Tom Webster, writing and speaking

Filtering by Category: Quantitative Research

Internet Radio Goes Mainstream - A New Infographic

Added on by Tom Webster.

At the day job, we've been super busy prepping a major new study on Internet radio usage on behalf of our clients Pandora, Spotify, and TuneIn. We will be releasing all kinds of new data points over the next few weeks, but as we've just wrapped up presenting the data at Advertising Week in NYC, I couldn't wait to post this infographic our crack team whipped up summarizing some of the results.

The big takeaway--Internet radio is now consumed by the majority of online Americans. Yes, it seems like we all use these services, but this is the first time in history that we have been able to state that Internet radio listening is truly mainstream behavior.

Here's a look at the new mainstream: 


The Pinterest API: Who Needs It?

Added on by Tom Webster.

Pinterest badge redOn this week's Beancast, I joined Bob Knorpp and a lively panel to discuss, among other things, the long-awaited API for Pinterest. Now, I'm not a developer, so at first blush a Pinterest API is not something for which I have great need. From that perspective, I don't really care whether or not Pinterest exposes its data to developers. An API doesn't solve a consumer need--it solves a business problem that Pinterest might not actually even have. Consider the following: When Twitter opened up its API, they were a blip on the radar, and it took them 3-4 years to really build actual, mainstream critical mass. They needed developers. Pinterest? Not so much. Pinterest vaulted in months to having the kind of numbers it took Twitter years to build. Pinterest addressed a mainstream consumer desire, and they built a significant mainstream consumer audience with a much steeper growth curve than that observed for either Twitter or Facebook.

According to the last Social Habit research study, Pinterest is the #3 social platform for women 18-44 (behind only Facebook and Twitter) and recent research from Netbase and Edison shows that Pinterest is also one of the most influential platforms for women who purchase fashion brands. In other words, whether a Pinterest API exists or not, people are using the service, and in numbers that cannot be ignored.

So who needs a Pinterest API? Brands, certainly, who have to rely on some cumbersome manual scraping processes to get the kind of data they want. And, the fact that they are engaging in those cumbersome processes is a pretty clear signal that Pinterest has something they strongly desire--consumer preference data. And that's some pretty incredible data. Think about the possibilities for market basket analysis research alone--people who pin this also pin that. That's the kind of data that skilled analysts and researchers can turn into segmentation gold. And maybe that is the treasure that Pinterest is wisely hoarding.

So, given that, yeah--I could use a Pinterest API after all. And if Pinterest is smart, they'll charge me up the wazoo excessively for it.

Scarcity creates value. And it might just be that Pinterest is enhancing their value by keeping their data close to the vest. As long as there is no Pinterest API, Pinterest retains a variety of monetization options (including advertising). But if they open up an API--and their data--to third parties, they might just cut off some of those options, and that might end up adversely affecting the platform.

What say you? Does Pinterest "need" an API? And for brands that desire the data it would provide--what would that data be worth to you?

If I Were A Carpenter: Marketing, Research, and the DIY Culture

Added on by Tom Webster.

Ramshackle on Rainey Street Market Researchers are really taking it on the chin lately. Just today, I read two posts--one claiming that surveying customers in social media was bad advice, and the other that "pathetic 'market researchers'" endorsed an idiotic automobile industry messaging strategy--that could have gotten my dander up. But they didn't.

I'm not really going to argue with either of these. Certainly in the latter example (from Ad Contrarian), yeah--there was probably (at best) a little post-campaign revisionist history going on, if not something more sinister. Here is what is demonstrably true: the market research industry is in sore need of some innovation. Here is what is also true (and a casual glance at the agenda for any MR conference over the past two years will tell you): we know that, and we're moving. There are enough smoke signs in the form of articles like Bob Hoffman's to convince even the most die-hard industry apologists that there's a fire somewhere.

Here is what hasn't changed: the voice of the consumer is a vital input to your business. Here's what has: the ways in which those voices can be heard. And just as consumers' outlets for feedback have multiplied, so too have the tools to monitor, measure and analyze that feedback.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling flippant, I'll ask proponents of DIY market research if they would get an appendectomy through "Surgery Monkey." A tool is a tool, however, and DIY market research tools can be immensely valuable. The hard reality is, in the words of my friend Jay Baer, it's the wizard, not the wand.

Of course, market research isn't surgery--but it's a lot like home improvement. The home improvement industry boom led to a lot of DIY and weekend carpentry projects. Many of them are pretty good. Others are average. Still more look a little like the house above. Imagine driving by that house --or any of these fine examples of handiwork-and commenting that carpentry was dead, or broken. That's obviously not the case, is it? Carpentry is just fine. The tools are probably just fine. The carpenter, however, had some issues.

So, when the author of the Ragan piece I linked to above states that he got crappy answers when he asked his customers if they would pay "x" for his content, should you pile on "carpentry?" Or belittle the carpenter? The answer, again, lies within the model established by the home improvement industry--neither is correct. Stores like Lowe's and Home Depot obviously aren't going to denigrate carpentry, and they wouldn't be in business long if they took their "weekend carpentry warrior" client base to task for poor work.

In this case, I think the best response for the professional market researcher is to commiserate and offer advice. You know, pricing research is really, really tricky. In fact, it's one of the most difficult things to research well, and there are lots of econometric models and tools like conjoint analysis that researchers use to try and crack that nut. Often, the question "how much would you be willing to pay for that" is not asked because we care about or use the answer, it's asked to establish a mental framework to ask better questions with more elaborate techniques. It's the start, not the end. To make a home improvement analogy, pricing research is a lot like electrical or plumbing repairs. You could do it yourself. Most people ask for help. And market researchers can either offer that help, or they can insist that only a professional should do the job.

I think the right answer is probably the former, with a healthy caveat about the difficulty of the job and the value we could provide as "contractors." Do I think that pricing research should be left to professionals? Yeah--but that isn't going to stop weekend research warriors from trying it anyway. So I can at least offer a constructive consultation, or some useful content. Again, to quote my very wise compadre Jay Baer, teaching you the recipe doesn't make you a chef [/metaphormixing].

But the other thing at play here is just how much the Market Research business could use some PR. Do stories like the one Ad Contrarian cited happen? Sure. Was the market research agency in charge of the strategy? I HIGHLY doubt it. If you are going to blame market research when a poor marketing decision is made, should we not also praise it when marketing goes right? And just as we extol those leaders whose "golden gut" and vision seemingly obviate the need for market research, should we not also vilify the leaders who ignored market research--and shouldn't have?

As I've written about here before, there are thousands of research-informed decisions that happen every day, shepherded by diligent and careful marketers, that have positive results. We don't hear about these, because they make boring stories.

The more ways we can find to tell those stories, the more value we will create as partners, and not adversaries, to DIY researchers. Or, we can keep letting ads like the one below define what we do. The tools are in our hands.

They Just Don't Get It--Or Do They?

Added on by Tom Webster.

Number of High Net Worth Individuals, 2011 v4I just saw some reporting on a recent study that decried the 'low' percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs who use Twitter and other social platforms. In response, I offer the following questions: A. Why would they use Twitter?

B. Why do you use Twitter?

Compare the answers to A and B.

Are they the same answer? Are they different?

Is Twitter the best tool--or even a good tool--to achieve that "why" if you are a CEO?

Or for you?

The rise in Twitter usage is not inexorable. And it isn't the CEO's job to "get" Twitter, or any other ephemeral tool.

By the way, the headline on this article says that "68% of CEOs have ‘no presence’ on any social media." Yes, this is well below the percentage of Americans who have 'no presence' on social, which is about 40%.

The average American doesn't have their tweets and status updates scrutinized by the SEC, isn't responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs, and doesn't spend more in legal fees than they do on cheeseburgers.

My takeaway from this study? Fortune 500 CEO's aren't average people.

But you knew that.

The Three Kinds of Research

Added on by Tom Webster.

Coastal windmills, Leysdown-on-sea (Warden, Minster) This week is a fun, busy, and altogether typical week for me at my day job (Edison Research.) I'll touch 5-7 projects in one form or another, analyze some data, write a couple of reports, and tinker with a few client presentations. I'll even find the time to write a blog post (regardez!) and polish up my talk for Content Marketing World. It struck me this morning that although the tools, techniques, and methodologies we employ on behalf of our clients are legion, there are really only three types of research. No, I'm not talking about Qualitative, Quantitative, and Cringeworthy (for those of you who have seen that talk); rather, I see three different objectives--reasons for doing any kind of study in the first place.

Since I'll touch all three kinds of project this week, I thought you might enjoy this simple and practical way to think about the types of research you could do for your brand or your clients. So here they are, in no particular order:

1. What Happened?

Sometimes we are engaged to figure out what went wrong, and how to fix it. These types of projects are always intriguing, because they present puzzles for us to solve, and the solution to those puzzles often results in happy clients and potentially happier consumers. This kind of project is sometimes how we engage with new clients, and successfully solving their problems often leads to the other two kinds of research, below.

I'm working on one such project now, with a new client that has seen a pretty severe drop in their market share over a fairly short period. In most cases, the client has some idea what caused the "fire," but in this case, there seemed to be no easy answer prior to our engagement. Which makes the answer difficult--my favorite.

While clients sometimes come to these projects under duress, the results can often be transformative. Some fires can be fought with a little water, while others might require a little more engineering. The key, as always, is to use the information from "What Happened?" projects to pivot from reactive to proactive behavior. After all, it isn't enough just to get back to where you were if the market is moving without you. The best of these kinds of projects not only puts out the fire, it also lights one under your competitors.

2. What's Happening?

These kinds of projects are really the bread and butter of a research company--comparative, quantitative research. These are the regular check-ups, the preventative maintenance that all brands and companies need to engage in regularly in order to obviate the need for the first type of research, above.

Comparative research projects are measurement exercises--how many are there, how are we doing against the other guy, and are we growing or not. They can range from simple customer or employee satisfaction surveys to the largest single-day comparative research project in the world: the National Exit Poll, which we've been privileged to conduct for the last ten years and counting.

This week, I'm looking at a significant study of the existing Internet Radio landscape--if you listen to online radio, you'll know the names--and this is doubly exciting as we'll get to share the results publicly soon. One of the real thrills for the consumer researcher is to be able to introduce new facts--things unknown, until we ask them--and often "What's Happening" kinds of projects introduce just that, like our recent collaboration with Netbase on how social media impacts fashion shopping behavior.

3. What Could Happen?

Exploratory research is one of my favorite professional activities--where we turn our attention less towards an individual brand or product, and focus instead on consumer behavior, motivation, and ultimately what the unmet needs of the consumer are. If you've ever read the great book Blue Ocean Strategy, this is "blue ocean research."

Working with clients to determine new areas of opportunity, new markets, and even to collaborate on new products is absolutely one of the joys of my profession. If you think market research projects are "look-backwards" exercises, well, you just haven't been exposed enough to the insights that professional exploratory (particularly qualitative) research can offer. Nike+, for example, was a product that was driven by exploratory research into how people used iPods, and took Nike into an entirely new product line (and jump started an entire category, for that matter.)

I'm fortunate this week to be working with a great client who came to us with an idea, and we are working with them to translate that idea into a product with a variety of consumer insights. Helping them realize their vision of "what could happen" is more than "work," it's a passion.

So there you have it--the three types of research you could do (nay, must do) to conquer markets, vanquish competitors, and delight customers profitably. In the words of Alec Baldwin, from Glengarry Glen Ross, "go and do likewise."