Quirk's Blog

New study predicts slight dip in spend this holiday season

From November 1 to January 2, I’m a sucker for everything red, green, silver and gold. From devouring my mom’s famous pumpkin pie and drawing names for secret Santa on Thanksgiving, to decorating a freshly-cut tree and carefully wrapping the perfect presents, I tend to go all out. But this year will be a little different. As a freshly-minted wife and a prospective first-time homeowner, I’ve had very little time to think about some of my favorite holiday traditions.

Holiday shoppingTo be honest, with everything I have going on, it is safe to say my spending will be taking a nosedive this holiday season. And based on a study by Kelly Scott Madison (KSM) and ORC International, I’m not alone in this. The study surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers about their holiday shopping habits and general sentiments toward the season in the 2015 Holiday Shopping Study and found that the average U.S. consumer is predicting they will spend less this year than last. This statistic is largely driven by those that have budgeted between $251 to $1,000 for gifts this season, as these individuals plan on spending about 2 percent less this year.

While the overall reasons behind this dip in spending may not mirror my own, data from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows the sluggish growth is likely due to the fact that personal income and unemployment levels have remained virtually stagnant over the past three months.

The holiday shopping study did provide some good news for retailers and several more interesting tidbits on consumer spending this holiday season:

  • Males are one segment that are predicting they’ll spend more this year, reporting a year-over-year increase of 4.6 percent.
  • When compared to last year, online shopping and Cyber Monday are expected to see a noticeable increase this year, as planned shopping activity received a 20 percent growth this year.
  • Online retailers may want to start considering free-shipping to capture more holiday sales, as 49 percent of in-store and 50 percent of online shoppers list shopping costs as one of the main inconveniences of online shopping.
  • While making purchases on mobile devices is not yet the norm, using them to conduct research during the shopping experience certainly is. The study found that African-Americans, Hispanics and Millennials plan to use some sort of mobile devices while shopping in-store this year: 73, 83 and 89 percent, respectively.
  • The overall sentiment of respondents on expanded holiday shopping hours and promotions were negative. In fact, about 70 percent of those surveyed feel that expanded holiday hours are not necessary.
  • Eighty-one percent of in-store shoppers and 85 percent of online shoppers expect to use coupons this holiday season.


To view KSM’s full discussion of the study, visit ksmmedia.com.

Posted in Consumer Research, Market Research Findings, Retailing, Shopper Insights | Comment

Fall 2015 photo recap

Munich, Orlando, Miami – oh my! We are finally back in the office after traveling to some wonderful industry events. Before we jump into the holiday season, we wanted to share a few photos!

We would also like to give a shout out to everyone who attended Quirk’s Fall Party at The Brick House Tavern in Orlando, Fla., a free event for researchers looking to network with their peers in a casual environment. A huge thank you to the party sponsors!

We always have a blast attending events and we look forward to meeting up with new friends and old later this year and in 2016!

Posted in Research Blogs and Communities | Comment

Food trends we’re craving in 2016

Poké – a raw seafood saladOne of my good friends is currently spending a year working in Hawaii. Since I began living vicariously through her adventures last November, I have learned that – aside from being the U.S. state synonymous with paradise – Hawaii is the land of wild geckos, earthquakes, termites and rain. Luckily the incredible sunsets, lush vegetation, surf and food seem to make up for the other inconveniences!

To be honest, as a person that sunburns easily (and is quite frightened by creepy-crawlers) I’m often most envious of the food images my friend sends my way. And when her texts began featuring the joys of poké – a raw seafood salad – I have to admit I did a quick Google search looking to see if I could get my hands on a bowl while living on the mainland.

A study from research firm Sterling-Rice Group (SRG), which looked at the culinary trends emerging for 2016, shows that I’m not the only one hoping to explore some Hawaiian cuisine. The study, 2016 Cutting-Edge Culinary Trends, showed that cooks and diners alike will be looking to push the boundaries when innovating food and beverages. One of the trends? Traditional and ‘ono (delicious) Hawaiian island ingredients of course! Poké bowls and musubi have begun showing up in new dishes across the mainland and are expected to continue popping up in everything from fast-casual to fine dining.

Here is a look at some of the other culinary trends the SRG expects to expand in 2016:

  1. Switchels: Looking for the health benefits of apple cider vinegar and ginger – sweetened with honey, maple syrup or molasses? This thirst-quenching, health-boasting refresher is set to be quite popular with consumers in the year ahead.
  2. Swiggable soups: Step aside juicers! With more fiber and less sugar than pressed juices, bottled soups may be the order for health-minded consumers in 2016.
  3. Savory desserts: Dessert menus will likely be adding savory ingredients – think malt and umani-rich miso paste.
  4. Porridge: Porridge is no longer limited to one or two grains. Consumers will be looking for a wide selection – spelt, black rice or quinoa, to name a few – along with sweet and savory toppings.


Do you think that poké bowls and pumped-up porridge will have a long-term or temporary place in America’s restaurant scene? What consumer food behaviors do you see changing the course of the food industry in 2016?


Posted in Consumer Research, Market Research Findings, Market Research in the News, Market Studies | Comment

The kings and queens of horror: tales from America’s favorite genres

What do telekinetic prom queen Carrie White, D.C. police consultant Alex Cross and wonder of the wizarding world Harry Potter all have in common? Their imaginative creators are America’s top three favorite authors. Stephen King and James Patterson each retain their spots from 2010, numbers one and two respectively, with J.K. Rowling at number position after a long ride up the chain. Next up is a tie for fourth place between John Grisham, who previously held third, and Dean Koontz, who is up two spots.

Competition is getting fierce and while King still holds the throne his competitors are finding favor amid the various age groups and education levels.

  • Those between the ages of 25 and 64 most prefer a good scare from Stephen King but 18-24 year olds are pledging their literary love to the works of J.K. Rowling and older adults, 65 and up, favor getting wrapped up in a mystery à la James Patterson.
  • Americans across most educational levels up through college grads are most enamored with Stephen King but post grads are more likely to reach for John Grisham.


Readin in the bedroomThese are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,273 adults surveyed online between July 15 and 20, 2015. Full results of the study can be found here.

When asked which types of books (from a provided list) they’ve read over the last year, 46 percent of Americans indicate that they’ve been filling their book-bags with mystery, thriller and crime novels.

Around three in 10 Americans have been flipping through history books (33 percent), biographies/memoirs (31 percent) and romance novels (27 percent), while a quarter have read cookbooks/food writing (26 percent), science fiction (26 percent) and tales of fantasy (24 percent). In addition, around two in 10 adults have read classics/literature (23 percent); health and wellness (22 percent); religion and spirituality (20 percent); self-help (19 percent); and true crime (19 percent) books in the past year.

But which demo is most attracted to each genre?

  • The first choice across every generation is mystery/thriller/crime.
  • Mystery/thriller/crime is also the favorite among women (55 percent), while men are most likely itching to get their hands on history books (46 percent).
  • Once again, post grads seem to take their own path, torn between whether they are most likely to be found reading history books or biographies/memoirs (51 percent each), while everyone else is likely to be holding tight to mystery, thriller and crime novels (45 percent HS or less, 49 percent some college, 44 percent college grads).


Posted in Consumer Research, Market Research Findings | Comment

Final reflections on the 2015 QRCA annual conference

It’s been one week since I flew out to Orlando, Fla. to attend the 2015 QRCA annual conference and – as promised – I’ve compiled a few more tidbits (and photos!) from the event to share with you.

LEGO structure from QRCA sessionIf I had to use one word to describe the sessions I attended at QRCA it would be interactive. Many presenters encouraged table-sharing through the form of games, worksheets and role play. I played with LEGOS to help discover my personal brand narrative, wrote ideas on colorful Post-it Notes, passed around new tech equipment and more.

One session that stood out for its interactive center was From Moderating to Facilitating, presented by Missy Carvin and Karen Lynch. Carvin and Lynch’s session focused on how creative problem-solving (CPS) can help researchers move from being a discussion leader to a solution driver. While the audience was involved from start to finish in this workshop, the highlight came at the end of the session where we were all handed a colorful piece of paper and instructed to answer the question, “What is one step you will take using the information you learned from today’s workshop?” and to write it down once on the piece of paper and once in our own notes. We were then told to fold the piece of paper into a paper airplane so we could “fly” our idea to another attendee.

Paper airplanes

This final activity not only made for a fun photo (and a lot of laughter) but it also highlighted the power behind sharing ideas with your peers, something that QRCA demonstrates so well as an organization. Each session clearly showed that as qualitative researchers continue to move forward, sharing ideas, fostering peer-to-peer discussions and combining traditional methodology with new approaches will be more important than ever.

As I close the book on QRCA 2015, I must admit that I’m looking forward to seeing how the “Whole New World of Research” will evolve between now and the next QRCA annual conference in 2017.

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Business and Product Development, Market Research Techniques, Qualitative Research, Research Blogs and Communities, Research Industry Trends | Comment

QRCA speakers focus on how tech is shaping qualitative research

I’m back in the office after a fun and engaging three days in Orlando, Fla. attending the 2015 QRCA annual conference. I truly enjoyed my time at the event and I must say that my fellow attendees were some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting!

It was easy to see the conference theme – a whole new world of research – in the sessions that I attended. From discussions focused on the changing role of the qualitative researcher to new technology and how to leverage mixed methods, it was clear that presenters were focused on making the most of the shifting research landscape.

Several presentations focused on how new tech will shape the future of qualitative research. In their two respective talks, presenters Ricardo Lopez and Mike Courtney looked at how current technology has evolved in a way that adds depth to traditional qualitative methods. In his session, The Future of Qualitative: You Better Learn to Be a Techie!, Lopez provided a high-level look at how future technologies will impact qual’s role, what steps researchers should take to prepare for the shift and which technologies should be watched and incorporated today.

While also tech-focused, Courtney’s session looked at how present-day tech – dash cams; Narrative Clip 2; the senior medical alert device, Lively hub (shown below); and more – can be repurposed for conducting qualitative research. Courtney started the session off by asking the audience how much they thought a basic dash cam (recording both video and sound) would cost, including shipping. The guesses ranged from $90-to-$200 and there were audible gasps when he announced it could be purchased for $60. Based on this initial audience reaction, the number of questions asked during Q&A and the line-up to talk to Courtney after the session ended, the interest in leveraging DIY ethnography techniques that incorporate “non-MR” devices is quite high.

While Lopez and Courtney’s presentations focused on different areas of qual tech, the message from each was the same: Regardless of the power of technology, qualitative researchers will always be needed for their ability to make sense of information gathered and – ultimately – to understand people.

Courtney shared how researchers can repurpose senior medical alert device, Lively hub by using it as a DIY digital ethnography device. Researchers ask participants to place the passive sensors in homes to be used to monitor the use of items such as freezers, dishwashers and trash bins.

Courtney shared how researchers can repurpose senior medical alert device Lively hub by using it as a DIY digital ethnography device. Researchers ask participants to place the passive sensors in homes to be used to monitor the use of items such as freezers, dishwashers and trash bins.

I’ll be sharing a few more tidbits on the blog from QRCA 2015 later this week!

Posted in Consumer Research, Ethnographic Research, Innovation in Market Research, Market Research Techniques, Qualitative Research, Research Blogs and Communities | Comment

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 | Comments Off

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 Party at The Gage 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