Monday, February 13

Recognizing Data: Passive Analysis Pays Off

There are dozens of ways for marketers to gain insight and better understand the general public. And most marketers actively engage in such research, which means they conduct one (or more) of four traditional marketing research techniques (observational, focus group, survey research, experimental), many of which can be and are being applied online.

Where marketers miss, however, is in not conducting periodic off-topic research or considering what other studies, surveys, and experiments might reveal (passive analysis). Sometimes the biggest insights are not found in an organization's own research (products, services, etc.) but in the research being conducted by others.

Why The Better Homes and Gardens survey is important. 

As part of our ongoing study of shifting attitudes toward a new economy, we've been following dozens of studies to create a generalized composite of consumer sentiment. And one of the latest surveys by Better Homes and Gardens bears out the concept that the public is undergoing a shift, from spontaneous consumption to long-term value. Here are some of the most interesting findings from the survey.

• Consumers are taking more time to plan for home improvements (from 33% to 39%). 
• Consumers are shopping around for more deals and bargains (from 40% to 42%). 
• Consumers want value for every dollar they invest in their homes (from 56% to 61%). 
• Consumers will get rid of excess stuff before paying for more storage (31%, no change). 
• Consumers are less interested in "bonus rooms" as opposed to "multipurpose rooms" (not specified).
• Consumers are interested in some feature upgrades (facets, fixtures, etc.) (from 51% to 55%). 
• Consumers are not more interested in remodeling projects, with all types of projects remaining flat.

There was one survey point that we dismissed. According to the survey, owning a home is still an important part of the American dream (80%). But we dismissed this finding because the survey was conducted on the Better Homes and Gardens site. Obviously, people who do not value home ownership are less likely to visit Better Homes and Gardens.

The real insight in this survey (when compared to other research) follows trends toward a new economy. People are becoming more value driven (not necessarily direct response or sales driven), less consumption driven, consider flexibility more important than status, and place a greater emphasis on long-term purchases that will help them avoid more repairs, replacements, and remodels in the future. 

What does this mean for non-housing related marketers? 

Throughout the 1990s, most consumers banked on a rapidly changing future that would allow them to upgrade everything in their lives at a quick pace. People changed jobs for more opportunity, flipped homes as they advanced, refinanced for status remodels, traded in leased vehicles at a quicker pace, etc. 

In a slow economy, people are more concerned that whatever purchases they make will fit within their budgets and last considerably longer. They know their lifestyles may change, which means flexibility becomes increasingly important. They want increased reliability and security over change because they recognize that not all change is for the better. They place more value on intangible qualities of life (more time to do something meaningful) as opposed to tangible qualities of life (consumption). 

If an organization recognizes how such trends affect their niche, they can make modifications not only to their communication (highlighting long term over short term), but also apply it to research and development, with an emphasis on creating products and services that promise long-term value over short-term trades. How about your organization? Is it still catering to the shrinking pool of consumers who value consumption? Or is it trading in a short-term sales message for something better?  
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