Several weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. I was in my office on a conference call with an overseas client, and I noticed the lights flickering above my head. Moments later someone ran into my office to say they smelled smoke. I ended my call as politely as I could under the circumstances, and we began to evacuate the building, which was quickly filling with smoke as the fire spread. Everyone got out safely, and my colleagues and I are all so grateful.
In the process of scrambling to relocate our headquarters, I have been pondering the impact of this experience. Here are 5 lessons we learned when the unthinkable happened:
1. Focus on what matters. In an emergency, the only thing that counts is human lives. In the day to day, prioritize, and then act according to those priorities.
2. Don’t ignore warning signs. We would have been foolish to ignore the flickering lights and smoke, but isn’t that what we do in our businesses sometimes? We see the warning signs of trouble, but we choose to ignore them—either because we don’t recognize how threatening they are or because we don’t know how to fix the problem. Ignoring warnings only leads to bigger trouble.
3. Back up everything in the cloud. Backing up data should be one of your priorities; backups enable business to go on when the unexpected happens. Computers fail, and fires and natural disasters are always happening somewhere. What you think can’t happen to you may happen to you. There’s no excuse for no backup.
4. Be prepared. The Boy Scouts motto is one to live by. Our data was backed up. Fire extinguishers were in place and in working order, allowing us to contain the fire (for a bit) so we could safely evacuate. There are so many ways to be prepared in the day to day — whether it’s putting a disaster or emergency plan in place or just preparing for a meeting with a client. No one ever regrets being prepared.
5. Embrace the present. Don’t waste time with regrets from yesterday. Learn your lessons and move on. And don’t waste time worrying about tomorrow. You have no idea what’s coming down the road. Today is a gift. Truly. By living in the present, you won’t get sidetracked by regret or worry, and you’ll appreciate what is in front of you—which will also give you a clear vision of what you might need to change.
It’s human nature to look for lessons in adversity—and to share them. This fire has taught us a lot, and we hope you can benefit from some of the clarity it’s brought to us. We hope you’ll share this with your colleagues and your loved ones. I can be reached at 201.569.4800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PTG’s President, Dan Morris, was recently interviewed for the September issue of Online MR Magazine. In the interview, Dan shared his thoughts on the evolving demands of shopper insights research and how advances in technology are making it possible for marketers to passively observe shoppers in a natural environment.
The interview can be found below in its entirety.
In the past decade what major changes have you observed in the field of market research – especially in context of how we collect Shopper Insights?
Dan Morris: From my vantage point, the biggest change in the collection of Shopper Insights data is simply the increased number of potential sales channels that need to be monitored. Today’s marketers need to engage their customers, and that means not only understanding their customer experience in a retail environment, but also having a pulse on their digital shopping experience. For instance, in-store, mobile and online shopping environments each come with their own unique sets of challenges and research requirements. This is no simple task.
This evolving dynamic demands we introduce non-conscious biometric measurement into the Shopper Insights space. PTG’s patented Saccadic Eye Movement Recording System uses micro camera technology to record how fast shoppers’ eyes vibrate. By measuring this cognitive response we can objectively determine consumer engagement and interest with in-store stimuli such as packaging and communications.
What are some of the major challenges that you face in collecting insights from shoppers? How do you overcome these challenges?
Dan Morris: I would say the biggest challenge that we face is passively evaluating shoppers in a natural shopping environment or “in the wild” as I like to say. It’s widely agreed upon that the best research comes out of situations when consumers aren’t aware that they are being evaluated. Our mission at PTG is to inconspicuously capture consumer engagement to advertising and marketing stimuli in highly contextual, real-world environments. To accomplish this we leverage passive, patented technology.
Specifically, how do you leverage technology to better collect shopper insight?
Dan Morris: Technology offers the power of discretion. For example, our on-shelf micro cameras are the size of a fingernail and can be hidden in a pricing tag on a store shelf. These powerful little devices capture consumers’ Saccadic Engagement and facial activity while examining in-store displays and/or product packaging. The resulting data includes how many shoppers viewed a test product and then approached it on-shelf, how engaged the shoppers were with what they saw and, finally, how long the shopper spent with the product. This holistic view of the shopper experience enables marketers to identify what consumers can’t articulate.
Today with substantial amount of shopping being done online – how are you connecting with shoppers in the online domain?
Dan Morris: More and more clients are turning to us to measure their e-commerce channels. And, again, technology is the key. We apply our inconspicuous research tools to measure the performance of online and mobile stores as it pertains to closure rates, time spent shopping, click-thru and purchase data. In addition to the diagnostic information that’s captured, our eye tracking and Saccadic Eye Movement Recording System determine the pattern of element examination including which elements are most noted and read. We also measure the level of engagement for each webpage as well as line-by-line copy readership. We have found specific treatment impact varies by size of the digital device, type of e-commerce shopping and layout of specific webpage.
Shoppers – especially the dissatisfied ones are very vocal in social media domains – so is it the right platform to gather shopper insight?
Dan Morris: We leave social insights to the social listening companies and rely on our pre-market research initiatives to give clients the information they need to avoid social mishaps and disgruntled consumers in the first place.
Can we reduce/remove human intervention when it comes to analyzing data we collect?
Dan Morris: I think we’re already witnessing low-touch and no-touch techniques when it comes to collecting and crunching data; however, in my opinion, when it comes to delivering real insights there’s no AI out there that can replace human analysis and reporting.
One aspect of our business that we’re most proud of is when a client says to us – “Wow, we had no idea”. By passively observing shoppers in a natural environment, we go into projects with a clean slate and an open mind and simply watch them by using our unobtrusive cameras. We capture human behaviors that have a major impact on our clients’ businesses. At PTG we like to say “we see what you don’t” and what we see on behalf of our clients is pretty powerful.
What changes have you seen in the observational techniques to collect shopper insights in the past decade?
Dan Morris: The most massive change has been in the sheer sophistication of the data collection methods. No longer do qualitative researchers need to evaluate customer experiences with a paper and pencil or rely on outdated technology that makes the shopper feel conspicuous while in a store. Today, we can intercept hundreds of shoppers on the way into a store and invite them to shop as they planned to shop while wearing our inconspicuous audio and video recording glasses.
PTG’s truVu glasses are equipped with patented auto product identification technology and built-in HD and high frame rate recording capabilities. The technology has been successfully used to understand shopper buying behaviors immediately before and after interaction with a test shelf or product; or we can even follow their entire path-to-purchase. For example, are there “hidden influencers” that are impacting noting and selection of a product such as display height, FSIs and/or similarity of surrounding colors? Is a product’s signage being seen? Are shoppers reading promotional messaging and taking action? Are shoppers being influenced by certain areas of a store? Are shoppers skipping certain aisles or even an entire section of a store? In addition to shoppers wearing the glasses, we have also designed research projects where interviewers unobtrusively record shoppers and qualitatively probe about their experiences without the need for video cameras.
Can you suggest some changes that will help market researchers better collect shopper insights?
Dan Morris: The most important change that I can suggest is making sure that shopper insights have been discovered by research that’s been conducted in a real-world environment. We’ve seen clients make decisions based solely upon research that was collected via virtual or simulated studies only for them to find out that the basic premise was wrong.
Can you share some examples where you have helped provide better insights about shopper behavior to your clients?
Dan Morris: Sure, we had a health and beauty client struggling with the sales of an organic version of one of their products. In response, we designed an in-store study where shoppers went about their business wearing our truVu glasses and identified that shoppers were undoubtedly looking for the organic product in the organic section rather than among the regular category section.
We have helped a side-dish manufacturer discover the best placement for signage – in a totally different section – which increased follow-up purchase in their section of the aisle.
PTG also helped a major appliance manufacturer better understand their big box store promotional needs by recording the specific “ah hah” moment when simple customer browsing of appliances and related in-store signage turned into serious examination and follow-up questions with a salesperson.
We also measured the impact of the location and display for a consumer electronic device by discovering which types of displays worked best in different types of store layouts. For instance, some displays are too large to be seen without sufficient distance and some are too small to be engaging in larger stores.
What will be some of the major changes that we will see in the market research future?
Dan Morris: The future is going to be marked by research passivity. Consumers will no longer have to be asked to answer surveys because researchers will be able to gauge consumer behavior, engagement, emotional response, and facial recognition without asking a single question. At PTG we’re well on our way to making this future a reality!
“Our eyes are constantly moving, whether we notice or not. They jump from one focus point to another and even when we seem to be focused on one point, the eyes continue to reflexively move. These types of eye movements are called saccades. During saccades, even if we are not actively thinking about moving our eyes, our brain is still quickly working to land our focus precisely on spots that hold important information, such as the eyes of a person that you are talking to. The saccade is an example of sensorimotor coordination — how we coordinate our movement with what we sense -and has a far-reaching impact on motor control. Therefore, it is important to understand what is happening in the brain during saccades.”
Many brand marketers and researchers rely upon on-shelf product noting as a key measure in predicting product and packaging success, but recent advancements in PTG’s consumer research technology have uncovered important new findings that contradict this approach.
In March 2014, PTG unveiled its truVu™ research solution that captures real life consumer experiences across a wide variety of locations including in-store, on-site and in-home. The truVu technology features discrete eyeglasses that use patent-pending auto product identification technology and built-in HD (high-definition) and HFR (high frame rate) audio and video recording capabilities that capture real life consumer experiences.
Over the past 18 months, we have analyzed over 4,000 global consumer shopping videos captured across 20 internal truVu studies that included a wide variety of product categories, and the findings dispel the idea that high product noting alone correlates with actual product purchase. PTG’s research on research shows that in a given shopping trip, an individual can note over 7,000 products, some multiple times, and yet the same individual only purchases an average of 17 products begging the question, “If high noting doesn’t strongly correlate to purchase behavior then what does?”
Additional research from PTG identified that, while noting a product is essential, consumer product engagement and close-up approach is ultimately what is required for increased purchase activity.
To conduct this phase of the research, PTG utilized its patent-pending truResponse™ solution featuring an HD and HFR on-shelf micro camera that uniquely captures consumers’ Saccadic Engagement, a biometric indicator that measures cognitive processing, and facial activity while examining in-store displays and product packaging. The unobtrusive micro cameras were strategically placed on product shelves, POP displays and LCD monitors. Using proprietary facial recognition software, the cameras automatically recorded how many people viewed the test product, approached the test product, measured their Saccadic Engagement level, and ultimately how long the shopper spent with the product.
What PTG concluded as a result of this research is measuring actual consumer engagement and product interaction, rather than simple product noting and recall, provided a much more comprehensive understanding of a product’s success and opportunities for increasing purchase.
These insights are very promising for our industry. For the first time we have identified not only a highly reliable predictor of sales success, but we also have the necessary tools to set a product up for increased success before it goes on-shelf. To learn more, please contact me at email@example.com.
Today’s marketers are navigating a wide range of complex digital media channels. However, for all of the technological advancements behind digital advertising, the real world success metrics remain the same as measuring more traditional media such as TV and print. In order for a campaign to be successful, it needs to clear the following three hurdles.
Hurdle #1 is opportunity. Will consumers look at the screen to see my message? Hurdle #2 is involvement. How much time was spent on my video? Did consumers attempt to immediately click out of my pre-roll? At what point were consumers hooked by my ad? Where did they drop? Finally, hurdle #3 is focus/engagement. Where were consumers specifically drawn to my communication? Was it copy? Was it imagery? Was it a spokesperson? Did they take action i.e. download a coupon or put my product in a shopping cart?
PTG’s real world approach to measuring digital media captures critical nuances that are completely unique to digital and sidesteps traditional forced exposure metrics and irrelevant clutter breakthrough that are common to tv copy testing. For example, pre-roll videos have a max of 5 seconds to engage the viewer before the ad is skipped. How can you ensure success? Engagement! If the viewer isn’t immediately drawn in by the creative the content is doomed.
At PTG, we take a two pronged approach to understanding engagement. First, we unobtrusively measure Saccadic Eye Movement which is an objective level of actual consumer engagement and the foundation of our copy testing and brand communications solutions. Second, we measure line by line copy readership to better understand where consumers may be losing interest. Only PTG measures second-by-second visual engagement with the stimuli as well as element-by-element eye tracking in a completely natural viewing environment.
We welcome an opportunity to provide you with more information about our philosophy on testing digital creative. Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly share an example of our truWeb approach, patented technology and analyses.
In today’s economy, if your research expenditures are not adding to your bottom line, you’re wasting money. Eye movement noting, brand recall and expressed purchase intent are tools from the 1960’s and 1970’s that are meant to protect research departments from catastrophic failure, not provide tactical approaches for how packaging, ads and video content can better connect and influence target audiences. These legacy approaches were never designed for today’s new world of mobile platforms, millions of pre-roll ads, a digital economy, mega-supermarkets, television commercial avoidance, and small, yet valuable, magazine audiences.
Here are a few facts we have uncovered as part of our brand communications research:
• While magazine audiences have shrunk, highly engaging print ads are working better than ever in this medium.
• A pre-roll ad with high engagement during the first 5 seconds can persuade over 400% better than one that doesn’t capture attention.
• Display advertising is not as dependent upon viewability as it is on engagement. Most “in your face” banner ads are being completely ignored.
• What does it take to get a shopper to stop and consider your product when shopping an Amazon, Walmart or Target shopping site? Hint: It’s not what you think. Rather it is the engagement with your product’s picture in the posting. The higher the engagement level, the more copy readership and consideration to purchase.
• Do TV ad GRPs make a difference in persuasion? Not as much as you might think. Some of the most repeated commercials on air quickly lose engagement and their zapping (or ignoring) skyrockets. The right balance of reach and engagement is critical.
Given these realities it’s high time for research technology to address today’s world of binge viewing, mobile advertising, streaming videos, e-commerce and mega shopping stores. At PTG we have moved well beyond eye movement noting, brand recall scores and expressed purchase intent to give our clients an objective measure of engagement that leads to increased purchase behavior.
PTG incorporates a non-invasive biometric indicator called Saccadic Eye Movement into our copy testing and package testing methodologies. In simple terms, saccadic eye movement reflects the cognitive processes the brain uses to capture visual information.
More specifically, in order for the brain to gain a visual picture of a stimulus, the eye must vibrate and provide constant streams of information to the center of the retina called the fovea. The more visual information the brain wants, the more actively the eye vibrates. These mini-movements are known as macro-saccades. In order for the brain to remember a specific visual, the eye fixates and stops moving for a fraction of a second. These macro-saccades and fixations reflect an objective level of respondent behavioral engagement that is uniquely recorded by PTG’s patented Saccadic Eye Movement Recorder.
Saccadic e-Motion, as we fondly refer to the technology, measures second-by-second visual engagement as well as element-by-element eye tracking and allows us to pinpoint specific areas where our clients can make small changes to their advertising that make a big impact in sales performance.