Quirk's Blog

Sales of pumpkin-flavored everything continue to climb

Pumpkin Spice LatteWhile today is the official first day of fall, I have to confess that I have been indulging in fall flavors for a few weeks now. As usual, it all started with the invasion of pumpkin at my favorite coffee shops (I couldn’t resist a pumpkin-flavored cold press) and grew to include grocery aisles and my favorite foodie blogs. My pumpkin-obsession is made most obvious in one of my kitchen cabinets where pumpkin spice sits next to a row (or two) of canned pumpkin puree. Even my pumpkin-loving husband questioned my stash – that is until I told him my plans of baking pumpkin muffins and pie, and hopes of mastering a homemade (read healthier) pumpkin spice latte.

I’m far from the only one obsessed with the pumpkin flavor trend. Twelve years after Starbucks put the pumpkin spice latte (PSL) on the fall menu, it’s safe to say that pumpkin-flavored anything and everything has become a cultural force. Pumpkin products accounted for $361 million in sales last year alone and have grown 79 percent since 2011.

This year Starbucks’ PSL made a splash in the news with the inclusion of real pumpkin and the removal of caramel coloring. It was never a secret to me that the pumpkin-craze is really based on the spice and sugar mix we all associate with pumpkin, so I have to admit I found it odd that the PSL was called out for questionable ingredients and lack of real pumpkin. Even New York Magazine said in 2012 that, “The weird thing about pumpkin’s rise to bacon-like ubiquity is that pumpkin, on its own, is not a very appetizing food at all.” While it’s too soon to tell if the addition of real pumpkin will impact sales dollars, I’ll be interested to see if the tweak does make a difference.

Starbucks’ isn’t the only one making changes during pumpkin season. The flavor that was once limited to pie fillings, lattes and craft beers has spilled over to pet treats, baby food, chewing gum and even vodka. According to a study from Nielsen, 37 percent of U.S. consumers purchased a pumpkin-flavored product last year. Pumpkin pie filling is still the top pumpkin product, with $135 million of sales in the last year, followed by cream and coffee. Niche products like pumpkin-flavored peanut butter and chewing gum all sold about $1 million each last year.

Pumpkin-flavored goods show no sign of slowing down as the demand for new items continues to rise. How long do you think Americans will embrace the great pumpkin invasion? What other flavors should be noted for having a cult-like consumer following?

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Product Research, Shopper Insights | Comment

Study shows families trimming back-to-school spending for 2015

A mother and son clothes shoppingAfter spending more on school supplies and electronics in 2014, parents will head into this back-to-school season evaluating what their children really need before spending on new items. According to NRF’s Back-to-School Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $630.36 on electronics, apparel and other school needs, down from $669.28 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $24.9 billion.

Families on average have spent 42 percent more on back to school over the past 10 years.

“As seen over the last 13 years, spending on ‘back to school’ has consistently fluctuated based on children’s needs each year, and it’s unlikely most families would need to restock and replenish apparel, electronics and supplies every year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Parents this summer will inventory their children’s school supplies and decide what is needed and what can be reused, which just makes good budgeting sense for families with growing children.

For those who have to restock what their children need for school, 92.7 percent will purchase new apparel, spending an average of $217.82, though most (94.1 percent) will head out for new school supplies, spending an average of $97.74; families will also spend $117.56 on new shoes.

In 2014, 58.3 percent of parents said they would buy electronics for their school-age children, and planned to spend an average of $212.35 – one of the highest amounts seen in the survey’s history. Having less of a need for electronics this year, however, families said they would decrease their spending on gadgets for their children and will spend an average of $197.24.

Survey results point to a more confident consumer when it comes to spending and the impact of the economy. The survey found 76.4 percent of families with school-age children say they will change their spending because of the economy, the lowest in the seven years NRF has been tracking it and down from 81.1 percent last year.

Fashion-forward teens and tweens know just how to get mom and dad’s attention when it comes to new school gear to make their friends stop and stare. According to the survey, 86.4 percent of school shoppers say their children will influence one-quarter or more of their back-to-school purchases. And for the smaller purchases, children plan to chip in some of their own money; teens will dole out $33.27, and pre-teens will spend an average $17.57.

“Heading into the second half of the year, we are optimistic that economic growth and consumer spending will improve after a shaky first half of the year,” said Shay.
Omnichannel offerings desired by shoppers

For the first time, NRF asked about shoppers’ intentions to use retailers’ omnichannel offerings; of those planning to shop online, nearly half say they will take advantage of retailers’ buy online, pick up in store or ship to store options, and 17.3 percent will look for expedited shipping offers. 92.1 percent will take advantage of retailers’ free shipping offers.

Separated by age, Millennials are much more likely to use these channels: Two-thirds of 18-24- and 25-34-year-olds will use a buy online, pick up in store or ship to store option (65.7 percent and 65 percent respectively), and 15.4 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds will use a reserve online option, much higher than the 9.1 percent of average adults who plan to do so. Additionally, 23 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds will use same-day delivery, significantly more than the 10.2 percent of average adults.

College shoppers spending less in 2015

As seen in NRF’s Back-to-School Survey, college shoppers and their families will also spend slightly less this year after investing in electronics and supplies in 2014. According to NRF’s 2015 Back-to-College Spending Survey, families with children in college and college students will spend an average of $899.18, down slightly from $916.48 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $43.1 billion.*

Trendy Millennials have changed how they view the decor needs for their traditionally less-than-appealing dorm rooms, and this year spending on matching bed sets, curtains, bath linens and other home goods will top any previous year. According to the survey, half (51.3 percent) of college shoppers will purchase dorm or apartment furnishings and will spend an average $126.30, up 30 percent from $96.70 last year and the most since NRF began tracking it in 2007.

Total spending for K-12 and college is expected to reach $68 billion.*

About the survey
NRF’s 2015 Back-to-School and Back-to-College spending Surveys were designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to back-to-school spending and back-to-college spending. The surveys were conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The poll of 6,500 consumers was conducted June 30-July 8, 2015.The consumer polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

*The total spending figure is an extrapolation of U.S. adults 18 and older.


Posted in Apparel, Consumer Research, Kids/Youth Research, Market Research Findings, Retailing, Shopper Insights | Comments Off

Photo recap from Quirk’s Summer Party!

We had a blast hosting Quirk’s Summer Part at The Gage Chicago Chicago, a free event for researchers looking to network with their peers in a casual, comfortable environment.

A huge thank you to our sponsors and everyone who came out for the party! It was wonderful to have the chance to meet new people, catch up with old friends and celebrate summer in Chicago.

Posted in Research Blogs and Communities, The Business of Research | Comments Off

Reflecting on OmniShopper 2015

I’m back in the office after a busy two days in Chicago attending OmniShopper 2015. This trip marked my first time in Chicago (not counting driving through during a family vacation when I was 10) and I thoroughly enjoyed the show, connecting with other attendees, attending some great sessions and walking through Millennium Park!

As a member of the “Me Me Me” generation, it didn’t take me long to lock on to the conversation surrounding my peers – the often complex Millennials. It seemed that no matter the topic, each session touched on how Millennials are continuing to disrupt the industry.

Author Neil Howe – the guy who coined the term Millennial – presented an energized keynote on Wednesday morning that solidified the fact that OmniShopper 2015 was looking to provide a real view of the Millennial shopper. Howe’s keynote, “Making purposeful connections with Millennials,” reminded attendees that the study of generations is all about looking at contrasts. He provided a breakdown of recent generations, finally landing on Millennials and discussing the generational behaviors and trends that are shaping the economy. I would be remiss in not mentioning a few highlights:

  • Author Neil Howe Millennials have shown an overall decline in risk-seeking behavior. In recent years there has been a drop in driver’s license attainment. Many young adults are also opting out of participating in the stock markets.
  • If you have noticed the rise of the sharing economy – think micro-apartments, Air BNB and Uber – you are seeing this generation’s social trust and value of community.
  • Long-term planning is very important to Millennials and they are focusing more on eliminating risk and creating structure at an earlier age than Gen X.
  • Millennials are achievement-oriented and highly interested in managing the quantified self. Just look at the popularization of fitness trackers! Howe also pointed out that Millennials are more interested in hands-on guidance and direction in the workplace than Boomers and Generation X.


Brad Wilcox, founder and director of the National Marriage Project and Sam Sturgeon’s, president of Demographic Intelligence, breakout session titled, “Changing demographics and shopping trends of new mothers.” The conversation around Millennials continued when I sat in on Brad Wilcox, founder and director of the National Marriage Project and Sam Sturgeon’s, president of Demographic Intelligence, breakout session titled, “Changing demographics and shopping trends of new mothers.” The presenters discussed predictions surrounding the upcoming narrative shift on Millennial mothers – within the marketing industry and the media – as the two biggest cohorts of Millennials (currently 24-to-25) enter the peak timeframe for marriage and procreating. The session covered how this will cause a ripple effect throughout the retail landscape, from increases in home ownership to an influx in Millennials shopping for brands such as those under the General Mills umbrella. Wilcox and Sturgeon provided an overview of how brands can reach the Millennial mom, highlighting the importance of mobile first, community connections and respecting dad. Millennial moms also hate being told what to do (think formula vs. breastfeeding): it’s all about connecting with others and finding what works for you vs. being told that what the best option is by an individual or a brand.

Wilcox and Sturgeon ended the session by showing Similac’s video – The Mother ‘Hood – which perfectly tied together their message that brands must recognize how to cater to Millennial moms’ desire to make community connections and providing access to a buffet of options by positioning products or marketing messages in a way that recognizes other options. I highly recommend watching it all the way through:

I’ll be sharing a few more nuggets on the blog from OmniShopper 2015 as well as Quirk’s Summer Party next week!

Posted in Advertising Research, Behavioral Economics, Big Data, Brand and Image Research, Business and Product Development, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Research, Lifecycle/Lifestyle Research, Retailing, Shopper Insights | Comments Off

American consumers choose Jeep as most patriotic brand in new survey

IPatriotic red, white and blue bottles. July 4th party.As July 4 draws near Americans are preparing to watch spectacular fireworks displays and have fun with family and friends. But Independence Day also gives marketers an opportunity to celebrate. A new survey of iconic American brands has revealed which brands consumers consider the most patriotic, with Jeep, Coca-Cola, Disney and Ralph Lauren leading the pack.

“Marketers cue marching bands and majorettes, Uncle Sam and Statue of Liberty look-alikes to leverage patriotic emotions – and increase sales,” said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, Inc., the New York-based brand loyalty and customer engagement research consultancy in a press release. “When it comes to engaging consumers, waving the American flag and having an authentic foundation for being able to wave the flag are two entirely different things, and the consumer knows it.”

To determine which brands will lead the parade when it came to patriotism, Brand Keys conducted a statistical analysis to identify which of 230 brands are more associated with the value of patriotism. “We know that effectual brand engagement is more emotional than rational,” said Passikoff. “And while many emotional and category-specific values drive brand engagement, we had 5,427 consumers ages 16-to-65 – drawn from the nine U.S. Census Regions – evaluate a collection of 35 cross-category values, including patriotism.”

The following are the Brand Keys 2015 top 50 most patriotic brands. Percentages indicate emotional engagement strength for the individual value – patriotism.

  1. Jeep (98 percent)
  2. Coca-Cola (97 percent)
  3. Disney (96 percent)
  4. Ralph Lauren (95 percent)
  5. Levi Strauss (94 percent)
  6. Ford/Jack Daniels (93 percent)
  7. Harley Davidson/Gillette (92 percent)
  8. Apple/Coors (91 percent)
  9. American Express/Wrigley’s (90 percent)
  10. Gatorade/Zippo (89 percent)
  11. Amazon (88 percent)
  12. Hershey’s/Walmart (87 percent)
  13. Colgate (86 percent)
  14. Coach/New Balance (85 percent)
  15. AT&T/Google (84 percent)
  16. Marlboro/Sam Adams (83 percent)
  17. John Deere/Louisville Slugger/Smith & Wesson (82 percent)
  18. L.L. Bean/Facebook (81 percent)
  19. Craftsman Tools/GE/Wells Fargo (80 percent)
  20. 49ers/Cowboys/NFL/Patriots/ (79 percent)
  21. MLB/NY Yankees/Wrangler (78 percent)
  22. Campbell’s/Gibson/KFC (77 percent)
  23. Goodyear/Wilson Sporting Goods (76 percent)
  24. J&J/Kellogg’s/Tide (75 percent)
  25. Converse/Heinz (74 percent)
  26. McDonald’s (72 percent)

“It’s not surprising that many brands in the top 50 are American Icons,” said Passikoff. Even an increase, or decrease, of five percentage points is significant at the 95 percent confidence level. There were 11 brands in this year’s survey showed significant engagement growth for the value of patriotism including:

Jack Daniels (+18 percent)
Coach (+15 percent)
Major League Baseball (+11 percent)
Coors, Wells Fargo (+10 percent)
American Express, Wrigley (+9 percent)
Goodyear, KFC (+6 percent)
Craftsman, Johnson & Johnson (+5 percent)

Although this was a study of for-profit brands, the survey also included assessments for the United States armed services – the Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. Consumers gave all branches of the armed services an engagement strength of 100 percent when it came to patriotism.
“Last year we received comments about how some of the top 50 most patriotic brands didn’t belong because their products aren’t actually manufactured in the United States,” said Passikoff. “That reflects a reality of the global economy and only the rational side of the decision-making process. One thing marketers should have learned about 21st century brands is those that make an emotional connection with the consumer always have a strategic advantage over competitors when it come to the marketplace battle for the hearts, minds and loyalty of consumers. Make that connection and consumers will not only stand up and salute but more importantly they’ll buy.”

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Market Research Findings | Comments Off

Americans to celebrate Independence Day with picnics, parades and road trips

Friends barbecue on July 4Americans are ready to put on their red, white and blue to celebrate Independence Day with friends and family – and plenty of food. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2015 Independence Day Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 64.4 percent of those celebrating are planning to take part in the patriotic holiday by attending a cookout, picnic or barbecue, spending an average of $71.23 per household, up from $68.16 last year. Total spending on food items for the holiday is estimated to reach $6.6 billion.

“The busiest half of the year for retailers is about to begin, and with economic conditions swaying in consumers’ favor more so this year than last, many seem eager to take advantage of retailers’ promotions,” said NRF President and CEO Mathew Shay.

When it comes to shopping for new Independence Day merchandise 22.8 percent will hit the stores looking for decorations, apparel and more to celebrate in style.

The survey found 42.6 percent will attend a fireworks display or community celebration, and 11.5 percent of those celebrating will watch a parade. The holiday weekend is also a popular time for travel and vacations as Americans say they will head out of town.

When asked about the impact gas prices will have on their spending, and 78 percent say that the price of gas will not impact their spending for the holiday weekend, up from 70.1 percent who said so last year.

“Consumers this summer and for the 4th of July will take advantage of lower gas prices to head to the beach or get together with family – something they’ve had to think long and hard about in recent years with higher energy costs and limited budgets,” said Prosper Insights Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow.

About the Survey
The NRF 2015 Independence Day Spending Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the Independence Day holiday. The survey was conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The poll of 6,431 consumers was conducted from June 2-9, 2015. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Posted in Consumer Research, Public Opinion/Social Research | Comments Off

The value behind client-centered MR

Customer retentionIn May, Quirk’s Editor Joe Rydholm moderated a conversation with executives from three research firms as part of a Quirk’s-hosted and Deltek-sponsored Webinar. The execs explored some of the issues they’re facing running their companies and the growth opportunities available for today’s marketing researchers. Panelists were Jim Bryson, CEO of 20/20 Research, Nashville, Tenn.; Duncan Lawrence, CEO and president of Morpace, Farmington Hills, Mich.; and Scott Young, president of Perception Research Services, Teaneck, N.J.

Panelists were asked questions around the following four topic areas:

  • talent and organizational culture;
  • business efficiencies and profitability;
  • technology; and
  • winning new business.


Throughout each topic-discussion it became clear that the three firms place a high value on being customer-centered. When asked how their firms ensure that projects are run efficiently and contribute to the bottom line, Young pointed out the importance of considering client needs on an individual basis. “We believe in the gold standard, so to speak. But we have also realized that clients have different situations and different constraints, be it budget, timing and so forth. There is nothing wrong in giving them the best possible [services] at different price structures,” said Young. Lawrence echoed this, saying, “It’s no one thing [that ensures efficiency]. Each client can require different types of things.”

Near the end of the Webinar, the panel was asked to name three factors that have contributed to their firm’s success and to give a piece of advice to C-level executives trying to grow their MR business. The conversation went back to the customer and the importance of hiring people with a customer-centered mindset.

Here are some highlights from the panelists:

“We are a people business. That’s number one, have great people. Number two, [have] great partners. It’s the way we’re going to keep abreast to the changes in the marketplace,” Lawrence said. “Number three is attention to the client. We survey our customers constantly and we’re doing a pretty good job on the elements we are looking for. You always want to do better. The more you take care of what you have, [the more clients] are going to say good things about you. Then good things happen.”

“Align talent with vision. You need the right people in the right seats doing the right things. I think it’s one of the most important things you can do to have a successful company,” said Bryson.

“It’s very easy [when] running a company to get lost on the internal side. If we lose sight of the client, what they are, what they are facing, what their challenges are and [stop] really listening to them, I think you’re in deep trouble. I try to spend at least half my time on direct client service,” said Young.

Interested in delving into one of the four topics or looking for more advice from the panelists? Check out the event recording at http://bit.ly/1KGbBd1.

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Business and Product Development, Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Techniques, Marketing Best Practices, State of the Research Industry, The Business of Research, Training/Research Education | 1 Comment

Shopping for Father’s Day? Spending expected to hit $12.7 billion

Father's Day giftFather’s Day may not be the most lucrative consumer holiday of the year for retailers but spending for dad is expected to reach $12.7 billion for golf lessons, home improvement tools, coffee mugs, books and more. And, according to NRF’s 2015 Father’s Day Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average person will spend $115.57 on gifts, close to last year’s $113.80. The survey found 75.4 percent of Americans said they plan to celebrate Father’s Day.

“Retailers are ready to welcome the warm weather and the millions of shoppers that come along with it and kick off the summer spending season just in time for Father’s Day,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Spending on grilling and patio necessities, pool gear, sporting goods, apparel and other gift and seasonal merchandise could be the positive stepping stone retailers need heading into the second half of the year.”

When it comes to gifts for dad, 39.7 percent will purchase apparel items such as a new dress shirt or necktie and will spend a total $1.7 billion overall. Another 43.3 percent will opt for experience gifts, such as tickets to a ballgame or a special meal with the family, spending a total of $2.6 billion.

The survey also found that one-in-five (19.7 percent) shoppers will pick out new gadgets for dad such as a tablet or smartphone, totaling $1.6 billion. Additionally, 39 percent of gift buyers will opt to let dad pick his own gift and will purchase a gift card, spending a total of $1.8 billion. If you’re planning to thank dad with a card, you’re not alone as 62.2 percent consumers plan to buy a greeting card and will spend more than $777 million overall.

Loved ones will also spend on home improvement or gardening supplies ($710 million), new tools or appliances ($668 million), personal care items ($684 million), sporting goods or leisure items ($665 million) and books or CDs ($538 million).

Consumers will look all over for gifts, with 36.4 percent of people planning to shop at department stores, while others will shop online (29.2 percent) and at discount stores (25.2 percent); 16.9 percent will shop local at a small business.

Shoppers on the move will use their smartphones and tablets to research and purchase gifts they know dad will love. About one-quarter of smart phone owners (24.1 percent) will use their devices to research gifts and compare prices, and 29.1 percent of tablet users will turn on their devices to do the same; additionally 13.1 percent of smartphone owners will actually purchase gifts via their smartphones and 17.5 percent of tablet owners will make a purchase with their devices.

More than half of those surveyed are planning to buy for their father or stepfather, while others will shop for their husband (27.6 percent) or son (8.9 percent) this Father’s Day.

About the survey
The NRF 2015 Father’s Day Spending Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the Father’s Day holiday. The survey was conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The poll of 6,087 consumers was conducted from May 5-12, 2015. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Posted in Consumer Research, Market Research Findings, Market Research in the News, Shopper Insights | Comments Off

Americans are ready for summer travel

Miami South Beach sunriseThe weather is finally on the upswing and many Americans are looking to make the most of their summers. Some are predicting that summer travel on U.S. airlines will reach an all-time high this year, and a recent Harris Poll sees similar highs ahead for the U.S. travel industry, according to a recent press release. Sixty-eight percent of Americans have at least one leisure trip planned for summer 2015 (May through August), a slight increase from the 66 percent who planned one last year and an overall steady growth rate since 2012 when 60 percent planned a trip.

And Americans’ outlook on the economy isn’t acting as a barrier when it comes to summer travel. More than half of Americans (53 percent) say their outlook on the U.S. economy has no impact on their likelihood to travel this summer – an overall 13 percent improvement from when this question was first asked six years ago (40 percent in 2009) – and an additional 9 percent say their outlook on the economy will make them more likely to travel. Twenty-seven percent still say they’re less likely to travel this summer due to their outlook on the U.S. economy but that percentage continues to decrease year over year.

Business travel, however, has yet to make a similar recovery, with just 15 percent of Americans planning at least one business trip. While relatively unchanged from last year’s 14 percent, it’s a cumulative eight-point drop compared to six years ago (23 percent in 2009).

Regardless the type of travel, Americans plan to spend upwards of $1,500 on their trips, on average. Those planning summer leisure travel anticipate spending an average of $1,722 on their trips while those anticipating a business trip plan to spend $1,513, on average.

Of those planning at least one leisure trip over the summer, 43 percent plan to visit beach locations. In second place, vacationers will visit the downtown/center of a city (32 percent), followed by a national/state park (24 percent) and countryside/rural locations (22 percent).

Millennials are more likely than any other generation to be planning a downtown/center of a city vacation (40 percent vs. 27 percent Gen X, 28 percent Baby Boomers and 26 percent matures). Adults in households with children are more likely than those without to be planning a trip to a beach (52 percent with, 38 percent without) or theme park (31 percent with, 13 percent without) location.


This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between April 16 and 20, 2015 among 2,215 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.


Posted in Consumer Research, Market Research Findings | 1 Comment

Steps to take when your customers experience buyer’s remorse

We’ve all bought a product in-store, only to return it after learning that it was available for a much lower price somewhere else. Or ordered an article of clothing online, only to be disappointed by the quality or fit once it was delivered.

These scenarios are manifestations of buyer’s remorse, said Jeff Sauro founding principal of MeasuringU, a customer experience and quantitative research firm based in Denver. While we typically think of this phenomenon as occurring with big-ticket items like a home or a car, almost any purchase can lead to regret or concern on the part of the customer. And no company wants those bad feelings associated with them.

“Buyer’s remorse is a form of cognitive dissonance in which a customer’s initial expectations about a product or service don’t align with their actual experience,” said Sauro. “This cognitive dissonance can be sparked by a perceived lack of value, lower-than-expected quality or the presence of better alternatives.”

Whatever its cause, it’s critical that you take actions to reduce any buyer’s remorse your customers might be experiencing.

White Square Button with Free Returns IconOffer a return guarantee and collect data about how often and why returns are made.

Offering a return guarantee is key to alleviating buyer’s remorse. If your return rate is more of a steady stream (or a raging torrent), you need to find the source (or sources) of this buyer’s remorse so that you can take steps to prevent future returns. Specifically:

  • Collect return rates, dates and details.
  • Look to other clues that can predict the root cause of returns.
  • Predict the return rates based on patterns in the root causes.


“Here’s an example of what this type of data collection and analysis look like in action,” Sauro shared. “I worked with a U.S.-based cellular service provider that carried a number of phones from different manufacturers, including Apple, Samsung and Motorola. The cellular service provider collected the return rates for each type of phone and then looked into the causes of the returns. One reason for the returns was that customers found certain phones harder to use. The company started collecting usability data on all its phones, then associated that with the return rates. Based on the data, the company stopped selling the phones that lacked a decent usability score.”

Rethink your product or service based on what your customers collectively say they want.

When was the last time you directly asked your customers what they thought about your product or service? Do they really believe it provides a good value? Might it be overpriced, have quality concerns, perform poorly, need more features, etc.? Be sure to keep your finger on the pulse of what your customers want by asking them a mix of open- and close-ended questions.

“Learning that you need to offer a better value to your customers probably won’t be a comfortable realization for you to make but the good news is, these kinds of changes are like low-hanging fruit when it comes to combating buyer’s remorse,” said Sauro. “Making one change, like increasing offerings for the same price or fine-tuning a feature, can drastically improve satisfaction for a lot of customers.”

Confirm the initial choice.

Sometimes, simply validating a customer’s choice to purchase your product or use your service is enough to stave off buyer’s remorse. Messaging (in e-mail newsletters, ads, social media, etc.) and follow-up calls reassure customers that they’ve made a wise choice and that their purchase is in line with their values.

“For example, you might post a positive testimony from a satisfied customer on your company’s Facebook page or publish a newsletter article suggesting additional uses for your product,” Sauro shared.

Examine customer experience at different touchpoints.

Buyer’s remorse can develop at many different points post-purchase and for many different reasons. It may not even be sparked by the product itself but by a poor service experience, for instance. That’s why Sauro said it’s important to collect data not only about the product itself, but about several post-purchase touchpoints:

  • Shipping and delivery: Is the item in stock and delivered quickly?
  • Unboxing (opening the product): Do the quality and style of the packaging reinforce positive brand attributes?
  • Installation and setup: Is this process lengthy, confusing or overly complex?
  • Customer support: Are questions and concerns addressed in a timely and satisfactory manner? Is support staff knowledgeable and friendly?
  • Feature usage: Are there features that customers don’t use? Are any desired features missing?


“It’s often most efficient, and less of a burden on the customer, if you ask customers to complete only one survey at a key point in the post-purchase process – say, after the customer has used the product for some time,” Sauro noted. “Keep an open mind when analyzing the results, because you may be surprised by where opportunities for improvement lie.”

Establish a feedback loop so “remorse” data gets back to decision-makers.

It doesn’t matter how much useful data you collect if it isn’t passed on to people within your organization who can use it to reduce buyer’s remorse, said Sauro.

“Establish a feedback loop to make sure that problems, frustrations and suggested improvements are properly channeled back to product development, marketing, customer service, etc.,” he commented. “You’d be surprised by how much data stays buried in internal reports where it doesn’t do anyone any good.”

Don’t rely on just one remorse-removing tactic.

If your company is very fortunate, you may make a significant dent in buyer’s remorse after implementing only one of the previous tactics. But much more often, Sauro said, organizations experience success only when they thoughtfully blend some or all of these strategies. He pointed to Zappos.com as an example. Buying shoes online comes with some risk, since customers can’t try them on and may have to deal with the hassle of returning a purchase. So first, Zappos minimizes the risk to the customer by offering fast, free shipping; free returns; and free return shipping.

“What’s more, Zappos provides one of the best customer service experiences,” he added. “The company’s reps are known for staying on calls for as long as it takes to resolve a customer’s problems.”

Posted in Consumer Research, Customer Satisfaction, Shopper Insights | 1 Comment