By Anouk Willems
Time to reflect on the impact of consumer insights
Hello, summertime! For many of us, this is the time of the year when things slow down. Projects are put on hold, colleagues go on holiday, and if meetings can be postponed – they are! I think summer is a great time to reflect on the projects we have done, the rich consumer insights we found, and what the impact has been on the business. To get you started, here are 3 questions to think about:
Did you find rich new consumer insights this past year?
Did you share them extensively with your organization too?
Did your efforts trigger meaningful actions?
If the answer is 3 times ‘yes’, you probably had a very successful year! In most cases however, the last question is often the hardest part and more difficult to manage. Why? Well, after writing detailed market research reports, presenting the consumer insights and organizing ideation sessions, people tend to forget about the consumer insight. The insights are locked away in a PowerPoint report, and we move on to the next project. By doing so, the risk is that we lose sight of our insights, as market researcher Kris Cornelis explains:
“We come up with new insights and then it turns out they were already known. They re-invented the wheel, because only a few people knew.”
Kris Cornelis, Marketing Research at Wolters Kluwer Belgium
Hosting one workshop to generate ideas and translate actions is just not enough. In order to trigger meaningful actions across teams, it’s important to bring insights to life through interaction in a structural way. We do this by giving them a role in (further) shaping the insights. This way, an insight is ever evolving and kept fresh over time. The ultimate goal is that it becomes part of people’s work routines. Or as Florence from Danone describes it:
“Insights should be like a sunrise. A daily habit that brightens your day and gives you direction.”
Florence Pauriac, Strategy & Insights Manager at Danone Dairy
How to start with insight activation
Sounds great, right?! Unfortunately, there is no magic ‘insight activation’ button to push to make this a reality. So, how do we engage employees to collaborate with us and our consumer insights on a more frequent basis? And where do we begin? Let’s take the classical market research study to identify the first opportunities for insight activation.
Before: Harvest the collective mind.
The activation can already start before you find the insights. For example, Telefonica invited stakeholders to complete a SWOT exercise and add their predictions about the research outcomes. By inviting key stakeholders from different teams to share their learnings first, you are able to identify knowledge gaps. This way, you make sure that the insights you will find afterwards are ‘new’ and relevant to your internal stakeholders.
During: Share live updates from the field.
Why wait with sharing inspiring stories you heard or saw during fieldwork? As part of the activation, share striking observations during fieldwork as a teaser for the final insight report. For example, pharmaceutical company UCB decided to post their 2-3 ‘aha’ moments during in home visits and focus groups to spark discussions before the final report was shared. In this case, they used the Insight Activation Studio, a platform to collaborate around insights, observations and ideas.
After: Create empathy to trigger relevant actions.
After identifying the (validated) insights, the next step in activation is to let people recognize them and add their own observations to the insights. By doing so, we are creating more empathy with consumer’s routines and frictions. Once you established empathy with consumer frictions and routines, it forms the perfect start for generating ideas to solve the business problem.
This is also how Danone approached insight activation. After they identified rich shopper insights, they realized it was actually much more relevant for a larger audience than just the shopper teams at Danone. So, they created 6 interactive ‘Walls’ to put the employee in the shoes of the shopper in 6 different scenarios. Such a Wall is an interactive platform where employees can enrich insights by sharing own observations and ideas. For example, the #YoLittleOnes Wall. Parents face a challenge of constantly not giving in when their young children join them for grocery shopping. When kids show good behavior in the store, parents often want to give them a treat. These young kids are often attracted by the colorful packaging of unhealthy snacks. Employees enriched this Wall by sharing their own personal stories, resulting in more consumer centricity outside of the market research team.
Turning insights into memes
To increase the impact of a rich consumer insight and maximize the chance of triggering meaningful actions, all employees across the organization should learn about consumers’ frictions and routines in order to share related observations and ideas and build on them. When such an insight is replicated by employees and augmented with their own observations and ideas, shared with various people across the organization and triggers action, the insight becomes a ‘meme’.
I believe that many insights today are still locked away in reports, but have the potential to become a meme. What will be your ‘memes’ the coming year? Will this be your ‘summer of insights’? And how will you activate your insights when summer is over?
Anouk Willems is Head of Insight Activation Studios at InSites Consulting
By Tom DeRuyck
Driving new and powerful insights from consumers is silver, but doing something meaningful with those stories, something in support of corporate goals, is gold!
The Problem: Low Return on Consumer Insights (ROI)
More than ever, demonstrating impact is the name of the game for professional marketing services agencies. From our recent Market Research (MR) Impact study (2014), we know that only 45% of insight professionals & marketers believe research succeeds in changing the attitudes and decision of marketers and only 1 in 2 projects leads to change (Schillewaert et al, 2014). This lack of impact is not a matter of budget. Rather than spending more, the critical driver for impact is to maximize the value of spending (BCG study, 2009). Based on 20+ in-depth interviews with MR professionals from the client side, we have identified 11 unmet needs related to the future of consumer insights. While ten of those frictions relate to creating a positive business impact with consumer stories, only one is about finding better insights (Willems et al, 2015). So, the goal is to trigger meaningful actions which turn insights into concrete ideas, stronger brands and future-proof business concepts to deliver better consumer experiences. The million dollar question is:
How do we trigger these meaningful actions across the organization in order to create a positive business impact? And how can the insight professional of tomorrow do this in an efficient yet effective way?
The Solution: Going from ‘Insights’ to ‘Memes’
For people to take action on a consumer insight, they first need to learn what the insight is about. In traditional MR, only a limited group of people is involved in this knowledge exchange by e.g. participating in the debrief workshop or managing the research study themselves. This limited group is then able to shape an insight platform by adding own thoughts, observations and/or ideas. By involving a wider group of employees, one better understands the consumer and is able to make better consumer relevant decisions. Furthermore, the theory of open innovation teaches us that ‘the one golden idea’ can come from anywhere in the organization, not only marketing or innovation (Whelan, 2011). To increase the impact, all employees across the organization need to learn what the friction is in order to share related observations and ideas. For example, by experiencing how consumers are using their product today, employees see what can be improved. When such an insight is replicated by employees by adding own observations and ideas, it is shared with various people across the organization and it triggers action, the insight is called a ‘meme’ (Dawkins, 1989).
An illustration of such a meme is what we did at ATAG, a leading supplier of kitchen appliances. ATAG wanted to move away from a product-driven strategy and introduce a consumer-driven approach (‘cook-centered thinking’). In order to make this shift, they needed to create an internal belief for their new strategy. We invited 400 internal stakeholders to discover the consumer insights and experience themselves how strong the emotion ‘passion for cooking’ can be. The #welovecooks experience engaged over 170 employees, who contributed 125 observations, and resulted in 13 potential internal projects identified by the crowd. The new strategy was shared among employees and turned into the #welovecooks meme.
To turn an insight into a meme, insight professionals need to move away from the traditional research model and shift on 3 levels to establish the ‘Memefication of Insights’:
- From reporting to involving (#experience): While 92% of insight professionals believes their research generates insight worth sharing with colleagues, only 65% extensively shares them with their organization. Furthermore, only 1 in 5 researchers organizes interactive workshops to discuss results (Schillewaert et al, 2014). All too often, MR takes such an individualistic approach where executives need to identify their own actions when reading research reports. However, to trigger meaningful actions, insight professionals need to bring insights to life through interaction. Therefore, we have identified 4 building blocks when marketing insights; harvesting, seeding, activating and collaborating. Through ‘harvesting’, we collect insights from internal stakeholders which are already known. Secondly, ‘seeding’ enables insights managers to spread insights via key ambassadors in a relevant way through the organization. ‘Activating’ triggers stakeholders to not only discover but also interact with insights. Finally, ‘collaborating’ connects stakeholders to work together and turn insights into actions and new future projects. At Unilever R&D the combination of these building blocks lead to 640 involved employees of the 1000 invitees, which triggered more conversations about their consumers on the work floor, measured with an increase from 12% to 55%.
- From teams to the organization (#reach): In traditional MR, consumer stories and insights are often discovered and owned by the MR department. However, in order to trigger meaningful actions, the insight needs to be co-owned by all employees. First of all, we want extend the MR reach from executives to management to enable higher management to take long-term decisions with a consumer context in mind. Secondly, we involve the front-line employees, who are in almost daily contact with consumers, to shape their consumer feeling and ultimately improve their performance. Finally, involving all other employees that have a rather indirect relationship with the consumer creates a better understanding of the consumer context of the business, making them more motivated as an employee in general. The extension of MR reach calls for a layered approach, like we did for the Belgian bus company ‘De Lijn’ where involved their whole organization with consumer insights about their Gen Y passenger. We seeded the top 10 insights during an internal conference with 200 top managers, we organized a speed date for executives to meet their consumers and finally we activated all stakeholders to play the Gen Y passenger quiz to interact with the key insights.
- From projects to habit creation (#structural): For most employees, working with consumer insights is not a routine. If you wish to trigger meaningful actions and enable employees to turn the insight into a meme, it is of great importance that consumer relevant inspirations are integrated into their daily jobs. By identifying the employees’ motivations and behaviours, we can better trigger when and how to use consumer insights on a regular basis. If we learn to shift towards habits, we will be more successful in triggering meaningful actions and increase the impact of consumer insights on the business. For Unilever R&D, we immersed 1000 employees with their consumer in 6 weeks’ time through testing their consumer knowledge through mini-quizzes and organizing collaboration sessions to close their knowledge gaps. As a result of integrating these consumer insight routines, we not only improved their gut feeling but also shaped their ‘consumer feeling’ with a relative increase of 81% (De Ruyck et al, 2012).
Tom DeRuyck, Insites Consulting
With the pace of business ever increasing, Jo Keeling looks at how technology can increase insight agility.
If you asked a cross-section of market researchers how they justify or evaluate a given MR project, I’d guess it would be through the impact it had on a business decision. OK, say I hope that’s the outcome…..
This is likely progress versus say 5 years ago, when the response might have more straight-backed-task-oriented: was asked to do something, performed it well, client happy. So.
If impact is increasingly the name of the insights game, I wonder if we give the act (or process) of impact-creation enough thought – creating impact is often very difficult, and can be fraught with challenges.
Here’s my take on steps that Market Researchers can take to get more impact from their efforts.
- Work Backwards
Actionability is the key to MR impact; investing time in understanding what that means in more detail from the client-side perspective is worth at least a follow up phone call once you have your Insights Request Form signed off on. If there are multiple KPIs defined, prioritize. Suggest asking for input from all likely stakeholders on the research – at whatever phase is best. Try to find out who ultimately in Management will take a decision – has their POV been baked in at the design stage?
All the above requires energy – and the belief that the added input is worth it. This leads to the second point about understanding your customer needs.
- Roadmap your way to Partnership
Whether Clientside or Agency, there’s nothing more rewarding for Researchers than being treated as business partners (OK, I am biased…) – it’s something that has to be earned, often through performance, through relationship management, resulting in reputation, the key to trust.
This process happens whether we like it or not – but to an extent it can be shaped. Write a list of who you regard as key potential partners, map out a plan on how to heighten your involvement with their needs. Be your own marketing manager. Apologies for being brief here – I’m moving on in the interests of keeping this short.
- Offer targeted over-servicing
Not all customers are equal – a tricky if familiar sort of proposition, to be treated with highest discretion before you plot your own segmentation of A, B, C customers. Once you have a sense of who is responsive to what type of marketing, then up the ante on them – take care to set objectives, set a timeline, a budget, and then evaluate your ROI. Better than just relying on meta-insights on How Brands Grow….;)
Before you dismiss this one as totally obvious – believe me, it’s not as common as you might like to think.
- Provoke periodically and empirically.
Nobody likes insights that are insipid, simply reinforce current beliefs – however reassuring that may seem to the more risk-averse marketing managers.
Throwing the cat amongst the pigeons with provocative hypotheses is a technique to get your voice heard differently – looking for a pro-active role. It’s a delicate issue – framing is key to avoid upsetting apple carts… – so use phrases like “the insights from the study x in 2011 told us that” or “we know from Research amongst……(target group XYZ) that brand perceptions are…..” It’s all about building on existing knowledge, not about appearing like an opinionated know-all.
This may sound trite – but innovation is the lifeblood of every well differentiated service offering or brand. Seasoning your approach with new approaches doesn’t need to rock the boat – but it does show that you are keeping abreast of new developments, and are helping to keep the team on top of new thinking about a category.
- Embrace at least recency and frequency in your communication approach
The Direct Marketing professionals amongst you – hands up? – will be familiar with the traditional acronym of RFM: Recency, Frequency, Monetary value. Worth revisiting this for your sales and marcoms effort.
- Network like crazy.
Popularity is the goal here – and the pre-requisite is awareness. Be mentally available. Give yourself every chance of being thought of – play the availability heuristic to its full potential. Quality perceptions are likely to coincide with awareness levels (unknown? probably with good reason….) – at least that’s my hypothesis.
Well, there’s plenty more to be said on how to maximise insights impact – and the unspoken elephant in this blog piece is quality of thinking. Resonance and memorability comes from the quality of your thinking – so be as precise and acute as your time allows, and shape your desire to doing this for your most responsive customer base.
And if you’re lacking that particular piece of spark or imagination on a project – then go process, and think about some of the stuff above.. Impact can be planned for.
Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.
Edward Appleton is Senior Clientside Market Research Manager.
As the strategic needs of your brand expand, one of the first areas that begin to feel a bit small is the scope of your brand research. When your brand research is no longer influencing your brand strategy and/or not reflecting the brand’s evolution, it is time for a more in-depth brand tracking tool.
The essence of this tool is rooted in connecting multiple layers of brand information at the respondent level:
1. Consumer Reported Positioning (What do consumers think of you)
2. Consumer Engagement (How do consumers interact with you)
3. Consumer Purchasing Data (How and to what extent are consumers using you)
In the end we are going to be connecting your brand experience to the brand perceptions, and then to the sales data. This helps us answer:
1. How much is a point of satisfaction worth?
2. Where else are your best customers shopping?
3. How much do they like your competitors? Why?
4. Does your brand need to build different levels of trust to convert within your different product categories?
5. Where in the engagement process do consumers start to commit to your brand with their purchases?
For now, we will assume that you have or can gain access to the transaction data.
Clearly areas one and two are not conceptually new, but in order for them to work well together they need to be laid out very purposefully so that result works well with the transaction data that will be layered on at the end.
Consumer Reported Positioning
The consumer reported positioning is made up of many of the same metrics that we find in most brand satisfaction studies. Though to keep the questions effective we have to be a bit more efficient and restrained in the design phase. The questions included should fit into one and only one of three buckets:
A. Brand Experiences
B. Brand Perceptions
C. Success Metrics
Brand Experiences define what the respondent did or did not do while interacting with you or one of your competitors. These are questions that help determine how prevalent a certain activity is when using your brand. They have the side-effect of working well within skip-logic too so you are able to determine if the respondent is eligible for different questions within your survey.
For example, did they try asking an associate for help while shopping? Did customers check competitor prices while shopping your store?
These questions can balloon quickly so it’s critical that each experience question has a purpose. Why will that particular experience impact the brand – or if not the brand directly, the analysis?
An experience question will usually only impact the brand directly when we need to understand how often a certain activity is taking place. One example that we all hear a lot about is checking prices on Amazon before completing an in-store purchase.
Brand perceptions are the questions that determine how and what consumers think about you vs. your competition. This is where we’ll find the ‘Brand is right for me’, ‘Knowledgeable staff’, and ‘Thought leader in the industry’ attributes.
The trick here is to make sure that the perceptions you choose to include are supported by the experiences that you are asking about. Let’s take ‘Has a knowledgeable staff’ as an example. There is an argument to make as to whether respondents should be asked the question if they have not interacted with a staff member but regardless, for a clear analysis we need to know how many and which respondents actually asked your staff a question.
If the perception that your staff is knowledgeable is lower than the competition, it is going to be necessary to determine if this is stemming directly from interactions with the staff or is a halo effect from something else.
The brand experiences and brand perceptions are meant to complement each other so that every experience is impacting an intended perception and each perception is supported by at least one experience. There are usually more experience questions than perceptions and it often makes sense for one perception to be supported by multiple brand experiences.
The success metrics are pretty straight forward. This is where we will add Overall satisfaction, Likelihood to recommend, etc. However, one that is all too often missing is the brand mission statement. Satisfaction, recommendation, and likelihood to use again are obviously important but this is the place where you can see how you are delivering on whatever mission your brand has tasked itself to accomplish.
When this part of the design is completed you should have success metrics that articulate how often you are winning the hearts and/or minds of your customers (success metrics), supported by what they think of you (brand perceptions), further supported by why they think of you that way (brand experiences). For the sake of explanation these question categories are grouped together but this is not meant to imply that these questions should be asked consecutively in your survey. Best practices regarding survey flow should be applied.
This one portion of the tool can take quite a bit of discussion but it is just one piece of the puzzle.
Consumer engagement can be measured in all sorts of ways; each with strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. At this point we believe the best way to understand if and how consumers feel connected to a brand is through the brand funnel. The point of the funnel in this instance is not a path to purchase but a measurement of advantage or disadvantage in the marketplace.
Different industries can influence the ideal set-up but for the sake of illustration, we’ll keep the funnel relatively basic.
It is nearly always appropriate to have both unaided and aided awareness included in the survey. These responses need to not just be tallied but coded so that they can be reincorporated into the data set at the respondent level. Unaided awareness is an exceedingly more valuable equity than aided awareness; knowing how these people ended up with your brand as their top-of-mind is going to impact strategy.
Familiarity / Consideration
Either but ideally both of these funnel metrics could have levels to indicate low vs. high familiarity or consideration. These levels will represent the devilish details that can really bring light to your findings.
That said, as a whole this section level of the funnel can be harder to deal with than most people give it credit for:
1. Are people familiar with the brand because they considered it?
2. Did people consider the brand because they were familiar?
This is where we have to invoke our initial disclaimer at the start of this section. The funnel is not purposed to be a path to purchase for the individual. Besides, the critical interaction has very little to do with time-traveling; all that matters is how many people that are familiar, decide NOT to consider. Understanding that ratio for your brand vs. the competition is a great foundation for understanding the broader marketplace.
Understanding why they did not consider matters too but that will be covered as you bring section 1 into your analysis.
Note that in the illustration below, consideration and purchase are labeled in the past tense. This is intentional since we like to separate our purchase funnel from our loyalty funnel (different topic). For our immediate purpose, we want to keep the funnel focused on past behavior instead of intent of future actions.
That is to say, we know and appreciate a brand funnel that ends with loyalty. We suggest that it be included in this tool and in the analysis but for this exercise we are focusing on only the areas of the funnel that reflect past behavior.
If you do not have access to the transactional data in any way, simply covering these first two sections in a single study will allow for a solid brand study that connects perceptions with engagement. More importantly you will see some cause and effect as you measure the impact of your evolving marketing efforts. Understanding how and when you are impacting reach, perception, and engagement is very powerful especially when you can see how your competition is affected.
Consumer Purchasing Data
Tying your respondents to your transactional data offers substantial power to what we have already laid out. Specifically, this is where we connect brand perceptions and engagement with dollars and action. Remember our brand experience question about interacting with the staff – this is where we see how much more is a positive staff interaction is worth.
The sampling methodology is the critical first step to making this work. If you just try and field your research among your in-house panel, or send out a link among your loyalty members, you will be skewing the information. For one, brand research should be blind – respondents should not know who is asking them to take the survey before the rate the brands. Second, but maybe less clear, is that the people on your in-house list are going to be demographically dispersed in a way that differs from a census based distribution provided by your panel company.
This means that you have to make the effort to match your outside respondents with their transaction information. A loyalty program number is a really nice way to do that since it avoids issues with collecting contact information from panel company respondents.
Once the matching is complete and transactions have been merged with your survey data, the limitation on the analysis is equal only to the limitation on your sample. In our experience match rates can vary between 40-70%.
Taking It One Step Further
Continuous fielding is not required but is a strong preference. The ability to capture unduplicated respondents throughout the year ensures that your measurements reflect the brand and account seasonal skews or short-term campaigns. This is especially true for competitors when you may not have real-time visibility into what campaigns are being run.
Internally, consider dashboards for your Key Performance Indicators. All researchers cringe a bit when data goes out without full analysis but for your funnel metrics, satisfaction scores, and other core measures; keeping these numbers up-to-date expands the useful life of your results beyond just 1 or 2 times a year. Due to sample, we like keeping these to Monthly or Quarterly updates.
That said, very often a basic study does the job very well and is more often under-analysed than under-performing.
James Rohde is Research Supervisor at MARC USA