Technology Will Push Market Researchers into New Depths

Just as the venerable Sears & Roebuck catalog is fading away, consumers will have new options to search for what they want. That, in turn, will create new challenges for market researchers to understand emerging trends such as voice search and to evaluate immersive consumer experiences made possible by virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Just as the venerable Sears & Roebuck catalog is fading away, consumers will have new options to search for what they want. That, in turn, will create new challenges for market researchers to understand emerging trends such as voice search and to evaluate immersive consumer experiences made possible by virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

You don’t typically associate artificial intelligence, blockchains and search engine optimization with research. But you should, based on predictions for market research trends in 2019.

Focus Pointe Global shared five market research trends it perceives in 2019.

  1. Artificial intelligence combined with automation makes it possible to learn from all customers, not just a select sample. AI advocates say this will enable brands to have a deeper, more authentic understanding of their customers – and potentially gain a competitive advantage.

  2.  Online searches for content, special offers, reviews and pricing is an important tool for consumers – and a critical channel for brands. Google Home and Amazon Echo are extending consumer reach with voice search. Not far behind is visual search in platforms such as Pinterest, Bing and Google Lens. These new avenues will require website optimization and close attention to see how, or if, voice and visual searches differ from online searches the “old-fashioned” way on computers and tablets.

  3.  Researchers won’t have to ask consumers to describe their daily lives, they will be able to capture them on video in their daily lives. Brand managers can see for themselves how consumers engage with a product display or interact with a sales representative. This video evidence can be combined with geo-location technology to trace quite literally the consumer journey. This trend on steroids would extend to virtual reality that allow consumers to experience products.

  4.  All these techniques that can be quite intimate with consumers also must contend with existing and more stringent future privacy protection regulations. The European Union has adopted privacy protections and California has adopted legislation embracing similar protections. Other states are likely to follow, maybe even as soon as this year when most state legislatures convene.

  5.  New avenues for research will require closer partnerships between brand managers and market researchers. The expanding possibilities will demand hand-in-hand working relationships as research techniques become more fully embedded into the consumer purchasing process. Partnerships also will be necessary to interpret accurately and fairly increasing amounts of emotional intelligence about products and the people who buy them.

Writing for Forbes, small business contributor Lilach Bullock offered her predictions for market research trends in 2019. She agrees voice search is on the rise, predicting 50 percent of all searches will be via voice by 2020.

Bullock notes 35.6 Americans use a voice-activated device at least once a month and one in six Americans own a smart speaker – all of which point to new optimization strategies based on how consumers ask questions and search engines respond.

Other trends pointed out by Bullock include steps to speed up searches. Mobile-first indexing and faster-loading websites will be essential to improve the consumer experience, which market researchers will be tasked to monitor. Blockchain technology to create secure, trustworthy transactions also can be used to verify a consumer or brand is who they say they are. Bullock indicates security will become a new imperative alongside privacy.

“It might not be clear what the future will bring exactly,” Bullock concludes, “but it’s clear that emerging and older technologies are starting to have a huge impact on search engine optimization – if it’s not already happening, then at the very least it’s bound to happen soon.”

 

Striking Findings from Pew, CFM Research During 2018

Among the most striking research findings during 2018 is that a majority of US teens fear a mass shooting at the school they attend.

Among the most striking research findings during 2018 is that a majority of US teens fear a mass shooting at the school they attend.

The year is almost over and it’s time for retrospectives. Pew Research Center has shared “18 striking findings.” We have a few of our own to share.

 Here are a few of the striking findings by Pew during 2018:

  • The number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has declined from its peak of 12.2 million in 2007.

  • The number of refugees resettled in the United States decreased more in 2017 than the rest of the world.

  • Younger Americans are better than their elders at separating fact from opinion.

  • A declining share of US Catholics say Pope Francis is doing a good job.

  • A majority of US teens fear a mass shooting at their school.

  • Almost 70 percent of Americans indicate they are worn out by the news. More Republicans say they are fatigued than Democrats.

  • Income inequality in America is greatest among Asians.

  • Bots on Twitter may be responsible for more link-sharing than human tweeters.

  • Almost 60 percent of women in the United States say they have been sexually harassed.

CFM has also been busy conducting research in 2018. Here are some of the findings we are able to share:

  • People in the Pacific Northwest are more optimistic about the way things are going than the rest of the country. Republicans are more pessimistic than Democrats.

  • Republicans and Democrats have significantly different opinions about key issues such as education and transportation. Opinions among Independents are closer to Republicans than Democrats.

  • People expect it will be decades before transportation issues are addressed adequately.

  • The share of people who rely on newspapers for information has declined by 50 percent during the past 10 years. Old-fashioned word of mouth and digital news outlets are now preferred sources.

  • Next to traffic congestion, one of the most commonly mentioned civic challenges is homelessness.

Hold onto your hat because 2019 appears like another storm approaching, with loads of opportunities to take the temperature of Americans around the country and in the Pacific Northwest.

 

One-on-One Interviews: The Rodney Dangerfield of Research

One-on-one interviews can produce uniquely informative and insightful findings.

One-on-one interviews can produce uniquely informative and insightful findings.

One-on-one interviews are the Rodney Dangerfield of research. They don’t get the respect they deserve, even though they can produce uniquely informative and insightful findings.

As a form of qualitative research, one-on-one interviews can penetrate issues more effectively than focus groups. One-on-one interviews are more conversational and flexible; potential participants are selected precisely, and the one-on-one environment yields candid insights.

The advantage of one-on-one interviews lies in who is interviewed. One-on-one interviews typically are scheduled from lists of customers, key stakeholders, managers or elected officials. In most cases, potential participants are recognized as “influentials” who impact opinions of others.

Participation rates are high even though you are targeting a very specific group of busy people. Why? The interviews are scheduled to meet their schedule, not at a specific day, time and place to accommodate client schedules. Also, key stakeholders like sharing their opinions, especially when assured comments are not for attribution.

Focus groups and one-on-one interviews both rely on discussion guides to propel discussion. Focus groups allow researchers – and clients – to observe a group reaction to a discussion guide consisting of questions, value propositions, logos or advertising messages. One-on-one interviews are more like confessionals when subjects feel comfortable to share their personal beliefs and attitudes. You can get unfiltered viewpoints directly from people that you interview.

With these virtues, why do clients purse their lips when asked about one-on-one interviews? Maybe they doubt how 20 well-conceived one-on-one interviews with a representative sample can outdo 500 randomly selected telephone surveys or a series of well-facilitated focus groups. They should erase their doubts and have faith. One-on-one interviews can deliver the goods.

Here are some excellent uses of one-on-one interviews:

Confirming alignment on objectives: One-on-one interviews are a discrete way to see if your managers or board members are in sync with a new overarching policy or strategic plan and, if not, to learn why not. Using a skilled third-party interviewer who will treat the interviews confidentially can generate a wealth of candid observations. Employing one-on-one interviews before full implementation can save a lot of frustration and embarrassment. 

Floating trial balloons: If you have a radical idea, one-on-one interviews can give you an advance read on how a defined audience will regard your out-of-the-box concept. The interviews will expose the most salient arguments opposing your idea and reveal strongest arguments supporting it. Findings can provide clues as to whether your trial balloon will soar or crash. More important, findings offer bread crumbs of how to proceed to avoid a crash.

Evaluating New Branding: Creating a new name, logo and visual identity is at its core subjective. One-on-one interviews can triangulate some perspective from stakeholders, customers or competing brand managers. Findings won’t magically produce a name, logo or visual identity, but can point to a productive direction and identify some key concepts. Findings also can warn of dead ends or bad ideas, which can save a lot of wasted time, energy and money.

Auditing media attitudes: Media audits can be valuable ways to assess relationships with reporters and editors who cover your business, products and services. The most effective way to conduct media audits is through one-on-one interviews. A third party, preferably someone with his or her own rapport with reporters and editors, can fetch the most candid observations and useful suggestions for improving media relationships.

Tapping Influencer insights: People who influence the behavior, preferences and consumer choices of others can be a valuable source of insight. One-on-one interviews may be the only viable way to capture that insight. Coincidentally, the outreach can establish or enhance relationships with key influencers.

Sampling diverse perspectives: Diversity and inclusion are increasingly important in organizations, but that priority doesn’t always scale down to understanding diverse perspectives within a group or team. One-on-one interviews with a diverse range of employees can suss out subtle and not-so-subtle differences in perspective. That knowledge can lead to greater cohesion in a unit and broader understanding of the range of viewpoints and cultural lenses in an organization.

 

A Statistical Portrait of Immigration Unlike TV Reports

News coverage of the US-Mexican border fails to reveal the extent and benefits of immigration to America that has surged since passage in 1965 of the last significant immigration bill. Pew Research has produced a revealing picture that indicates immigrants have always been part of the American portrait.

News coverage of the US-Mexican border fails to reveal the extent and benefits of immigration to America that has surged since passage in 1965 of the last significant immigration bill. Pew Research has produced a revealing picture that indicates immigrants have always been part of the American portrait.

If you watch the nightly news, you might think the few thousand migrants from Central America trying to enter the United States to seek asylum would tip the balance in the American population. A statistical portrait of the foreign-born population in America suggests otherwise.

The Pew Research Center has an online tutorial on US immigration to help Americans better recognize their immigrant neighbors who are already here, many of whom for more than a decade. Pew estimates there were 43.7 million immigrants in the United States in 2016, which is more than any other country in the world.

Contrary to impressions left by news stories of migrant caravans, Pew says three-fourths of the US immigrant population is here legally as naturalized citizens, permanent residents, green card holders or people with temporary visas to attend college or other purposes.

The rate of immigration into the United States has shot up since passage in 1965 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The foreign-born population since then has quadrupled. The legislation was passed in recognition that immigrants would be needed to make up for relatively low US birthrates.

The most noticeable and consequential change in US immigration patterns since 1960 has been the decline of European and Canadian immigrants and a sharp increase in immigrants from Mexico, Latin America and Asia. For example, Asians represented just 4 percent of all immigrants in 1960. In 2016, they accounted for 27 percent. Statistics for Mexican immigration are similar, rising from 6 percent in 1960 to 28 percent in 2016.

While Pew doesn’t say it, more immigrants of color, with different cultural and religious traditions, has contributed to heightened awareness of and in some cases hostility toward immigrants, a factor that played a significant role of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

Pew Research Center has developed an informative resource that describes immigrants in America – who they are, how long they have been here, how they are faring and where they live. It’s a fascinating set of statistics that shows immigration is a lot more complicated and significant than skirmishes at the US-Mexican border.

Pew Research Center has developed an informative resource that describes immigrants in America – who they are, how long they have been here, how they are faring and where they live. It’s a fascinating set of statistics that shows immigration is a lot more complicated and significant than skirmishes at the US-Mexican border.

Pew notes that 75 percent of foreign-born immigrants have lived in the United States for more than 10 years. Immigrants account for almost 14 percent of US population, while second-generation, US-born children constitute another 12 percent.

Trump’s attention glued to the US-Mexican border overlooks that Asian immigrants now outnumber Hispanic immigrants, according to Pew. The estimated number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has dropped slightly from a high of 12.2 percent in 2007 to 11.3 percent in 2016. Unauthorized immigrants have been relatively constant since around 2000. Some 11.6 million US immigrants were born in Mexico, which eclipses the next highest birth countries, China (2.7 million) and India (2.4 million)

Another noteworthy statistic is that more than 15 percent of immigrants 25 years or older have earned bachelor’s degrees and another 12 percent hold post-graduate degrees.

In 1960, male and female immigrants were roughly equal and tended to be older (55-74). In 2016, immigrants remained roughly equal by sex, but were significantly younger (30-54). Mexican immigrants were the youngest with a median age of 42.

Second-generation children of immigrants in 2016 were largely younger, from ages 0-19. More than 50 years later, second-generation children are more evenly balanced from ages 0-69.

There is a huge geographical disparity as to where immigrants live. Almost 35 percent live in the Western United States, while 33 percent live in the South. California, Texas and New York are home to 46 percent of immigrants. Sixty percent of immigrants live in just 20 US metropolitan areas.   

What disquiets some Americans are projections that people of color will overtake Caucasians as the majority population by the middle of this century. Some anti-immigrant groups warn of rising crime, but official data indicates first-generation immigrants have lower crime rates and are more likely to be married than the average US population

How to Patch America’s Patchwork Electoral Grid

As America’s elections have become more nationalized in partisanship, the electoral grid remains a patchwork of aging voting machines, uneven voting requirements and a largely volunteer workforce that oversees actual voting. Instituting nationally the Oregon voting system of automatic voter registration and mail-in ballots would help and allow reforms to center on gerrymandering, campaign disinformation and dark money contributions.

As America’s elections have become more nationalized in partisanship, the electoral grid remains a patchwork of aging voting machines, uneven voting requirements and a largely volunteer workforce that oversees actual voting. Instituting nationally the Oregon voting system of automatic voter registration and mail-in ballots would help and allow reforms to center on gerrymandering, campaign disinformation and dark money contributions.

The 2018 midterm election is mostly history (except in Florida) and post-election analysis is centering on America’s patchwork of electoral systems.

In past elections, criticism was leveled at inaccurate polling. This year, eyebrows have been raised by a cascade of miscues in an election with more than 100,000 polling places, administered by 10,000 local jurisdictions overseen by 50 states and handled by 900,000 mostly volunteer election workers.

That’s not to mention the significant variations in how states manage voter registration, voting identification and actual balloting.

So, it was unsurprising, but still unsettling that votes in Georgia were disqualified for “insufficient oath information,” New York City voting machines jammed and Maryland election officials seriously underestimated the number of ballots to prepare. 

Even Oregon, with its automatic voter registration and mail-in ballots, experienced controversy as an interest group failed to hand in on time almost 100 ballots it collected.

The New York Times published a post-election story that reassures readers no significant evidence of voter fraud has been uncovered. However, it described the nation’s election grid as lumbering, rickety and susceptible to accusations of, if not actual, manipulation.

The single incident that captured the dilemma occurred when Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp tried to vote on the state’s 16-year-old voting machines running on Windows 2000 software and his vote was initially rejected due to a computer error. Kemp is Georgia’s secretary of state in charge of elections (and now its incoming governor).

Highly charged partisanship and closely contested races have intensified discontent with the state of electoral systems. Attempts at voter suppression and legal actions to throw out gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts have added fuel to a smoldering political fire. Even some of the “solutions” have boomeranged, such as computerized voting machines that can be targets of cyber-hacking, a threat that prompted some states to return to paper ballots.

Since the 1990s when GOP Congressman and later Speaker Newt Gingrich pushed to nationalize congressional elections, voting has taken on the quality of a plebiscite of a President or party in power. Campaigns focus on what’s right or scary about political parties, often skimming over the qualifications and views of actual candidates.

The irony of nationalized electioneering is that actual elections are cobbled together state by state, with substantially dissimilar voter qualifications, and administered by local jurisdictions that sometimes are overseen by one-person departments.

Moreover, the “national” vote isn’t always reflected in the representation it elects. Hillary Clinton outpolled Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election by more than 3 million votes, but roughly 80,000 votes in a handful of critical states swung the electoral college vote to Trump. In the 2018 midterm election, Democrats nationally received somewhere around 7.7 percent votes than Republicans. That enabled Democrats to flip enough seats to regain control of the House, but Republicans actually gained ground in the Senate. 

If there was ever an issue that called for bipartisan citizen attention, the US election system is it. The system may not be entirely broken, but it is definitely wheezing and pressures are continuing to grow with sharp partisan divisions and relentless political maneuvering for advantage.

Oregon’s automatic registration and mail-in balloting system has been touted (mostly by Oregonians, but also by officials in Washington and Colorado) as part of a solution. When you provide the necessary documents to get a driver’s license, you automatically are registered to vote with an option of choosing a party affiliation or not. Your ballot is mailed to your address and voters have roughly two weeks to return ballots. To be counted, ballots must be dropped off no later than 8 pm on election day or be postmarked on election day. That eliminates the need for voting machines, cyber-defense systems and poll workers. It would invalidate voter suppression, boost voter turnout, put all Americans on the same footing and come closer to making every vote count equally. 

If implemented nationally, the Oregon voting system would allow reforms to focus on gerrymandering, campaign disinformation and so-called dark money contributions. There also would be time to assess the possibilities and drawbacks of direct democracy. Hanging chads, voting machine irregularities and awkward moments and long lines at polling stations would be headed for the history books. Americans could view elections with greater trust and the reality of nationalized electioneering would be closer to the truth.

Poll Confirms Voter Interest Surging for Midterm Election

Democrats predict a blue wave and Republicans sense a surge in support after the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. They both could be right and the nation could be in for a blockbuster night of tight election results. [Illustration by Zac Freeland/Vox]

Democrats predict a blue wave and Republicans sense a surge in support after the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. They both could be right and the nation could be in for a blockbuster night of tight election results. [Illustration by Zac Freeland/Vox]

Democrats predict a blue wave in the looming midterm elections and Republicans point to a GOP surge following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. They both could be right.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released over the weekend shows overall enthusiasm for voting this November is markedly higher (12 percent) than it was in October 2014, the last midterm election.

The two largest leaps in enthusiasm from four years ago are among younger (25 percent) and nonwhite (24 percent) voters. Enthusiasm among Democrats jumped 18 percent, independents 13 percent and Republicans 4 percent.

There are fascinating statistics within statistics. The Kavanaugh confirmation battle increased Republican voter resolve this fall, especially among males. President Donald Trump’s approval rating also bumped up. However, a significant gender gap remains. According to the poll, women favor Democratic House candidates by a 59 to 37 percent margin, driven in part by an even greater split among women who identify as political independents (62 to 37 percent).

A striking, though not surprising finding is that partisans on both sides seem to be hardening their positions. Ninety percent of voters who disapprove of Trump are supporting Democratic candidates and 87 percent who approve of Trump are voting for Republicans.

Partisans do agree that the upcoming election is more important than previous midterms. Democrats are more convinced at 74 percent, but 61 percent of Republicans agree.

On issues, poll respondents expressed slightly more trust in Republicans over Democrats in managing the economy (45 to 41 percent), while showing about the same level of trust in Democrats over Republicans on taxes (45 to 42 percent). Democrats hold double-digit leads over Republicans on changing the way Washington works, appointment of Supreme Court justices, immigration and equal treatment of men and women. According to poll results, the economy and health care rank as the top issues.

The poll was conducted last week using a random sample of 1,144 adults, 65 percent reached via cell phones and 35 percent on landline telephones. Reaching voters by cell phone is a major change in the way telephone surveys are conducted to ensure representative inclusion of younger, poorer and minority respondents.