join the Sharing Economy – Peter Zollo of Collaborata, an MRX marketplace, expects researchers to join marketplaces because 1) data is less proprietary; 2) collaboration happens absent a tech platform anyway; 3) collaboration provides better outcomes than going it alone; and 4) sharing drives down costs. His fifth point was about his company’s platform, but in fact there are a wide range of marketplaces that already serve the research industry or the broader consulting industry.
  2. Increasing the Return On Insight – Niels Schillewaert of InSites Consulting shares the results of recent roundtables at IIEX on the lifecycle of an insight.
  3. 4 Growth Predictions for Market Research – Writing for Vision Critical, Ray Poynter expects to see growth in agile research, text analytics, advanced analytics, and guidance of non-researchers. “Researchers have many skills that can effectively drive the democratization of insight. This role includes training, helping shape software and processes, and consulting during both the design and analysis stages. It also involves providing pathways to more complex solutions when needed.”
  4. Research on Research Respondents: What Have We Learned? – Kerry Hecht discussed the results of a qual-quant study of research participation. A key insight that emerged was dissatisfaction with screeners: screeners take too long to answer, confuse respondents about what is expected, and make respondents feel misled about surveys.
  5. Virtual Reality in Market Research Today – Rich Scamehorn and Amy Hebard of InContext Solutions gave a presentation at OmniShopper to encourage researchers to experiment with virtual reality. One application: have consumers provide commentary while shopping a virtual store, which could prototype store layout changes, show packaging that doesn’t exist, or display products with new designs.  
  6. Two in three say Labour should change leader before next General Election – A telephone survey of over 1,000 British adults found that 55% believe the new Prime Minister May “has what it takes to be good PM”. For Labour leader Corbyn, it’s 23%.
  7. What Does Marketing Science Bring to the Table? – Kevin Gray and Koen Pauweis shared an introduction to marketing science, providing examples of the use of advanced analytics beyond that offered by either market researchers or data scientists.
  8. Day Two OmniShopper Threads and Nuggets – Aaron Keller and Kitty Hart of Capsule shared an overview of the second day of the OmniShopper conference, including the future of retail, with “some countries in the world going from open markets to digital markets and skipping ‘the mall’ economic phase entirely. Based on what we heard, retail has a vibrant future when it is properly blended between physical and digital.”
  9. Going Big with #Qualitative Market Research – Adam Rossow of iModerate emphasizes that qualitative research can be done at scale: you can ask a thousand people a few open-ended questions to develop a picture of a market.
  10. Looking to the Future [subscription required] – Jain Bainbridge of the Market Research Society interviewed Dr. Nicola Millard about her thoughts on how technology will continue to change the workplace.

Note: This list is ordered by the relative measure of each link’s influence in the first week it debuted in the weekly Top 5. A link’s influence is a tally of the influence of each Twitter user who shared the link and tagged it #MRX, ignoring retweets from closely related accounts. Only links with a research angle are considered.


Pokémon Go: Gamification Lessons For Research

How has Pokémon Go garnered such success so quickly? What can we learn, as researchers, from the first legitimately successful augmented reality application?



By Jason Anderson

Gotta Catch ’em All

You’re reading this on the Internet, so it’s a safe assumption you’ve heard of Pokémon Go. It might even be a decent bet that you’ve played it: In just over a week, it has passed the daily user base of Twitter and users are spending more time with Pokémon Go than Facebook. How has Pokémon Go garnered such success so quickly? Why it is so engaging? What can we learn, as researchers, from the first legitimately successful augmented reality application? And what can we learn, as businesses and an industry?

A brief Poké-history

To understand how an app could blast off so rapidly, it’s important to understand the brand we’re talking about. Pokémon is a mammoth, global, wildly successful franchise with over 20 years of history spanning games, trading cards, comics, TV series, and 19 films. The franchise has sold nearly 300 million units of software; its estimated global market size is larger than the global research industry.

In other words, Pokémon was huge before Pokémon Go hit the scene.

Also relevant: Pokémon has never had a major game for smartphones. Niantic Labs (the developers of the game, themselves a spinoff from the Google Maps team) uncorked two decades of childhood memories and installed them on your phone.

Why is Pokémon Go so successful?

Setting aside for a moment the brand strength and history of the franchise, Pokémon Go does several very clever things very, very well:

  • It gamifies everyday life. In particular, it provides an endless supply of opportunities to engage while you’re traveling between point A and point B with nothing better to do. Your game profile levels up the more you play, unlocking new capabilities over time.
  • It fully leverages your mobile device. The experience uses your smartphone camera, GPS, social media connections, and mapping data in a way that is frictionless. The functionality of the game itself is fairly limited; it only comes to life because of the immense amounts of geocaching data that have been collected and tagged on Google Maps and other GIS platforms.
  • It is “free.” More accurately, monetization is an optional decision left solely in the user’s control.
  • Gotta catch’em all. The core of the Pokémon experience has always been the never-ending effort to collect as many different types of Pokémon creatures as possible.  This collection is dynamic (and the scarcity of rarer types of creatures) is no different than a bird watcher spotting a rare Californian condor.
  • It is socially aware. Unlike most other mobile games, playing Pokémon Go requires the user to register an account before playing (which makes its success even more impressive, when you think about the additional barrier to trial caused by user registration processes).
  • It is viral by design. By making it easy to share pictures of Pokémon in an augmented-reality view, it taps into widespread photo-sharing behaviors as a way of spreading the word.

What does this tell us about the opportunity for augmented reality?

As a games researcher and a research gamification professional, I’m hesitant to make any proclamations about the world after one week. There are many, many, many stories of games that catch fire and either fizzle out or don’t have any lasting impact beyond the original experience. Other titles become the inspiration for an entire genre that may endure for decades.

Which games do you think have had the largest cultural impact?

We don’t know how much overlap exists between the Pokémon Go audience and pre-existing Pokémon affinity, but I think it’s fair to predict:

  • People are OK with augmented reality, done right. Google Glass was too complex / expensive / awkward for the general population, but fitting an A/R experience onto existing devices doesn’t have any barriers to adoption.
  • Within weeks, you will see copycat games flooding the App Stores. The notion of geocaching or augmented-reality games as a new type of experience has been unleashed, much like Angry Birds ushered in a still-flowing stream of physics games.
  • Augmented reality will precede virtual reality. As an early adopter, I’m super-excited about VR tech, but also pragmatic. Augmented reality is a natural stepping-stone, and will likely see much broader adoption before VR can break out of the gaming silo it’s going to be stuck to for the next 5 to 10 years.

What do you think? Which of these games had the greatest impact?

Does any of this help or hurt me as a researcher (or research business)?

Pokémon Go presents an opportunity, and a warning. From a gamification perspective, we recognize how powerful gamification engagement techniques can be at driving behavior (such as motivating millions of people to walk around their communities). It’s accomplished in a couple of weeks what FitBit has failed to do after nearly a decade. So, when used properly, gamification can encourage desired behaviors that are normally quite challenging to realize.

The warning, however, comes from Pokémon Go was actually developed. If you explore the types of roles that work at Niantic Labs, you will find:

  • Machine learning engineers
  • Software engineers (obviously)
  • Community managers (a common role at game companies, that publicly interacts with an audience for sharing and gathering information)
  • Game designers
  • QA/testing

There’s a complete lack of traditional insights agents or research managers, which is typical of most mobile game companies. “Insights” are gathered primarily through user testing, beta test programs, analytics and machine learning, and community engagement on social media or message forums…which seems to have worked just fine as far as they’re concerned. Pokémon Go is a new billion-dollar machine that will generate no business opportunity for traditional researchers. Niantic will create their own insights.

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