Opportunities and Threats in a Brave New Market Research World

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Much is written about how much Research has changed over the past few years – mobile is the latest big thing, social media is hovering in the background to be trawled for insights, ethnography is making a comeback, online qual. is proving extremely popular thanks to the speed and ease with which selected consumers can give their opinions on a whole range of subjects. Behavioural Economics has pointed out with much fanfare what qualitative researchers have always known – that context, social influence and emotions play a huge role in influencing what we say and do.

It’s exciting times, and from a Client perspective almost bewildering – the array of options from which to choose from is expanding rapidly, and the new normal seems to be that any one insights challenge requires a mixed methodology approach, using online, offline, qual and quant. We encircle our subject with an ever better (we hope) sense of what’s really going on – making Research an even more powerful tool.

So why the ongoing sense of Angst – that Research is threatened? Shouldn’t we be relishing change as an opportunity to become more influential with an upgraded toolkit?

My sense is it’s actually change per se, that is making many of us feel uncomfortable – margin-destroying, pervasive, ongoing. Low-cost technology software is putting MR tools into the hands of the potentially inexperienced. Our professional status is challenged; our sense of relative immunity to the ups and downs of economic cycles shattered; some of our assumptions on how best to model human behaviour are being shown to be wrong. It’s how we react to this change that will determine whether we will emerge strengthened or elbowed aside in a wave of MR disruption.

Here’s my take on the opportunities and threats.

Opportunities:

Data Experts = Insights Experts
Companies are exposed to ever more information, but we still live in a world short on real insights. This is a huge opportunity for Market Researchers: to widen the scope of our mandate – take on sales data, market data, financial data, feedback from Customer Service, sales force reports, and mine them appropriately for a given business question.

Nearer the Action
The traditional structure of a Research programme was invariably quant. survey plus groups/depths – solid, but hardly spicy and often regarded as costly and slow by Marketing people inspired by the speed with which their Internet Marketing analytics were available. All that has changed with a MR powered by technology which can now deliver data (not necessarily insights) in days not weeks, and where the visualisation of evidence produced by Smartphones gets us really up-close and personal.

This ability to be on-the pace pushes market research nearer to decision making – and helps ensure we are an ongoing and valued member of the marketing team.

New MR = Creative and Strategic
Market Research increasingly plays a strategic role in new product development: we are tasked with unearthing unmet needs, leading ideation projects; we often take the lead in multi-functional task forces made up of R&D, marketing and sales personnel.

This is a radically new position: we’re forced to develop hypotheses, not just evaluate them, to be pro-active, engage in lateral thinking, and step out of our analytical comfort zone. Get this right and you automatically upgrade the value of the MR effort.

Threats

Role-Usurption
Market Researchers used to be data-guardians, people respected for their in-depth knowledge of categories and brands, often gained over decades. The power associated with this knowledge primacy has effectively been exploded – data often bypasses the MR department; Marketing people with good business degrees often have a good grasp of how to use Excel, perform simple regression analyses, certainly track data, and establish benchmarks. The black box, if you like, has been replaced by Pandora’s box.

This data-freedom means Researchers need to work harder to be recognised and valued as the true go-to people when it comes to insights.

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“D. I. B.” (Do it Badly) Research
Low-cost, easy-to-use survey software effectively allows anyone with a database to do their own research – social media scraping (netnography at its best) is equally a field open to those with the time and inclination. The DIY trend is unquantified, often under-discussed, but a strong one in MR, driven by cost and speed – unstoppable forces, but with a downside: the lack of understanding of what makes good research, and what dangers and biases are involved in the whole Research process. I recently heard the phrase “Do-It -Together” at an Esomar Conference – which nicely encapsulates one way of addressing the danger of botched DIY Market Research, by collaborating and offering training, expertise.

Volume not Value Growth
The biggest single pressure I see on MR of the future is on budgets – either flat, decreasing, or simply not capturing a larger slice of the Marketing pot. More needs to be done with less, effectively – and once Marketing people have discovered the benefits of using a proprietary panel – radically reducing the per-survey cost – the floodgates can and do open.

This can lead to MR departments being bombarded with Survey requests, with less and less time available to evaluate the results. Larger Client side MR departments can split roles into more senior “strategic evaluators” roles and more junior “data-providers”, but for many smaller companies this isn’t an option.

Outlook

In summary, Research has a broader and arguably superior toolkit than say 5 years ago – we can get closer and closer to an authentic sense of what is driving choice, be it habit, social influence, visceral states or impulse. We have reason to be optimistic, but the hope that methodologies will on their own actually make a massive difference may be naive.

The most pressing challenge for Market Research in future is in my view actually using all the methodological innovations for superior business impact.

The most amazing tools aren’t much use in the hands of mediocre craftsmen, and vice versa: brilliant skills can create much out of nothing. It’s here ,at the coal-face of MR – the area of ROI and impact – that we actually need to see the needle move. I hope that we can look back in 5 years time and say that all our improved insights actually made a bigger difference, and that we captured the recognition for the additional value we bring to the party

Black Friday ‘Discount’: Secret can be Dirty !!

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When shoppers head out in search of Black Friday bargains this week, they won’t just be going to the mall, they’ll be witnessing retail theater.

Stores will be pulling out the stops on deep discounts aimed at drawing customers into stores. But retail-industry veterans acknowledge that, in many cases, those bargains will be a carefully engineered illusion.

The common assumption is that retailers stock up on goods and then mark down the ones that don’t sell, taking a hit to their profits. But that isn’t typically how it plays out. Instead, big retailers work backward with their suppliers to set starting prices that, after all the markdowns, will yield the profit margins they want.

The red cardigan sweater with the ruffled neck on sale for more than 40% off at $39.99 was never meant to sell at its $68 starting price. It was designed with the discount built in.

Buyers don’t seem to mind. What they are after, especially in such a lackluster economy, is the feeling they got a deal. Retailers like J.C. Penney Co. JCP +7.69%who try to get out of the game get punished.

The manufactured nature of most discounts raises questions about the wisdom of standing in line for the promotional frenzy that kicks off the holiday shopping season. It also explains how retailers have been able to ramp up the bargains without giving away the store.

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The number of deals offered by 31 major department store and apparel retailers increased 63% between 2009 to 2012, and the average discount jumped to 36% from 25%, according to Savings.com, a website that tracks online coupons.

Over the same period, the gross margins of the same retailers—the difference between what they paid for goods and the price at which they sold them—were flat at 27.9%, according to FactSet. The holidays barely made a dent, with margins dipping to 27.8% in the fourth quarter of 2012 from 28% in the third quarter of that year.

“A lot of the discount is already priced into the product. That’s why you see much more stable margins,” said Liz Dunn, an analyst with Macquarie Equities Research.

Retailers including Best Buy Co.BBY -0.03% , Wal-Mart Stores Inc.WMT +0.31% and Macy’s are warning this will be an unusually competitive holiday season and that all the deals could hurt margins. That can happen when chains have to fight hard for sales or get stuck with excess inventory and have to take heavier-than-planned markdowns. Stores also field loss leaders, true bargains that pinch profits but are aimed at getting customers into their stores. Most deals, however, are planned to be profitable by setting list prices well above where goods are actually expected to sell.

Retailers could run into legal trouble if they never try to sell goods at their starting price. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with the practice. Companies can be pretty frank about how things work.

Here’s how it works, according to one industry consultant describing an actual sweater sold at a major retailer. A supplier sells the sweater to a retailer for roughly $14.50. The suggested retail price is $50, which gives the retailer a roughly 70% markup. A few sweaters sell at that price, but more sell at the first markdown of $44.99, and the bulk sell at the final discount price of $21.99. That produces an average unit retail price of $28 and gives the store about a 45% gross margin on the product.

Retailers didn’t always price this way. It used to be that most items were sold at full price, with a limited number of sales to clear unsold inventory. That began to change in the 1970s and 1980s, when a rash of store openings intensified competition and forced retailers to look for new ways to stand out.

 

My Mom always told me Sharing is a good thing; but I didn’t know it will get me Job !!

 

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How Sharing Other People’s Content Makes You an Irresistible Job Candidate

When it comes to standing out online, your best bet is to offer your own original content. Blog posts or tweets that revolve around your unique ideas will make you a standout candidate.

But the truth is, not everyone has the time, writing ability or even confidence to grow a quality blog or social media account, and plenty of people who don’t have a blog still want to move up the career ladder, into more challenging and better-paying positions.

What if there was a way to show the world just how smart you are, without creating your own content?

Well, there is, and it’s a tactic you should seriously consider: sharing other people’s content.

Whether you curate on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr or all of the above, here are five things sharing content created by others says about you — and why it can move your career forward.

1. You know your industry inside and out.

When you share an abundance of interesting information, people begin to realize you know your stuff. Not only do you know what’s going on, but you understand what’s valuable to people in your industry and what they want to read, which is just as important.

Even if you don’t consider yourself highly knowledgeable on a certain topic — if, for example, you’re looking to change careers and are using your online presence to pivot — you’ll become knowledgeable on that topic as you sift through blogs and tweets looking for quality information to share. In other words, curating content can help you become an authority in your field and help others see you as an authority.

2. You’re innovative.

Not only do you use the latest social tools to share advice and ideas, the information you share is often about your industry’s latest trends and developments, which suggests you’re forward thinking.

Anyone can say in an interview that they like to follow tech trends, but serving your community as a content curator shows the hiring manager you’re serious about learning, brainstorming and innovating.

3. You enjoy helping others.

So many people talk about themselves on social media. You’ll stand out if you get off the soapbox and instead offer helpful, valuable information, giving props to whoever created it.

This is helpful not only to the minions who read your tweets, but also to the industry leaders who wrote the blog post, tweets or updates to begin with, since you’re helping spread their content and ideas. Those thought leaders will likely appreciate your efforts and might even look to connect further with you, which could lead to more opportunities.

See why being generous online is one of the best things you can do for yourself?

4. You’re familiar with the big (and little) players in your field.

Knowing who the thought-leaders are in your field and where they hang out is just as important — if not more — than being in-the-know about innovative developments. Why? Because those people likely are part of those developing trends, or at least talking about them. In many ways, they are the trends.

In their book The Startup of You, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha wrote, “If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for people.” Knowing who’s doing what in your industry can go a long way toward helping you take the next step in your career. Curating content is a solid way to keep up with what everyone’s doing.

5. In some cases, you have access to those industry players.

Know what every employer wants more than an awesome, skilled employee? An awesome, skilled employee who knows people. Every one of your connections means a connection for your company.

If you don’t know any of the major players in your industry now, look to create those connections through sharing other people’s content. Your generosity could lead to online conversations with those people as they leave comments on your blog posts or reply to you through Twitter. Really want to get on their radar? Try an email introduction after you’ve mentioned that contact on your blog or Twitter, with the hope that they’ll recognize your name.

 

Social Media is not for driving Sales…… But you are missing the Point…

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The point is that social media is a teeny tiny reflection of what happens in day-to-day life. In Jonah Berger’s Contagious, he makes the salient point that only 7% of word of mouth happens online (other studies say 5%). I’m not sure if all of that even belongs to social media channels, either. I’d guess a bunch of it happens over email and private chat.

There are hundreds of ways that your customer will find you (or not find you) online and offline. However, when it comes to spreading a message,word of mouth has always been the most effectiveway of marketing messages spreading. But these messages become ineffective when they aren’t authentic. The most salient point here is:

You cannot force word of mouth.

It doesn’t matter the media or the amount you spend on it – some stuff just doesn’t spread. And though marketing impressions make a brand awareness difference – whether it’s a billboard or a paid tweet – it’s never guaranteed to work.

So I’m continually bowled over when I hear people complain about how their social media marketing doesn’t work. Usually a few questions helps me realize what’s really going on:

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What’s really going on here is that companies think that paying for marketing is some sort of silver bullet. It’s not. It never was and it never will be. Hell, some Super Bowl ads go unnoticed – and that audience is one of the biggest captive audiences in the universe!

You are probably asking yourself, “Okay then, why would anybody in their right mind pay for marketing?”

Good question. I sometimes wonder myself because not everyone is ready for itand sometimes they are too late for it.

But why pay for marketing when the results aren’t guaranteed? Because, like I said before, there are hundreds of ways your future customers will find you (or not find you) and it’s better to be findable than not. And good marketing means that you will be more findable AND have more credibility (if the branding is done right) when people do find you. And all of that helps with what you want: sales.

There are all sorts of wonderful things built into social media marketing that you won’t have built into traditional one-way channels. There are:

  1. analytics: you can’t really tell who paid attention to that television ad, but you can tell who watched your YouTube ad all the way through, and who liked it, and who shared it, etc etc. The data available on how people interact with your content is AMAZING.
  2. feedback: it’s right there in the comments. It’s also there on Twitter. Oh, and you can find out what people are saying on Reddit and on their blogs and in forums and… well, that is invaluable. Read it. Report it back to your team. Improve your product with it. Respond to it with thanks. Hell, you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get this feedback from focus groups each year and here it is for you for free. Completely raw.
  3. relationships: you aren’t going to strike up a conversation through the TV or radio. But that two-way conversation is built into social media platforms. It’s really awesome. You can find out so much about your customers and start to really build a bond.

What really baffles me is the demands that brands make of social media marketing when they pay a fraction of the price to use it. They’ll hire interns and junior staff to run it, they’ll lowball agencies and consultants (“I pay you what for a couple of FB posts?! I can get my kid to do that!”), they get impatient and want instant results without being willing to invest the thought needed or take risks, they’ll tack on a social media strategy (which has no strategy) to a made-for-television and magazine ad campaign thinking that it’s yet another direct marketing channel (which is a limited medium, too).

All of this and the brands ask for stellar results. They look past the amazing insights and feedback and potential for relationships that no other traditional marketing medium every had and they say, “Meh. Social media doesn’t work for me.”

And completely miss the point.

You want to know the ROI of social media?

Number one. It’s the ability to listen. It’s priceless. Not with some damned tool that measures sentiment or finds influencers, either. Really listen.

Number two. Serendipity. It’s opening yourself up to constant and amazing opportunities to participate and by participating, you will find numerous opportunities to lead the conversation and make a great impression. Oreo’s dunk in the dark tweet is a great example of this. They are doing a really great job of being a relevant brand again by seizing opportunities like that. Do they do it every single day? Nope. But when they do, they nail it.

Number three. Community instead of customers. The difference is incredible. If you have patience and build a community instead of just a customer database, you will have finally tapped into that magical word of mouth network you wanted to buy a few months ago. But this time, it’s real and authentic and it spreads.

So PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF DOG stop thinking of social media as a direct marketing tool or some sort of silver bullet that will drive sales through the roof. Stop reading those case studies where Facebook… no, Pinterest… no, Polyvore… no, Snapchat… drove millions of dollars in sales from a viral campaign.

That’s not the point.

[originally published on my personal blog: tarahunt.com]

Easy and Portable energy source: Juice Box

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Vidoe: [http://vimeo.com/78870984] Easy charging A handheld dynamo converts any type of mechanical energy into a battery charge. Hook a belt drive to a windmill or microdam, loop that belt around the dynamo’s treads, and produce current with every turn. Flexible … Continue reading

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1. Mandarin:

Number of speakers: 1 billion+

Most widely spoken language on the planet is based in the most populated country on the planet. Beating second-place English by a 2 to 1 ratio, but don’t let that lull you into thinking that Mandarin is easy to learn. Speaking Mandarin can be really tough, because each word can be pronounced in four ways (or “tones”), and a beginner will invariably have trouble distinguishing one tone from another. But if over a billion people could do it, so could you. Try saying hello!

To say “hello” in Mandarin, say “Ni hao” (Nee HaOW). (“Hao” is pronounced as one syllable, but the tone requires that you let your voice drop midway, and then raise it again at the end.)

2. English

Number of speakers: 508 million

While English doesn’t have the most speakers, it is the official language of more countries than any other language. Its speakers hail from all around the world, including New Zealand, the U.S., Australia, England, Zimbabwe, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, South Africa, and Canada. We’d tell you more about English, but you probably feel pretty comfortable with the language already. Let’s just move on to the most popular language in the world.

To say “hello” in English, say “What’s up, freak?” (watz-UP-freek).

3. Hindi

Number of speakers: 497 million

Hindi is the primary language of India’s crowded population, and it encompasses a huge number of dialects .While many predict that the population of India will soon surpass that of China, the prominence of English in India prevents Hindustani from surpassing the most popular language in the world. If you’re interested in learning a little Hindi, there’s a very easy way: rent an Indian movie. The film industry in India is the most prolific in the world, making thousands of action/romance/musicals every year.

To say “hello” in Hindustani, say “Namaste” (Nah-MAH-stay).

4. Spanish

Number of speakers: 392 million

Aside from all of those kids who take it in high school, Spanish is spoken in just about every South American and Central American country, not to mention Spain, Cuba, and the U.S. There is a particular interest in Spanish in the U.S., as many English words are borrowed from the language, including: tornado, bonanza, patio, quesadilla, enchilada, and taco grande supreme.

To say “hello” in Spanish, say “Hola” (OH-la).

5. Russian

Number of speakers: 277 million

Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, and Yakov Smirnoff are among the millions of Russian speakers out there. Sure, we used to think of them as our Commie enemies. Now we think of them as our Commie friends. One of the six languages in the UN, Russian is spoken not only in the Mother Country, but also in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the U.S. (to name just a few places).

To say “hello” in Russian, say “Zdravstvuite” (ZDRAST-vet-yah).