Marketing Research for Consumer Insights
IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Using online marketing research tools and techniques for consumer insights. We revisit an interview with Mike Klotz of Cint, who explains how quantitative research can help us understand consumers’ evolving purchasing behaviors and sentiments towards brands and advertising. Stephen Cribbett and Terri Sorenson from Further join the podcast to discuss the benefits of asynchronous market research online communities, or MROCs, for generating qualitative insights at scale.
Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS – fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. We’ve talked about research and the value of unlocking consumer insights quite a bit during this season of IN CLEAR FOCUS. As an audience-focused agency, Bigeye places a great deal of emphasis on really understanding our clients’ customers and prospects, and using that knowledge to craft media plans and inspire creative messaging. For an understanding of a client’s market, we typically turn first to syndicated data sources, also known as secondary research. That provides background, but rarely sufficiently detailed data to develop a breakthrough strategy. For that, we need to ask questions that are not answered by existing sources. Which is where primary research comes in. There’s an entire industry dedicated to supporting consumer insights and research professionals. Today, we’re going to revisit two interviews recorded earlier this year that look at quantitative and qualitative research methods. Back in April, we spoke with Michael Klotz, Director of Client Development at Cint, which primarily supports quantitative research studies. Mike has 20 years of experience in research and has helped hundreds of companies understand their consumers and their markets better through research and data collection.
Adrian Tennant: Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Mike!
Mike Klotz: Thanks for having me on the show.
Adrian Tennant: First, could you tell us a little about Cint?
Mike Klotz: Cint is the technology backbone of the world’s most successful insights companies. Our platform automates fieldwork and operations so that companies gather insights faster, more cost-effectively, and at scale. We have 14 global offices in addition to all the folks we have, such as myself, that work remote. Through our platform, researchers have access to over a hundred million people in over 150 countries around the world. We work directly with many researchers, agencies, and brands.
Adrian Tennant: So Mike, what does your role with Cint entail?
Mike Klotz: My role at Cint is to help companies that are conducting online research to do so in the most efficient way possible. We’re a very solutions-focused company, so it’s never a one-size-fits-all approach. I work closely with my clients in order to learn about their business and help craft a partnership that allows them to gather insights quickly and efficiently.
Adrian Tennant: So I gave an overview of marketing research during the introduction, but Mike, can you explain quantitative research in more detail and how it differs from qualitative research?
Mike Klotz: Sure. I think the easiest way to understand it is to look at each of the methodologies in terms of the type of information being collected. In qualitative research, you’re dealing with words and meanings and descriptions. Quantitative research deals with quantities and numbers and building out statistics. So qualitative research is almost like a brainstorming session. You’re seeking out ideas and concepts. While quantitative research can help show how many people feel that same way. So for example, in a focus group you’ll have six to eight people sitting around a table talking about a brand. They’ll discuss what the brand means to them or provide feedback on a specific product and why they like it or dislike it. However, those six to eight people don’t really speak for the thousands or millions of the brands’ consumers. So sometimes you need to take the things that you’ve learned in qualitative sessions and quantify them through online surveys, for example, in order to learn if it’s representative of your customer base.
Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most common types of quantitative consumer research or studies that your clients typically undertake?
Mike Klotz: Right, so Cint currently has over 2,000 clients worldwide and we cover a wide variety of project types, so it’s kind of difficult to pinpoint it to the most common type. But what I can tell you is that we do see a lot of brands looking to understand their consumers’ decision-making process and path to purchase better. So they’ll do things like measure customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, for example. We also see some product concept tests and with marketing, we see a lot of messaging testing. Beyond that, this is an election year, so we saw a lot of political polling during the primaries in the US, and we expect to see a lot more as we get closer to November. And lately we’re seeing a lot of companies that are trying to understand consumer sentiment as it relates to COVID-19. We’ve seen a number of tracking studies and ad hoc projects on this topic in hopes of understanding where the consumer mindset currently stands.
Adrian Tennant: Now, you introduced Cint as a technology company. Where does it fit within the consumer research ecosystem?
Mike Klotz: So Cint’s role is to connect our surveys to their targeted respondents in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. We do that through our marketplace that connects researchers trying to understand more about the consumers with the respondents that we have access to. So we don’t really design studies or questionnaires and we don’t analyze or even see the data that’s being collected. We just ensure that our clients are collecting the data in the best way possible. So, what we’ve done with these respondents is we’ve had 150 profiling points for all the respondents that we have in our system. So, if you need to gather insights from dads of teenagers in New York, who go to the gym on a regular basis, or homeowners in California that make less than a hundred thousand, but own dogs, we can target those people directly. These profiling points, and the scale of the respondents we have, allows us to gather insights quickly and efficiently for our clients. In the past, fielding an online study could require a company to reach out to a number of panels, especially if the project is being conducted internationally. So project managers need to email back-and-forth with each of the panel sources about changes to the product specs, updates once it’s in the field, and any quotas that they need to fill. With Cint, all of that happens programmatically, without the need for all the back-and-forth, regardless of how many panels sources are feeding into the project or countries that the field work is being conducted in. So you’re cutting down potentially hundreds of emails during a project’s fielding to just a handful or none if you’re doing it through one of our DIY options.
Adrian Tennant: Can you explain the supply and demand sides of your business?
Mike Klotz: Yes, so the demand side of our business is really built up by our clients who are trying to understand consumer behavior better. We can measure that demand by simply looking at the number of consumers that companies want to collect behavior or opinions from. That’s dependent on the number of studies being fielded at any given time and the sample size desired in each study. The supply side is measured by the number of respondents available, which we can measure through the number of entries into our platform. In the simplest terms, our job is to ensure that we have enough supply to meet the demand through a completed interview.
Adrian Tennant: Where do the people that complete surveys typically come from?
Mike Klotz: So research panelists really come from all walks of life. In the US for example, we have access to over 20 million people who have either joined traditional panels, they’ve been recruited through social networks, or mobile games, through affiliate marketing, or website partners. There’s even an ad I see regularly on cable TV that asks people to help shape the future products they use. So all of these methods are designed to attract people who want their feedback and opinions to be heard.
Adrian Tennant: How are respondents rewarded for taking surveys?
Mike Klotz: So usually it’s monetary. Most panelists are incentivized either through direct payments or gift cards or some have point systems where you earn points for each study that you complete. And then you can buy things with those points or potentially enter those points into a sweepstakes for a larger prize.
Adrian Tennant: Now full disclosure here, Cint is one of Bigeye’s partners, so I know that you offer a variety of solutions. Can you explain a little more about Cint’s products and services and the types of clients or needs that each is designed to serve?
Mike Klotz: Right. So all of our solutions are designed to allow the client to collect data from respondents quickly, in a cost-effective manner, and as efficiently as possible. But that doesn’t always mean the same processes followed for each client. So the two main ways we work with clients are through what we call managed services and then through our DIY platform. So with managed services, a client of ours can take a survey that they’ve programmed in Qualtrics or SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo – you know, whatever the platform of choice is – and send it to us along with the details that they want on who they want to collect insights from. So we’ll handle the fielding of the study, making adjustments for quotas that they have or controlling the fielding period until we have all of the completed interviews that they require. On the DIY side, clients can set up and field their studies directly without our intervention. They’ll set up the targeting and field it directly through our system. Those are really the two main ways that we work with our clients. You know, smaller companies that may not have a big operation staff may choose to leverage our managed services while companies that are fielding a lot of projects and, you know, maybe they have specs that change frequently, they’ll leverage our DIY platforms so that they can really see what the impact of the changes are as they formulate their sample plan. Beyond that, if a client has a tool that they need to feed respondents into, we can build the APIs directly so that they can field projects to our supply through their own tools or solutions.
Adrian Tennant: How are respondents typically invited to participate in a study?
Mike Klotz: So, as I mentioned, all of the respondents we have in our system are profiled. So we already know who they are in terms of their demographics and some of their behaviors, for example, where they shop or the activities they participate in. So when a survey is being fielded that wants opinions from, say people that shop on Amazon.com or at Walmart, we can identify some of those in advance. And when we’re fielding that survey, they’ll receive an email invitation or a survey opportunity will pop up on the website or in the mobile app that they were recruited from. So, for example, they’ll see an opportunity to receive an incentive for doing a 10-minute study about their shopping habits. They can click on the link and enter our system. We also have algorithms on the back end, so when they enter the system, the respondent can be steered to the best-fit study for them.
Adrian Tennant: That was Mike Klotz of Cint, talking to us back in April. The other type of marketing research that Bigeye undertakes is qualitative. Focus groups are traditionally conducted in-person, but since March, with the closure of many research facilities as a result of COVID-19, we’ve been leveraging online solutions for the collection of qualitative insights. A couple of months ago, we interviewed Stephen Cribbett and Terri Sorenson from Further. Stephen is a pioneer in technology-enabled qualitative research, while Terri provides support, guidance, and inspiration to Further’s North American clients. We’ll pick up the conversation with Stephen’s definition of insight.
Stephen Cribbett: I think the human insight for me, or qualitative insight or consumer insight, is fraught with difficulty. It’s fraught with tension and challenge. I think we have to grapple with clients often. I don’t mean that in a sort of hostile relationship, but I think you need that tension to really unearth the kind of insight that gives clients the ability to move forward and understand what’s next or what the opportunity is. I think qualitative research for me is seeing a real Renaissance in the last five or so years, certainly as a response to big data, which has left clients still wanting and still searching for the answers. It hasn’t got anywhere near telling them why people are doing what they’re doing. It’s given them the ability to see what they’re doing, but in a way that lack of training has meant that they just keep coming back, wanting to know, “Why is that happening?” So for us, definitely it’s a good time to be in qualitative research and online qual in particular. And I think real insight, which on the qualitative spectrum can come from an interaction with one person, there’s never a better time to be doing it.
Adrian Tennant: Terri, what are the most common misconceptions prospective clients have about qualitative research as opposed to quantitative?
Terri Sorenson: That’s a really great question. So we find, especially in the online space, that there is the misconception that an online qualitative research study is lower in costs and reduced time. The costs, if you’re traveling, of course, there’s no travel costs in an online qualitative research study. However, the costs for recruitment, the cost for time, for your moderators, for analysis, all of that is still applicable. And I would even say sometimes the amount of time a researcher puts into an online qualitative research study is possibly more because you’ll find participants in the studies that share quite a bit of detail and their responses are quite in-depth. So there’s increased time to go through those responses. As well, another myth or misconception I would have to say is that online qualitative, there is reduced effort in their moderation. So from the researcher’s perspective, it’s not a start and hit go and everything just comes in. You need to be engaged in those online qualitative studies, just as much as you would be if you were in-person and to allow – to really get out those insights from the participants that are taking part in this study. So again, being engaged, and being present within the online environment within your online qualitative study allows you to establish rapport with your participants and really get to know them in order to dig deep into those insights.
Adrian Tennant: What types of project is qualitative research especially well suited for?
Stephen Cribbett: I mean a lot of what we do and, and I think this is where qualitative research in the online version works really, really well is exploratory research. So the ability to spend time immersing oneself within consumers’ lives, over a short period of time, is exceptionally strong. And that means for us that we can often get through two or three different phases of work, starting with some exploration and consumer immersion, then developing some ideas and, and testing and evaluating those ideas with consumers. that works really, really well. I would say as an alternative to doing focus groups where you’ve got a very limited amount of time with the consumer, often highly scripted as well, online qual gives you that space and ability to meander, with consumers and to go off-piste. And so again, the skill of the moderator in that instance is to be prepared for that and to follow the ebbs and flows of the conversations and the dialogues that are happening. so I’d say the exploratory research is really, really good. I know Terri has been working on a couple of different areas recently as well, that I think, the online qual, lends itself to particularly well.
Terri Sorenson: Yeah, so recently we’ve seen an uptick in in-home product testing. So there’s been a lot of focus on getting to see that product in the home environment then immersing with the consumers or the users over that short given period of time, say a week with the product. Getting to know their perceptions of, initial reactions and what the experience is like over that given time. So that’s one area we’ve seen a bit of an uptick in, as well. We do see a bit, customer experience type of research, finding those gaps in the service that companies or brands are offering, are another great usage of online qualitative solutions.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.
Dana Cassell: I’m Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as marketing professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Stephen Cribbett and Terri Sorenson from Further. Now, in addition to market research services, Further has developed an online qualitative platform that you call Together. Can you tell us a bit about what the platform offers researchers?
Terri Sorenson: So Together is an activity-based platform. Researchers are able to engage with the consumers and the participants in a variety of different activity types. They can be activities such as a blog or a markup kind of activity for a concept test. They can track participants with daily habits through diary activities. you can send them on shopping missions, have participants upload photos of their experience in the store or photos or videos as well. So there’s a variety of activities that the researcher can engage with the participants in. There’s open discussion forums, collaboration or co-creation type activities, and participants can come up with their own new ideas for a product. And then, you run with that as the researcher to further develop what it is that the participants or these consumers are looking for. It’s a great way to allow the group as a whole to collaborate together. We also have a small bit of quant in our world of qual, allowing them to dig deeper into some concept testing, using survey-type activities as well. And then,
Adrian Tennant: How do clients monitor the research as it’s taking place?
Terri Sorenson: Yeah. So the Together platform allows you as the data is coming in, allows you, of course, to see the responses and everything taking place. You can then, as a researcher, you are able to then what we call probing the participants or join in the conversation with the participants. As well, you can at any time of course, download the transcripts and work with it offline if you wanted. And you can also invite your end clients to come in and view the discussions that are taking part within the platform as well.
Stephen Cribbett: Probably the simplest way of describing the platform – it’s like a professional Facebook platform. So you log on and see these conversations happening in real time. You see all of the data, the videos, the events and the moments that are being shared, and it is quite exciting. Often it can be quite addictive once you start looking into those. And, we get to see all manner of things taking place, and sometimes some really interesting relationships starting to form within these communities as well.
Adrian Tennant: Now, for anyone considering undertaking the very first online qualitative project, do you have some top tips for success that you could share?
Stephen Cribbett: Oh, good question. First and foremost, I think it’s important not to think like this is an alternative to a focus group and just lift a focus group discussion. So, we try to encourage the clients or the researchers that are using the technology, not to over-script all of the interactions and the task and activities with the clients. I think it’s important to allow that space and time for your participants to go off-piste and to share things outside of the realms of the project, because often that will shape their thinking and their approach. So those are really important. I think also when you are incentivizing and rewarding people for their participation, of course, these research respondents, they get paid some money to participate in these activities, but I think you need to go deeper and think about some of the more social and emotional rewards and incentives to participation for these people. You should recruit them on an attitudinal basis rather than just kind of the demographics. So think about how they might be interesting and interested in the project itself. What can they bring to the table that you might not otherwise get. And think about how to encourage them to interact and hang out with each other sometimes because that does lead to the sharing of different thoughts, different attitudes, and perceptions. So I think those are some of the sort of the very top-line tips alongside just being creative. I think a lot of the time that we spend with our clients is helping them think creatively about what’s possible with the tools that they have at their disposal, rather than seeing the technology is a barrier. See it as an enabler and think differently about how you might elicit the types of responses that you want. But Terri, I know you spend a lot of time guiding clients on these things and giving them the kind of, quick start programs that we have. What would you see as the most pertinent advice that you gave on a daily basis?
Terri Sorenson: Yeah. So on a daily basis, I would say, that the best advice is to know your technology and trust in your technology partner. Part of that is because yes, we offer an online qualitative platform, but we are invested in what we do here at Further, and we help our clients to learn the technology, to use it to its best advantage in order to gain their insights. Take time to learn that technology. So, play around with the software before you begin developing your guide, know what tools are available to you. And as Stephen said, one of the most important things is to be creative. Don’t just design a question-answer response type of research study. Because in all honesty, you can do that in an online survey. Get creative with your research design itself.
Adrian Tennant: Further has offices in the UK and of course, North America. Do you see any significant differences between European clients’ approaches to market research and the way North American clients work?
Terri Sorenson: So from my perspective, the research methodologies are quite similar. A large number of our clients do global research. So what’s being done in the UK versus the US are very similar in their approach. I do believe there’s a bit of cultural difference between the actual research design, compared to London and the US. And by that, I mean, I see a lot more fluid or holistic approach to research design from our London clients compared to a more rigid or structured approach to the research design in the US. Meaning there’s a lot more of the direct question, direct response type approach versus allowing research design such as when wanting to uncover their feelings or perceptions about a particular experience or brand. Creating and designing the activity in a way of, “Here’s some things to think about. Then we would like you to share your experience with this” compared to, “Alright. I want to know, when did you last use this? How was that experience with it?” Those direct, question-answer response. So I feel like there’s a little more of a human element when it comes to the London clients, whereas I find a lot more desire for automation, quick responses from the North American clients.
Stephen Cribbett: I think what we’re seeing at the moment is there is an appetite as well for a lot of the North American clients to go through this kind of learn, test, and develop sort of process really that’s sort of three-stage approach. So they seem more willing to be using online methods to cycle through that really quickly with
Adrian Tennant: That was Further’s founder and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Cribbett, and Further’s North American Client Success Manager, Terri Sorenson. Before that clip, we heard from Michael Klotz, Director of Client Development at Cint. And I’d like to extend my thanks to all the guests that have joined us on this fourth season of IN CLEAR FOCUS. You can find transcripts of all our episodes on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” So you don’t miss a future episode, please consider subscribing to the show on your podcast player of choice – and, if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to this season of IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. I’ll see you in season five, but for now, goodbye.