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Michael Sosnowski

Michael Sosnowski

Executive Vice President, TRC

Market researchers are fighting each day for a seat at the decision-making table. More and more "research professionals" are being bypassed by smart people with access to good tools, a hotly-debated topic within our community and perhaps a harbinger of what's to come in terms of when and how client- and vendor-side researchers get to contribute advice and ideas.

And yet too many researchers believe the value of market research is self-evident, and that the challenge facing our industry is really more of an obstacle caused by "everyone else." I see this train of thought emerge frequently on Twitter, or within any number of blogs and MRX-related posts.  It typically gets expressed along these lines:

Netflix screwed up. McDonald's screwed up. Coca-Cola screwed up (multiple times). If only they had done research!  A (name any large dollar amount) disaster that could have been averted with a $100,000 investment in listening to the customer. Silly companies.

Folks, it's hard to get better without humility.

Tagged in: Market Research
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  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    Great post. Research needs to have impact on decision making - and demonstrably so. For suppliers, it's difficult to get all the a

The REAL Mobile Opportunity

Posted by on in A Day in a (MR) Life

Sometimes it seems like the future of quantitiative mobile research has already been determined.

onlinemobilesurvey- Real-short surveys, 5 to 10 questions long.
- Simple-response controls like big radio buttons.
- Small screens = small tasks = limited data sets.

At a time when clients, budgets and timelines are demanding that we do more with less, mobile quant would seem to do a pretty good job with the "less" part of things. If we're being honest that makes us primary researchers a little nervous, and prone to think of mobile as an interesting but ultimately niche methodology.

 

The change is a comin'

But I'd wager that the current definition of "short" and "simple" will change over time as more consumers come to live fully mobile lives, and mobile devices become an increasingly "best" way to reach people for feedback. Conventional wisdom says ask only 5 to 10 questions and use the simplest of instructions, but how can that be the end of the story when people - right now - are browsing, shopping, and buying on their Smartphones?

magical_eyeThere's a lot of discussion today about the researcher as story-teller. Most of it has to do with the choices we make as analysts - what to focus on and what to discard; all important stuff.

Ultimately, however, we have to step up and tell those stories and good visual display is critical to that effort. Too often we fall short of effective in this area, and that's a problem. Market Researchers are fighting everyday for respect, but we'll never get it if we can't communicate the good (or bad) news we have to tell about brands and products and customers. To quote "Information Is Beautiful" author David McCandless from a recent interview in "Research:"

...everything you create now design-wise is competing with everything else that everyone ever looks at. So market research stuff is looking worse and worse as time goes by, because the web and good design are becoming more and more of a daily experience for people.

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  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    Thanks for this very good advice. I've often talked about the need for the market researcher to stand with one foot outside the m

Was at Il Tartufo* in Manayunk the other night, waiting near the bar after dinner when a waiter - who was not my waiter - surprised me. "How'd you like the Fettuccine Cinghiale?" she asked.

I had liked it just fine, but was curious to know how she knew what I'd eaten. I hadn't seen her near my table all evening.

"I just saw the bill for your table," she replied. "Guys always get the wild boar pasta."

Part waiter and part analyst - new competition for us market researchers?

mrmwsignI really enjoyed my time last week at Merlien’s Market Research in the Mobile World 2011 – a great place to meet and exchange ideas with the people and companies working to make effective mobile research a reality. We discussed the nitty-gritty of mobile survey applications, and the big picture of mobile adoption around the world. Taking it all in it’s hard to argue that mobile won’t play a major role in the future of the market research industry, both in the developed and developing worlds.

Here’s the thing, though. Most of the conversation during the conference focused on the “what” of mobile research – how to reach people, or whether or not to keep surveys short(er). Very little was said about the “so what,” even though that’s where we as research professionals can earn respect and remain relevant.

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  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    Great points Mike; I agree that once we nail down some of the practical methodological issues the real point is how can we use the

shopping cart image smallI was shopping for groceries with my 12-year old son the other day -a quick trip to the store that qualified us for the express check-out line. On the way out he said to me:

"It must be more fun to work the express line, because you can really learn things about people."

Well spoken young researcher.

Look into full shopping carts and you'll see a lot of the same things - milk; eggs; orange juice; the ever-popular banana. With our shared national culture, neighborhoods built around people from similar socio-economic backgrounds, and good old fashioned peer pressure we're all alike in many ways. Except for where we're not, and that (to paraphrase my son) is the fun part.

If you had the time to dig through a person's cart (and if she LET you look through her cart) you'd come...

In my last post I talked about the survey as a conversation with the consumer. But recently it hit home that the survey is a conversation with our clients too. One that - paradoxically - is becoming increasingly more difficult to have as technology improves.

That's because nothing's impossible anymore in contemporary survey execution. Want elaborate skip logic? No problem! Want algorithm-based quota control? Sure thing! Want pop-up instructions and Flash file tours to illuminate complex product concepts? Bring it on.

Want to put all this into a document that your clients can comprehend? Good luck.

Tagged in: Market Research

I recently had the pleasure of attending a talk by Vicki Morwitz, Professor of Marketing at NYU's Stern School of Business. Vicki spends a lot of time trying to understand how the mere process of surveying people can lead to changes in their behavior - sometimes for an organization's good; sometimes not. She spoke at TRC's Frontiers of Research conference, and as part of her presentation she showed the audience data from an exercise on fruit grouping (or, if you prefer, the grouping of fruit).

Turns out that people who are first exposed to questions with very detailed answer options (e.g., given 9 different colors with which to describe their eyes) will go on to create more narrowly focused fruit categories. In contrast folks primed with more broadly constructed answer categories (e.g., given only 4 different colors) build fewer categories.

Her purpose - to demonstrate how questions asked early in a survey can affect responses later in the survey in a way that can change results. A (perhaps) unintended consequence - getting me to take stock of my role as a research practitioner.

Tagged in: Choice
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  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    This is one of the better pieces of advice I've ever read about how to create better surveys. The best respondents are the ones w

People Don't Do the Math

Posted by on in Miscellaneous

I was on a call recently working through the details of a complex discrete-choice task. Specifically we were debating how best to apply price prohibitions - restrictions on the design that would prevent certain "monthly" and "one-time" prices from ever appearing together.

Rest assured our thinking was all very logical. We needed to put controls in place because who in their right mind would ever choose an option where a low monthly rate, coupled with a contract, quickly added up to more out of pocket costs than would accrue by skipping the contract and paying a (slightly) higher up-front fee. That's when the client's client chimed in:

"People don't do the math," said the man who spends little to none of his time conducting surveys.

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  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    I've always just simply relied on including whatever prices simulate the actual prices consumers will see. Whether the price opti

We all love great charts.

Well, perhaps it's more accurate to say that we all like looking at great charts. Infographics and other fetching examples of visual display are passed around among researchers like irresistible candy-coated treats, and yet let's face it - most market research-related charts stink, providing limited information in a not-so-thoughtful or (dare to dream) artful format.

There are lots of reasons why our charts end up this way, and for sure I've contributed my share of the mediocrity. I realize that not every study has the immediacy, the intrigue, and the rich data of an event like the recent tsunami. I also know that often we're pressed for time and have limited tools at our disposal. But communication of results and actionability of results go hand in hand, and lamenting the evils of PowerPoint won't help us communicate better anytime soon. It's the coin of the realm, so we better make the most of it.

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