Category Archives: Qualitative Research

Insights on Social Media Monitoring for Luxury Brands: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Forums.

Major B2C companies should increase their marketing investments in On-Line activities in 2010 according to a recent survey completed by Forrester Research. Social Media should be the Big Winner.

Marketing Investments 2010 - Forrester Research
(*) Forrester Research – Global Marketing Leadership Online Survey (multiple answers)

However, the main question remains the optimal allocation of resources in Social Media Marketing: recruitment of a Community Manager, selection of specialized agencies, production of specific content?
One way to look at it could be to monitor actual behaviors of Social Media users in order to define priorities.

I have recently performed an in-depth analysis amongst 28 brands in the Luxury, Jewelery and Watchmaking industry based on Customer Centric MatrixTM methodology (using the monitoring tool Radian 6).

Social Media and Luxury industry: Blogs and Forums are still ahead.

  • “Traditional” Social Media Channels (Blogs and Forums) represent almost 80% of the content published on Luxury and Watchmaking brands
  • The second largest Social Media Channel (Twitter 19%) is the one where brands are the less present and active
  • 34% of brand related content is not supported by a Luxury Brand environment (Twitter and Forums)

Social Media Monitoring - Luxury Brands - Split by Media Type

3 major profiles of Social Media usage amongst the 28 Luxury brands analyzed

  • Active engagement (7 brands)
    Social Media content related to these brands reflects a very active involvement of brands and their communities of “Fans”. A regular and frequent follow-up of brands takes place mainly via Blogs and Twitter. Brands are usually present with an active presence through their Official Facebook page.
    Louis Vuitton communities  are a good example of this profile.
  • Passionate and Sharing (4 brands)
    Committed communities of passionate clients and fans are interacting regularly with their brand(s ). Moreover, they use all Social Media channels to discuss and share points of views.
    Breitling Fans illustrate well this profile.
  • Personal Involvement (17 brands)
    Posts related to these brands are mainly channeled by Blogs. It corresponds usually to individuals sharing their interest via Blogs dedicated to a sector (e.g. watchmaking) or a brand.
    Jaeger Lecoultre can illustrate this profile.
Social Media Monitoring - Luxury Brands - Split by User Groups

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The main conclusions of this analysis indicate some practical tips“Story Telling”Frequent publishingSpecific content initiated by the brand,synergies between Social Media channels are some of the critical success factors.

28 brands were monitored and analyzed in March/April 2010
The research sample includes the following sectors: leather goods, watchmaking, jewelery and accessories. The scope covers International leading brands, challengers and niche brands.

Methodology:

– Customer Centric Matrix combining quantitative and qualitative measurements
– Social Media Monitoring based on total number of posts (all languages and all regions) supported by Radian 6
– Social Media channels based on Radian 6 definition

Source: weblog.customercentric.org

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Consumer Psychology: Understand your Customer

“…the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” ~ Peter Drucker

Introduction
Markets have influenced our acquiring/buying habits from the earliest days of our evolution, perhaps as early as bartering systems in pre-historic times. One tribe had an excess catch from hunting; another tribe had an excess of hides from last season’s catch and the market is born. The exchange of goods is motivated by need and its reptilian drive, “survival of the fittest”.

Fast forward to today’s modern marketing. As the science of marketing has developed, several concepts have gained wide-spread application. The primary focus today is that fully understanding and tapping into the consumer’s motivation, which can be deeply subconscious, results in brand loyalty in purchasing products and services. An example is Clotaire Rapaille’s approach that to understand the “collective unconscious” and thereby articulate the “code” opens the way to desired marketing success.

The foundation of marketing science is based on market research strategy, to know the customer and to fill needs that need filling. Understanding the customer can produce high-quality products, such as Apple has done. On the other hand, some marketing approaches have turned into manipulative endeavors to sculpt the customer to believe they need what’s being sold. This form of marketing is distorted and disturbing. This BLOG post reviews the history and development of marketing as a science, then explores the power of modern customer-centric marketing updated for the digital age, and then looks at the downside of manipulative marketing.

Background – Development of Marketing as a Science
Early development of marketing as a science included Louis Cheskin and Neil Borden. Cheskin contributed the “customer-centric” approach, rather than the top down approach that had been previously popular. The earlier approach to marketing was top-down, where a company would create a new product with the assumption that it would sell. A customer-centric approach is based on consumer feedback, often through customer focus groups and observation. This approach defines the needs of the customer thereby providing products and services that meet those needs. For example, through customer research, Cheskin helped engineer the success of margarine by changing it’s color from white to yellow, and advertising it’s similarity to butter (Cheskin, 1959).

Borden, in his seminal article, “The Concept of the Marketing Mix,” named the 4Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion (Borden, 1964). The evolution of technology has brought with it increasing speed as well as additional Ps: People and Performance. We have moved from a top down approach, where the consumer was thought to be one amongst many and easily influenced, to a customer centric approach, where individuality, instinctual desires and inner drives have become the focus of marketers.

Purpose of Marketing
I believe there is a true purpose to the original intent of marketing. Discovering human needs and providing the products or services that support those needs is the most effective formula for exchange in the marketplace.

In Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences, the authors state, “We envision a time when customers increasingly make their purchase decisions based on deeply valued meanings that companies evoke for them through their products and services – in other words, meaningful consumption – as opposed to simply responding based on features, price, brand identity, and emotional pitches” (Diller, Shedroff, & Rhea, 2008, p. 1).

For example, Apple captured the MP3 market with the iPod and iTunes. The iPod became an emotionally constructed appendage that represents much more than just a music device. It has become a cultural icon that people purchase not only for usefulness but also for a sense of belonging, an image of appearing “cool,” and much like a stylistic piece of jewelry, it comes in hip colors and unique styles.

The Evolution of Marketing Research
Concept Engineering, a market research approach developed by Gary Burchill at MIT, uses an ethnological immersion process called “Voice of the Customer.” Key people on a new product team visit customers, interviewing and observing them in order to discern what the true need is. They are especially trying to discover “latent needs,” needs or wants that the customer has but is not consciously aware of. They then target their new product or service to fill that need or want. This process of listening to the customer allows the new product developers to make meaning of the consumer’s direct experience. Innovation and customer satisfaction can follow (Burchill & Brodie, 1997).

Apple – A Case Example

Apple is a great example of the power of understanding customer needs and providing products and services to fill those needs. Apple has become a cultural icon for our technological era and this digital age. As I wrote in this week’s forum post, Steve Jobs announced Apple’s newest, latest, greatest and COOLest product this past January with global fan-fare: the iPad.

In typical Apple marketing fashion, Apple required customers to wait several months for the iPad’s release. During this time Apple launched a marketing blitz, including an iPad frenzy on Twitter. iTunes has just launched an update for interfacing with the iPad, just in time for the iPad’s release. There was a Netflix app available for the new iPad even before the iPad’s release. Many people tweeted that they were downloading it in preparation for getting their iPad. There were 240,000 pre-orders awaiting the iPad.

Apple has found the “code” for “cool,” at least for this digital generation. Apple is a cultural phenomenon, as the MacHead photo illustrates – “the cult of mac.” There are many who are fervently dedicated. The iPod is jewelry in addition to music, an emotional as well as pragmatic piece of “cool,” coming in different colors and styles to match each person’s individual uniqueness. Apple understands its customers and has successfully tapped into their latent needs, capturing the market by storm.

Daniel and I picked up our iPads on Saturday, documenting and interviewing folks in line. On the whole, the Saturday crowd are early adopters who do respond to Apple’s advertising. There were 2 mechanical engineers and another student, among many others. The wait was short. The Mac Genius who waited on us was knowledgeable and responsive. We left with our questions answered, our iPads and leather cases in hand, and BIG SMILES.

The picture below shows four generations of Apple users: Stephanie, her Mom, her Grandmom, and her son. This was a family adventure for them. Their smiles and excitement might indicate a bit about their psychology. They said they considered this a bonding experience as they upgraded their technology together and supported one another. They were really enjoying playing with their “new toys.” 

Apple sold 300,000 iPads on Saturday according to reported figures. This first rush of purchases is the “early adopters” phase. Apple’s next marketing target is to reach more of the general population.

Downside of Manipulative Marketing
There is a downside to current day marketing. The episodes we watched from Frontline highlighted the hidden and manipulative side of marketing in our digital culture. For example, the use of “product placement.” Product placement is a form of embedded marketing.  Branded goods are placed, without explicit advertising, in the storyline of movies, TV shows, or other programming. This is often not disclosed at the time the product is being featured. (Wikipedia).

Consider that the star of this week’s episode of “Modern Family” is YES: The iPad.  On the eve of the iPad’s launch – Phil Dunphy, one of the main characters in this season’s runaway hit sitcom and touted to be the best new comedy of the year, celebrates his birthday. He is all encompassed in his desire for an iPad. His wife misses the early morning rush to stand in line at the Apple store, eventually getting there only to find they are “sold-out”. Message to audience: get there early, get there or you will miss out. Eventually, Phil’s son manages to get an iPad from one of Phil’s friends through social networking. Phil gets the iPad, everyone is happy, all is right with the world.

Advertising Age reports that this was just a very clever storyline; using Apple is like using a cultural icon, and not product placement. How it’s perceived is another thing though. Advertising Age states, “Even without Apple plunking down any cash, last night’s episode was tantamount to a huge wet kiss of approval for a product that has yet to be tested by actual consumer use (Steinberg, 2010).”

Whether it was product placement or not, it caused significant stirrings and fans perceived it as such reporting being furious. A typical post on IBDb forums stated, “Tuned in for comedy, sat through a 30 min iPad commercial (Bershad, 2010).” Consumers are becoming increasingly aware and critical of manipulative marketing, either actual or perceived.

Marketing’s Message: CONSUME

The message most marketing is driving home to the consumer is MORE IS BETTER. While this is a fallacy, the marketer’s job is to create more and more desire linking satisfaction or fulfillment to their product or service, to continuously consume.

In The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, Barry Schwartz explores the world of excess and its impact on our daily lives. In a local supermarket, he found over 30,000 grocery items available, including 285 varieties of cookies. He concluded that having too many choices is bewildering, erodes our psychological well-being, and becomes restrictive rather than freeing (Schwartz, 2005).

So, in fact, this culture of consumerism is in a crisis of sorts. Product and service images come rushing towards us from every channel of media available, print, web, movies, tv, mail, email, and others. The message is clear and in many ways enticing. BUY! This onslaught has effected us and our culture. We have become a nation of consumers.

“If I were dictator of my own small island, it’s not capitalism that I would get rid of, it’s marketing. That ever-present force telling us we should be more beautiful, happier, drunker, skinnier, hipper, and whatever else it takes more money to attain.” ~ David “Oso” Sasaki

The Future of Consumerism

Internet marketing continues to develop forums for making the strong voice of consumers heard. Dee Dee Gordon, founder of Look-Look, an online trend tracker, focuses on the younger demographic, those 14 – 30. She is a key contributor to product development. She provides the voice for this younger digital generation by gathering data about their needs, wants, habits, and lifestyles, listening to them and describing their world.

Marketing will continue to be a major influence on our decisions. The more we understand our own motivations as well as the marketing techniques used by professionals, the more discerning we will become.

Source: catherineaseo.blogspot.com

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Fashion Cocktail of Tradition & Technology

In the dynamic world of fashion, what is the current trend? Inaugurating technology with the alluring concepts of fashion!

Fashion retailing is a complex business with growing competition among the retailers. Augmentation of trends has revolutionized the retail business; amicable to all that fashion is an integral part of the retail industry as well as brands. Fashion retailers today, are more concerned, with technology as their new sales mantra. Brands and retailers focus on new and attention grabbing techniques to allure the customers. The latest progress in the retail field is the application of various technological processes to attract, convince and sell to the customers.

Digital Fashion Magazines:

Gone are the times, when one flips through the pages of a fashion magazine to get a glimpse of the latest trends and styles. The novel digital market offers the fashion savvy shoppers with all the perks of print media, along with the nearness and information of the current days technological advancements. Discounted apparels and other fashion accessories can be found online proving a distinguished successful market for fashion clothing and other accessories. This makes shopping, an easier task with astute styles of apparels ready and available for buying.

3D Body Scanning Application in Apparel Making:
3D Body scanning technology produces a 3D model through scanning. An individual stands in the scanners view, while it captures his body image and produces 3D images within seconds. The scanner uses a series of light sensors to produce a 3D image. Images are captured in 360 degrees within a short period of time along with body measurements and human body surface. This data is then forwarded to the manufacturer who uses his creativeness and creates the garment in a very short time with the exact measurements that matches the consumer.

This technology provides real time information to the apparel industry, wherein clothes will be manufactured with attached labels mentioning the bust, waist, and hip sizes thereby guiding the consumers to select a garment with perfect fittings.

Virtual Try-on Solutions:

This process provides the customer with a virtual image of how he or she will look in a particular garment. General information about the consumer like, small waist, narrow shoulders, long hair etc is entered in the computer. The software in the computer develops an image of the consumer based on these descriptions and displays it on the screen.

The consumer can make modifications on the displayed virtual image so as to match it with himself. The computer then displays various types of garments on the screen. The consumer chooses different types of clothing and tries them on his virtual image available on the computer screen.

The computer applies this clothing image on the virtual image of the consumer created and displays the picture on the screen. The image is also rotated in 360 degrees so that the consumer can get a perfect idea of the fitting. The computer highlights areas of good and bad fit, and guides the consumer to select the most appropriate apparel.

Mobile Point of Sale (POS):

Point of Sale (POS) is a location where customers pay and buy the goods. Generally during peak sales period, there would a long queue of customers waiting for their turn to pay the bill. Sales counters are of fixed size, and hence support limited number of customers forcing them to endure long lines.
Mobile POS stations are being set up with handheld computers, printers, and scanners with credit card readers. Salesmen with these mobile POS terminals can be positioned in small tables, accelerating the buying process. Merchandise is scanned with a barcode scanner and a ticket is printed with prices and a master barcode on it. When the customer reaches the checkout counter, the ticket is scanned, and cash is collected, thus completing the transaction without the checkout clerk needing the process each item individually.

RFID in Apparel Retailing:

During the peak seasons of sales, manual process break down. Staff members become besieged, and cannot be replenished. RFID enables the retailers to confirm the items that need to be refilled, and makes sure that the apparels are available on the store racks when customers want to buy them.

Retailers today are making optimum utilization of the internet and leveraging its social benefits. Though their techno savoir-faire is utilized in novel methods, shoppers will be motivated to buy only according to their requirements. Hence it is also important for the retailers to keep abreast of the customer psychology knowing their current choices and preferences to as to retain their customers in the years to come.

Source: Fibre2fashion.com

To read more about RFID, what it is, does and the benefits for the apparel industry, check this article: RFID in Apparel Industry: What is it, How it Works and the Benefits.

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Using Footprints For Accurate, Efficient and Better Link Building

I’ve been into seo for a long while now. My specialty includes link building and the one very important factor which ‘most’ of the link builders don’t make use of is Google’s Advanced search alongwith ‘footprints’. Now there are two terms i need to explain here.

  1. Google’s Advanced/Customized Search
  2. Footprints

Google’s Advanced/Customized Search

This may not be the right word to indicate what i’m saying but its close to being accurate. You may have heard of ‘Google Codes’ that can be used within a search query. To mention some we have

  • intitle
  • inurl
  • inanchor
  • intext
  • site

Basically ‘inanchor’, ‘intitle’ are used while doing competition analysis.

’site’ which is used as site:http://techfrog.org/ will show all the indexed pages from within the particular website, in other words it will show all pages that precede with http://techfrog.org/.

‘intitle’ is used in the following manner, i.e. intitle:"dog food". What this basically does is that it will gather all the results that contain the words ‘dog food’ in their title.

‘inurl’ when used as inurl:"dogs and cats" will return results that contain ‘dogs-and-cats’ in the url(web address) of the page. Remember that the hyphen(’-‘) is the primary space separator for urls.

‘intext’ when used as intext:"dogs and cats" will get you all the pages that contain the terms ‘dogs and cats’ within the text of the page.

Footprints

Footprints are the unique identity of an entity that are existent anywhere at anytime. We as humans have fingerprints that are unique and stay the same wherever we may go unless ofcource if they have been manipulated manually. Similarly all the major website platforms like WordPress, Drupal & Joomla have their own unique footprints that can be identified on various websites that make use of these platforms.

These footprints can be used to search pages on the web which belong to only a particular platform. E.g. WordPress’ footprints can be used to search websites that are build only on wordpress. We can put this to use because WordPress and Drupal as platforms give the users the freedom to comment on various posts and articles. We can include our links within these comments so as to build backlinks for our website.

WordPress

Wordpress CommentsWordPress Comments 

WordPress is the largest blogging platform on the web and has millions of webpages to its credit. The best thing about wordpress for us linkbuilders is that comments are enabled by default and are present on every post. The ‘Website’ field also lets us place our website URL which ultimately helps in linkbuilding. The standard comment system format is as in the image aside.

The following footprints can be used to find wordpress pages where comments are open.

  • ‘Leave a Reply’ ‘Name (required)’ ‘Mail (will not be published) (required)’ ‘Website’
  • “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” “Mail (will not be published)”
  • “Leave a Comment” “Name” “Website”
  • “powered by wordpress”

The last footprint is more of a generalized one which will not necessarily give you refined results as it will also include the homepage and other pages of a wordpress blog on which there is no comment facility.

We can use these footprints with our customized Google search to get our desired pages. Now consider you have a primary keyword “quality dog food”. Let us search for pages on wordpress that can be commented upon that have the text ‘quality dog food’ either within the url, title or text. We enter the following query into google that gives us 3420, 121 results respectively

‘Leave a Reply’ ‘Name (required)’ ‘Mail (will not be published) (required)’ ‘Website’ intext:”quality dog food”

‘Leave a Reply’ ‘Name (required)’ ‘Mail (will not be published) (required)’ ‘Website’ intitle:”quality dog food”

‘Leave a Reply’ ‘Name (required)’ ‘Mail (will not be published) (required)’ ‘Website’ inurl:”quality dog food”

If we do the math, we have got 3421+121+107-(approx 50 common pages)=3599 targeted, keyword specific commentable pages based on wordpress in no time. If you happen to have the Ultimate WordPress Comment Spammer, you can do the job of posting on autopilot.

Drupal

Drupal CommentsDrupal Comments 

Drupal is a content management system which is also used widely. It also supports comments which are present in almost every page by default. Many Educational miniblogs on the .edu domain use Drupal, as an example you can consider psu.edu which has tons of dofollow High PR & commentable backlinks. Drupal has two major footprints that can help us find its pages anywhere on the web. It is as shown below :

  • “Login or register to comment”
  • “Login or register to post comments”

As you’ve learn’t in the wordpress section, you can use these footprints in the same way to find some keyword relevant pages for you to comment on. You may have heard that backlinks from .edu and .gov sites hold more weightage/importance. How true this is, we don’t know. Anyways, we can use the following query to find pages on Drupal on a .edu or .gov site specific to a given keyword.

site:.edu “Login or register to post comments” inurl:”my keyword”

site:.gov “Login or register to comment” inurl:”my keyword”

Note : Make sure you don’t copy-paste the search query’s above but type them yourselves as the text-formatting/encoding here is different from what your keyboard will produce on Google’s saerch bar.

I personally prefer Drupal for linkbuilding as it has an ace over wordpress. Here are some basic differences between WordPress and Drupal which you should know.

WordPress

  • Comment Links Are Nofollow By Default
  • Can Comment as a Guest
  • Link Can be placed Within Comment text or in the ‘Website’ field with the anchor text in the ‘name’ field.
  • Better Anti-spam Protection

Drupal

  • Comment Links are Dofollow by default
  • Need To Register To comment
  • Links need to be placed Within the Comment body in HTML
  • Comparatively Poorer Anti-spam protection

You can research and find your own footprints. These alongwith Google’s customized search is a Link Builder’s Best Tool.

 

Source: Techfrog.org

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Spring / Summer 2011 Fashionable Themes

Interfiliere: Spring / Summer 2011 trend motifs

Interfiliere, a fashion industry body dedicated to lingerie and beachwear correctly peg Spring 2011’s fashion trends as an evolution of several recent fashion trends; key amongst them is the continued reinterpretation of classic styles along all heavily influenced by the ‘lingerie as outerwear’ trend that Fashionising.com has been touting for some time now.

Key look: loungerie

For the latter, they’ve coined a new term: loungerie. With the elements of lingerie, be it girly or overtly sexual, so prominent in street fashion, Interfiliere see Spring 2011’s key street wear trends as a mixture between lingerie, swimwear and streetwear (which they group as loungewear), and lingerie. Hence the portmanteau.

In their own words:

The new Loungerie takes a leaf out of, and gets the best of, lingerie for an alternative, parallel wardrobe; [one that is] light, intimate, and impossible to “classify.”

loungerie

Over-all themes

Lingerie as street wear aside, there are four themes that Interfiliere believe will be key to Spring / Summer 2011 fashion trends:

Tendresse (fondness)

spring 2011 fondness

An atmosphere heavily loaded with, memories but reinvented by using, technical innovations. To maintain the feeling of softness and a nostalgia of charm, there are sophisticated constructions, digital prints, placed jacquards, audacious accents, and subtle featherweight effects, silks, fine cottons, blends.

Then there are the refined, luxury lines of coordinates made to last: it’s the triumphant return of the camisole, bodices, teddies: all expressions of an eternal seduction.

spring 2011 fondness

Antidote

spring 2011 antidote

Happiness lies in non conformity. It’s not a question of being good or reasonable, but the passion colours evoke, the explosions of prints, geometrical accents, Indian flowers, folk music kitsch, cartoon influences and the naive primitives that all mix create a wild patchwork of fashion.

A liberated celebration of all that everyday life is about. Amusing creativity, beachwear influences, mixes of ethnic and otherworld, ardour and femininity, the whole trend being based on strong lines.

spring 2011 antidote

Oasis

spring 2011 oasis

Pleasure gorged on the sun and freshness you’ll want from Spring / Summer 2011.

On the one hand, the exotic: exuberant nature inspired by Gauguin, luxuriant foliage and cat-like beachwear motifs. On the other hand, the desert: a landscape of sand, primitive embroideries, Berber stripes, beautiful laces patinated by the years, ikats and metal accents.

For ample shapes such as caftans or djellabahs, dry knits, charming linens and cottons for the loungerie trend.

spring 2011 oasis

Sublime

spring 2011 sublime

The essence of a new luxury, ostentatious and astonishing with a hint of theatrical and urban roughness.

Haute couture meets high-tech. The scene is ostentatious, emphatically astonishing, and unique. In the corridors of this new theatricality surface effects, contrasts of opaque and transparency. Think transfer prints, graphics and bondageaccents.

This is the essence of the new luxury, exceptional beauty ready to conquer the land of modernity.

spring 2011 sublime

Source: Fashionising.com by Daniel P Dykes

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Google Boutiques.com, a World of Fashion

Google unveils a new shopping portal, Boutiques.com. It showcases the power of search in the world of fashion. You can shop and choose from a variety of styles, designs and collections of famous designers and stylists. Shoppers can easily catch up with the trend because it allows users to save likes or dislikes in the site.

Shopping is the watchword today. Almost everyone around the globe is on a Shopping spree. Google understands this and thus, has launched a new shopping portal entitled Boutiques.com to add on to its almost full kitty of world class products and services. The portal, as they say, combines the goodness of both social and search. It allows for finding and discovering styles and fashions collections that have been put together by renowned celebrities, designers, stylists and fashion experts, to name a few.

Through this site, Google will be able to analyze the tastes of consumers by ways of a number of clicks, Google Trend data, computer vision and machine learning technology and ultimately, letting them know the entire world of fashion. As is the case with Youtube,  whenever a user logs into his/her account, the site would know the user’s taste for fashion and recommend those results that suit the taste.

Google got the technology from its acquisition of Like.com, along with which came the technology team behind it. They were already working hard on that and had also launched a site of their own called WhatToWear.com. The team at Google now consists of PhDs in Computer Science and Fashion Designers and Stylists. In fact, it is an amalgamation of computer nerds and fashion nerds. Altogether, the team is working on creating a new route to browse, find and buy world class fashion under one roof.

Source: Marketingconversation.com by ROBIN PANGILINAN

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How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research

A variety of techniques from online chats to video logs can reveal how people feel about your product or service and how you can improve it to make more money.

Everett Collection

As seen in Mad Men, fifty years ago, research was collected by having a one-way mirror installed and adverting guys would be on the receiving end. The homemaker would host the meeting with a group of women who would talk about soap or some other consumer product.

Visualize. Just as you head off to work you get a text message asking if you’ve had a cup of coffee. You reply “no.” About 20 minutes later you receive another text asking “did you have your coffee yet?” You reply “yes” this time. Now you receive a series of texts about when and where did you buy the coffee—a corner store Starbucks or company cafeteria. What brand or flavor did you choose—regular or Hazelnut? Why did you choose it? How do you feel now that you’ve had that first cup? Will you have had a second or third cup come lunchtime? Later in the week when you’re at the local grocer, you take out your cell phone to take a picture of the one pound of ground French Roast coffee you just purchased so you can post it online.

Welcome to the brave new world of qualitative research where companies can catch or capture their customers’ behaviors in the moment using modern technology. It could be a single person doing online journaling or a video log about a product or issue, a moderator directing conversations in an online chat room, or webcam gathering of people in Hollywood Squares game show-like fashion.

It’s a different spin on the traditional focus group. Social media is playing a bigger role. “We are even monitoring whole online communities; we have a targeted representative find out what selected individuals are saying in their social networks,” says Peg Moulton-Abbott, a certified professional research consultant and principal of Newfound Insights, a Virginia Beach-based market research firm. Such tech-oriented research is generally skewed towards a younger twenty-something demographic. But more importantly it speaks to how market researchers are sprouting new methods of qualitative study as an outgrowth of old techniques.

Comparatively speaking, fifty years ago qualitative research was done in a big city likeNew York or Washington, DC with focus groups conducted inside women’s homes, notes Moulton-Abbott. A one-way mirror was installed and adverting guys would be on the receiving end, she explains. The homemaker would host the meeting with a group of women who would talk about soap or some other consumer product.

According to the Qualitative Research Consultants Association, qualitative research can help business owners identify customer needs, clarify marketing messages, generate ideas for improvements of a product, extend a line or brand, and/or gain perspective on how a product fits into a customer’s lifestyle.

Any size and type of business can benefit from qualitative market research, says Moulton-Abbott. However, “my job is not to make a sales pitch for your product; my job is to find out how people feel about your product and what you can do to improve it so that you wind up making more money selling it,” she adds.

Qualitative research can help entrepreneurs to understand their customers’ or clients’ feelings, values, and perceptions of a particular product or service. Once you know the reason “why” people react a certain way or make certain decisions, you can use that feedback to help build your sales and marketing plan, says Moulton-Abbott.

The design and implementation of qualitative research will depend on your particular situation, says Robert E. Stake, PhD, author of Qualitative Research: Studying How Things Work and director for the center of instructional research as the University of Illinois. “The means are different in different situations. It’s what you are interested in that defines qualitative research,” he adds. “It isn’t the style of data gathering, it is whether or not you are interested in the experiences of your customers or clients.”

Business owners won’t have to wrack their brains over how to conduct the nitty-gritty aspects of market research if a professional is hired. But here are some general guidelines and what to expect on how qualitative research is handled.

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: Determine What You Want to Study

Do you want to investigate a current or potential product, service or brand positioning? Do your want to identify strengths and weaknesses in products? Understand purchasing decisions? Study reactions to advertising or marketing campaigns? Assess the usability of a website or other interactive services? Understand perceptions about the company, brand and product? Explore reactions to packaging and design?

Qualitative (qual) research is usually contrasted against Quantitative (quant) research. Quant asks closed-ended questions that can be answered finitely by either “yes” or “no,” true or false or multiple choice with an option for “other.” It is used to collect numerical data, employing such techniques as surveys. Whereas, qual asks open-ended questions that are phrased in such a way that invite people to tell their stories in their own words. Methods used to collect data include field observations, personal interviews and group discussions.

The job of a qual researcher is to design and deliver data that drives results.

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: Understand What Methodology will be Used

Typically qual researchers don’t use experimental methods such as field trials or test markets, Stake maintains. “Not many use really highly-developed psychometric (e.g., personality or psychological tests) or econometric (e.g., economic statistics) indicators.” Qual researchers generally rely on methodologies rooted in ethnography (e.g. field or participant observation) and phenomenology (e.g., understanding life experiences using written or recorded narratives). Market researchers partner with professional recruiters to identify and screen qualifying customers or consumers who in turn receive an honorarium for their participation in the study.

You should rely on a market research firm to choose the best fit for you based on: what is it that you need to learn and who is your target audience demographically, where they are geographically, and what are their lifestyle behaviors or time constraints, says Kristin Schwitzer, president of Beacon Research, a qual firm that specializes in innovative online methods, based in AnnapolisMaryland.

Conducting qualitative research is about asking the right people the right questions in the right format, says Hannah Baker Hitzhusen, vice president of qualitative research at CMI, a market research firm in Atlanta. What qual researchers do is very much on the front end, it is discovery or exploratory work. “For a qual study, we generally do a discussion guide to make sure we cover certain topics or issues,” says Hitzhusen. Qual is generally used for small sample groups, because, “you want to spend a lot of time with the participants, maybe 90 to 120 minutes. Quant usually uses a larger sample size of people and a smaller amount of time, 15 to 30 minutes (for someone to fill out a questionnaire),” she explains.

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: Explore Various Means to Collect Data

•    Observation – Direct observation can involve a researcher watching subjects and taking notes in the background which could be from behind a one-way mirror or video camera recording the happenings. With participant observation, the researcher is actually part of the situation being studied as with a moderated focus group or one-on-one interviews.

•    Focus Groups – This technique is good if you need a range of opinions, says Hitzhusen. In general, you want to get reactions from eight to 10 people. But you don’t have to have the traditional group of people closed in a room. You can do a webcam or online bulletin board focus group, in which consumers participate in an asynchronous group discussion over the duration of three to four days. Participants answer questions from the moderator and respond to images or video on their computer screen.

•    Subject Interviews – There are times when you want to talk with subjects or participants either over the telephone or face- to-face, says Moulton-Abbott. Such as if you want them to sample a product or if it is an emotional or sensitive issue, such as taking care of elderly parents with dementia or using personal hygiene products.

•    Hybrid Studies – This is a blend of qual and quant market research. So, you get some important metrics as well as the why’s behind the numbers through narrative, photo collection, and other exercises, says Schwitzer.

Moulton-Abbott says for example, you may have a couple hundred people come into a big meeting hall. Using a handheld dialer participants respond to a survey that is projected on a screen. Afterwards, you host a town hall session to debrief the group and to find out what they think. From there, you separate the respondents into smaller focus groups based on demographics, their responses and other parameters. At the end of day you can say we spoke to 700 people today and this is what they said they like or don’t like and this is how they feel about your product or service.

•    Online tools – The online piece is an outgrowth of in-person observation. “We can use tools such as their cell phones, iphone video cameras, digital cameras, and we can have them in the moment record what is happening in their world,” says Schwitzer. Whether it is how they use a product or interact from a service standpoint.”

For example, Schwitzer conducted a study on how teenage boys were spending their money over a course of a week. They took pictures of everything that they bought and texted it in. They then created an online blog to be probed as the second phase of the study. “Online tools allow us to get even deeper into the subjects’ lives and to see what is happening to them from an experiential level. We can be with them at crazy hours of the day now or during more private moments.”

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: Analyze the Collected Data

A qualitative study may take one day or three weeks for the data collection and up to six weeks in total for the final report generation and turnaround solutions. Researchers will look at the collected data to come up with theories and answers to your questions or concerns. Generally, researchers will use coding to identify themes, patterns and ideas. They may also incorporate some statistics that describe what the data is showing along with narrative analysis that focuses on grammar, word usage, and underlying messages.

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: Review Report and Recommendations

Finally, a researcher will generate a report featuring actionable recommendations. It doesn’t have to be just a written document; it may be a video report or slideshow. As the saying goes a picture paints a thousand words; visual reports are more effective than simply words on a paper. Of course, you need to be aware upfront what the cash outlay will be for such extensive feedback.

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: A Heads Up

Don’t expect to pay under $10,000 for basic qualitative research, cautions experts. There are cost associate with the recruiters, facilities, moderators and reporting. It you have a small or tight budget consider working with a university such as Chicago‘s Northwestern, Atlanta’s Emory Goizueta, or the University of Maryland, suggests Moulton-Abbott. Many of the top business schools have marketing research programs.

To find a reputable market research firm, check out trade associations, including directories from The Marketing Research Association, which publishes the Blue Book, and the New York American Marketing Association, which puts out the Green Book. Also, the QRCA has a search tool for locating market research firms geographically.
Choose a firm that is knowledgeable about your industry and be sure to get a couple of proposals and competitive price offers.

Source: Inc.com By Carolyn M. Brown

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