Quirk's Blog

Kroger’s QueVision fuses data points to shorten checkout lines

As reported by RetailWire’s Bernice Hurst, the top retail innovation in InformationWeek’s Elite 100 recently went to Kroger Co.’s QueVision system, which is designed to ensure that customers never have more than one person in line ahead of them.

Now in more than 2,400 stores, QueVision has reduced checkout times on average from four minutes to less than 30 seconds. (The technology was first tested in Toledo-area Kroger stores in 2009.) “Every day, we are returning precious minutes to our time-strapped customers by shortening the time they wait to check out,” said Marnette Perry, Kroger’s SVP of strategic initiatives and operations, in a statement.

According to a profile in InformationWeek, QueVision uses infrared sensors to count customers entering the store and at checkout lanes. Combining those counts with factors such as store layout, staffing levels for cashiers and baggers, and historical transaction logs, store managers use a simulator to access the number of registers that need to be open in real time. Estimates are also made on how many should be open in 15 and 30 minutes.

A large part of the system’s success is being attributed to a suggestion by a store manager to put wait-time data on screens for both employees and customers to see. The information was initially intended to only be seen by employees and managers via handhelds. (Read an overview of the process here.)

Customer satisfaction has improved with shorter lines and Kroger’s companywide cashier-friendliness metric, measured in customer surveys, has improved 24 percent since 2011, according to InformationWeek, though a quick scan of Kroger employee forums – do a Google search for “Kroger QueVision” – shows that not all employees are on-board with the technology.

Posted in Customer Satisfaction, Employee Studies, Predictive Analytics, Shopper Insights | Comments Off

Software execs like social media but rely on face-to-face for marketing

151604896The use of social media in corporate marketing remains high and mobile marketing is gaining significant ground, according to an annual survey of marketing executives released by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), a trade association for the software and digital content industries. At the same time, marketing executives appear to have a stronger grasp on the ROI of their overall marketing efforts, allowing them to direct resources more efficiently.

SIIA’s annual Marketing Industry Report surveys marketing executives on their companies’ use of social media, e-mail, mobile, Web and traditional marketing tactics. The findings of the third annual survey show that 92 percent of marketing executives are using social media to promote their companies and while that result represents a slight decline compared to last year’s survey, in which 98 percent reported using social media, it is an increase from 89 percent in 2012.

The survey also finds that mobile marketing took a significant step forward in the last year. Thirty-seven percent of respondents say they use mobile in their marketing efforts – up from 25 percent in last year’s survey. In addition, a quarter of respondents report that mobile has increased product usage for their companies. When asked how mobile has changed their relationship with customers, 30 percent say it has expanded the range of customer segments and the same number say it has led to more one-to-one contact.

Another key finding is that more executives (64 percent) now feel they can effectively measure the ROI from their online marketing efforts, compared to 55 percent in last year’s survey. With greater confidence in the return they’re getting, marketers can more efficiently dedicate resources to both traditional and online efforts. As part of this, marketing executives appear to have identified the best use for social media as a marketing platform – an overwhelming majority (78 percent) say social media is somewhat, very or highly effective in raising brand awareness.

Further evidence that marketers are becoming more efficient is that only 22 percent of respondents say social media increased their overall annual marketing costs – a significant drop from 2012, in which 30 percent said it increased their costs. In fact, just 38 percent of respondents plan to allocate more money to their social media budgets during 2014. While use of social media marketing remains extremely high, this figure – which has steadily declined from 58 percent in 2013 and 65 percent in 2012 – likely indicates that marketers are becoming more efficient in their implementation of social media marketing.

The survey also indicates that mobile will likely continue to lag behind other forms of marketing in the year ahead. Just 16 percent of respondents said they will increase their mobile marketing budget in the next year.

“While usage may vary somewhat from year-to-year, social media marketing appears to be close to its peak with near-universal use among the marketing executives we surveyed,” said Rhianna Collier, vice president of SIIA’s software division, in a press statement. “It also appears that as marketers continue to assess how to best use social media, they are increasingly focusing on implementing it as a brand-awareness tool. This focus on efficiency is something we’re clearly seeing from marketing executives. They tell us that they are better able to determine ROI and that’s allowing them to more efficiently and cost-effectively implement both traditional and digital marketing efforts.”

“Another interesting finding is the significant increase in mobile marketing usage,” Collier said. “In addition to the big jump, mobile also appears to be changing the relationship between companies and customers. It’s expanding the customer base and actually facilitating greater one-on-one contact. Even still, marketers appear somewhat skeptical, as mobile ranks well behind all other marketing initiatives when it comes to corporate budgets for the year ahead.”

In other study findings:

Conferences and trade shows are key priorities: 43 percent of respondents said they plan to increase spending on conferences and trade shows. By comparison, 40 percent said they plan to increase spending on paid search, while 39 percent plan to spend more on search engine optimization and 38 percent plan to spend more on social media.

Traditional marketing tools are still the most valuable: 35 percent of respondents identified events, trade shows and Webinars as their top lead generators. The next-highest lead generator was Web search (18 percent). The highest concentration of respondents – about 42 percent – also said events, trade shows and Webinars deliver the highest-quality leads.

Marketing executives feel stretched: Respondents said their biggest challenges are lack of resources and personnel (37 percent) and lack of budget (34 percent).

“Despite the overwhelming use of social media and digital marketing tools, our survey demonstrates that there is still no replacement for face-to-face contact,” said Collier. “Conferences and events still yield the most return for the marketing executives we surveyed and that’s where they will be putting most of their money in 2014.”

The 2014 survey, which was conducted between October and December 2013, asked questions of more than 100 marketing executives who work for companies ranging in size, including those employing one to 99 people (60 percent), those employing between 100 and 999 (33 percent) and those employing more than 1,000 people (7 percent).

Posted in Business-To-Business Research, Marketing Best Practices, Social Media and Marketing Research | Comments Off

Poor response rates perturb party-throwing parents

Sorry to bombard all of my faithful readers with so many parenting-related blogs but that just so happens to be what’s on my mind these days. (Would you rather I get back to talking about TV and shopping? Let me know in the comments!)

As I mentioned in my last post, my son’s first birthday is coming up in less than a month! In somewhat perfect timing, the May issue of Parents has a focus on birthday parties. Our little guy tends to get a tad overwhelmed in big crowds so we’re keeping it quite small – just grandparents and aunts and uncles. Still, I thumbed through the section on how to throw the “Best. Birthday. Ever.”

InvitationIn particular, Jancee Dunn’s article, “How to make them RSVP: Clever ways to get a freaking answer,” caught my eye. Having planned a wedding and thrown a few bridal and baby showers for friends, I am no stranger to the frustrations of no-reply guests. A Parents poll found that 82 percent of parents did not hear back from all their guests and, according to feedback gathered from Parents’ Facebook page to the question “What’s the hardest thing about planning a birthday party?”, RSVPs are the most niggling.

“A very vocal majority said RSVPs. To be sure, it creates anxiety for the host, both social (What if no one attends?) and financial (What if I shell out for 10 and 20 show up? Or shell out for 20 and 10 show up?).”

The article goes on to offer a few tips for improving response rates.

  • Include something like a balloon or sticker with the invitation.
  • Personalize each invitation with a note to the invitee.
  • If sending an e-vite, follow up with a reminder e-mail to RSVP.
  • Give plenty of notice.
  • Hand-deliver invitations.
  • Have a B list ready in case of copious declines.


RSVP-ing seems like such a simple thing to do in the digital age (Isn’t it so much easier to say no over e-mail than over the phone?) yet nearly everyone has experienced this frustration. It makes you wonder if it’s the same 18 percent of people who fail to respond to every event or if, perhaps, some of those who are bothered by nonresponses are guilty of them as well!

I’m ashamed to admit I fall into the latter category. There are times when responding to an invitation simply slips my mind but there are other times when I feel so bad about not attending (I hate saying no, even over e-mail!) that I just don’t do it. Oops.

Are you a good RSVP-er? If not, why not? Does the RSVP process bother you as much as it does the Parents survey respondents? Do you see these habits when sending out survey invitations? Certainly researchers have also found that incentivizing respondents is a way to increase engagement, although I’d suggest offering something a bit more practical than balloons and stickers. Could researchers benefit from the above tips to improve response rates or are they already common industry practices?

Posted in Consumer Research, Market Research in the News, Mothers | Comments Off

A frequent customer is not always a loyal one

93553667Frequency doesn’t equal loyalty in the retail realm. That’s one conclusion from a new study from Cardlytics based on a “whole-wallet” analysis of transaction records held by banks for nearly 70 percent of U.S. households. The research, as reported by MarketingCharts via retailwire.com, indicates that customers who frequently visit specific retailers tend to be heavy “category spenders,” meaning that they also frequently visit other retailers in the same channel. Instead, true loyalty is often the domain of “light customers” who make fewer trips to stores but typically shop at the same ones.

The analysis looked at five retailer channels: restaurants; apparel; gas and convenience; grocery; and general retail. Rather than simply analyze how often customers of these channels visit specific stores (which might be how the stores themselves determine loyalty), the whole-wallet approach based on transaction records looks at how often customers visit stores as a percentage of their total channel visits.

Looking at how customer loyalty differs among restaurants, apparel and grocery:

  • For restaurants, 44 percent of customers dine at the same one for more than half of their dining trips out.
  • For apparel, 53 percent shop at the same store the majority of the time.
  • For grocery, 81 percent visit the same store most of the time.

On the surface, that shows a significant degree of loyalty to favorite stores.

But a deeper analysis indicates that loyalty (defined here as at least 50 percent of category trips made to the same store) is much more prevalent among infrequent than frequent customers of each channel.

In each case, light customers (fewer than 52 trips a year) were more loyal than heavy customers (130 or more trips). Here’s how those comparisons broke out at the extremes by channel:

  • The gap was more severe in apparel, where just 15 percent of heavy customers made more than half of their trips to their favorite store, compared to 75 percent of light customers.
  • The gap was much narrower in grocery, where 86 percent of light customers visited their favorite store at least half of the time versus 72 percent of heavy customers.
  • A similar pattern was apparent for general retail, where 89 percent of light customers visited the same store the majority of the time versus 65 percent of heavy customers.


Obviously, heavy visitors to a channel are going to account for more dollar sales than light visitors — even to particular stores. And in general, the top 20 percent of customers accounted for a greater share of spending in each category (63-69 percent) than share of trips (56-60 percent).

Posted in Consumer Psychology, Customer Satisfaction, Retailing, Shopper Insights | Comments Off

Infographic: 5 MR methodologies and how to use them

When it comes to selecting the right methodology for a project, the options are seemingly limitless but there isn’t one cure-all for every marketing problem. In most cases, a mix of several techniques will take you the closest to the answers you need to make wise business decisions. It’s simply a matter of knowing who should be using what – and when, why and how. Simple, right?

Using the coffee industry as an example, an infographic from from London research company Euromonitor International demonstrates how strategic market research, business consulting, focus groups, consumer surveys and scan data can be used in concert to create a clear – and informed – path to future success.

Euromonitor infographic

Posted in Consumer Research, Data Processing, Focus Groups, Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Techniques, Online Surveys and Research, Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, The Business of Research | Comments Off

Consumers won’t pay to preserve ‘priceless’ memories

178281231Back in the day, when capturing moments in time meant using film and paying to have the photos developed, I was notorious for having dozens of old shoe boxes full of loose photos in my closet – alongside dozens of empty photo albums and scrapbooks.

Those shoe boxes are probably still hanging out somewhere in my parents’ house (or perhaps they’ve gone missing) but since the digitization of picture-taking, my poor organization has only been made worse. Now that it’s easier than ever to snap a shot of every cute thing my baby/dog/cat/husband does, I have thousands of images just sitting on my phone, doing absolutely nothing for me. Aside from one trip to Target to print out a few of my favorite photos of my son for my office, I haven’t done a darn thing.

Then, just last week, my son gave my phone a good slobbering and it hit me that if I don’t do something – and fast – all of the photos of my most precious firstborn could be gone . . . forever. Almost a full year’s worth of priceless memories!

And the key word there is priceless. According to a survey from Woburn, Mass., software company Acronis, data on a device – especially personal photos – are far more valuable to consumers than the device itself, as nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they would save their photos before their phone. But consumers are doing little to protect all that valuable information and are reluctant to pony up to save their data. A separate Acronis survey in the U.K. showed that 21 percent of consumers have never backed up a digital device and only two-thirds have stored some of their content digitally.

Acronis’ Sub Zero blog discusses the survey findings.

Respondents overwhelmingly state that their personal photos are the most important things on their smartphones, tablets and computers. A work proposal can be rewritten, a song or TV series can always be repurchased or re-downloaded but photos of weddings, graduations and other moments, both everyday and extraordinary, can never be replaced. Still, most amateur photographers upload their photos to Facebook or Instagram and store them on their devices, without a backup plan. And as we’ve seen, those sites aren’t foolproof.

. . .

People would be devastated if they lost their files but more than one-third of respondents said they’re not willing to pay to more than $100 to get back lost data. It can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get back data from a failed device depending on the level of damage, not to mention the hours spent wondering whether those files will ever see the light of day again.

How can consumers say their photos are worth more than a $1,200 desktop computer but not be willing to pay less than one-tenth of that to save the data? Your guess is as good as mine; humans are hardly rational creatures.

But this research did make me realize that my data isn’t going to back itself up. I’m one accident away from losing it all. So this past weekend, I asked my husband to download all of the photos from my phone onto an external hard drive so that I can organize them chronologically and upload them to Google Drive.


Posted in Behavioral Economics, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Research | Comments Off

A bit of statistics-related humor (seriously)

In honor of April Fools’ Day, we offer up this cartoon for the statisticians and marketing researchers out there:

Source: XKCD

Posted in Market Research Humor, Statistical Analysis | Comments Off

What are consumers’ top 10 GMO-related questions?

465404899The results of a new national survey, commissioned by trade groups GMO Answers and the Council for Biotechnology Information, identify the leading questions consumers have about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and how our food is grown. The survey was conducted in order to identify the top 10 questions consumers have about GMOs and to open up the conversation on biotechnology’s role in agriculture.

Research company Ipsos conducted a national, random telephone survey of 1,006 American adults ages 18 and older. Participants were asked: “The following are questions some people have asked about GMOs. Which of the following questions around the use of GMOs would you be most interested in having answered?” From a list of 23 environmental, business and health-related questions regarding GMOs, respondents identified these questions as the top 10 they want answered:

1. Do GMOs cause cancer?

2. Are GMOs causing an increase in allergies?

3. Are big companies forcing farmers to grow GMOs?

4. Are GMOs increasing the price of food?

5. Are GMOs contaminating organic food crops?

6. Why aren’t long-term health studies conducted on GMO plants?

7. Are GMOs causing an increase in the use of pesticides?

8. Why do GMO companies seem like they are so against labeling GMO foods?

9. Are GMOs contributing to the death of bees and butterflies?

10. If livestock eat genetically modified grain, will there be GMOs in my meat?

“A national dialogue is taking place about GMOs and it’s important for us to listen to the questions consumers are asking so we can provide the information to help address their concerns,” said Cathleen Enright, spokesperson for GMO Answers, in a press statement. “We are committed to transparency about how our food is grown, including an open discussion about GMOs. This is why we asked independent, third-party experts to answer these questions publicly. Our goal is to ensure consumers have the information they need to make up their own minds about GMOs.”

Since its launch last year, more than 500 questions about GMOs, food and agriculture have been answered by experts on the GMO Answers site.

Among the questions which were not selected in the top 10 but have been the focus of conversations on GMO Answers: Is the development of GMOs unnatural? Are GMOs causing gluten intolerance? Are GMOs contributing to obesity? Are GMOs contributing to infertility? Are GMO companies suing farmers? Are GMOs contributing to the growth of super-weeds?

“We recognize that consumers have questions about our products and we need to do a better job explaining our technology, role in agriculture and the safety of our crops. In the coming weeks, we invite consumers to come back and follow the answers to the top 10 questions offered by experts at GMO Answers and become a part of this important conversation,” Enright said.

Posted in Agriculture Research, Brand and Image Research, Consumer Psychology, Food/Sensory Research, Shopper Insights | Comments Off

StubHub goes all-in: a cautionary tale in pricing research

ticket pricesThere’s been an ongoing call from consumers in recent years for honesty and transparency in marketing. After all, the last thing anyone wants is to feel like someone is pulling a fast one on them. There’s evidence of this, especially, in pricing policies. Take, for example, the increase in no-haggle car dealerships and airline ticket prices that show the total fare instead of waiting until checkout to tack on the taxes, fees and government surcharges (nevermind the $25 it’ll cost you to bring your luggage).

However, as any marketer or marketing researcher worth his salt knows, what consumers say they want is not always congruent with what subsequent behavior indicates they really want. (The human variable is why marketing research is more art than science.)

The latest company to fall victim to the fickleness of consumer psychology is ticket broker StubHub. According to Hannah Karp’s March 26th article in the Wall Street Journal, titled “The Truth? Customers Don’t Want to Hear It,” back in January, StubHub followed eBay’s lead to move to an all-in pricing scheme that eliminates hidden fees, following “years of consumer research showing that fans hate nothing more than to see their final ticket price jacked up with additional fees and service charges when they reach checkout.”

However, StubHub saw sales suffer after making the switch, with sales falling 15-50 percent as consumers moved to other ticket vendors who advertise lower base prices but hide fees. To combat the exodus and win back consumers, StubHub has absorbed the not-totally-unexpected losses by lowering its own fees and profit margins. Since doing so, the volume of ticket sales has rebounded.

StubHub spokesman Glenn Lehrman said the company had anticipated sales would dip initially after it adopted all-in pricing and Kathy Derham, a business development executive for Los Angeles broker Barry’s Tickets, described StubHub’s struggles post-pricing change as “a short-term issue.” StubHub is launching an advertising campaign to promote its new price transparency but Lehrman concedes it could still take nine months to a year for sales to recover.

StubHub’s experience serves as a cautionary tale for marketers who may find themselves listening to customers who claim to want one thing but do another. Fortunately for StubHub, consumers may still come around to the idea and the ticket broker is likely wise to stay the course. However, this story also suggests that as much as consumers demand frank marketing, they still want to be courted into making what feels like a wise purchase – and sticker-shock is alive and well.

Have you ever been in a position like StubHub’s? Has research ever steered you “wrong”? How do you respond to weak sales when you’re confident that you’ve made the right marketing decision? Can you think of other case studies of consumer psychology complicating marketing plans? What do you think of all-in pricing? Is it the wave of the future or is it too honest to work?

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

Retail rockets up list of top mobile-location ad categories

187532432Mobile-location ad platform xAd has released its 2013 Year in Review Report, which outlines the most popular trends in mobile-location advertising in 2013. The trends are derived from the more than 400 billion location-verified ad requests on xAd’s platform last year.

The rapidly-growing retail category, which includes a wide range of shopping types – including brick-and-mortar stores – spent more on xAd’s platform than any other category in 2013, followed by auto (No. 2), banking/finance (No. 3), restaurants (No. 4) and telecommunications (No. 5). This is significant as retail was only the fifth-most popular category in 2012. This jump is indicative of the rapid growth of m-commerce in general, as more and more consumers turn to their mobile devices to make informed and immediate retail purchases.

XAd’s report also explores the continued rise of geo-precise targeting for both local and national brands. In 2013, 96 percent of xAd’s campaigns used geo-precise targeting, up from 81 percent in 2012. This included techniques like geofencing, geoconquesting and targeting on search behavior. The increased focus on precise geotargeting makes sense, considering consumers’ expectations when using their mobile device to aid in a purchase decision. For example, xAd’s Path to Purchase series (free; registration required), released last year, asked shoppers how close they expect a location to be when searching for information on their device and up to 65 percent said within five miles.

In 2013, the most popular post-click activities overall (a consumer’s first action after clicking on a mobile ad) were calls to a business. However, post-click behavior varied by industry. For retail, the most popular activity after clicking on an ad was to look up directions or maps to a store, demonstrating the power of mobile in this category to create foot traffic to brick-and-mortar locations.

“The rise of geo-precise targeting is a testament to how effective techniques like geofencing and geoconquesting are for driving customers to visit retail locations,” said Dipanshu “D” Sharma, CEO of xAd, in a press release. “This is particularly true for retailers, where consumers are often looking to make a fast transaction. By Q4 of last year, a third of retail campaigns on our platform had shifted focus away from click-through rate and towards a primary goal of driving in-store visits. This is a trend that we’ll continue to see grow in 2014.”

In Q4 2014, Columbia, the popular sportswear company, partnered with xAd to increase awareness around its Omni-Heat jacket and entice mobile users to visit a store to experience the product in person. Users were targeted in and around locations offering the jacket with a location-aware message. Post-click users were taken to a custom location landing page that showed contact details for the nearest retailer and one-click access to additional product details and map and driving directions. As a result, click-through rate was 52 percent above industry average.

“Mobile, especially combined with location, can be an extremely powerful tool for not only raising awareness but bringing people into your stores,” said Juli Johnson, associate media director at BSSP. “Highlighting Columbia’s innovative technology and product paired with details on the nearest retailer, we were able to drive even more relevance to the consumer and support retail partners.”

Download the full 2013 Year in Review Report here (free; registration required).

Posted in Advertising Research, Mobile Interviewing, Shopper Insights | Comments Off