…because knowing is better than guessing.
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MaCorr Research has recently conducted a study to examine a correlation between sharing customer information within retail or CPG organisations and improvement in decision making and employees’ satisfaction levels.

The survey was conducted among a geographically representative sample of 351 head office and store management employees at Retail and CPG companies (50 employees or more) in the US.

The main hypothesis: Sharing customer information more widely within a retail or CPG organisation can lead to improved decision making and higher satisfaction levels.
- Individuals who have and use customer information feel more empowered and engaged
- Individuals who don’t have and therefore don’t use customer information are less empowered and engaged.

The research finding indicated that it’s not enough for Retail and CPG companies to just have access to customer information. To improve employee satisfaction; engagement and involvement in the company’s decision making process, customer information has to be shared effectively across the team.

If a retail organization or a CPG manufacture has access to customer information, but doesn’t share it effectively across functional team, its employees feel even more disengaged and dissatisfied than those who work for companies with no access at all to customer information.

Employees of companies that effectively share customer information feel more valuable and empowered to make business decisions. At the same time there are no significant differences between employees or companies that don’t have access to customer information and those who have access, but don’t feel that the information is shared effectively.
Employee Satisfaction1

Employees of organization that effectively share customer information feel that their companies make more effective business decisions. The employees are also more satisfied with the company.
Interestingly enough, employees of companies that don’t have access to customer information feel less frustrated than employees that have access to the information but don’t share it effectively.
Employee Satisfaction2

In addition, employees of companies that have and effectively share consumer information, feel that their businesses leverage social media much better.
Employee Satisfaction3

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There is a good old story that is often narrated about a young boy and a wise old teacher.

Once upon a time there was a wise teacher who could answer every question that his students asked. But one day one of the students decided to trick the teacher.

He caught a butterfly, held it within his closed fist, and thought:
“I will ask the teacher, if the butterfly in my fist is dead or alive. If the teacher says “the butterfly is dead”, I’ll open my fist and the butterfly will fly.
On the other hand, if the teacher says “the butterfly is alive”, I’ll just crush the butterfly in my fist and the teacher will be wrong again.

So he asked the teacher if the butterfly in his fist was dead or alive. And the teacher said: “whether the butterfly is dead or alive, it depends on you”!

Whether it is about children’s education, a new house, or a critical business decision – the decision is in your hands.

And the role of market research is to help you make your business decisions with confidence, because when it is time to decide, knowing is much better than guessing.

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Did you know that 1 of 2 credit card users carry an outstanding balance on his/her credit card every month?

A recent survey conducted by MaCorr Research reveals that 50% of credit cards users in North America carry a monthly outstanding balance of close to $1,700 on average.

An average North American credit card user has 3 credit cards, but uses only 2.
36% of his/her total household spending is paid by credit cards. As oppose to debit cards, cash or checks, credit cards are a preferred payment type for travel and expensive purchases.

The favorable characteristics of credit cards are convenience and cash rewards they provide. Only 25% of the respondents use credit cards to postpone payments or get short term loans.

Credit Card Charts

9 out of 10 credit card users agree that it is their responsibility not to borrow beyond the means.

When choosing a credit card, security and the absence of annual fees seem to be the deciding factors.

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Now you have the “right” questions – questions that drive meaningful response. You also defined your optimum sample size and collected the data.
The only thing left is to make sense of it!

Some time ago I read this story:

In late 60’s, a fire department of one of the American cities decided to embrace modern data collection and statistical analysis approach to improve and optimize its business model.

They collected lots of data, thoroughly analyzed it and found significant positive correlation between the number of fire fighters sent to extinguish a fire and the amount of damage caused.

The more fire fighters they sent to extinguish a fire, the more damage they brought!!!

Well, based on the finding, the city significantly reduced its fire department. What happened to the damage caused by fire? It increased!

While analyzing the data, they forgot the FIRE.
The larger the FIRE, the more fire fighters were sent to extinguish it, but also more devastation it caused. True correlation between the number of fire fighters and the damage, could only be measured at a comparable fire size.

You can spend hours analyzing collected data, but analysis can become useless or even detrimental if not done correctly.

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So now you have the “right” questions – questions that drive meaningful response – and are ready to go. Next step is sampling.

Consider the following famous example:There are two hospitals: in the first, 120 babies are born every day, in the other, only 12. On average, the ratio of baby boys to baby girls born every day in each hospital is 50/50. However, one day, in one of those hospitals twice as many baby girls were born as baby boys. In which hospital was it more likely to happen?
The answer is obvious for a statistician, but as research shows, not so obvious for a lay person: it is much more likely to happen in the small hospital. The reason for this is that the probability of a random deviation from the mean decreases with the increase of the sample size.

Sampling is the foundation of all research and, if done correctly, should yield valid and reliable information.

The sample size depends on a number of factors:

Population Size – How many people does your sample represent? This may be the number of people in a city you are studying, the number of people who buy smartphones, etc. Often, you may not know the exact population size and may be ignored when it is “large” or unknown.

Confidence interval (error rate) – the plus-or-minus figure usually reported in newspaper or television opinion poll results. For example, if you use a confidence interval of 5 and 90% percent of your sample answered that they “like Fridays more than other days of week” you can be “sure” that if you had asked the question of the entire relevant population between 85% (90-5) and 95% (90+4) would have “liked Fridays” as well.

Confidence level – expressed as a percentage and represents how often the true percentage of the population who would pick an answer lies within the confidence interval. 95% confidence level means that if you repeat the survey 100 times, 95 times out of 100 it will produce the same answers. It gives you an idea how sure you can be in your results.

Your accuracy also depends on the percentage of your sample that picks a particular answer. If 99% of your sample said “Yes” and 1% said “No” the chances of error are remote, irrespective of sample size. However, if the percentages are 51% and 49% the chances of error are much greater.

Here is what I read in a respectable newspaper. It said:
“…Research findings clearly indicate that the majority of the entire adult population will purchase the new product.
The research was conducted among 390 adults, where 53% of the respondents said they would definitely or probably purchase the new product….”

Is there a problem?
The sample of 390 adults ensures statistical accuracy of the results with the error rate of ±5%. It means that, in reality, this 53% can actually be in the range of between 48% (53-5) and 58% (53+5). As a result, it is incorrect to conclude that “the majority of the entire adult population will purchase the new product”.

So does the sample size matter? Yes and no. The large the sample size the smaller the chance for an error, but the sheer size of a sample does not guarantee its ability to accurately represent a target population. Large unrepresentative samples can lead to wrong conclusions the same way as small ones.

Next time will talk about data analysis and see how critical it can be for delivering accurate insights and actionable recommendations.

Please visit MaCorr Research website and download free sample size calculator. You will also find there for more details about sampling.

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Do-it-yourself (DIY) research , specifically market research surveys, has become very popular during the last several years. No surprise- it provides very cheap and quick turn around research options that practically everyone can use.

The DIY research option is very helpful for student or companies that want to run quick and imprecise (statistically) surveys among their customers (provided they have built a customer contact list) or employees.

DIY survey tools offer, however, limited expertise- as far as actual research quality is concerned. I don’t know about you, but a bunch of data, to me, means nothing unless it provides reliable, practical insights and actionable recommendations.

To achieve reliable research results, any survey must have 3 important elements:

1. It must ask the “right” questions (this will be the topic of our first discussion)
2. It must target a statistically significant sample of the targeted customer or employee group
3. It has to provide practical insights and actionable recommendations

Next time you decided to run a DIY survey, ask yourself if you have those 3 critical elements in place.

Part 1 – Ask the “right” questions…

Here are several real life examples of survey questions.
In the first example, a researcher wanted to better understand consumer awareness of Prebiotics:

Q1. Do you know the main usage of Prebiotics?
- Yes
- No
- No sure

Q2. To the best of your knowledge, which of the following statements about Prebiotics usage is correct (please don’t guess)?
- Prebiotics are used to treat high cholesterol
- Prebiotics are used to restore healthy bacteria
- Prebiotics are used to feed healthy bacteria
- Prebiotics are used to kill harmful bacteria
- Don’t know

While over 50% of the respondents in the general adult population responded “Yes” to Question 1, only 13% were able to answer correctly for Question 2 (“Prebiotics are used to feed healthy bacteria”).

Take a look at another example. Subscribers of an internet magazine were asked to respond to this question:

Q. Why do you like our magazine?
- Because it’s informative
- Because it’s available on line
- Because it’s free
- Because it has great ads
- Other (please specify)

Well, if one conducts this survey to better understand his or her customer, wouldn’t it be more meaningful to ask what is missing in the magazine and what can be improved?

Finally, take a look at this question. The question was asked following the presentation of a new consumer product:

Q. How much would you pay for the product?
- $10.99
- $11.99
- $12.99

I bet you know the answers received by the researcher.

It’s very tempting to do your own research- for free. The question is what value you are going to get from this research.

Next time will talk about sampling and its statistical significance.

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Great idea, enthusiastic team, vision of flowing profits- everybody is excited and ready for success… 3 months later the business closes down. Sounds familiar?

According to StatsCanada, almost every second small and medium business fails within 5 years.
One of the reasons for the failure is overly optimistic projections about market size and, as a result, unrealistic expectations. Market research, therefore, becomes absolutely essential for businesses to make realistic data-based projections.

In the past, the main excuse was the cost associated with even the most basic market research. Telephone and mail surveys, face-to-face interviews and traditional focus groups where the only available option and only big budget companies could afford to conduct such research.

Fortunately, not anymore. Today, you don’t need big bucks to conduct research. Let us look at two different ways of conducting research quickly, reliably and cost effectively.

1. Website and Web Page based surveys are primarily used for website evaluation, visitors’ profile or e-shopping analysis. Website visitors are invited to participate in a survey using a “banner” type invitation or a “pop-up” window.
These types of surveys are an effective and inexpensive method to obtain the opinions of your current customers or website visitors. The only issue is that while the respondents can be randomly selected, they are invited to opt in and, as a result, are considered “self-selected”.
The same is true for any employee or customer survey with a previously established contact list.

2. A more accurate and cost effective way to conduct unbiased awareness, perception and usage studies is via email online surveys. Respondents for the studies are recruited for participation through email invitation from, so called, web panels.
Web panels are large, demographically and geographically representative internet-based groups for customer, business to business and- sometimes- employee surveys. They include millions of consumers, business owners and professionals. These panels are consistently supported and refreshed to reflect demographic changes and to ensure (a) statistically representative sample(s).
As most surveys and research project require a relatively small sample size (up to 1,000 completed responses), the main reason to support and consistently refresh such large panels is to minimize the impact of “professional” or “self-selected” respondents. Each panel member can expect to participate in the surveys no more than 2 to 3 times per year. For this reason, a participation reward system is also based on random drawings of various prizes depending on length, complexity and topic of each survey.

Panels recruitment sources:
- Web advertising
- Permission-based databases
- Public relations (local newspapers’ web portals)
- Partner-recruited specialty panels
- Alliances with heavily trafficked portals

Major benefits of web panels:
- Worldwide coverage
- Cost efficient (significantly cheaper vs. equivalent phone survey)
- Short reply time (2-5 days) and high response rate (over 50%)
- High accuracy – statistically representative of the general population
- No need to collect demographic information during the survey (the data is collected during the panel design process)
- Supports consistent follow-up analysis of virtually the same sample (change in awareness level before and after advertising, etc.)
- Allows incorporation of visual effects and objects (pictures, movies, etc.)

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Comments to the article by Wayne Rash The Trouble with Market Research.

1. Website and Web Page based surveys are, primarily, used for website evaluation, visitors’ profile or e-shopping analysis.
Website visitors are invited to participate in a survey using “banner” type invitation, “pop-up” window or weblink.
The surveys are an effective and inexpensive method to obtain the attitudes and opinions of current customers or website visitors.

While the respondents can be randomly selected, they are, definitely, invited to opt in and, as a result, are self-selected.
The same, by the way, if true for any employee or customer surveys with already established contact list.

2. I absolutely agree, based on significant experience in the field, some and especially relatively big companies commission research to “support” their marketing strategies. They want to see what they “want to see”. This creates significant pressure on an independent research company because it wants to keep the business.

3. A more accurate and cost effective way to conduct relatively unbiased awareness, perception and usage studies is via email online surveys.
Respondents for the studies are recruited for participation through email invitation from, so called, web panels.
Web panels are very large, demographically and geographically representative, Internet-based panels for customer, business to business and, sometimes, employee surveys. They included millions of consumers, business owners and professionals. The panels are consistently supported and refreshed to reflect demographic changes and to ensure statistically representative sample.

As most surveys and research project require relatively small sample size (up to 1,000 completed response), the main reason to support and consistently refresh such large panels is to minimize the impact of, so called, “professional” or “self-selected” respondents. Each panel member can expect to participate in the surveys not more than 2-3 times a year. For this reason, participation reward system is also based on random drawings of various prizes depending on length, complexity and topic of each survey.

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Did you know that 9 out of 10 adults in North America with Internet access claim to have a free personal email account such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or GMX?
71% of them (or 3 out of 5) have more than one free personal email account.

Surprisingly, 84% of the respondents who have free personal email accounts claim to check them at least once a day.

Free Personal Email Account Chart1

Dealing with SPAM seems to be the most challenging issue when using free personal email accounts. 58% of the respondents find it very of somewhat challenging.
Over 40% of the free personal email users also find it challenging to remember multiple passwords and remembering to check multiple accounts over time.

Free Personal Email Account Chart2

The survey was conducted among geographically representative sample of 1,008 adults in North America.

 

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Did you know that almost 30% of the adult population in North America didn’t read a single book last year?
Women tend to read more – 25% of them did not read a book last year versus 35% of men. The non-readers tend to be older and have lower income and education level.

An average reader, on the other side, claims to read 4 books a year.

With the launch of the iPad and significant competition, penetration of e-reading devices among readers reached 20% in 2010. It is expected to increase to 35% in 2011 and to 60% in 2012.

Penetration of e-reading devices 

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