Surveys On The Go®, MFour’s trail-blazing mobile research app, continues to ride high with consumers and tech tastemakers alike, eight years after its launch. SOTG’s latest distinction is making CNET Magazine/Download.com's list of the “8 best moneymaking apps to earn cash in 2019.”
Tech writer Joshua Rotter made the picks, so kudos to him for recognizing excellence. We also appreciate his emphasis on data privacy. Rotter noted that in addition to providing an engaging way to earn money while being heard by Fortune 1000 companies as they hone the creation, refinement and marketing of products and services, SOTG users enjoy a guarantee to protect and never sell their Personal Identifying Information (PII).
In fact, a key distinction of SOTG versus many other sources of consumer data is an assurance that app-users’ identities and demographic information will be protected and used only in aggregated form, combined with survey answers from all other participants in a given survey.
We should note that while individual experts’ opinions of Surveys On The Go® carry weight, the aggregated opinions of multitudes of app users count the most. On that score, SOTG has long been the top mobile survey app, with average all-time ratings of 4.6 stars out of 5 on Google Play and 4.5 at the Apple iOS App Store.
Why does it matter? The quality of the data depends on the quality of the survey experience and the size of the consumer panel available to take surveys. We always work hard to give the 2.5 million U.S. consumers who have downloaded SOTG the best experience, and we’re always grateful for their participation and support. The best in market research depends on them.
If you’ve been late to the party in adopting advanced mobile market research, you have perhaps two more years to get on board with today’s unique mobile data solutions – or else. The longer you remain in a state of inertia by clinging to the online studies that have been a steady standby since at least the early 2000s, the less representative your data will be. Online representation of U.S. consumers is crumbling at an accelerated pace, and in two years it will be a memory.
Call it the threat and the opportunity of a rising G-force.
In physics, G stands for “gravitational” and represents the amount of resistance encountered by objects in motion. “Because of the stresses and strains on objects, sufficiently large g-forces… can be highly destructive,” says gforces.net.
“Stress,” “strain” and “highly destructive” are unavoidable conditions for researchers and brands that ignore the inexorable effect of a different kind of G-force in which G is for “generation” – the term communications technologists have coined to describe advances in the speed and efficiency with which successive generations of smartphones process mobile data.
This “G” spells great opportunity for market research that’s committed to meeting today’s consumers in the mobile sphere where they live. But it’s disastrous for those who remain slow to adapt to the new reality. Online consumers continue to morph into mobile-only consumers, and for the vast majority of U.S. residents, smartphones already are the dominant means of receiving, sharing and creating information. Now online is about to suffer a death blow from the next G-force in communications: the advent of 5G mobile access to the internet.
- The dawn of 5G smartphones is rapidly approaching. 5G adoption is expected to take off as soon as 2020, thanks to data speeds 10 to 100 times faster than the current mobile standard, 4G.
- “5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before,” reports techrader.com, with United States mobile providers leading the way. “Many companies are busy making sure their networks and devices are '5G ready' in time for 2020, meaning some networks may launch before then.”
A recent rundown from Business Insider summarizes what the onslaught of 5G will mean for consumers as mobile data races ahead of online data.
- “Mobile 5G networks will be able to transfer data at speeds that are 10-100 times faster than on 4G…making mobile internet activities…more seamless and enjoyable on smartphones….
- “Mobile 5G will provide consumers with internet speeds even faster than their current home internet speeds.”
- “For instance, AT&T's impending mobile 5G network will have peak download speeds of 400 Mbps,” quadrupling the average speed of current home broadband connections.
In fact, the destruction of online consumer research representation already has crossed beyond the point of reversal.
- Pew Research Center, which tracks Americans’ internet access, reported earlier in 2018 that fully 20% of U.S. adults rely solely on mobile and have abandoned traditional online broadband access to the internet. That’s up 67% from just two years earlier.
- The number of these “smartphone dependent” adults who lack home broadband rises to 29% for 18- to 29-year-olds, and 24% for those ages 30 to 49. If you’re not reaching these key, mobile-only consumers, your research representation already stands 20% or more below the threshold of reliability. There’s no trusting data that comes from such a narrow bandwidth of the public.
The takeaway isn’t hard to see: if you’re not already studying consumers with advanced in-app mobile location-tracking and surveys, you’re digging for data in all the wrong places.
The good news is that it’s not hard to play a rapid game of catch-up. Scores of leading brands and market research firms partner with MFour for mobile-app research technology and the fully-representative first-party, all-mobile consumer panel MFour has cultivated around its groundbreaking Surveys On The Go® mobile research app. Among MFour’s offerings are mobile brand tracking studies whose data is of-the-moment, but can be integrated with historical online tracking data to avoid a sharp break with your existing data sets.
Those who fail to integrate mobile successfully into their trackers will have a woeful time getting quality data. It’s just one of the ways in which winter is coming for online market research.
Even on Black Friday, retailers aren’t immune to the problem of non-buying behavior, the frustrating, revenue-sapping phenomenon of being able to entice a consumer into a store, only to have that same consumer leave without buying anything.
Using GPS location tracking, MFour surveyed 3,857 shoppers just as they left five major stores on Black Friday. With their experiences fresh in mind, 21% of the shoppers surveyed said they did not make a purchase during their visit. Identifying non-buyers is the first step toward turning them into spenders, and in-the-moment, right-time and right-place mobile exit surveys are the state of the art for understanding shoppers’ motivations. Just as mobile location surveys enable retailers to understand the “why” behind the buy, the same solution gets to the motivations behind the non-buy.
Depending on the circumstances, the problem could be shortages of popular items, aisle and shelf layouts that make a desired product hard to find, unpopular pricing or inadequate customer service. The problem could be chain-wide and systemic, or a localized issue that would require a local solution. The only way to know is to buttonhole first-party consumers for mobile exit interviews, identify non-buyers, and ask them what the problem was while they’re still at the Point of Emotion®, when their shopping experiences are vivid and fully remembered.
In the Black Friday study, non-buying behavior hit Macy’s and Best Buy shoppers the hardest, with 36% of Macy’s customers and 34% at Best Buy saying they had left without making a purchase. Many respondents said one of their motivations on Black Friday was to see actual items before buying, as an alternative to online shopping. Some are “showroomers” – shoppers who want to see, feel and try on or try out what they’re looking for, but are then willing to keep shopping for a better deal online or at other stores. With their smartphones in hand while they shop a Macy’s or a Best Buy, it takes seconds for shoppers to see whether they can get a better price elsewhere. With reliable data from non-buyers, retailers can gain insights into how to sweeten the experience so that showroomers become willing to buy right now, or commit to buying from the retailer’s own online store.
The Black Friday study showed that shoppers were less likely to leave without buying at Kohl’s (20% non-buyers) and Target (15%). Walmart, which like Target offers daily essentials and snacks and groceries, kept non-buying to 9%.
Even at 15% or 9%, however, retailers are leaving real money on the table. Understanding the “why” behind the non-buy is the first step toward limiting those losses, and GPS-enabled exit surveys of valid, first-party shoppers are the fastest, surest way to get accurate data to guide smart solutions to a problem that persists even on Black Friday, when consumers are intensely motivated to buy.
Santa Claus came to MFour shortly after last year's Christmas season to solve his biggest consumer satisfaction problem: chronic annual shortages of the hottest toys.
His elves' off-target toy production had been based on recommendations from online market researchers who relied on multi-sourced, third-party data to draw inferences about consumer preferences. Flawed data and off-target forecasting led to wasted effort in Santa's Workshop and unwanted gifts under trees. Many very "nice" children were spending Christmas morning wondering whether Santa had categorized them as "naughty," and therefore undeserving of their preferred gifts.
Santa came to MFour for a solution. The recommendation was Digital Brand Tracking. This groundbreaking new capability lets clients observe consumers' shopping and buying activities on Amazon, a key indicator of their interests and preferences. With Digital Brand Tracking, Santa was able to observe what real, validated first-party consumers were searching for online. Then he followed up with real-time mobile surveys to get fresh, Point-of-Emotion® insights into the presents they want. And thanks to constant tracking, Santa can continue to watch for consumer trends right up to Christmas Eve, and beyond.
“I already know who’s been bad or good, but some of the good kids were getting toys they didn't want," Santa said. "Thanks to MFour, the elves and I have eliminated wasted production of unwanted goods and refocused on items that will spread comfort and joy. Now I can confidently promise on-time production and delivery of the toys children actually love. It's really something to Ho-Ho-Ho about!"
Digital Behavior Tracking isn’t just for Santa. Businesses of all sizes can leverage this new solution from MFour for greater insight and understanding of validated, first-party consumer behavior. Don’t rely on stated data to get the answers you need. Take the power of observed shopper behavior and combine it with real-time surveys of profiled, demographically representative respondents to ensure the highest-quality consumer data. To learn more about this transformative technology and its uses, please complete the form below.
Retailers’ and product manufacturers’ bottom lines hang in the balance on Black Friday. We followed validated, first-party consumers from store to store during their buying journeys on the big day, and here’s some of what we discovered:
- Consumers did their part for retailers by going bargain-hunting instead of going to the gym.
- With their refrigerators stuffed with Thanksgiving leftovers, they understandably avoided grocery aisles.
- Faced with those leftovers at home, they were not entirely averse to eating out, especially at chains commonly located in shopping malls.
- However, as KFC can attest, quick-serve meals featuring poultry with biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy can be a hard sell the day after Thanksgiving.
Here are some highlights that can be observed on MFour’s consumer-journey visualization tool, Path-2-Purchase® Platform. It continuously tracks the daily location visits of 2.5 million first-party U.S. consumers who have downloaded the Surveys On The Go® mobile research app. Members doubly opt in to allow location tracking via their smartphones across 12.5 million locations, enabling them to receive in-store and after-visit survey opportunities for location-based research.
The figures compare observed retail visits on Black Friday, Nov. 23, with the average number of visits to each retailer or restaurant over the five previous Fridays from Oct. 19 to Nov. 16.
- About those absences from the gym: top fitness chains experienced drop-offs of 20% (at Anytime Fitness) to 66% (at Equinox). LA Fitness was in the middle with a 38% decrease in foot traffic.
Instead, shoppers flocked to the stores en masse, and many retailers saw foot traffic soar by factors of two, three, four and five over their recent Friday averages. However, to see those results you will have to wait for in our 2018 Black Friday Study webinar on December 12th at 10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern (which you can register for below). In the meantime, here are some other insights we gleaned from Black Friday:
- It was a more normal Friday at club stores: Costco saw a 12% increase and Sam’s Club a 10% boost.
- If working off calories in a gym wasn’t on most consumers’ agendas, they were certainly thinking about getting active in the future: Dick’s Sporting Goods boosted its foot traffic 483% above recent Friday norms, and Bass Pro Shops enjoyed a 474% upsurge.
- It was generally a down Friday for quick-serve restaurants, with Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Subway off 13% to 19% from their recent norms.
- But some restaurants that typically are inside or in close proximity to malls succeeded in refilling stomachs that had gotten over their Thanksgiving heroics. Johnny Rockets (278%), Cinnabon (147%), Sbarro (89%) and The Cheesecake Factory (55%) were busier than their usual Friday.
- And chicken didn’t seem quite so alluring as usual after a day of poultry overload. KFC’s foot traffic was down 41% and Chick-fil-A was off 19% from recent Friday averages.
- Grocery stores were down, with Albertsons, Kroger and Winn-Dixie stores averaging an aggregate slacking off of 31% from their recent Friday norms.
While it’s well worth targeting, tracking and observing demographically profiled consumers’ visitation patterns, there’s more to be done to understand their motivations and their shopping experiences. The key is being able to locate and survey them in real time, during or just after a shopping visit. That will be the subject of “Black Friday Consumer Study – the `Why’ Behind the Buy,” a webinar MFour is offering Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern. To sign up, just complete the form below.
The good news for advertising on social media is that a massive audience gathers there. The bad news is that any given social media ad is a small raft of messaging in a limitless ocean of content. To increase your social ads’ chances of being discovered - and lifting consumers’ brand and product awareness and intent to buy - keep reading.
But first, some recent data from Pew Research Center shows how potentially rewarding social media platforms can be for advertisers.
- 73% of U.S. adults use YouTube.
- Among teens, YouTube use rises to 85%.
- 68% of U.S. adults use Facebook.
- Facebook usage is highest among ages 18-29 (81%) and women (74%).
- 50% of U.S. adults visit Facebook at least once a day.
- Instagram’s share of the U.S. adult audience is 35% and Twitter’s is 24%.
That’s a lot of consumers who can potentially be reached by a given ad. The challenge is to turn the potential of social media advertising into a real return on investment. Measuring the effectiveness of social media advertising has been controversial, with concerns about transparency over impressions and other key metrics. But setting aside that debate, there can be no question that brands and agencies control the creative content of their social media ads, and need to know as much as possible as soon as possible about how the ads they’re creating are likely to be viewed and acted upon by their intended social audiences.
MFour offers an advertising research product called Social Ad Testing that raises the chances of success for any social ad campaign. It’s a test that doesn’t seem like a test to the recipients you’re targeting. Instead, Social Ad Testing presents the ad as natural content in target consumers’ actual social news feeds. The test ad is consistent with all the other posts and advertisements the recipients are scrolling through in their feeds. You’re testing in the wild, so to speak - in the natural environment where your ad must flourish or fail once the campaign actually begins.
Social Ad Testing is the only method that takes your ad right into the wilds of social media. All the others do the testing in a simulated social environment. First, you’ll just observe how your test audience responds to the ad. How long was it in view? Did they click on it to activate audio? Did they share it or “like” it?
Next, you’ll step out from behind the curtain and show them the ad, so you can survey them using key qualitative questions about which creative elements work, which don’t, and how favorable they are toward the product and brand. If all signals read “go,” you launch the campaign with confidence. If the ad isn’t ready for prime time, the test will tell you not only that it needs work, but point you to the creative elements you need to improve. With that guidance, you’ll revise and retest until you know the ad is ready to give you your best shot at capturing attention and motivating consumers in the social space.
You can test an ad across different social platforms to see where you should direct your budget. Or you can test different versions, compare, and decide which is the one to use.
The social ad space is too big and untamed to venture forth unprepared. With Social Ad Testing, you give your campaigns the best chance of breaking through.
How important is it to collect fast, accurate data about customer experiences? In one history-making case, a single bad customer experience may have destroyed an industry.
According to Netflix’s origin myth, company founder Reed Hastings first conceived the idea of a mail-order subscription video service after being slammed with a large late fee because he was tardy in returning a videocassette of the movie, “Apollo 13” to the store he’d rented it from.
You can read this Quartz.com report about how Netflix came to be. While it’s possible that the late-fee incident has been embellished somewhat in its frequent retelling, there’s no question that Hastings wasn’t satisfied with his own video rental experiences and took them as a cue for groundbreaking entrepreneurship. The result has had immense consequences for the distribution and consumption (and more recently, the creation) of video entertainment.
According to estimates from the Digital Entertainment Group, brick-and-mortar video rental stores grossed $393 million in 2017, compared to $11.5 billion for streaming services and video on demand. Meanwhile, the number of video stores fell from nearly 30,000 in 2000 to just over 2,000 in 2017, according to a USA Today feature on America’s fastest-dying industries.
While industries typically can’t trace their collapse to a single failure to provide a satisfying customer experience, poor encounters with brands and retailers inevitably erode their earnings and chase consumers to their competitors. Negative sentiment takes wing in an instant on the internet, and if those perceptions take hold they will threaten revenues and profits.
So staying continually on top of what consumers think and feel about a brand should be a day-by-day priority, verging on an obsession, for market research. Now, thanks to GPS location studies conducted through a mobile research app, it’s an obsession that’s easy to satisfy.
The best time to assess the quality of consumers’ shopping experiences is while the experiences are actually happening, or just after. In-store and after-visit mobile geolocation studies get that job done. Store atmosphere, service quality, pricing, the ease or difficulty shoppers have in navigating the aisles to find the products they want – all can be best assessed at the Point-of-Emotion®. It’s the spot on the place/time continuum where responses from consumers are most vivid and come closest to the whole truth about what they are experiencing, how they feel about it, and how those experiences influence their buying decisions and overall satisfaction.
Of course, GPS location studies will only be as good as who you’re locating and how engaged they are with your research. Unless you want heaps of well-documented trouble associated with the quality of online consumer surveys, the crucial “who” has to be a first-party, single-source consumer panel of validated actual shoppers. MFour’s consumers are gathered around Surveys On The Go®, the most highly-developed, highest-rated mobile research app.
The satisfaction of 2.5 million U.S. consumers who have downloaded SOTG is the big difference maker. They’re engaged, carefully profiled mobile research participants who doubly opt in to have their location journeys tracked, in exchange for increased opportunities to receive surveys they complete quickly on their smartphones. That’s how you’ll identify them in-store and survey them when it matters most.
Expect 25% response rates within an hour, and 50% within 24 hours. And if you want to follow them beyond the moments of shopping and purchasing, and understand their satisfaction at the moment they’re actually using or consuming a product, that’s also an easy “get” for in-app mobile. Expect response rates of 85% for In-Home User Tests conducted up to two weeks after a purchase.
Reed Hastings realized he could transform the movie-rental experience (and the future of rental revenues) by using technology to make it easy on the consumer. You can do the same for yourself. Market research conducted with the state-of-the-art GPS location and consumer-panel quality unique to in-app mobile research will be more satisfying to you as a consumer of market research tools. If the online consumer data you’ve been collecting isn’t giving you what you need, maybe it’s time for some innovative thinking and action of your own.
While market research continues to pop the questions it takes to gain consumer insights, young adults in the U.S. are becoming less and less likely to pop the question that sets couples on the path to marriage.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 29% of today’s 18- to 34-year-olds are married, compared to 59% in 1978. The median age at first marriage is now 29.8 years for men and 27.8 years for women, continuing a steady climb that began in1950 and has accelerated since the Great Recession.
Meanwhile, 3.85 million babies were born in the U.S. in 2017, a drop of 2% in just one year, and a decline of nearly 7% from the number of U.S. births in 2009.
Economics is clearly a factor. Among the 71% of adults under 35 who are not married, only 20% earn at least $40,000 a year. For married young adults, the proportion earning at least $40,000 doubles to 40%.
Marriage, parenthood and the formation of households are, of course, of fundamental importance not only to people’s personal lives, but to their lives as consumers. Perhaps the most important message that market research can take from these powerful demographic developments is that big changes are afoot, even for enduring facets of life that many of us consider unshakable. In the face of great changes, it’s crucial for consumer insights professionals to be constantly alert and rapidly adaptable when it comes to the best practices for understanding how the consumer landscape is shifting.
Given these realities, does it make sense to accept longstanding common wisdom about research and its methods? For example, should long term tracking studies put such a premium on methodological consistency that they sacrifice accuracy for the sake of keeping all their data ducks in a neat row? The acceleration of change should tell you that those ducks are probably waddling around in patterns that have changed considerably since the tracking study was launched.
If you’re committed to continuity in your online trackers, and worried that you’ll lose data continuity if you switch to mobile, it’s time for more flexible thinking. Mobile living is the way consumers live today. Their phones are always with them. The personal computers you’ve relied on for answers to online tracking surveys are now optional for many consumers, and they’ve become especially less relevant outside of white-collar workplaces and home offices.
So if you’re still holding out against mobile tracking data, maybe it’s time to reconsider whether that approach is really stalwart and steady-on. In a changing world, integrating mobile data into tracking studies isn’t the risky play. It’s the conservative move – if data accuracy and true consumer representation are the values you’re trying to conserve. In a time of flux, the riskiest behavior is to ignore fundamental changes and stand still. For better or for worse, it’s just a fact that young adults are postponing marriage. It’s also just a fact that consumers have gone mobile. To stay on track, trackers must move with them.
For more on how to integrate mobile into your tracking studies, just click here.
Empathy is indispensable to strong friendships, marriages, and any other rewarding human interaction. For brands, forging empathetic bonds is the essence of winning customer loyalty. Consumer insights pros have a pivotal role to play in empathy building, since they are the observing eyes and attentive ears who collect the data that leads to understanding, without which there can be no emotion-based connection.
A recent article posted online by the Harvard Business Review explores new ways of training employees to understand and empathize with the customers they serve. It lays out a four-step process that, significantly, begins with “Gathering insights. What is broken, frustrating, surprising or uncomfortable for your customer?”
The article, “To Get Employees To Empathize with Customers, Get them To Think Like Customers,” proposes a bit of unusual game-playing to put employees in customers’ shoes. Authors Erin Henkel and Adam Grant suggest that managers identify a business in an unrelated industry that interacts with customers in ways comparable to the one trying to up its customer-empathy game. Then it sends employees to have a customer experience with the mirror brand, and see how it feels to need service and see where it succeeds or falls short. The idea is that there will be more freedom for discussion if their own company’s policies and execution are not the direct subject of a customer-empathy discussion.
“It takes time and energy to design these experiences,” the authors write, “….but we’ve found them to be a powerful way to ensure that the people in your organization truly understand their customers.”
The challenge for any brand as it tries to understand “what is broken, frustrating, surprising or uncomfortable for your customer” is to strike while the emotions and experiences are hot.
Too often, the data harvested via consumer surveys reflects stale memories, and little, if any emotion, because emotion often flares during and directly after an experience, but quickly subsides.
In an act of empathy for marketers and market researchers, we’ll lay out the bones of our solution, which we call survey research at the Point-of-Emotion®.
First comes the not-so-secret ingredient: a first-party consumer panel of representative U.S. consumers.
Next comes the unique, proprietary ingredient: Surveys On The Go® (SOTG), the research industry’s most advanced and reliable mobile app for locating and surveying consumers during their buying journeys. We’ve empathized with our app-users by giving them great mobile experiences that satisfy their demand for smooth-functioning, fun experiences on their smartphones
Since its debut in 2011, SOTG has received consistent ratings of 4.5-stars out of 5 at the Apple and Google Play stores. Our users’ satisfaction gets you the engagement you need for fast, accurate data.
The right people, engaged by the right technology, gets you the right-now, right-place data you need to uncork emotions and experiences before they’ve gone flat due to the passage of time. You can field surveys while your audience is still in a store, or wait until they exit for a post-visit survey that captures their entire experience.
For an empathetic discussion of how mobile-app location studies can meet your projects’ specific needs, just get in touch by clicking here.