Who’s the 800-pound gorilla of consumer research? The U.S. Government.
The best information we have about how much Americans spend in the aggregate on different categories of consumer products and services comes from the feds, via the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Taxpayers kick in $213.6 million a year to support the research division of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which conducts various surveys that chart economic activity and provide insights that establish important indicators such as the Consumer Price Index.
You don’t have a research budget in the hundreds of millions, but you do have the ability to get consumer insights much faster and in more detail than the feds. We’ll tell you how, but first here’s more on how that 800-pound research gorilla operates.
The Consumer Expenditure Survey involves two different ongoing studies commissioned by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and fielded by the Census Bureau. There’s a written questionnaire called the “interview survey” that focuses on recurring expenses such as rents, mortgages and car payments. Members of this panel fill out a survey each quarter detailing their recurring payments over the previous three months. The second study obtains data about more day-to-day consumer spending. Members of the day-to-day panel keep a diary for two weeks, reporting at the end on each purchase made by a household member.
Using this methodology, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that Americans spent $385.7 billion on eating out, and $514.7 billion to eat at home during 2015. And that the national grocery bill for at-home food consumption included $98.6 billion for fruits and vegetables, and $106.7 billion for meat, poultry, fish, and seafood.
But this method has an obvious recall problem. Even an engaged panelist can get too busy to keep receipts or remember to write down expenditures. So to some extent, Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates ride on its panels’ guestimates. For precise research and Point-of-Emotion® insights, your best bet is an advanced, in-app mobile survey fielded to an engaged all-mobile panel. Using phones’ GPS capabilities, you can GeoLocate consumers and pop them questions when their actions and experiences are freshest in mind.
Guestimates may be good enough for government work, but not for yours. And in MFour’s experience, mobile diarists come through with accurate, validated data because using their phones to report their activities comes naturally – after all, that’s what they’re doing when they post to Facebook. You can expect a re-contact rate of 85% for mobile diary studies and for other projects that call for repeated surveys over time.
To learn more about true-mobile diary studies, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.