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Microfencing Across the Universe

Will microfencing usher in a new wave of mobile market research, or will it be as big a bomb at the box office as John Carter?

Frazetta John Carter


By Jeffrey Henning 

The first time I heard the term microfencing I pictured a miniature John Carter sword fighting aliens on the moons of Mars.

A sign of a misspent youth reading sword-and-planet stories.

For microfencing is actually just a more precise form of geofencing. In geofencing, you set an alert in an app that a customer or panelist has downloaded to notify you whenever the user is within specific GPS coordinates. Those GPS coordinates might be every Wal-Mart in the country, every Starbucks in a state, or a specific Dunkin’ Donuts in Des Moines. You can pop up a coupon or a survey when a user enters or exits the geofence, or you can just log their presence for action later. For instance, ResearchNow shared a great case study about passively logging visits to automotive dealers to update their profile data on which panelists were potentially shopping for cars.

Where geofencing breaks down is the precision of location it registers. Typically, geofencing is accurate within plus or minus 50 feet at a 95% confidence level. But geofencing has no idea which floor you are on in a mall—if it even works through all the concrete. If it does work, are you in The Gap, Radio Shack, or the food court, each one floor above the other?

Enter microfencing. Where a GPS sensor is listening to GPS satellites in orbit, and triangulating its position, a microfencing sensor detects emitters than an organization has strategically placed around a facility. Those emitters can be placed at the gates and concession stands of a stadium. Or the different cafeterias in an office building. Or the endcaps of the aisles at a retailer.

Apple’s iBeacon standard is the most widespread microfencing system. Macy’s, Target, MLB, Old Navy, JC Penney, BestBuy, and Crate & Barrel have all installed iBeacon transmitters in stores – Apple, of course, has rolled it out throughout all U.S. retail outlets.

At the Marketing Research Association’s Insights & Strategy Conference earlier this year, Sriram Subramanian (@sriram_s) of ZoomRX gushed about the potential of iBeacon for Mobile Research. “iBeacon is very specific, very context aware, very location aware. The possibilities are very intriguing. You can buy and plaster iBeacon transmitters throughout your stores or stadiums. Every smartphone is potential receiver. Retail is excited for opportunities for pushing coupons, for ‘in the moment’ discounting: they want to be able to push you coupon for 10% off shoes when you are right in that aisle.”

The big barrier to entry is getting apps onto consumers’ smartphones to detect the iBeacon signals. So far the best bets have been through loyalty apps and panelist apps. One use case that seems ripe is events management, given the popularity of conference apps that provide the updated agenda and downloadable presentations. Event managers would be able to passively track attendance at specific sessions and monitor attendees’ locations in real time.

How new are geofencing and microfencing? New enough that only a few respondents mentioned them in the open-ended comments of the most recent GRIT report.

For more on the potential of microfencing across the market-research universe, join me for an upcoming webinar. Will microfencing usher in a new wave of mobile market research, or will it be as big a bomb at the box office as John Carter? Only time will tell.


The Festival of NewMR – December 1 to 5

The Festival of NewMR is an annual, virtual event which brings some of the biggest and some of the newest names to a global audience, through the medium of webinar events.



By Ray Poynter

The Festival of NewMR is an annual, virtual event which brings some of the biggest and some of the newest names to a global audience, through the medium of webinar events. The Festival provides a chance for those people who can’t attend conferences around the globe to catch up with what the opinion leaders and shapers are saying, showing, and sharing.

Around the globe

The Festival aims to be accessible around the globe, so it broadcasts events at different times to suit different audiences. This year the sessions are:

  • Americas, 1 December, 1pm to 4pm New York time, speakers include Annie Pettit and Jeffrey Henning, click here for more.
  • Europe & Africa, 2 December, 10am to 1pm London time, speakers include John Kearon and Betty Adamou, click here for more.
  • Asia Pacific, 3 December, 1pm to 4pm Sydney time, speakers include Sue York and Neil Gains, click here for more.
  • 2014 in review, 2015 in anticipation, 5 December, 3pm – 5pm New York time, a panel discussion with Lenny Murphy, Ray Poynter, Simon Chadwick and guests, click here for more.

Listen Live, or Listen Later

If you can listen live, that is the best way to be part of the event, joining in the Q&A and enjoying the feedback via Twitter. But, you can also enjoy the event via listening later, register for the events you are interested in to be sent an update when the slides and recordings are available.

In Sydney with IIeX

Following the announcement by GreenBook and NewMR of increased co-operation and joint-working, the IIeX event in Sydney, 4-5 December is a full part of the Festival. The chair of IIeX will be Ray Poynter, and many faces familiar from NewMR will be taking part, for example Sue York and Navin Williams will be running a master class on mobile messaging and market research. After broadcasting from Toronto on the Monday for NewMR, Annie Pettit is hot footing it down to Sydney to be taking part in the live, face-to-face celebration of innovation in market research.

To find out more about IIeX click here.


What GRIT Says About Marketing Market Research: Listening – the Secret Sauce Secret

I have just finished reading the latest GRIT Report, and realize that my advice to talk about one’s work is only part of the recipe for developing one’s “Secret Sauce”.


 By Rick Kendall

In a recent GB Blog post I wrote about how market research agencies were told at the recent Insights Marketing Day  about the importance of finding their own company’s “Secret Sauce” in order to build their own unique brand in, what many perceive to be, an increasingly commoditized business.  Briefly, I suggested that a good way to do that was to talk about work one had already done in a way that potential clients would find it useful and informative. (While protecting current clients’ proprietary interests, of course.)

I have just finished reading the latest GRIT Report, and realize that my advice to talk about one’s work is only part of the recipe for developing one’s “Secret Sauce”.  The true “secret ingredient”, I believe, based on the GRIT report and my experience on the client side is active listening.  It is an ingredient that is, ironically enough, too often left out of the mix. (We are, after all supposed to be professional listeners, aren’t we)

While I caught hints of this early on in the GRIT Report, where it really hit me was in the “Hacking Market Research” section, where clients and suppliers were ask to identify the one BIG issue that the research industry is currently facing and suggest what to do about it.  The report collapses the three most common themes under the heading “Making Our Work Count”.  To me, the core of the problem is reflected in many of the suggested solutions:

“Our ability to understand and sell our true value to the world outside of market research”  

“Making an impact on business decisions”

“Getting at the business problem – not just the research problem”

 “No real thought put into analysis”

“Charts are not the same as insight”

 “Traditional quant/qual fails to deliver really deep insights”

 “Need to move away from cost-efficiency based commoditized service”

The main suggestion, however, was that researchers need to become more business-focused and consultative in their approach.

The report goes on to say that “We need to be more consultative” may be a decades-old cliché in the research industry but that it may be increasing in urgency. One in ten participants referred directly to the lack of consultation:

“We need to steal a few plays from the consultancy industry”

“We need a more consultative approach”

“We need to act and think more like consultants”

Yet, when asked how they self-identified as research professionals, two thirds of respondents (67%) said “Consultant” and 42% said “Big Issue Thinker” (respondents could pick up to 3 from a list of 7).  There seems to be a disconnect here!

Why?  I think the reason is that, while we want to be treated like a “consultant”, (i.e., we want our results and recommendations to be seen as critical business insights to be valued and acted upon by senior management) we don’t behave like consultants.  That is, we fail to develop a deep understanding of the client’s business before we even make our first sales call – and then deepen that understanding through detailed questioning of the immediate client and, hopefully, their management and  internal clients.

In short, we tend to stop with an understanding of the research questions they want to ask, but we fail to develop a clear grasp of the business questions our results are meant to address.  A question that seldom gets asked is, “What are the business decisions that will be made based on this research and how will the results affect that decision-making?”  In my experience, this kind of questioning will often lead to a totally different study – and, occasionally, no study at all because the business decision would be essentially the same no matter what the study results were!

A major source of the problem stems from the fact that, as much as we aspire to be consultants, at our core, we are methodologists – and, as they say, “When all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail”.  When we are presented with a request for research, we immediately attack it as methodologists – “Qual or quant?” “Panel or random sample?” “Phone or online?” “What’s your budget, time frame, etc?”

We are not stepping back and first asking the “consultant” questions about the broader business context that gave rise to the research question.  But wait a minute!  Aren’t we trained, experienced question askers, in-depth probers, professional seekers of underlying dynamics? Why can’t we apply our own tools to understanding the needs of our own customers?

The short answer is, “We can”.  It’s just that, all too often, we don’t.  We accept their top-of-mind response about what research they need and go from there.  In brief, we don’t listen as true researchers.  We don’t ask follow up questions – those probes that would lead us to a deeper understanding of what the client really needs and how we can make the results most useful to them and their management.

All too often, our results don’t get taken seriously because, at the end of the day, they didn’t really address the true business issues at the core of the research.  The new GRIT report has a number of revealing client and supplier quotes that reflect this issue (and I encourage you to read them all), but two sum it up nicely for me:

“Clients briefing research companies about a specific question not the big picture!”

“Research companies not smart enough to see or think about the big picture!”

My perspective is that, whether an internal department or outside supplier, market research is a service profession, and if we don’t get enough information from the client to address the “big picture” – it is our fault.  If our results and analysis don’t address the “big picture” – again, it is our fault.  We clearly weren’t actively listening hard enough –  and we are paid to be listeners!

Those of us who work on, and develop our “strategic listening skills” will develop an effective “Secret Sauce” – consistently providing valuable, usable insights that address the relevant “big picture” business issues of our clients.  Those of us who don’t – won’t and will be seen as less and less useful or relevant.


Patricio Pagani On Why Being A DIVA Leads To Market Research Success

DIVAs judge Patricio Pagani from Infotools shares top market research data visualization trends & explains how to nurture creative market researcher skills


It’s time to get your DIVA on!

As part of IIeX Asia Pac next month in Sydney, Infotools & GreenBook are happy to announce that submissions are now open for the newest round of the  Data Insight Visualization Award (DIVA), which aims to acknowledge the most innovative and effective data visualization examples within the insights space.

I thought it would be fun to do an interview with the mastermind of the DIVAs, Patricio Pagani of Infotools, in conjunction with the launch. Patricio comes originally from the client side and has a clear vision of why this is important, as well as a great perspective on how the DIVAs have helped the industry become more aware of this important topic.

So, get your submissions in now for DIVAs APAC and enjoy Patricio’s take on the whole topic below.


LFM: What is data visualization in market research? Why is it important?

PP: Data visualization has always existed in market research – it’s the charts and diagrams we use to evidence and communicate what we’ve found. The simplest bar chart is data visualization. These days, we can engage our audiences through many exciting tools that deliver clever design and interactive interfaces. It’s important that we have a continual focus on excellence in communicating with our audience, and that means staying on the cutting edge of data visualization. But the principles are the same as they have always been in market research: clarity, accuracy, and meeting the objectives of the research.

LFM: How does the market research industry compare with other fields when it comes to data visualization?

PP: What’s relevant is not where we are, but where we could be. The most innovative data viz is not being done in businesses, but by the press. This is undeniable. Market researchers have similar skill sets to data-driven journalists – they know how to tell a story with data. In fact, we could be even better suited to creating great data viz. It’s time to make that a reality.

LFM: What are the Data Insight Visualization Awards (DIVAs), in your own words?

PP: In their simplest form, the DIVAs recognise the people who are most effective in communicating consumer insight with data visualization. The word “effective” is carefully chosen here – it’s not about the fanciest or flashiest or biggest-budget delivery. It’s about the one that best helps to get the insight heard. But the DIVAs go beyond a trophy, awarded to one team for one piece of work. They elevate data viz, and inspire market researchers to share their coolest work, they challenge us and help build relationships which drives innovation in our field.

LFM: What prompted you to lead the charge and create an award for data visualization of consumer insight?

PP:  This came about due to a sense that although innovation was happening, the dots weren’t connecting. Market research data is special, and data viz in market research is a specialist discipline, but we weren’t seeing the best work of practitioners and they weren’t connecting with each other. It was time to bring market research data viz into the light of day, and get people excited about it.

LFM: The DIVAs have seen lots of interest from market researchers since GreenBook and Infotools launched them at the start of 2014. Were you always certain of their success?

PP: The first time we ran the DIVAs we didn’t know what to expect! We knew there was great work happening, but what we weren’t sure of was whether we’d inspire people to share their work. The interest the DIVAs generate now is credit to two things: great work from the joint team across GreenBook and Infotools in spreading the word, and the entrants for being willing to give this a go and put their work on display.

LFM: Tell us about the personalities who you’ve met through the DIVAs.

PP: Through the DIVAs I’ve met dozens of cool, creative researchers that strive to deliver results to their clients in a way that cuts through the noise and brings meaning. There have been graphic designers and journalists amongst the DIVA winners and finalists too. As we know, researchers are a rare breed and they come from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. That is what I think is a big asset for us, and one we must explore and use a lot more than we do. We could be a very creative bunch, despite the fact that we may not see ourselves like that.

LFM: The DIVAs have led to great outcomes you didn’t expect: tell us about those.

PP: I love how the DIVAs have brought recognition for researchers doing awesome work. This goes beyond just the winner – all entrants get to show off their work and reach new audiences with it. The excitement they’ve generated goes beyond what I expected, and that’s fantastic to see. But as well as this, the DIVAs are picked up by the wider marketing and data viz press and they show the world that we’re an industry doing cutting edge work. Because they are visual, they put a tangible face to the vast amount of valuable work that market researchers contribute to business and society.

LFM: You’ve judged the DIVAs over three successive rounds, and you’re about to be a judge in the fourth DIVAs at the IIeX APAC. What are the big trends you’ve seen?

PP: There’s definitely a thirst for more impactful ways to deliver results. This is not only what we are seeing through the entries, it’s also what we hear from clients when we conduct round panels across the globe. Clients are expecting more from us. The DIVAs are just a very small attempt at recognizing those who do a good job.

There has been a trend where more and more of the visualizations are fluid. That is, the way they look is directly driven by data that is displayed, as opposed to tweaked by an analyst to ‘make it look good’. It’s obviously harder to make those ‘data-driven’ visualizations look amazing and shine a spotlight on an interesting story, when the data is fluid. You never know what the data is going to ‘say’, or if it’s going to look pretty or not. The visualization will take different shapes and tell different stories as the numbers change – you can’t embellish like you do on a standard infographic.  But these vizzes engage the viewer in a two-way dialogue, as they let viewers play and interact with the data to come up with the story themselves. So they have a different kind of power! I’ve seen really good examples of companies that are starting to crack this challenge. And I’d love to see more and more. Clients are definitely hungry for them.

Also, it has been a challenge for the judges to compare these different types of visualization. We are looking at creating subcategories in the future to address this in a fairer way.

LFM: What sort of companies do the best data viz of consumer insight? What qualities or approaches do they have?

PP: Great data viz requires a combination of different kinds of expertise: technical, visual, analytical, and storytelling. It’s rare for individuals to possess all these skills, and it’s not very common even for market research agencies to have a blend of these skills – perhaps because they tend to hire people who are good researchers, and possibly underestimate the value of creative skill sets. The winning teams have all included graphic designers, so that’s a trend I think we’ll see grow. In the words of one recent winner, Danica Atkins of TRA, “Agencies should hire for diversity in thinking”. Beyond the skills these teams have, there’s also a mentality that sets them apart. They think outside the box and are willing to deliver insight in a way no one has seen before. It’s brave, and takes an investment of effort from them that I’m delighted is being recognised.


The MetrixLab/Macromill Merger Is A Massive Shakeup Of The Market Research Industry

Macromill, the largest online research provider in Japan, and MetrixLab, a global provider of marketing insights and analytics, today announced a merger of the two companies.


The Macromill/MetrixLab merger announcement in Japan today

The Macromill/MetrixLab merger announcement in Japan today


Today it was announced that Netherlands-based global research firm MetrixLab and Asia-Pac research technology behemoth Macromill are merging. The combined company will be the largest new-generation research organization in the world.

Here is an excerpt from the press release with the details and an outline of their vision, which should make everyone sit up and take notice:

The new business will operate under the Macromill brand, and be led by global CEO Han de Groot, former CEO of MetrixLab, and Japan/Asia CEO Katsumi Konishi. Former MetrixLab COO/CFO Jan Willem Gerritsen will become Executive Officer managing the US, European and Latin American businesses, partnering with Naoya Sugiyama responsible for people development and general administration and Naofumi Nishi responsible for corporate development. Financial terms of the transaction are not disclosed.

The new leadership team

The new combined leadership team

“MetrixLab and Macromill are both known for pioneering survey research technologies on the Internet. Together we will revolutionize market research for the second time in 15 years. In 2000, we brought market research from paper and telephone to the internet by innovating field work and data collection. Now we are evolving the front end of market research and innovating what we actually deliver to our clients.” says Han de Groot, Global CEO.

He adds, “we are working hard to address four challenges faced by our clients: First, market research is highly dependent on survey data. Second, market research output is difficult for decision makers to interpret and activate. Third, market research is slow. Fourth, market research is expensive. With our global scale, technology DNA, vast talent pool, and financial resources, we are uniquely positioned to address these challenges and shift the paradigm of how consumer insights are sourced, delivered and priced. Here’s how:

  1. Market research is highly dependent on survey data. There are many new data sources for consumer insights development, such as social media data, data streams from mobile devices, and transactional data stored in enterprise databases and CRM systems. Integrating data from additional sources alongside surveys will improve the quality of insights and information. Our solution: integrate survey data with other data for superior, holistic insights development.
  2. Market research output is difficult for decision makers to interpret and activate. Marketing insights are often delivered in a way that is difficult to interpret and act upon by decision makers outside the market research function. Internal research teams spend more time uncovering and explaining the insights than supporting their activation. Today, with the availability of immersive video games, apps, Skype and FaceTime, converting tables and graphs into valuable business information and actionable insights should not be so intensive or difficult. Our solution: develop engaging, intuitive result delivery experiences.
  3. Market research is slow. We are in an era that embraces self-service for straightforward tasks, freeing professionals to engage in higher value activities. Even while you can instantly order a video from Netflix, the simplest insights projects require multiple phone calls and emails to specify and initiate the study. Our solution: an online market research app store featuring a wizard interface, 24X7 availability, and connectivity to a delivery portal for real-time results.
  4. Market research is expensive. Consumer data is abundant and often publicly available. Data collection and analysis tools are continuously becoming less costly. In contrast, global survey research is still very expensive as traditional market research companies operate a patchwork of legacy systems. They struggle to deliver at a lower price point because they are not efficient. Our solution: an integrated, global research infrastructure built on proprietary survey and data management software, global consumer access panels and ultra-efficient business processes, allowing us to realize and share the benefits of efficiency and global scale with our clients, making research less expensive.

Han de Groot adds, “The new combination of Macromill and MetrixLab will continue to expand its global presence organically and through selective acquisitions. We will accelerate our ability to meet our clients’ need for business information and consumer insights on a global basis. We are planning new offices in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Russia.”

“This transaction creates a market research technology leader that is differentiated by its ability to deliver ground-breaking digital, mobile, social and big data solutions for consumer understanding.” adds Bain Capital Managing Director and Macromill board member David Gross-Loh.

“Macromill and MetrixLab have been leaders in many of the industry’s important innovations over the last 15 years and this merger will accelerate the pace of that innovation. The MetrixLab team has built an industry-leading data management and insights platform and an extensive portfolio of innovative solutions. We are excited to combine our research technologies and deliver them to more global companies. Both organizations share a vision for helping clients uncover consumer insights that lead to better business decisions, and share a passion for data quality and innovation.” says Japan/Asia CEO Katsumi Konishi.

He adds, “We are excited to deliver MetrixLab’s cutting-edge marketing research solutions to our Japanese clients. The new Macromill organization will deliver multi-country online research faster and more economically and this will help our Japanese clients expand into international markets.”

This reads like a manifesto for the research company of the future, doesn’t it? It shouldn’t be a surprise. Last year I interviewed Han de Groot here on the blog, and this is in line with the vision he was outlining then. I’ve had the privilege of working closely with Han on a variety of fronts this year, and I’ve learned that he’s an incredibly astute straight shooter who knows how to build a world class business.

This is a big deal, not just in terms of the rankings of top global MR firms, but also because of the clear signal it sends of the emergence of a truly “next generation” insight organization.

First let’s look at what this does to the pecking order in MR.

Sugimoto-sanPictureFIXEDAccording to the AMA Gold Global 25 (based on 2013 numbers) Macromill was number 17 at $184M in revenue and 884 employees. Founded in 2000, Macromill pioneered online research in Japan.  Since then, they have actively expanded into foreign markets and established branches in China and South Korea. Through an extensive global network, they conduct studies in over 90 countries around the world.

At the end of last year Bain Capital acquired Macromill for over $500M and the company was refocused on future success by increasing topline revenue and decreasing expenses, putting them on track for 2014 performance of roughly $200M. Macromill has several operating units that make up the parent company:

  • M-CUBE, INC.
  • misecolle, INC.

handdegrootAccording to the most recent AMA Gold Top 50 (US Focused and 2013 data) MetrixLab was ranked at 31 with $65M.  The company was launched in 1999 and has grown phenomenally from inception. Headquartered in Rotterdam and San Francisco with 17 offices across the US, Europe, Brazil and Asia, MetrixLab provides analytics and insights solutions in more than 50 countries.

They have also been on a bit of a buying spree in support of their global expansion plan and without the Macromill deal they will top $100M in 2014.

Their recent deals include acquisitions, investments and JVs with:

  • CRM Metrix
  • MarketTools
  • Precision Sample
  • Raw Data
  • Oxyme
  • Big Data Analytics with Edwin Kooge and Natasha Walk

This transaction establishes a premiere market research technology company with global reach and first class expertise from a global team of more than 1500 professionals in the Americas, Europe and Asia. The combined company serves over 2500 clients in more than 80 countries, operates 27 offices and generates annual revenues of $300 million.

This is also a highly strategic deal. Both companies were at the perfect points in their development to make this happen. Each company is young with visionary and entrepreneurial leadership that believe strongly in changing the status quo. It’s a position that may be very challenging for the Big 4 to compete against and one that won’t be easy to duplicate for other younger companies in our space looking to vault to the top of the heap.

The new company is now among the Top 10 largest global research companies, ahead of Comscore and the NPD Group. If you remove specialty providers like dunhumby, Westat, IMS Health and IRI and Asia Pacific specific powerhouse Intage from the Top 10 list, MetrixLab will now be the fourth largest global full service firm in the world, behind GfK, Ipsos, Kantar and Nielsen.

And make no mistake, they have those companies in their sights and will become a major competitor to them. I expect The Big 4 will be none too pleased by the exponentially increased competitive pressure this will apply on them.

Let’s take those four points in the press release and think about the implications from a competitive perspective.

They will control the full value chain within their organization, from ‘respondent to report’, including one of the largest DIY survey platforms in Asia – with a new global footprint to expand it and continue to increase it’s capabilities.

Both companies have significant data assets outside of traditional MR including shopper behavioral information, media metering, social media, and web analytics. Combined with the full run of traditional capabilities and a burgeoning data synthesis/analysis framework and it’s easy to see how they can achieve the vision.

This will be a consolidated company aligned along a singular vision: to redefine what a marketing insights organization is in the modern era. With increased competition from tech giants, analytics companies, and consultancies I suspect the new company will look very much like a hybrid of those companies, with a focus on owning data channels through both traditional MR and emerging sources combined with “data agnostic” advanced analytics and world class consulting. And since they do own much of the value chain, including sample access and technology, they will be able to out perform many existing and new companies through greater internal efficiencies, significant cost competitive advantages, and much faster execution and delivery than others.

Truly, the new company has the potential to go toe-to-toe not only with the Big 4 full service firms, but also large niche players like IRI, Comscore, Vision Critical, Qualtrics, Survey Monkey and Research Now as well as leaders in the data analytics, consulting, and visualization spaces. I’m not saying they will expressly target all of those markets, but once the integration is done and the technology within both companies is globally ramped up the potential exists to do so.  No matter what, those companies and others like them are likely to feel the heat from the new giant in various ways.

This is a big deal to close out a big year of change for the MR space, and I can’t wait to see how it will play out in 2015!

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Mobile Marketing Master: 3 Principles to Follow into 2015

When it comes to marketing through the various channels we have available today, it’s difficult to get much more personal than the mobile phone. For the mobile marketer, not only is it important to respect this medium, it’s also vital to make sure that the consumer always has control.


Editor’s Note: Although this is targeted to marketers specifically, it could just as well be directed to insights pros as well. The underlying thesis about mobile quickly becoming the primary engagement channel for consumers and the tips to leverage that channel have applications for MR from participant recruitment through methodology design. We need to think and look more like marketers (while acting like researchers behind the scenes) in order to maximize the unique  opportunities this shift has for us.


By Megan Ritter

Today, it seems like everywhere you look people have at least one mobile device in hand. In fact, the number of mobile phones in the world will soon outnumber the world’s population. Last year, according to comScore, an American Internet analytics company that provides marketing data to many of the world’s largest enterprises, smartphone sales overtook PC sales and mobile devices surpassed desktop computers for the very first time, in terms of total digital media engagement.

Based on those facts, it’s no surprise that more and more consumers are turning to the convenience of their mobile devices for their daily tasks such as shopping, banking, and to check traffic. With the majority of Americans today now accessing the web via their mobile phone, it’s important for marketers to implement certain principles when it comes to maintaining their online presence.  Davis Murphy and Doug Stovall are two marketing professionals. Together they have provided the three principles for online marketers to follow in 2015.


Image Source: ShutterStock.com

Principle #1: Make it Agile

Davis Murphy advises that brand communications are no longer one-directional, and given the ever-growing number of customer touch points, even the multichannel concept is now an old hat. According to Forrester’s 2012 trend forecast, customers want to be able to start a dialogue in one communications channel, and complete it in another.

‘Agile communications’ seems a more appropriate concept for this. And while mobile will become increasingly important within the communications mix, it is important not to forget the other channels, and to ensure consistency across all of them.

Mr. Murphy writes that developers of native mobile Apps are confronted by a plethora of operating systems (Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Phone 7, RIM’s Blackberry, Nokia’s Symbian, etc.).  The challenge remains of making customer communications work across all types of devices, including smartphones, feature phones and Tablets.

A solution for the multi-platform problem that is attracting a lot of interest and on which a lot of hopes are riding is HTML5 as the successor to HTML4, the current standard for websites. HTML5 offers versatile functionalities in respect of improved display options, such as the playback and recording of video and audio, local storage and geolocation.  A lot of this has not been supported directly by HTML4 up to now, so additional plugins such as Adobe Flash had to be used. 

Principle #2: Strip the Fat

Doug Stovall says to present only the information customers need on your mobile optimized site. That might include product information, store locator, FAQs, useful content, or a simple customer service form.  Simplicity should also rule your text message marketing and mobile advertising.  Studies show that 75% of mobile users are more likely to take action after seeing a location-specific advertising message, so make your offers or information easy to digest at a glance. Due to mobile’s limited character and screen space, there is no room for fluff or filler. Get to the point—then get out of the way.

Principle #3 Personalize the Message

Mr. Murphy adds that personalized messages in both format and content make the message more effective. It is not just about personalizing messages by using the recipient’s name and a greeting such as “Hello Earl”.  The goal would to individualize the entire interaction – based on where the person is, what they are doing, and a range of other factors – in order to create a warm sales opportunity.  Mr. Murphy cautions that by engaging with your brand via their mobile phone, customers are allowing you into their private sphere. Once this door is open, it is easy to be tempted into communicating more frequently than a customer is comfortable with. The danger is that overuse of the mobile channel could easily be perceived as an invasion of privacy. Like any other overused channel, the risk is always that customers might opt-out, or even choose to cut their ties with the brand.


Image Source: ShutterStock.com

When it comes to marketing through the various channels we have available today, it’s difficult to get much more personal than the mobile phone. For the mobile marketer, not only is it important to respect this medium, it’s also vital to make sure that the consumer always has control. Follow the three principles above and set the golden standard for best practice in your industry!


The Fall 2014 GRIT Report Is Here!

The 15th edition of the GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report is here! Nearly 80 pages of the most recent trends data, incisive analysis and thoughtful commentary on the state of the market research industry and where we are heading in the future.

GRIT Consumer Participation in Research


I’m thrilled to announce that the 15th edition of the GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report is here! Using data collected in Q3 2014 and examining the time period of Q1-Q2 of 2014, this is the most current snapshot of the trends in the industry available, and it’s chock full of great information to help both clients and suppliers help chart their course as we head into 2015.

This is also our largest report yet: it’s nearly 80 pages of incisive analysis and thoughtful commentary on the state of the industry and where we are heading in the future.

In the last report we determined that 2013 was the year that the wave of predicted change finally came to shore. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the main theme emerging in 2014 is adaptation to change. Rather than being swamped by the new, our industry is absorbing the change and finding out what works (and what doesn’t) in an ever-expanding toolbox.

However, it’s not just tools that are changing; client needs and expectations, required skill sets, and even the view of what market research is are also undergoing a shift.

Download the report and access the interactive dashboard to do your own analysis and dig deeper into the data here:


In this edition, GRIT continues to track trends that it has historically focused on, including the adoption of emerging technologies and methods. GRIT studies drivers of supplier selection, changing ways in how we collect data, and the characteristics of the researcher of the future. For the first time, we include a “Hacking MR” section to identify problems and solutions proposed by our respondents. We also include a special section on the client views of the impact of research based on a separate but connected study we conducted with InSites Consulting.

We also continue with a series of thought-provoking commentaries written by GRIT supporters. These expert opinions provide additional depth and richer context for the report.

There are some surprises here, and some things that should be no surprise, although overall a clear vision of the future has emerged that will have profound implications for all aspects of the industry over the next few years. This isn’t navel gazing: it’s vital; strategic intelligence to inform business decisions.

As always, we think you’ll find the report informative, provocative, and useful.

Lastly, a big thank you to our partners and supporters: without them GRIT could not happen and each played a vital role in bringing this report to life.



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Using Research To Make a Difference

Paul Vittles, MRS Fellow and Director of Instinct and Reason, will be speaking at the IIeX Asia-Pacific Conference in Sydney 4-5 December. Here, he draws from some of the themes in his recent AMSRS Conference presentation to emphasise the importance of researchers ‘making a difference’.



Editor’s note: Paul Vittles, MRS Fellow and Director of Instinct and Reason, will be speaking at the IIeX Asia-Pacific Conference in Sydney 4-5 December. Here, he draws from some of the themes in his recent AMSRS Conference presentation to emphasise the importance of researchers ‘making a difference’.


By Paul Vittles 

Making a difference as a fundamental driver of motivation and positive mental health

It’s the phrase we hear again and again at job interviews, staff appraisals, and coaching sessions. “I want to do research that makes a difference”. It’s the ultimate motivator – knowing you have made a difference, and seeing your research being applied with impact. And the lack of evidence of making a difference is the biggest single cause of mental health issues for researchers.

My presentation to the 2014 AMSRS Conference in Melbourne was entitled “Don’t just ‘do research’, change something…and be healthier for it”. A central theme was the importance of making a difference, and I also presented case studies of how we have been making a difference.

In my 30 years in research, which has also included many years in CEO and senior leadership roles, 17 years practising as an executive coach and change consultant, and a period running a human and organisational development consultancy, I have trained, mentored and coached around 1,800 researchers. I have been able to combine this ongoing analysis with my research projects to identify the factors that motivate and demotivate researchers, and which lead to mental health issues in the workplace. It’s a long list but ‘making a difference’ is way out in front as number one.

Making a difference in our work

Over the years, I have been privileged to work on many research and consultancy projects that have made a difference. This has included helping commercial organisations to develop new products, increase their sales, and map out new strategies. It has also included transforming public services and assisting many not-for-profit organisations in setting and achieving their goals.

My most famous project was in 1996 when I was asked to lead a team to decide what to do with the site of 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester, the home of the serial killers Fred and Rosemary West, branded the House of Horrors. I met with the victims’ relatives to get guidance on site options that could be ruled in or ruled out and to better understand their issues and needs. The research team then worked with the local community to develop options for the site, take into account the needs of the different stakeholder groups, re-develop the site, and help to bring some sense of closure.

Thankfully, that project was an extreme, once-in-a-lifetime episode. However, it was life-changing in a number of ways for all those involved, including the researchers working on it. We learned that a lot of our research tools and techniques, which we thought were designed to help us listen, were actually barriers to listening. Many of our tools are actually designed for time management because we try to squeeze so much in rather than just take time to listen. We certainly learned about the value of deep engagement in finding a lasting solution.

In the past two-and-a-half years, I have been working with Instinct and Reason and we do try to use both our instinct and our reason in our work to help make a difference for clients. Here are a few examples of how we have ensured we are making a difference.

Practical application of the science of choice modelling

Instinct and Reason has taken the Nobel Prize winning science of discrete choice modelling and turned it into a practical research tool for clients. We discovered that clients bought into the concept of assessing the sub-conscious drivers of choice but found that trying to commission such work was a slow and expensive process with complex outputs that were difficult to understand and explain to internal stakeholders.

Instinct and Reason founders – Paul Wiebe (based in Canada), Sally Faedda (based in the UK) and David Donnelly (based in Australia) – translated the science into a highly practical survey research approach, automated and efficient, with clear outputs, and then created interactive predictive tools for clients wanting to make practical use of this science.

Recent projects have covered topics such as tropical holiday destinations, new food products, new farming products, desired approaches for teaching music in schools, choosing a funeral services provider, getting advice on home improvement, nominating people for major national awards, how to make rural communities more sustainable, and recruiting the workforce to deliver the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The exemplar project described below also neatly links in to our theme of workplace drivers and positive mental health.

Transforming workplace mental health

The recent research carried out by Instinct and Reason for beyondblue and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance demonstrated that a mentally healthy workplace is second only to pay in driving the job choices of employees in Australia today. Note that respondents were shown a selection of job offers with randomised attributes so all they had to do was say whether they would take the job and we could calculate the sub-conscious drivers of choice. And in the introduction no mention was made of mental health or who the survey was for to avoid bias:

Key drivers of job choices among Australian employees (from discrete choice model). Base 1025, May 2014

More specifically, what often drives recruitment and retention once basic hygiene factors are accounted for are positive mental health policies effectively implemented and an open conversation culture in the workplace.

It was seen by many as a surprising result so it got lots of publicity, including more than 90,000 views of the infographic video on YouTube.

Some commentators queried the result by saying ‘no-one seems to raise these issues at job interviews’. The point is that we are measuring sub-conscious drivers of choice. We know it is in the sub-conscious of candidates when they ask questions about things like ‘culture’ and ‘management style’. And they also do more due diligence these days to check out the culture.

Revolution in online qual research and engagement

In early 2013, Instinct and Reason carried out an evaluation of the market for online qualitative research and engagement tools. We spoke to clients about their knowledge, perceived needs, potential solutions and issues around online qual. There was a lot of hype at the time but few clients were actually using online qual or comfortable using online qual.

We then got recommendations from researchers, drew up a long list of potential platform providers, made an initial assessment, drew up a shortlist, and undertook a thorough assessment of the shortlisted providers, spanning Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. GroupQuality emerged as the best platform provider in the market (based on product, services, support, price, culture, flexibility, etc) so Instinct and Reason effectively formed an R&D partnership with GroupQuality.

We have since carried out dozens of projects, designed & facilitated more than 100 online forums or discussion boards, and fired off hundreds of queries and suggestions to GroupQuality, observed GroupQuality taking all the feedback on board with great skill and enthusiasm, and seen our clients become at ease with the approach.

Once again, the approach has cut across commercial market research and sensitive social research to help make a difference. To prove that anything is possible, we have designed and facilitated online forums among people aged 55+ (we had no problem getting interaction among those aged 65+ online – indeed they tend to be more flirty!), people who have recently arranged funerals, people who have recently experienced relationship breakdown, people with gambling addiction, and homeless people.

In the field of gambling addiction, we had a government client who wanted to target those who are problem gamblers who need help but are reluctant to seek it to try and encourage them to call a helpline or go to an online gambling website. In the initial brief, it was acknowledged that this is a “hard-to-reach” group. However, we believe in the philosophy of ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. By visiting 40 bars and clubs, making thousands of calls (thanks Action Market Research) and screening online panels (thanks SSI), we were able to find 500 problem gamblers in two weeks.

Some questions were asked about whether these were ‘genuine’ but once we got them talking in online forums, the heartbreaking personal stories demonstrated they were genuine. We asked participants to describe their gambling behaviour and its impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. We asked them to describe their lowest point, which generated some shocking stories. We then brought them out the other side with discussions around help available, why they don’t seek help, what would encourage them to seek help, and how they could be supported.

The online forum lasted for 3 weeks and several problem gamblers said they had not gambled whilst participating in our discussion. We explained from the start that it was a time-limited research discussion not ongoing support or counselling. However, our final discussion topic was around ongoing online support, participants made recommendations to each other, and we also added a few other services that had not been mentioned by participants.

This online forum – complemented by face-to-face groups – certainly made a difference for the participants and for the client in guiding their strategy and campaign execution.

Helping Australia lead the world in suicide prevention

I will talk more about this ground-breaking work at the IIeX Conference in Sydney, but here’s a brief summary. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for its 192 member countries to reduce their suicide rates by 10% by 2020. Japan has committed to a 20% reduction. In Australia, we are going for 50%! This will obviously need transformational change and breakthrough ideas. Australia is already a world leader with some of its initiatives, eg around media reporting of suicide, but it will need to continue to be innovative.

I have been supporting this cause as a Director of Instinct and Reason, as Chairman of RSA A+NZ, and as a concerned individual who has personally been touched by this issue. I was asked to speak at the 2014 National Suicide Prevention Conference on Instinct and Reason’s work in the field of workplace mental health. I was then asked to help the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention to put together a National Research Action Plan for halving the number of suicides and suicide attempts. This has involved designing and facilitating workshops and online forums for researchers, policymakers, service providers, funders of research and people with lived experience of suicide.

I have also facilitated a global conversation on Big Ideas for Suicide Prevention which has generated 10 Big Ideas, including innovative use of technology, big data, and social media monitoring to help bring about the necessary transformational change.

It is the ultimate example of ‘making a difference’. Suicide is the most common means of death among 15-44 year olds in Australia and many other countries. Using our research skills and experience to save young lives and help people to live longer, happier, more productive lives would be the ultimate legacy.


Paul Vittles is a Director with Instinct and Reason and a Fellow of the UK Market Research Society. Paul has spoken at many conferences and events in Australia and the UK, winning the Best Paper Award at AMSRS 2005 for “Research as a Life Changing Experience” and the Best Presentation Award at AMSRS WA 2008 for “The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create It”. Paul is also Chairman of the RSA in Australia and New Zealand http://rsaanz.org.au/rsa-anz-agm-2014-our-past-our-present-our-future/ . The RSA is a UK-based social innovation network with 27,000 Fellows which has been making a difference in the world since it was founded in 1754 http://www.thersa.org/ . It was through the RSA that Paul was able to facilitate a global conversation on Big Ideas for Suicide Prevention.


An #MRX Hallowe’en Parade

Let’s open up market research’s own house of horrors, and let loose the creatures of the night – the most terrifying monsters of modern-day research. It’s a Hallowe’en parade with a ghastly research twist, and perhaps along the way we might learn how to banish these fiends from our lives for the other 364 nights of the year.


By Tom Ewing

It’s the scariest time of the year. Wherever people care about Hallowe’en, they are hoarding candy and choosing costumes, from the topical to the tasteless, and often both (yes, you CAN buy a “sexy Ebola containment suit”, thanks for asking).

So let’s open up market research’s own house of horrors, and let loose the creatures of the night – the most terrifying monsters of modern-day research. It’s a Hallowe’en parade with a ghastly research twist, and perhaps along the way we might learn how to banish these fiends from our lives for the other 364 nights of the year.

Ghosts: What would Hallowe’en be without a bunch of spectres, revenants, and sheets with eyeholes? Research has its own ghosts – the spirits of dead projects that haunt attempts to innovate or change methodologies. “It’s been tried before.” “It never works.” “What about the norms?” As Ray Parker Jr tells us, ghostbusting makes you feel good – and so does trying something new.

Frankenstein’s Monster: The shambling brute built from body parts and given life on a madman’s operating table has its analogue in the research presentation sewn together entirely out of lifeless buzzwords. “Engagement… authenticity… proprietary metric… millennial…” The best way of fighting it, unfortunately, is not to create it in the first place.

The Wolfman: He seems harmless enough, but every month he transforms into a terrible monster that devours anything it can reach. Most people who’ve spent time analysing or reading a monthly tracking study can sympathise with this curse. Save money (and silver bullets) by not asking so many questions.

Dracula: You can’t have Hallowe’en without the Lord of Vampires – and for a long time you couldn’t have market research without long, overly rational questionnaires that similarly drained all life from a topic. Like vampires, these could change form – from face-to-face, to pen-and-paper, to online – will mobile finally be their garlic?

The Mummy: You open the Mummy’s Tomb looking for hidden treasure, but instead you find a horrifying curse. It’s a bit like unethical research that brings a terrible PR curse upon those who tamper with it – think Facebook’s emotional experiments. Some things mankind was not meant to know – at least without informed consent.

The Headless Horseman: Here he comes, galloping across the land – and his research equivalent is badly planned DIY work. It’s extremely fast, but there’s an unfortunate gap where its brain ought to be. (Used well, of course. DIY tools are far less scary.)

Zombies: The zombie apocalypse happened in research a while ago – we’re infested by what the planner Martin Weigel calls “Zombie Ideas”: they were discredited years back but they simply won’t lie down and die. We call have our favourites – influencer theory, purchase intention, or how about brand loyalty: it’s been decades since Andrew Ehrenberg started his work showing how rare “loyalists” really are, but brands still doggedly pursue them. A shot to the head is long overdue.

Cthulhu: A relatively new addition to the horror pantheon, HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos posited a world of cosmic terror where man is simply an insignificant speck, doomed to madness if he ever perceives the true order of the universe. It’s somewhat like the vertiginous terror researchers seem to feel when they confront the vastness of big data: how can our work possibly have meaning in the face of its computational power? Lovecraft was not an optimistic sort, but we are surely made of sterner stuff, and can master our fear of the unknown. I hope.

That’s BrainJuicer’s selection of research demons. But what are your favourite market research monsters?



Photo Credit: legOfenris


Jeffrey Henning’s #MRX Top 10 – From Wearable Tech to Implantable/Edible Tech

Of the 3,766 unique links shared on #MRX last week, here are 10 of the most retweeted...



By Jeffrey Henning

Of the 3,766 unique links shared on #MRX last week, here are 10 of the most retweeted…

  1. Support for EU membership highest for 23 years, even as UKIP rises in the polls – An Ipsos MORI telephone poll of 1,002 UK adults found 56% wanted the UK to stay part of the EU, while 36% wanted it to withdraw.
  2. When it comes to mobile respondent experience and data quality, survey design matters – Writing in Quirks, Nicole Mitchell of SSI reported research on research showing the increase in dropout rates for “mobile unfriendly” surveys taken on smartphones and tablets. Laptop users completed the survey more quickly than mobile-device respondents, even when the survey design was optimized for the mobile experience.
  3. SurveyMonkey and NBC News in Polling Partnership – MRweb reports that SurveyMonkey will provide NBC News online public-opinion polls and the two will work together to develop best practices in online surveys.
  4. Research agencies should ‘be more advertising agency’ – Writing in Research, Jon Puleston argues that research firms should think bigger and should learn from ad agencies: “Stop selling only what we can do ourselves, instead act as a buying and decision-making center, an analytics and advisory unit. Specialize in spending research budgets and employ research planners and buyers. Invest in survey copywriters and research art directors to produce cutting-edge survey solutions. Build close long-term relationships with the marketing director and CEO.”
  5. How equality is changing the face of business – Kristof De Wulf, co-founder of InSites Consulting, asks how equality creates new opportunities for your business. “Equality is becoming ever more central in modern businesses with open information, zero marginal costs, mass collaboration and sharing creating more freedom in the business world for everyone.”
  6. Join Euromonitor for a mobile payments Twitter chat – Check out the Euromonitor Twitter discussion of the impact of mobile payments on industry.
  7. What do wearable devices bring to market research? – Alex Johnson tested wearables including wrist gear, eyewear and life-blogging cameras.
  8. Tribes Research buys EasyInsites – Jo Winning, co-founder of Tribes Research, purchased the previous company he co-founded, EasyInsites, consolidating its custom panel capabilities with Tribes’ digital MR capabilities.
  9. Nine real technologies that will soon be inside you – Forget wearables, Mike Edelhart summarizes 9 techs that can be inserted into the human body, from implantable smartphones to cyberpills.
  10. The data skills crisis – The Market Research Society shares a video interview with Tesco Clubcard pioneer Edwina Dunn.


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. Only market research links are considered.