Article Synopsis: Seasonal marketing in a social age.

How consumer feedback can change what you know about seasonal buying patterns

Originally published in Quirk’s Marketing Research Review

July 2014 • Vol. XXVIII No. 7

By Amy Hayes, Vice President of Global Brand at Bazaarvoice, Austin, Texas.

“Seasonality” is a powerful word in the retail universe. In this article, Amy Hayes shares key points revealed from the latest results of Bazaarvoice’s semi-annual research of online customer conversations. Specifically, Amy discusses patterns revealed in mobile shopping behaviors.

Analysis of actual shopping behavior conducted from mobile devices suggests that conventional definitions of seasonal shopping behaviors are being disrupted by mobile shopping.  Beyond the powerful implications for marketers in general, this also has implications for market researchers who may be timing research on purchase plans and branding around seasonal shopping assumptions.

November and December have historically been the busiest shopping period for retailers, but new research reveals that product site traffic from mobile users continues to trend upwardly for the remainder of the year.  This suggests that mobile shoppers may actually form new mobile shopping habits during the holiday season. Many people try mobile shopping for the first time during the holiday season, and then become loyal mobile shoppers.

Another key shopping period is the back-to-school crowd, second only to the holiday season. Although school may start in the fall season, research uncovers that mobile shoppers actually begin back-to-school research/shopping in mid-June and peak in July.  Retailers and researchers heeding this research would benefit by considering this “pre” season period.

Based on Hayes’  review of the data,  researching actual mobile shopping behaviors (as opposed to say, sending surveys to mobile phones) shows strong value to market researchers as well as retailers focused on seasonal marketing, as it challenges conventional thinking about when seasons actually start.

This synopsis was written by Lynn Croft, independent marketing and market research consultant. With 15 years of experience at companies such as Genzyme, Bayer Corporation, Shire, and Eli Lilly, Lynn has expertise in market research, market analysis regarding product launches, pricing and lifecycle management. 


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Alliance of International Market Research Institutes: A Pie Grows in Manhattan

market research survey trends

At last week’s AIMRI conference in NYC, I had the opportunity to meet market researchers from around the world: Czech Republic, England, Italy, Mexico, Spain, and more.  A small but dedicated group of researchers met to share current insights on market research trends, and to constructively discuss our industry’s future.

With contributions to the conversations by John Mackay (who, among other roles, is the founder of The Research Club), Lenny Murphy, Ruth Stanat and others, some of the presentations—and discussion—repeatedly pointed to an underlying question:

Is the volume of “traditional” survey work declining, or is it simply that the volume of other methods is growing faster? In other words, the market research pie is growing, and surveys have a smaller slice of a larger pie?

Personally, I don’t see any evidence that the volume of surveys is declining—if anything it is increasing. But I also see plenty of evidence that as a percent of the total, surveys are declining.

Evidence was abundant at AIMRI as well. Consider the presentation by Marshall Toplansky of WiseWindow, who shared a case study example of using a combination of social media research and ethnography as a Phase 1 to a quantitative Phase 2. This is consistent with many cases I see in client-side organizations; market research surveys are still being done, but are increasingly augmented by other methods.

As further evidence, consider that three of the ten presentations were specifically about panel based research. Panels (at least for now) are largely focused on data collection for online surveys.

And finally, lest there be any last doubt that surveys are still being done in volume, consider this: by my last count, there are now over 50 companies offering online survey platforms. Okay, this isn’t a fact specific to the AIMRI conference, but if survey volume was shrinking, I don’t think we would be seeing such a surge in new software platform entries.

Surveys are here. Vast volumes are done every day.  But as other options grow in volume, market research agencies simply have to ask themselves: what does the term “full service agency” really mean in today’s context?


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Market Research Strategy Trends in the Fortune 500

Fortune 500 researchers often juggle the need to deliver fresh customer insights with the mandate to minimize research costs. How do they do it? By cutting costs where they can, and embracing cool new technologies when applicable. Here are three strategies currently being embraced by Fortune 500 market researchers.

#1: Market Research Using In-House Panels

Companies often rely on third-party panels as a sample source for survey research (for example, you may use EMI, SSI ort USamp for your online surveys). Third-party panels offer appealing convenience and predictability. Still, if your research requires focusing on your own customer base or special screening criteria, third party panels may not be the most cost-effective choice. As a result, some companies have invested in building their own in-house panels. For certain target markets and populations of interest, an in-house panel can reduce data collection costs and pay for itself quickly.

Will an in-house panel be a good fit for the types of research your company does?

  • Your participants will know who is sponsoring the research, and that does introduce some bias (you are more likely to get panel members who already have strong awareness of your brand and even a preference for it). Is that an acceptable trade-off to your organization?
  • If some of your research needs to be with more random populations, you need to ask yourself, “Are my panel members an acceptable proxy for the broader target market?” Or, will you have budget to augment those studies with a third party panel?

Of course, if you do a lot of online surveys with your customer base, it’s more of a slam dunk. In these cases, it makes sense to really mange your customer list as a panel, by giving them the option of opting in to a panel program, and tracking their participation.

#2: Augmenting Traditional Market Research with Social Media Insights

Many market researchers now accept social media-gleaned insights as a way to inform market research projects. By monitoring social media conversations using various tools such as Buzzmetrics, Crimson Hexagon, Radian6 and Trackur, corporate researchers can discover trends in brand sentiment and even gather product feedback without going out and asking for it. While in many cases, this type of research is viewed as more “qualitative” and directional, as opposed to “quantitative,” it does have value. The large amount of social media content that gets generated worldwide every day is a rich source of data that can be analyzed using cool new technologies (in the form of text analytics and sentiment analysis tools). Opinions are divided about how best to use the data, but many corporate researchers are embracing it at minimum for “discovery” studies as a Phase 1 (to inform a more significant survey project as a Phase 2) and many use it for general WOM or buzz monitoring (often as an early warning system).

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#3: Seeing the Future: Prediction Markets as a Market Research Method

Some Fortune 500 researchers are starting to test prediction markets as a market research method. A prediction market is simply a web-based platform to generate, prioritize, and assess predictions. Want to know which of several new products will sell more? Maybe you want to know what behaviors will be more common in your target market by 2015. How about finding out brand perceptions by asking which of your top four competitors will have the most revenue growth next year? Ask the crowd, whether a broad or narrow one, by hosting a fantasy stock market or “poker chip” game. IdeaScale, Infosurv, and Inkling are just three of the platforms that offer trials. Again, new technologies are allowing corporate researchers to gain customer insights quickly.

Fortune 500 Market Researchers Spend Research Dollars Wisely

Just because they work for big companies, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Fortune 500 market researchers have big budgets. They are just as eager as any other researchers to gather as much insight as possible while managing expenses. Today many are starting to take advantage of new technologies to do that. Still, it’s not about replacing well-tested, proven methodologies (such as surveys and focus groups); it’s often about augmenting them.


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Market Research Myopia: What the Industry Isn’t Seeing in its Own Research

 “Market research firm releases pet ownership study: Forgets to survey people who own cats.”

Can you imagine? Conducting a study on a topic, and forgetting to include participants who represent a large percent of the market?

It happens all too often. And we cannot blame the DIY researchers. I have met the enemy, as the saying goes, and it is us.

Currently, two well-respected organizations are conducting research on the market research industry. An important effort, to be sure, and one many of us appreciate. Both the Marketing Research Association (MRA) and Greenbook are to be applauded for investing time and budget into these efforts. When the results are released, they will be widely read and quoted—as they are each time they are published.

But why, oh why, are these surveys effectively screening out the industry players who are influencing the most investment, touching the most actual projects, and in general, rapidly becoming the face of market research to the general population?

I am talking about the technology suppliers. Market research software and platform companies. Companies like ConfirmIt, MarketTools, SurveyMonkey, Vovici and many more.

Defining “Market Research Industry”

Greenbook’s GRIT survey is promoted as, “the leading and most comprehensive survey” of the market research industry. The MRA’s RII is also similarly promoted. But if neither includes the patently important technology sector, is this positioning valid? Do these studies, to be precise, cover trends in the overall industry?

Let’s consider GRIT’s screener:

  • Full service research provider (in-house design, field, data collection, tab/analysis, reporting)  
  • Research consultancy (subcontract fieldwork and/or tab)  
  • Focus group facility, CATI, or online research provider  
  • Other data collection/field and tab  
  • Research group in an academic or other not-for-profit organization  
  • Enterprise (corporate) research department  
  • Advertising or PR agency research department  
  • Secondary research or desk research  
  • Not involved in providing or purchasing research services in any way

So, no clear option for online survey platform companies? Are panel companies buried in “other data collection” with field and tab? No place for related technology or software companies? Sure, that’s a choice to make. But is it, in 2011, still valid?

The MRA survey follows a similar path. It asks participants if they are, “…an End Client [your company purchases market research for your company’s marketing efforts] or Supplier/Data Collector of Market Research?”  

Would a technology company select “Supplier”? To be precise, such firms are not a supplier “of Market Research”.  Maybe panel companies would select it. And of course the many data collection service companies would.  But would a manager at MarketTools? How about one at soon-to-be-acquired Vovici?

The esteemed Honomichl 50 report, the annual publication many of us use to see revenue growth for top firms as a gauge of industry growth, also excludes the important technology sector. Look over the “Top 50”; does anyone else find it odd that a report on “US-based research spending and employment” does not include technology companies?  ConfirmIt, MarketTools, SurveyMonkey, and Vovici are all absent—yet these companies are huge forces with a significant impact on how market research is conducted.  Shouldn’t their revenue and employment be part of the picture?

Trending Studies

The authors of these studies have defined the industry from the traditional perspective of market research agencies (or “firms”, if you prefer) and buyers. If they change this perspective, it would change their trending ability, since year-to-year comparisons would have to be adjusted. Just as anyone doing trending studies knows, it is very painful to change key components of data collection instruments. Still, sometimes it must be done; is the time now?

Researchers Doing Research on Research

For all of the wailing and shouting that the industry is changing, why is it that many of us still act like it isn’t? Technology companies are fundamentally changing the research process by making it easier, less costly, and in some cases, more effective. Can industry surveys that screen out technology providers really be representative of industry trends?

I look forward to all points of view!

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748 Votes Later: The Top 10 Market Research Industry Predictions for 2011 & Beyond

A total of 35 market research industry predictions were posted during the last two weeks of 2010.  For each one, people could vote for or against the item, resulting in a net score.  Our highest positive score is 31: Vaughn Mordecai’s prediction that, “Combined & Alternative Modes of Collection Actually See Traction.” In contrast, the most negative score was my own, “Survey Research will be Dead by 2015″; an obvisously extreme statement, which I posted in reaction to the Phillip Graves’ book (I wanted to see what kind of response the item would stir up).

I’ll be posting detailed results over the next week.  Until then, the site is still open if you would like to see all of the results. I also encourage you to read the many insightful comments (there are over 100 comments from various voters).

Note that the top 10 includes ties.

Please leave any comments or questions here, or contact me at 508.691.6004 ext 705, or KKorostoff@ResearchRockstar.com.