Gone are the days of focus groups as a market research method. What once seemed like the best way to get to know your customers is now an ancient practice that’s losing value. It’s no secret that product testers unconsciously seek to please researchers conducting the tests. According to marketing and psychology professors, people often don’t realize what truly draws their eye in or how they really feel about a product. Thus focus groups, with their psuedo-relaxed conversational sessions about products and attitudes towards them, are more for show than true research data. In order to get to that instinctual response, that gut reaction, market research is getting more personal.
1) Marketers Track Retinas: Proctor and Gamble Co., Unilever, PLC, Kimberly Clark Corp. and other similar companies now combine 3D computer modeling of product designs and store layouts with eye-tracking technology
. By using computer screens with retina-tracking cameras, companies can see where customers are looking, for how long, and how often. Information it collects can be used to form a “heat map” that uses color to show where people looked on a simulated shelf. The effects? This technology has affected package design, shelf placement, product displays and prototypes. Ultimately new products are rolling out faster, designs and shelf placement are better, and the result is increased sales.
2) Social Media Reveals Preferences: Consumers choose Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to interact with friends and post status updates. Marketers choose to monitor social media to gain insight into what customers prefer
. Wal-Mart used Twitter to decide whether to stock lollipop-shaped cakes in its stores, Estée Lauder’s MAC Cosmetics had customers vote on which discontinued shades to bring back, Squishable used Facebook feedback to reach a final version of its toy and Samuel Adams used votes to create a crowdsourced beer. Wal-Mart even owns its own social media company Kosmix, because of its ability to extract trends from social media conversations. Then there’s the fact that Facebook users are often young, fad followers and old-style focus groups are not. Focus group or social media? No brainer.
3) Web Ads Target Based on TV Watching: Data company DataLogix created a product that will let digital ad buyers target ads to people online based on what they watch on TV
. For this, DataLogix has partnered with TRA, a firm recently acquired by TIVO, which has TV viewing data for cable boxes in more than 4 million U.S. households. TRA delivers TV viewing data to DataLogix and DataLogix combines it with demographic and purchase-behavior data about those TV households. Then DataLogix tries to match up those audiences with what it knows about them from a pool of 50 million cookies collected online. Additionally, it adds in cookies that represent people with similar attributes to those who have watched a given show or regularly watch a particular genre to create the scale needed for reach ad buys. In the future, they envision TV programmers using the data to target ad buys that promote TV networks or shows. I can only think of two problems for this new technology: those who have cookies turned off and privacy constraints. If they can find ways around those then opportunities exist.
All of these methods cut through the clutter of human data to reach the subconscious instinct, preferences and habits of the modern-day consumer. A feat that market research has been unable to achieve up to this point. In doing so, they elevate market research to a new plateau, one that’s more refined thanks to technological advances. Perhaps the only thing standing in the way of any of these methods would be a concern for privacy, as it’s possible to argue that any of these is an intrusion of privacy. Yet whether that issue will even come up remains to be seen. In the meantime, these methods of market research are changing the marketing landscape two retinas, many social media channels and millions of computer and TV sets at a time.