Apr 302014
Suz Allen NewMR April Lecture - Thumbnail

I have just finished listening to a great presentation by Suz Allen (R&D Director Sensory & Consumer Science Asia Pacific & International, Campbell Arnott’s) talking about how suppliers and clients can work together better (you can access the recording and slides here).

Whilst I found the presentation useful, informative, and entertaining, I was amazed at how low the bar seems to be. I think it is distressing that agencies are making such basic mistakes.

Here are some of the recommendations that Suz made:

  • “No Surprises! Never!”
  • For presentations, arrive early, ask (in advance) if you can have early access to the room to set-up, have spare cables, connectors, clicker, etc (we should not need to be reminded of this!)
  • Match your staff to the client, some people work better together than others, this is a people business.
  • Call your client, 1, 3, or even more months after a project to ask how it is going.
  • The agency should seek to make the client look good, their “butt is on the line” when they hire us.
  • Value and reward good clients, for example sharing ideas, papers, leads, and recommendations with them.

Suz Allen’s presentation has lots more tips on best practice, advice about how to get the client’s attention, and advice on some things not to do. You can access the presentation and slides of Suz’s presentation by clicking here.

What are your thoughts? If you are client-side (or have been client-side in the past), how do these points compare with your experience?

Apr 212014
Path into salt

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” is one of the most commonly quoted comments about advertising, being variously attributed to John Wanamaker and William Lever. Perhaps as a consequence, one of the key uses of market research is to test, monitor, and track advertising. However, it might well be that half of the money spent on testing and tracking advertising is also wasted.

How does advertising work?
In the distant past we used to think advertising worked along the lines of the AIDA model, it helped create Awareness/Attention, Interest, Desire, and Activation. However, more recent research, including behavioural science, econometrics, and media mix modelling, have shown that the picture is much more complex.

One of the best studies of how advertising works is one carried out for the IPA by Les Binet and Peter Field, which produced the report “The Long and the Short of It”.

Short Term and Long Term?
One of the key findings in the work by Binet and Field is that short-term success is not a good or reliable indicator of long-term success. Rational measures, such as standout and attention are quite good at predicting short-term effects (such as whether people will try something, click on it, etc). However, these measures are not good predictors of long-term success.

What is long-term success? Perhaps the best way of encapsulating long-term success is to say that it reduces price elasticity. If we become more attached to a product or service we keep buying it, even if the price goes up, i.e. we are less price elastic, i.e. it is directly related to the ability to make more net profit, not just to the ability to move the volume of sales.

If the short term is so bad at predicting the long term, why do we focus on measuring short-term predictors?
In my opinion, the key reason for focusing on short-term predictors is that we can measure them, and they tend to correlate well with short term results – and in today’s short-term world an immediate correlation is quite reassuring.

The problem with long-term measures is that there is no clearly established research technique that predicts the long-term effects of advertising, although many agencies are working hard to find solutions. There is a feeling that focusing on emotional messaging might be capable of being predictive of long-term results, but the jury is out at the moment.

Watch the video
You can hear Les Binet and Peter Field talk about their findings in the video below.



Apr 132014
Shibyu At Night

OK, let’s get one thing clear from the outset; I am not saying social media mining and monitoring (the collection and automated analysis of quantitative amounts of naturally occurring text from social media) has met with no success. But, I am saying that in market research the success has been limited.

In this post I will highlight a couple of examples of success, but I will then illustrate why, IMHO, it has not had the scale of success in market research that many people had predicted, and finally share a few thoughts on where the quantitative use of social media mining and monitoring might go next.

Some successes
There have been some successes and a couple of examples are:

Assessing campaign or message break through. Measuring social media can be a great way to see if anybody is talking about a campaign or not, and of checking whether they are talking about the salient elements. However, because of some of the measurement challenges (more on these below) the measurement often ends up producing a three level result, a) very few mentions, b) plenty of mentions, c) masses of mentions. In terms of content the measures tend to be X mentions on target, or Y% of the relevant mentions were on target – which in most cases are informative, but do not produce a set of measures that have any absolute utility and usually can be tightly aligned with ROI.

An example of this use came with the launch of the iPhone 4 in 2010. Listening to SM made it clear that people had detected that the phone did not work well for some people when held in their left hand, that Apple’s message (which came across as) ‘you should be right handed’ was not going down well, and that something needed to be done. The listening could not put a figure on how many users were unhappy, nor even if users were less or more angry than non-users, but it did make it clear that something had to be done.

Identifying language, ideas, topics. By adding humans to the interpretation, many organisations have been able to identify new product ideas (the Nivea story of how it used social media listening to help create Nivea Invisible for Black and White is a great example). Other researchers, such as Annie Pettit, have shown how they have combined social media research with conventional research, to help answer problems.

Outside of market research. Other users of social media listening, such as PR and reaction marketers appear to have had great results with social media, including social media listening. One of the key reasons for that is that their focus/mission is different. PR, marketing, and sales do not need to map or understand the space, they need to find opportunities. They do not need to find all the opportunities, they do not even need to find the best opportunities, they just need to find a good supply of good opportunities. This is why the use of social media appears to be growing outside of market research, but also why its use appears to be in relative decline inside market research.

The limitations of social media monitoring and listening
The strength of social media monitoring and listening is that it can answer questions you had not asked, perhaps had not even thought of. Its weakness is that it can’t answer most of the questions that market researchers’ clients ask.

The key problems are:

  • Most people do not comment in social media, most of the comments in social media are not about our clients’ brands and services, and the comments do not typically cover the whole range of experiences (they tend to focus on the good and the bad). This leaves great holes in the information gathered.
  • It is very hard to attribute the comments to specific groups, for example to countries, regions, to users versus non-users – not to mention little things like age and gender.
  • The dynamic nature of social media means that it is very hard to compare two campaigns or activities, for example this year versus last year. The number of people using social media is changing, how they are using it is changing, and the phenomenal growth in the use of social media by marketers, PR, sales, etc is changing the balance of conversations. Without consistency, the accuracy of social media measurements is limited.
  • Most automated sentiment analysis is considered by insight clients and market researchers to either be poor or useless. This means good social media usage requires people, which tends to make it more expensive and slower, often prohibitively expensive and often too slow.
  • Social media deals with the world as it is, brands can’t use it to test ads, to test new products and services, or almost any future plan.

The future?
Social media monitoring and listening is not going to go away. Every brand should be listening to what its customers and in many cases the wider public are saying about its brands, services, and overall image. This is in addition to any conventional market research it needs to do; this aspect of social media is not a replacement for anything, it is a necessary extra.

Social media has spawned a range of new research techniques that are changing MR, such as insight communities, smartphone ethnography, social media bots, and netnography. One area of current growth is the creation of 360 degree views by linking panel and/or community members to their transactional data, passive data (e.g. from their PC and mobile device), and social media data. Combined with the ability of communities and panels to ask questions (qual and quant) this may create something much more useful that just observational data.

I expect more innovations in the future. In particular I expect to see more conversations in social media initiated by market researchers, probably utilising bots. For example, programming a bot to look out for people using words that indicate they have just bought a new smartphone and asking them to describe how they bought it, what else they considered etc – either in SM or via asking them to continue the chat privately. There are a growing number of rumours that some of the major clients are about to adopt a hybrid approach, combining nano-surveys, social media listening, integrated data, and predictive analytics, and this could be really interesting, especial in the area of tracking (e.g. brand, advertising, and customer satisfaction/experience).

I also expect two BIG technical changes that will really set the cat amongst the pigeons. I expect somebody to do a Google and introduce a really powerful, free or almost free alternative to the social media mining and monitoring platforms, and I expect one or more companies to come up with sentiment analysis solutions that are really useful. I think a really useful platform will include the ability to analyse images and videos, to follow links (many interesting tweets and shares are about the content of the link), to build a PeekYou type of database of people (to help attribute the comments), and will have much better text analytics approach.


Apr 012014
Larnaca April 2014

I am currently at an academic conference on mobile research in Cyprus, a WebDataNet event. I am a keynote speaker and my role is to share with the delegates the commercial market research picture.

I really enjoy mixing with the academic world, and I am intrigued and fascinated by the differences between the academic and commercial worlds. This post looks at some of the key differences that I have noticed.

In the academic world, timelines are usually longer than in market research. For example, an ethnographic project might be planned for 8 months, in the field for 4 months, and spend 12 months being analysed and written up. A commercial ‘ethnography’ might spend 4 weeks in design and set-up, the fieldwork might be wrapped up in 2 weeks, and the analysis and ‘write up’ conducted in 2 weeks.

In many ways the differences in the timelines result from differences in the motivation for doing a research project. Commercial market research is often conducted to answer a specific business question, which means the research has to be conducted within the timeline required by the business question – which is typically rapid. Academic research is typically conducted to advance the body of knowledge, which means there is often not a specific time constraint. However, there is a need to establish what is already known (the literature review) and a need to spend time creating a write up that embeds the new learning in the wider canon of knowledge.

The balance between preparation, action, analysing, and writing up

In the commercial world the answer is the point of the study; the method, providing it is acceptable, is less relevant.

In an academic study, the value of the specific answer is sometimes almost the least important feature of the project. For example, a commercial project looking at five possible ads for a new soft drink would seek to find the winner. An academic project would normally find that sort of result too specific (i.e. not an addition to the canon of knowledge). An academic project might be more interested in questions such as, what is the relationship between different formats of ad and the way they are evaluated, or the extent to which short-term and long-term effects can be identified. Indeed, in academic project the brands and the specific ads tested will often be obscured, because the study is about the method and the generalizable findings, not (usually) about which ad did best.

The definition of quality
Academic and market researchers have a hierarchy of types of validity but the hierarchy is not the same. Market researchers tend to value Criterion validity (does the measure correlate with or predict something of interest) as their ‘best’ measure.

By contrast, the academic world tends to prioritise Construct Validity, which relates to how well new findings relate to an accepted theory of how things work. This again probably relates to the specificity of the objectives. Market researchers need something that works well enough to solve a particular business problem. The academic is seeking to build knowledge and to connect that research to a wider framework.

The difference in samples
Most market research is conducted with a sample drawn from the target population and usually the sample is constructed to be similar to the target population in terms of simple variables such as age and gender – although it usually falls well short of being a random probability sample. By contrast, a large proportion of academic research appears to be conducted with convenience samples, often students.

The most common reason, for using convenience samples, is lack of resources. In some cases there is a belief that the phenomenon being researched is equally distributed across the population, such as preference for using left or right hand.

Access to the results
In commercial research the results are normally private to the client, unless they are for PR purposes. Traditionally, the results of academic research have been made available to the wider academic world. The future of access to academic research is subject to two contradictory trends. Firstly, commercially sponsored research is tending to be more secretive, because of the commercial interests. Secondly, Governments (who are often a major funder) are pushing the Open Data agenda, making research less secretive.

Which is better?
Academic research and market research differ in several ways, but that is mostly because they have different objectives. If you wanted to use a market research project for academic purposes you would need to add a literature review, add a comprehensive write-up, and be prepared to mount a robust defence of your method. If you wanted to use an academic project for a commercial project you would need to check the ethical clearance, check the timelines were going to be relevant, and check whether the study was likely to give an actionable result.

Talk Like Ted – Book Review

 Posted by on March 26, 2014  Books, Business, Marketing, Presenting  Comments Off
Mar 262014
Talk Like Ted 2

I am a fan of books on presenting, especially good ones, and this new book by Carmine Gallo, TALK LIKE TED – The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, is definitely a good one. The approach Gallo has taken is to analyse over 500 Ted talks, looking at the videos, interviewing the speakers, and working with the people involved in making it happen.

The book highlights great Ted Talks, such as those by Hans Rosling, Amy Cuddy, and Amanda Palmer, and uses these to describe the lessons we can all learn from them. Gallo divides these lessons into three groups of three, and includes many of the well-known points about passion and storytelling. However, because TED talks are available via the web, we can read his descriptions and check out the videos – increasing our understanding of the points he is making, seeing them in action.

No book is going to be a complete solution, and I could quibble with some of the advice. For example, I would like the book to focus a bit more on identify the needs of a specific audience, and in my professional world I often have to deal with speakers and/or audiences who don’t share a common language, which can produce a different balance of words and images.

Most of the advice in the book is very sound and following that advice, watching the videos, and being more self-analytical would help any reader be a better presenter.


Mar 082014
Marina Bay Sands

This post is written as I reach the end of the first week of a three week Vision Critical trip to the Asia Pacific Region. For the last few years I have been spending about ten weeks a year in the APAC region, typically spread over three or four separate trips – because I am convinced that this is where much of the future (especially in terms of commerce, marketing, and insights) is being made.

Singapore Client Round Table
I arrived in Singapore Monday evening and the week got off to a flying start with breakfast with my Vision Critical colleagues from Sydney and from our newly opened Singapore office, followed by a meeting with the CEO of Indian partner, Majestic and lunch with an insight community client, Google. The afternoon was devoted to a client round-table meeting where several of Vision Critical’s clients gather to hear a keynote presentation (from me on this occasion) and then spend time sharing their learning with each other. This event was hosted by Google in their superb offices overlooking the Marina area, with key contributions from SingTel, Sony and others. Client roundtable sessions are a great way for clients to share their experiences with insight communities.

MRMW – Market Research in a Mobile World
Wednesday and Thursday was the APAC incarnation of MRMW, the leading global series of conferences on mobile market research, organised and promoted by Merlien. The keynote presentation was given by SingTel’s Melissa Gil, talking about how their three Vision Critical Insight Communities (Indonesia, Australia, and Singapore) provide them with rapid and cost-effective insight into digital consumers. One of the key points that SingTel made was that the speed and usefulness of the insights they produce mean that the SingTel insights team are involved in meetings and decisions at all levels of the business.

One of the key topics at the Conference was the evolving data protection picture in Asia and on the Tuesday Sue York from the University of Queensland (and curator of content at NewMR) moderated a panel on Data Protection, with Derek Ho (Senior Counsel from MasterCard), Dan Foreman (President of ESOMAR), Martin Tomlinson (Vice President of the Market Research Society of Singapore), and Stephen Jenke (Global Head of Data Collection at Kantar). The key points being made was that the picture on Asia was developing quickly, rules are becoming more onerous, and different countries have different rules.

Google Ray

One of the high points of the Conference was a presentation by David Zakariaie of Glassic who had brought ten sets of Google Glass with him to the event and who co-ran a session with me looking at the technology and the opportunities for market research to utilise this technology. Other key elements of the conference included: using feature phones as well as smartphones, utilising automated techniques for facial coding, video processing, and image processing (in all three cases the main theme was limited, but impressive, success), and moves towards geolocation and geofencing.

Effective Presentation Workshop
On the Friday I ran my “Secrets of Effective Presentations” workshop, which seemed to go down really well. I love workshops in multicultural situations as I am sure I learn as much as the attendees. Some of the secrets of creating and giving great presentations are global, but having a group from a wide range of countries (in this case Singapore, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, and Australia) and with people who have a variety of first languages (and with a mixture of clients, suppliers, and academics) means that nothing can be taken for granted.

Key Singapore Takeaways
Compared with Europe and even with North America, Singapore embodies a ‘can do’ attitude, where the expectation is that tomorrow will be better than today, and that we are on a rapid path to a better, more technical, more insightful, richer society. Singapore also embodies the strength of cultural diversity. Most meetings with clients include people from a wide variety of countries. In order to get to Singapore, and in order to do well, most people have something special about them, and this tends to be blended to create something greater than the parts.


Feb 252014
Not for Pedestrian Use

Quite often when people talk about presentations they talk about the need to be engaging, amusing, and informative, or they talk about the need to use storytelling, visualisation, and performance skills. Whilst all of these have their place, for market researchers and insight professionals these factors only address the symptoms rather than the core need.

Market researchers and insight professionals give presentations for a reason, and in most cases the reason is to debrief a project or to pitch for a project. These presentations are not for entertainment (even though they should seek to be entertaining), these presentations are not just a ritual (although there are some elements of a presentation that should almost always be there). These presentations are there to achieve a business purpose, they need to be effective.

What is an effective presentation?
I think there are three key outcomes that define an effective presentation:

  1. They should make the audience want to hear from you again.
  2. They should communicate the key points you want to make.
  3. They should result in action.

Making the audience want to hear from you again
This is where things like engaging, timely, visual, amusing all come into play. As a presenter you want to develop your business relationship and you want future presentations to be effective. The best way of making future presentations effective is to make people want to attend your presentations. It is getting harder and harder to get senior client-side people to attend debrief meetings, if they know you are going to be engaging, informative, and timely they will be more likely to attend.

Communicate the key points
Communication is not about what messages you are sending, it is about what is received. There is a limit to how much new stuff the audience can take on board in any one meeting. You need to design the presentation so the key points are understood and remembered. Things like engagement are only useful if they help communicate the key ideas – games such as word bingo can reduce the ability of the audience to receive and internalise the key messages. An effective presentation builds in processes to check what has been received and understood, not just what has been said/shown.

Result in action
At a conference or in education the purpose of a presentation can be to inform the audience, in a theatre or after dinner the purpose of a presentation can be solely to entertain. However, in business, an effective presentation results in action. Sometimes that action might be to move forward with a project, sometimes it might be to find out further information, sometimes that action might be to cancel a project. An effective presenter ensures that the presentation can result in action and should follow-up to check what if any actions have happened. Sometimes it is necessary to give further input to ensure action happens.

Secrets of Effective Presentations
Very few presentations are effective. Very few of the engaging/entertaining presentations are actually effective. This is because they are not often designed with effectiveness as their key goal and sole reason – this is why I am talking about the secrets of effective presentations.

At the Singapore MRMW I am running a workshop on how to create and deliver effective workshops. If you are able to attend you can find out more by visiting the MRMW page, and you can get a 15% discount by using the code POSTE2014.

I will be making this material more generally available later in the year. Please let me know if you’d like to know more about effective presentations.


Feb 222014
Patrico Pagani IIeX

I’ve just spent two days at IIeX in Amsterdam, and had the pleasure of being a co-chair for the event. IIeX was a great success and I think the event has several lessons for other events (including my own NewMR events) and for the research industry; and here are my initial thoughts and observations. (BTW, the image is of Patricio Pagani form Infotools, and in the background you can see the wonderful architecture of the venue).

Fast, exhausting and big

The main event was two days long, starting at 8:30 and finishing after 6pm (just one of the North American influences on the event). I am not sure how many presenters/speakers/sessions there were, but I know that the chair’s briefing pack included notes, photos, and bios for 123 people – a testament to the hard work of the behind the scenes admin team (you would be surprised how hard it is to get photos and bios from speakers!).

A large part of both days was delivered in two streams, which means that nobody saw everything. One of the key things about this sort of event is that you need to give yourself permission not to try and see everything. It is a bit like going to an all you can eat buffet, the aim is to try the things you want to try, not to try to consume as much as you possibly can!

Most of the sessions were 20 minutes long, with 15 minutes for the presentation and 5 mins for the Q&A. The great thing about this is that even if a presentation was not great, it was only a few minutes till the next one. The panel discussions tended to be 40 minutes, but even they were quick fire because they normally included 5 people. There were also shorter sessions, such as the people pitching to win the innovation awards.

During the breaks, and when choosing not to be in the main hall, people visited the exhibition. Generally the exhibition was good, but one element was great and I will come to that in a moment. During the first evening there was The Research Club, to help keep the exhaustion levels high.

The quantity, speed, and resultant exhaustion meant that the event tended to deliver a different experience to a more conventional event. Delegates were introduced to five ways of doing gamificaton, eight takes on mobile, seven approaches to neuroscience. This a) provides a better appreciation of the breadth of what is being offered (and a reminder that in most new areas there is little agreement and many competing claims and counter claims), and b) a taster for lots of possible providers, partners, suppliers, and the chance to make introductions and start conversations.

Not too salesy

Some of the presentations were topic or subject based and were not salesy at all, a couple of people over-stepped the virtual line and were felt to be a bit too salesy (and suffered criticisms in Twitter for it). However, most of the presenters used their 15 minutes to say something like:

  • Hi, we are X and we do Y
  • Here is a case study that shows the sorts of things we do
  • And here are the sorts of client problems that this approach can deal with.

When this is done well it is actually quite useful. As a viewer you get a feeling for what solutions exist, what sort of problems can be addressed, what sorts of clients are using these approaches, what verticals seem to be getting the best results, and whether you want to have a conversation with the organisation.

North American Lens

The event had a very North American feel, many of the presenters were from North America, many of the exhibitors were from North America, and the core team (Lenny, Greg, Lauren, Guadalupe, Lukas) are all based in North America – with Kristof De Wulf and myself drafted in as local co-chairs.

My feeling is that this substantial North American element was one of the event’s key ingredients of success. 37% of global market research happens in North America (35% of global market research by spend happens within the USA). North America is a very large market with lots of exciting start-ups. We, in Europe, are keen to see what is happening there, partly to see what is new and partly to benchmark what is happening in Europe against it.

However, there was plenty of European content too, which gives local companies a chance to compare themselves against a North American benchmark.

Glass half full is probably an understatement

One key difference between IIeX and most events was the degree of optimism. A traditional market research conference has a balance of people extolling the new and people urging caution, demanding validation and side-by-side trials. At IIeX the mid-point was definitely somewhere where the mindset was:

  • The old stuff is not really delivering to today’s needs
  • Neuro/mobile/social/emotional/automated/graphical/faster/shorter is better, almost by definition
  • And, “we are doing it”, “our clients are doing it”, “you’d be wise to get on board now”
But, strangely enough, I found this bias in favour of the new to be refreshing and less dangerous than I might have expected. At a conventional market research event there might be one paper on, say, neuroscience or gamificaton. The presenter makes their case persuasively and other than the occasional hard question in the Q&A, they get a fairly easy ride and manage put down a stake in terms of their approach to the category.

However, at IIeX, you might see six different approaches, each saying they have the best/true/optimal/or only solution. This might pique your interest in the area, but it will also show you real proof that this is not a mature or agreed field, and show you that very plausible people, quoting great academic sources, are suggesting very different methods, approaches, or options.

The best thing in the exhibition!

For a long time I have been worried about sponsors and exhibitors. I am not sure that they often get good value for money, and since the current format of events depends on sponsors and exhibitors to make it financially viable, this is worrying.

However, LBR, Lieberman Research Worldwide, set a new high for the exhibition with the use of a virtual reality exercise. LBR linked it to their presentation, talking about the way we see things impacts the way we perceive them. The virtual experience (which they also used at the US IIeX) consisted of standing on a platform, which rises into the air and which challenges the wearer to walk along a virtual plank, and eventually to step into the void. A few people could not do it at all, an even those who managed the task without a pause walked in an odd way.

Why was this a good idea?

  1. It was something that most people had never done before.
  2. It linked to the point LBR were making
  3. It was so impressive that people kept talking about it and sending other people to try it.

The only thing I would suggest to LBR in the future is that they should consider branding the virtual experience. The room that people stand in, and perhaps even the plank, could have a branded message on them.

Not a replacement event

I don’t see IIeX as a replacement for the classic market research events such as ESOMAR Congress, or the MRS or AMSRS annual conference. The event is not (in its current form) going to supply papers that are going to be industry references, nor new thinking (it does supply new doing and new ideas), nor a the sort of neutral review that buyers and investors need.

However, it could (if it keeps growing) be a replacement event for some of the trade shows (for example the Insight Show and Research and Results) and some of the more tired third-party conferences which seem stuck in the 1990s.

I think the future is probably a mixture of:

  • Classic conferences, with written papers, new thinking, and rigorous reviews.
  • Specialist conferences, like MRMW, Sawtooth, BRC retail, and the QRCA events.
  • Energy and idea events (like IIeX)
  • And learning events, like the ESOMAR Academy the training/workshop programmes offered by a number of bodies, such as MRS.

This is going to get a lot bigger

The Amsterdam event had about 400 attendees and over 120 speakers. The next event is in Atlanta in June (see http://www.iiex-na.org/) and I think it is going to be much bigger than last year’s IIeX and much bigger than the Europe event. For anybody with a new message, who needs to be heard, and who wants to benchmark what they have against the best of the rest, this will be the place to be.

For anybody who wants to know what is new, who wants to meet the exciting new kids on the block, who wants to look outside traditional MR, this will be the place to go. I plan to be there and at the IIeX in APAC, later in the year.

Correction! The next IIeX is the LatAm event, 8-9 April, click here to find out more.

The call for speakers for IIeX North America is open until February 26

If you want to speak at IIeX you need to move quickly, the call is open for a few more days.

BRC Customer Insight Conference – London

 Posted by on February 13, 2014  Business, Market Research, Marketing  Comments Off
Feb 132014
BRC Customer Insight

Today I attended the BRC Consumer Insight Conference in London as was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the event and the speakers. Here are a few notes I jotted down during the day.

Peter Williams, former CEO of Selfridges and board member of ASOS.COM – highlighted some of the fundamental changes in retail, including a long-term move to a smaller retail footprint with lots of consequences for malls, high streets, and especially secondary locations.

Rory Sutherland and John Kearon presented overlapping presentations that highlighted the shift in marketing away from the rational to the emotional. At one level this was refreshing, with its emphasis on behavioural economics and psychology, on the other hand it flies in the face of the trend towards the metrics of clicks, likes, and shares. Rory and John also had a few unkind words for economics and market research – a topic I will come back to in another post.

Ruth Spencer from Boots, Mike Coshott from B&Q, Caroline Pollard from Debenhams, Alex Chruszcz from ASDA, and Robin Phillips from Waitrose all spoke to different elements of using technology and systems to understand the customer. At the heart of the conversation was a core tension between:

  1. Wanting to build a single view of the customer, for example tying different data streams together.
  2. That each shopper is not a single homogeneous, person, the shopper when they are looking to buy a pair of tights in Boots after laddering theirs is different from a shopper spending time to explore new cosmetics options.

One theme that emerged from the day was that power is shifting from retailers to shoppers, with mobile, shopping apps, compare sites all assisting that change.

One interesting part of the day was hearing about some of the mobile campaigns and activities delivered via WEVE. WEVE is jointly owned by EE, Orange, and Vodafone and therefore has unparalleled access to UK mobile phone owners. David Sear, for example, talked about a WEVE campaign for Heineken which triggered a marketing message at 27C, which happened one morning at 9:45am due to the weather – it is all a learning process. Another target group for WEVE were for people who were at Heathrow at one moment in time and in Scotland about an hour later.

Rueben Arnold of Virgin Atlantic and Paul de Last from John Lewis finished the day with cases studies looking at how they were using insight to drive customer experience.

This was billed as the first annual BRC customer insight conference, which I thought sounded a little twee. But actually, this was one of the better events I have attended over the last 12 months. It brought together a good selection of client-side people talking about what they were doing, what had worked, and bit about what had not worked. The invited outsiders did a good job of creating a broader canvass. So, I certainly hope there will be another event next year.

Key points made during the day included:

  • Don’t pick a technology because it is interesting, pick it if it answers an identifiable and worthwhile business need.
  • New suppliers need to establish proof of concept.
  • Organisations that want to use a single view of the customer have to get rid of silos, and merge online with offline.
  • The mobile revolution has only just started, it is going to shape loyalty, tracking, offers, marketing, and shopping – and iBeacon looks like an interesting part of that picture.
  • Insight is when you hear what the customer says and use that as a clue to what the customer wants, insight is not simply reporting what the customer says.


Feb 072014
Ask Measure Learn

I’ve just finished reading this book and I would strongly recommend it to anybody seeking to understand the methods and challenges of measuring phenomena in social media. The book is probably stronger on talking about things that don’t work, as opposed to things that do work, but in this time of hype that is probably no bad thing. For example, the book shows why the ROI of many types of activities can’t be measured without making some large assumptions about how things work, and point out that in many cases it is the ‘R’ in ROI that is the problem.

Key themes addressed by the book include metrics for different sorts of social media activities, the problems of assessing causality, the tension between influencer models and homophily, and the difference between reach and intent. The book provides an excellent list of links to further sources (especially if reading the ebook), and provides a great overview of measurement in areas such as social media marketing, CRM, sales, and PR.

This is the best primer on the subject I have read so far and it is, at the moment, sparklingly up to date.

The print copy of the book is not currently available in the UK (and probably lots of other places too as it was only published in the US in January 2014) but it is available on Kindle, and if you buy it directly from O’Reilly Media there is some sort of update/extension deal available.