Tag Archives: Research

Ignoring 9 Out Of 10

I realize I’ve spent the first couple of posts this week on the topic of companies being less than responsive to customers. I was chatting about this with someone yesterday and they asked me if I really thought the two cases I cited were the norm.  After all, he said, how can companies really expect this kind of behavior to remain quiet when every person is a publisher?

Sprout Social

Sprout Social

Precisely my point, but since when does common sense prevail?  In fact, companies are getting worse at being responsive.  Maybe it’s just the increase in volume, maybe it’s the ease with which customers can reach out, but the common sense solution of staffing up and training to handle the increased load is nowhere to be found.  Since we believe in fact-based statements here, these facts are from Sprout Social:

90% of people surveyed have used social in some way to communicate directly with a brand. What’s more, social surpasses phone and email as the first place most people turn when they have a problem or issue with a product or service, according to Sprout’s consumer survey. Following this trend, The Sprout Index shows that the number of social messages needing a response from a brand has increased by 18%over the past year. In spite of the high volume of messages that require a response, brands reply to just 11% of people (a number that’s been stuck in neutral since 2015).

11%, meaning brands are ignoring 89% of the messages sent to them as consumers reach out. I guess they’re too busy misusing social media and other responsive channels as megaphones (so 1995) since the research found that brands send promotional messages out 23 times as often as they respond to a customer message. It’s not just social that requires our attention.  August 2015 research from Nice Systems and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that internet users in major metro areas worldwide used an average of 5.6 customer service channels.

I can hear you rubbing your temples as the headache comes on.  How will you support your customers in those places when you might be ignoring 9 out of 10 customer interactions now?  Beats me, but the question needs to be answered, and the organizations that do so will be the ones that win.  Make sense?


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Filed under Consulting, Huh?

Ends And Means

The cynics among you believe that as a brand or as a company behavior matters far less than a low price and a quality product. If you provide a great service or a good product and price it as low as possible, consumers will buy. It doesn’t matter if you pollute the air or pay lousy wages. Consumers just want to know what’s in it for them. The good news, from my perspective, is that you are wrong. Here is the evidence to back it up.

The Havas folks did a study to understand how corporate social responsibility has evolved over the past decade. They looked at how are companies responding to consumer pressures to work toward the common good and what those consumers now expect from their brand partners. Most importantly, the studied how critical these expectations are to their purchase decisions.

As it turns out, consumers are extremely interested in this. Half of mainstream consumers and two-thirds of Prosumers (a term coined by futurist Alvin Toffler – a consumer who produces and consumes media – and who doesn’t?) avoid buying from businesses deemed to have a negative social or environmental impact. As the study states: “People still want bargains, of course, but it’s even more essential that products and services offer some sort of enduring value.”

Some other points from the study:

  • When we asked respondents how important it is for a company’s CEO to do certain things, paying workers a fair wage and providing a pleasant work environment received higher scores than earning profits or even being environmentally conscious.
  • People aren’t looking for businesses to act as quasi-governments. On the contrary, around two-thirds of our global sample actually fear the power big corporations already wield. What they want to see are all the world’s players—governments, corporations, NGOs, citizens—working together to tackle problems that no single entity can solve alone.
  • Two-thirds of our global sample agreed that businesses actually bear as much responsibility as governments for driving positive social change, and 62 percent said they’d like their favorite brands to play a bigger role in solving social problems.

The point is that if you believe that your brand or company can let the ends – revenues and profits – justify any means, you’re sadly mistaken.  The study shows that companies that do good are more likely to do well.  Isn’t that the end we’re all after?

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Filed under Helpful Hints

The Right Question

We’re filling out a survey from our homeowner’s insurance company. I guess they want to make sure that we’ve got ample coverage in case a party gets out of hand and we need to rebuild Rancho Deluxe. One of the questions reads as follows: 

Percentage of the interior walls that are plaster

Hmm. Would that be the percentage based on the number of walls, the percentage plaster represents of square wall footage, or something else? After all, in a rectangular room, if one long wall is plaster, then the right answer may be 25% or it may be 40%. How accurate does this response need to be?

There’s actually an excellent business point contained in that silliness. It’s not enough to ask the right questions. We also need to ask them in the right way so we get the expected, actionable data. In the example above, while my answer isn’t a huge data set, when aggregated into the other data the company is pulling together, the sampling error will be larger than it needs to be since half the respondents can respond using one way to look at the question and half the other.

Obviously, it’s not just a lack of clarity that can affect the outcome and usefulness of your research.  Asking leading questions which are almost certain to elicit a particular response is bad as well (do you do XYZ every day?).  So can asking open-ended questions since there is no guarantee that anyone will focus on the specific area you’re researching.  Then there are the folks who overlap responses (how old are you – 18-21, 21-30 – how does a 21-year-old respond?).  Or ask loaded questions (how long ago did you stop beating your spouse?).

Asking questions is really important but asking badly structured questions is a waste of time. Clear?

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Filed under Consulting, Huh?

CMO – uh oh…

I find research interesting. Maybe it’s my basic, curious nature or maybe I’m just nosy, but I enjoy reading studies of how businesses and consumers behave. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised. More often than not, I’m a little shocked. Today is one of those times. The folks at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business have been conducting a survey of top U.S. marketers since 2008. You can read the latest CMO Study here. They released this year’s data and I found one section – the one on marketing analytics – particularly interesting. Let’s see what you think.

There are the headlines, as summed up in this analysis:

Just 31% of projects use available or requested marketing analytics, well within the 29-37% range seen over the past 3-and-a-half years, according to US CMOs responding to the latest edition of The CMO Survey. B2C product companies appear to be leading the pack in usage of marketing analytics, however, at twice the rate of their B2B product counterparts (45.6% vs. 22.8%). B2B product companies also give the highest rating to marketing analytics’ contributions to their firms’ performance. Overall, marketing analytics are most apt to be used for customer acquisition, customer retention, social media and segmentation, per the report.

Frankly, I’m not surprised but I am a little disappointed.  Two-thirds of the marketing work is still seat of the pants, basically, and it’s even worse when you’re marketing to other businesses.  I can sort of understand this last point – it’s hard to tell when a website or social visitor is a business target or just a random consumer that’s wandered on to your digital presence.  You B2C marketers, however, have no excuse.

What it really means is that companies lack quantitative metrics to demonstrate the impact of marketing spending.  That is a recipe for budget suicide.  It’s not just that they’re generally not using analytics.  The survey also asked about what data is being used.  Only 15% of firms able to prove the impact of social media quantitatively and four metrics dominate how companies show social media impact:  likes, general traffic, click-through rates, and hits/visits/page views.  In other words, the really broad, pretty useless measures.  I spend quite a bit of time with clients trying to get beyond those measures into data than can translate into actionable business decisions.  These generally can’t.

Any of us engaged in marketing need to become comfortable with analytics of all sorts.  They’re what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Fail to eat them and you’ll starve.  Are you coming to the table?

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Filed under Consulting, Huh?

Brand Actions And Words

I’ve mentioned in this space before that brands have a lot less – if any – control over how they are perceived by consumers due to the rise of connectivity among those very same consumers.  That contention is supported by some research from The Society For New Communications Research which conducted a study on the topic of Social Media and Societal Good.  Main conclusion?

The reputation of a company is no longer defined by what they “report” or what they “say” they stand for. Instead, they are increasingly defined by the shared opinions and experiences of socially-connected consumers.

You can read the study here.  It’s interesting although not particularly surprising.  While the vast majority of people still rank the quality of products and services are the most important reason behind how they form impressions about a brand, some other traditional factors are ranked way down the list in importance.  Only 43% say that a company’s ads are either mildly or very important in forming impressions while  76% cite family and friends that way.  While many brands are obsessive about their social media presence, only 28% of consumers use that to form impressions.  Interestingly, since 78% mention the customer care program as important, perhaps the social media emphasis needs to be more about caring and less about sharing.

So while word of mouth matters, so too does how a company behaves in the world as a whole.  We don’t yet seem to be at a place where consumers research a company’s social and societal impact before doing business.  However, when a company’s behavior comes to their attention – maybe through a news story, maybe through a friend – news of the negative societal impact of a company has impact and more so with women than with men:

When quality and price are largely equal in a purchase decision, nearly three in five people report a moderate to strong positive impact on likelihood to purchase when they discover information on the positive societal impact of a company. 61% report a moderate to strong negative impact on likelihood to purchase when hearing news on the negative societal impact of a company.

So let’s behave, people.  We are what we do, not what we say we are or will do.  Our customers are paying attention.  Are you?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks

Don’t Leave Home

One of the classic ad lines is”don’t leave home without it” which David Ogilvy penned for American Express 40 years ago.  I asked myself how the line would have been written today as I read a study from Accenture on shopping and retailing.  It’s called From Retail to “Me-tail” and you can read it here if you are interested in their take.   These points really caught my attention:

• Stores as we know them will no longer be relevant—many shoppers will never even visit one
• Consumers will be able to shop seamlessly across multiple channels—and expect to find relevant content on all of them
• “Fast fashion” will be the de facto industry standard—with dramatic consequences for store inventory levels
Supply chains will be optimized across the full product lifecycle—right through to disposal
• Consumers themselves will help form the communities of talent required to service a vast diversity of new and constantly shifting demands

That first point has profound implications.  What will take the place of retail outlet?  I can’t see Main Street populated by warehouses or shipping centers.  The truth is that as my family’s shopping habits have shifted to online, we leave the house far less often to hit the stores other than the supermarket.  Ogilvy’s classic line works less well when consumers don’t leave home at all, at least not to shop.

What can retailers do? I like one site’s take on the study:

Ensuring consumers are comfortable and confident wherever they make purchases is critical for brands as they bridge their online and offline experiences. The comfort of brick and mortar stores can easily be replicated online with the right tools and tactics. And, brick and mortar will continue to become more like online via their use of analytics and in-store digital tools that enhance the customer experience. Once these types of strategies are in place, customer satisfaction will improve along with the retailer’s bottom line.

That makes sense to me.  You?


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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud

I Need To Know

I was reading about a study done by the Nielsen folks which measured how people are influenced by different sources of information.

Tom Petty

Since it’s Tuesday and we usually turn it into TunesDay, the song that popped into my head is Tom Petty‘s “I Need To Know.” OK, maybe not my best musical connection to a business point ever, but I think you’ll see why I chose it.

The Nielsen/inPowered MediaLab study measured the impact of product reviews by users, experts and brands to understand if one form provided a higher impact with consumers than another.  You can read about the study here.  The results show that expert content— credible, third-party articles and reviews—is the most effective source of information in impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process across product categories. Frankly, the results gave me hope.  After all, many of the marketing tactics I see suggested by some of my less scrupulous peers seem not to have the sort of impact their advocates would suggest.  Advertising disguised as content, fake reviews, or even “unbiased” product information on the company website seem to have been sussed out and dismissed by consumers if one believes the data.  I particularly liked this:

The perceived partiality of the source was especially critical in setting expert content and branded content apart. The third-party element was important to consumers: 50% indicated that they wouldn’t trust a product’s branded website for an unbiased assessment of a product, and 61% were less likely to trust product reviews paid for by the company selling the product. Expert content can provide an unbiased and honest assessment of a product, particularly important during the final stage of purchase consideration.

There are cases such as with video game reviews where user comments and reviews are perceived highly.  Obviously someone who has played the game has the low-level of expertise needed to be reliable and trustworthy.  As the report I read states:

The report concludes by noting that, overall, the research suggests that there is a higher degree of trust from consumers when they are reading content from credible, third-party experts. This trust is demonstrated by the higher lift scores with regard to product familiarity, affinity and purchase intent and its perception of being highly informative and unbiased.

So what the song says is appropriate because consumers do need to know and do a lot of research to find out:

I need to know, I need to know
Cause I don’t know how long I can hold on
If you’re making me wait, if you’re leadin’ me on
I need to know

Even if the above refers to a romantic relationship and not to a purchase.  Then again, isn’t that sort of what a product purchase is?

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Filed under Music, Reality checks