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Predicted Market Research Trends for 2017

Person standing in front of arrows pointing left, right and center.

Where is market research headed in 2017? Credit:

What market research trends should you expect to see in 2017?

I’m thrilled to be among the market research professionals, suppliers, and executives in the field quoted in this blog post by Sarah Schmidt of

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Here’s a scary thought: Only 10 weeks left in 2016!

InsightFarm can take the fear out of fourth quarter

Don’t panic! There are things you can do to extract the most learning out of your insights budget before the end of the year!











Ah, October. The air gets crisp, the leaves begin to turn crimson and gold, jack o’lanterns are smiling everywhere, but then a chill runs up your spine as you realize – there’s not much time before the end of the year!

Your mind begins to race: How much do I have left in my budget? Have I achieved my goals? What were my goals? WHAT WILL I DO?

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Want to Find Out What’s in a Woman’s Purse?

Woman's purse, overflowing with personal items

A woman’s handbag is the Swiss Army knife of womanhood and a fertile ground for product innovation, according to Kelley Styring.

We tracked the purse to its natural habitat – the shopping mall – and asked women if we could look inside their beloved bags and share what was inside them with the world. For Science. And they said YES.

We found old gum wrappers, crumbs, lipsticks without caps, used tissues, cellphones, keys, loyalty cards –  and billions (yes, that’s billions with a “b”) of dollars in untapped marketing opportunities across 25 consumer product categories.

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Cleaning Up with User Experience

Carroll Gantz holding the DustBuster handheld vacuum cleaner, which he designed.

User experience played a critical role in refining Carroll Gantz’s revolutionary DustBuster handheld vacuum. Credit:

Before the iPhone, there was the DustBuster.

Stop laughing. It’s true. And it’s a great lesson about the value of user experience.

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How to Win with Mobile Research

Hand holding smartphone

By 2020, there will be 6.1 billion smartphones in the world. If you want your research to be successful, you have to win with mobile research. Photo by InsightFarm.

I know, it shouldn’t be news, but it bears repeating: all research is mobile.

Basically, half of the people you contact (be it by a call or an email or through a social network) are receiving your message and responding to via mobile phone. And that number is due to only go up.

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Meet Me in Brooklyn at The Quirk’s Event 2016!

Logo for 2016 Quirk's Event Conference

Hear Kelley Styring speak at The 2016 Quirk’s Event, Feb 23-24 in Brooklyn.

Are you headed to the SOLD OUT Quirk’s Event? Make sure you attend my presentation on February 23rd.  I’ll be sharing ways you can create strong connections with your consumers.

For a little preview of some of the things I’ll be talking about, I’ve posted a copy of an article I wrote for Quirk’s below. See you in Brooklyn!


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Harness the Winds of Change: 3 Reasons to Embrace Restructuring

Credit: iStock/xochialco

Credit: iStock/xochialco

Mergers, acquisitions, reorganizations and restructurings are all part of the corporate insights professional’s life. Unfortunately, they bring uncertainty, insecurity and fear along with them. It makes sense: reductions in force are often part of the package, which result in people feeling out of control. Morale takes a major hit, with the “survivors” feeling guilty and overwhelmed.

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Be a Big Rock Star in 2016

Glass jar filled with large rocks.

Credit: iStock/Todd Sadowski

As we race to the end of the year, it’s time to turn off the phone, the IM, and the email, lock the door and focus your attention on how to make yourself a big rock star in 2016.

No, I don’t mean wear leather pants and play an electric guitar.

I want you to dedicate some serious thought to identifying your BIG ROCKS. How can they make YOU a star?

Stephen Covey (the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), had a little exercise he used that illustrates what I mean.

He’d take two big, clear buckets, some big rocks and then a bunch of small pebbles. First, he would pour the pebbles into one bucket, and then ask a member of the audience to try and fit the big rocks in afterward. It’s pretty much impossible to do.

Then, he’d put the big rocks in the other bucket first, pouring the pebbles in after, so that the pebbles filled in the spaces between the rocks. His point: You need to schedule your most important priorities first, or you won’t be able to fit them in later. Your days will be overtaken by little, tactical, seemingly urgent tasks.

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Cooking up irresistible insights

A large, silver platter covered by a domed lid.

Want your insights to have greater impact? Don’t just present them like a turkey on a platter! Credit: iStock/rasslava

Thanksgiving dinner got me thinking about how market researchers can cook up more irresistible insights and have a greater impact on their business.

Often times, a market research report is presented like a ginormous roast turkey on a silver platter. We lift the dome – ta-da! – and there it sits in all its glory, complete with lavish garnishes of methodology, tricky math and plenty of numbers to savor.

It sure looks pretty, but it’s overwhelming, too much to digest, and let’s be honest, afterward, all folks want to do is take a nap.

We researchers are left crying, “What?!? We’ve slaved over a hot stove for ages, and this is the reaction we get? Why aren’t you devouring those reports and then going out to set the world on fire?”

Go figure.

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“I’m not sticking my hand in there.” (She did)

Kelley Styring and the box used in her experiment.

Would you stick your hand inside this box?

Would you stick your hand into a dark box, unable to see what awaits you inside? Even if you’re told that there’s a treat inside and if you find it, it’s yours to keep?

Recently, I asked a bunch of market researchers to do just that at an event dedicated to learning about incorporating behavioral science into research.  Instead of just standing around talking about what behavioral science is and how Insight Farm uses it to learn more about consumers, I thought that the folks in attendance would learn more by actually participating in an experiment. So, I created and conducted a simple live experiment I called Beyond the Box. Read more

Thoughts from THE Market Research Event 2015

Cover of conference promotional booklet

I just returned from IIR’s 2015 THE Market Research Event in Orlando. As always, I came away with my head filled with inspiration and percolating with new ideas. There are three themes that I identified, and I’d like to share them with you.

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Meet me in Ft. Lauderdale in February!

Join me at the IIR Media Insights & Engagement Conference being held Feb. 1-3 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I’ll be one of the keynote speakers. Just think – it will be sunny, warmer than most anywhere else you could be in February, AND you’ll learn something! Register here:

IIR Media Insights & Engagement Conference book featuring keynote speaker Kelley Styring.

Join Keynote Speaker Kelley Styring of InsightFarm at IIR’s Media Insights & Engagement Conference.




















Sex in the Car: Correlation or Causation?



A few years ago, I did a study of what people carry in their automobiles and why. I also asked participants about the activities that took place in the car, and found out 68% had had sex at least once in a car.

Now, looking at all the data I collected, there is a high correlation between a person having had sex at least once in a car and their propensity to have had a traffic accident at some point. This is a fallacy of course, because it’s an error of correlation and causation.

Think of it this way: The number of school teachers in any given county is highly correlated to the amount of liquor consumed in that county. But it’s not because the teachers are all heavy drinkers. It’s because counties with more people have more teachers, so there are more people to consume more liquor. The numbers correlate in a meaningless way.

The same can be said for the correlation between having had sex in a car and traffic accidents. The key words here are “traffic accidents,” not accidents of another nature (and, we’re not counting the time one person’s sweaty butt attached itself to a frozen hatch window in a private-parking-lot-moment in the dead of winter.) No, the sex and accidents correlation is strong, but it’s not causal per se.

On the other hand, what we do know from the study is that while people who have had sex in a car do not like their car any better than people who have not, they do enjoy driving significantly more. They also spend more time in their car, carry more items with them, and interestingly, have a tendency to have other people with them in the car more often than others, which eased my mind about what they’re actually doing.

So, when you’re looking for causes, don’t get caught making bad decisions because of correlations in your data.

And for the record, a full 4% of people preferred “not to answer” the sex questions. Hmmm. . . makes you wonder what they were doing.

Would you drive all night for a customer?

A "TAXI" sign with its light on, indicating it is available

Credit: Rodriguez

I recently found out the answer to that very question. I’ve been a very frequent flyer for years, and this past summer was absolutely the worst air travel I’ve ever experienced. I can count on one hand the number of flights I took that weren’t delayed or, even worse, cancelled.

But one of those bad situations turned into a customer service experience that went way beyond what I’d call “going the extra mile.”

Pittsburgh or Bust
Late one summer afternoon, I found myself at the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Wisconsin. I was filled with energy because I’d just completed one presentation for a very happy client, and was heading to present to a new client in Pittsburgh the next morning. The CEO himself was going to attend, so I was feeling great.

It’s a small airport, so there were only three outgoing flights left for the day: one to Minneapolis, one to Detroit and one to Atlanta. I was booked on the flight to Minneapolis. The lovely lady checking me in realized that my flight was delayed, and that I would miss my connecting flight, so she booked me on the flight to Detroit and then on to my final destination. Still great.

All Detroit-bound passengers boarded the flight, ready to go. Except that there was a mechanical issue with the plane. We all trooped off the plane and waited. We watched the flight to Minneapolis take off. I discovered that my connecting flight to Pittsburgh had also been delayed, so I would have been able to make it. Not great.

We watched the flight to Atlanta take off. Even worse.

And, then our flight was cancelled. But I had to get to Pittsburgh!

The gate agent, a good-humored, slightly disheveled young man with half his shirt untucked, looked at me and said, “Lady, you’re not gonna make it.”

To which I replied, “Watch me.”

By the Seat of My Pants
Now, I could have rented a car and driven there all night myself, but as you can imagine, I really wouldn’t have been in the best shape to give a knockout presentation. I needed to get some sleep and still get there. I had an idea.

From my back pocket, I pulled out the business card my taxi driver had just given me and called Fox Valley Cab. Explaining my plight, I asked if they could drive me to Pittsburgh, a mere 10-hour drive away.

Less than ten minutes later, company owner Igor Leykin called me back and said the magic word: YES. And less than ten minutes after that, driver Gina McGuire (who previously drove for the Army in Germany) pulled up in a minivan and we headed out of town. I called my client in Pittsburgh, who graciously moved our meeting time back 30 minutes, giving us a fighting chance.

We stopped briefly a couple times for gas, food and bathroom breaks. I was able to sleep in the back seat for several hours. Gina drove on.

Somewhere in Ohio, a very polite state trooper gave us a speeding ticket. Gina drove on.

I woke up the next morning and proceeded to change my clothes, put on my makeup and run through my presentation one last time in the back seat of the minivan as Gina drove closer to Pittsburgh. We realized, in horror, that we’d gone from the Central to the Eastern Time Zone, losing 60 crucial minutes. Would we make it on time?

Gina delivered me to the door of my client’s building and I breezed into the conference room with five minutes to spare.

Afterward, I stopped at my hotel for a shower and a nap before heading to the airport for the flight home to Oregon. Gina checked into a hotel for some rest before turning the minivan back around and driving home to Wisconsin.

“As Simple As That”
Later, I called Igor to thank him again and to ask what made him say “yes” to me. I’m in the professional service business, and have a tremendous passion for delivering more than my clients expect. But I was impressed that a cab company in Wisconsin shared the same passion.

“Since we serve customers at the airport all the time, I know that they have a lot of cancellations,” Igor explained. “And you obviously had a major need. Now some things fell into place that made it possible. A driver had to step up and say yes. Gina had just come on shift and was up for the challenge. I made sure she had everything she would need: cash, an IPass for the Chicago toll roads and a company credit card.”

“I’ve been in customer service for 30 years,” he said. “I’ve seen how you should do it, and how you shouldn’t. At Fox Valley Cab, we always err on the side of the customers. We had the ability to help; it’s what we wanted to do. It’s as simple as that.”

So, what would you do? Do you really go the extra mile for your customer? How about an extra 1,400 miles in a cab?

If you’re ever in Appleton, Wisconsin, be sure to call Fox Valley Cab at 920-734-4545. Tell them the lady who needed a ride to Pittsburgh sent you.

It’s the end of 3rd Quarter, do you know where your budget is?

A man reviews a calendar and uses a calculator to make plans.

It’s the end of the 3rd Quarter, do you know where your market research budget is?

It’s that time of year: the air gets a little cooler, the leaves take on hues of red and gold, and suddenly you realize – there’s only three months left before the end of the year!

Don’t panic. And don’t waste your precious budget dollars.

Instead, follow these three steps to put that money to work for you and your company:

  1. Review Your Objectives
    The first thing I always recommend is to pull out your strategic objectives and go through them again. What did you want to accomplish at the beginning of the year? What haven’t you addressed yet? What can you still do that will help you meet those objectives? Always look for the best way to apply your budget to benefit your brand.
  2. Look at Your Wish List
    When I served as Director of Consumer Strategy and Insights for Pepsi-Co’s Frito-Lay, I used to keep what I called a “Lark File.” It was a file folder where I saved articles about cool ideas for research projects that I wished I could do someday, when I had the budget. If you have a few projects you’ve always wanted to do because they sounded fun and awesome, maybe now is the time to make them a reality.
  3. Select the Right Partner
    Carefully select a research partner. You want a company that is:
    Strategic: Focused on finding smart ways to get the most out of your time and dollars
    Versatile: Skilled in a wide variety of methods
    Flexible: Capable of making changes quickly
    Nimble: Able to work within your company’s accounting parameters

With a bit of careful consideration, you can extract the most learning out of your remaining funds before the new year rolls around.

The Value of Being There: Rapid Iteration

 Note: This is the last in a series of six posts.  They originally appeared as one article in the December 2014 issue of Quirk’s Marketing Research Review under the title: “The Value of Being There:  Five ways to Breathe New Life into Qualitative Research.” 

Rapid Iteration is an ideal method for food development.

Rapid Iteration is a fantastic way to product optimal products with consumer interaction and input in a short period of time.

Rapid Iteration provides consumers with the opportunity to interact directly with prototypes, providing input on them and displaying behaviors directly to designers and developers. The prototypes are then revised and again exposed to consumers, building strong ideas in succession.

This method has been ideal for food and beverage development, package design and graphics, and package bundling versions (such as Club packs.) Now, with the accessibility of 3D printing, even parts of or perhaps entire products themselves can be iterated and refined this way.

I’ve found that Rapid Iteration works best when the professional team has a workshop available to actually make the prototypes.

For example, if you were working with a quick serve restaurant chain on a new type of sandwich, you could enlist a local store to make the samples.  You could then provide real-time input into the creation of the sandwich as interviews occurred (“increase the spice in the sauce, take out the onion, add bacon”) and deliver revised piping hot samples, fresh from the oven, for the participants to taste at exactly the right time in the interview.

Rapid Iteration is a fantastic way to produce optimal products with consumer interaction and input in a very short period of time. I’ve been using this process with concepts for many years – write, listen, rewrite.  Now it’s possible to iterate products the same way. 3D printing will only open the doors wider to integrated behavior-based learning into the product refinement process.

By incorporating the consumer into an active, behavior-based process; by gaining their trust and honoring their input; we can continue to discover the insights that inspire innovators to create new, relevant, exciting products for us to enjoy.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?

For other techniques that make the most of in-person research, check out these other posts:


The Value of Being There: Expandable Base Qualitative

Note: This is the fifth in a series of six posts.  They originally appeared as one article in the December 2014 issue of Quirk’s Marketing Research Review under the title: “The Value of Being There:  Five ways to Breathe New Life into Qualitative Research.”

If social media has taught those of us in the insights business anything, it’s that consumers desperately want to be heard. They have great ideas and they know how your products can be better.

Qualitative research, done well, can provide consumers with the opportunity to show us, and provide us the opportunity to learn.

Sometimes, it only takes a small number of broad-based, in-depth interviews to identify a problem and the reasons behind it, and then you would separately quantify what you discovered in the qualitative research by doing a quantitative study.

Expandable Base Qualitative provides you with both the depth of qualitative and the verification of quantitative. It works because a good experiment is repeatable and, once you’ve narrowed down your key measures, the answers become repetitive. It’s a great central location or even in-store technique.

In one study, a company recruited respondents for a soap study and interviewed them in-store to capture their descriptions of their shopping decisions in detail. After a dozen in-depth interviews, researchers collected enough information to frame hypotheses regarding the consumer’s path to purchase.

Researchers were then posted in the store aisle to intercept about 50 additional shoppers and ask them a few key questions about their purchasing decisions. These later interviews were used to verify the hypotheses developed during the in-depth interviews.

For other techniques that make the most of in-person research, check out these other posts:

The Value of Being There: Consumer Usability Labs

Note: This is the fourth in a series of six posts.  They originally appeared as one article in the December 2014 issue of Quirk’s Marketing Research Review under the title: “The Value of Being There:  Five ways to Breathe New Life into Qualitative Research.”

The traditional focus group has struggled to remain relevant. But walking away from the richness of personal encounters and consumer intimacy insight isn’t the answer.

One of the big drawbacks to ethnographic research is the time and the expense of going into consumers’ homes. When studying a short, limited task that takes place in a single space, a Consumer Usability Lab offers an ideal replacement.

For a consumer usability lab, a simulated environment, like a fully functional kitchen is created.

When studying a short, limited task that takes place in a single space, a Consumer Usability Lab offers an ideal replacement.

A simulated environment is created, such as a fully functional kitchen, and equipped with closed-circuit video to allow the team to observe. Consumers are recruited to enter the lab, which is stocked with the product being studied and a large variety of other supplies from which they can choose to help them complete their task. While the environment is controlled, the consumer’s task is not.

For example, in one study of resealable plastic containers, we asked consumers to fill each of three containers with leftover spaghetti sauce as if they were at home.

In addition to a crock-pot full of room-temperature spaghetti sauce, a selection of ladles, spoons, measuring cups and other utensils were available for use.

If they chose, they could label the containers using a collection of labels, tape and writing instruments. Likewise, any spills could be cleaned up using paper towels, cloth washcloths and towels, sponges and so on.

The consumer did not know what we were testing: sauce, containers, ladles, labels, markers, or paper towels.  This ambiguity is part of creating a behavior-based learning environment.

After completing the task three times, the consumers were asked to empty the containers down the sink and wash them. They could put the containers in the dishwasher, or choose to wash them by hand in the sink. Following the completion of the task, we then asked the consumers questions about the entire process, step by step.

The Usability Lab provides a convenient environment in which 30-50 realistic observations can take place over the course of a day.

For other techniques that make the most of in-person research, check out these other posts:

The Value of Being There: Co-Creation Workshops

Note: This is the third in a series of six posts. They originally appeared as one article in the December 2014 issue of Quirk’s Marketing Research Review under the title: “The Value of Being There: Five ways to Breathe New Life into Qualitative Research.”


Like a puzzle coming together, a Co-Creation Workshop directly engages product teams with consumers.

Directly engaging product teams with consumers can result in rich insights and new opportunities.

I think that predictions of the demise of qualitative research are exaggerated.  And, while technology solutions to qualitative offer exciting potential, I still believe that face-to-face, visceral consumer qualitative is the best way to reach deep, rich, meaningful insights in many cases.

Consumers are smarter than we think, but they definitely think differently than researchers or designers or marketers.

That’s why a Co-Creation Workshop is a great method for upstream thinking, like new product ideation, defining innovation platforms or establishing product R&D or design criteria. It provides a window into the consumer’s thought processes – how they shop, how they make decisions, what excites them – and brings the consumer directly into the process of ideation.

While directly engaging product teams with consumers can result in rich insights and new opportunities, it is imperative that the consumers be carefully screened and pre-interviewed for this method to be effective. They must be confident, outgoing, and able to stand up to the pressure of interacting with what are often very strong, very Type A professionals.

For the professionals, this method provides a greater emotional connection to the client participants than simply sitting behind the glass, observing. They can ask questions themselves as their thoughts unfold. I find that when marketers are honest with consumers about who they are and what they are doing, consumers respond with honesty in return, resulting in more intimate consumer understanding.

 In one study, a consumer product company wanted to create a fashionable line of products. In order to better understand what defined and characterized a “fashionable” or “beautiful” product, teams made up of a consumer and company professionals were sent to high-end retail stores and design centers. They collected information, took pictures, bought products and then created large collages using science fair tri-fold displays illustrating their findings. The consumers on each team then presented their findings to all the participants.  Afterward, the entire group participated in ideation exercises, developing fresh ideas for this new line.

For other techniques that make the most of in-person research, check out these other posts:

The Value of Being There: Observing with Impact

Note: This is the second in a series of six posts.  They originally appeared as one article in the December 2014 issue of Quirk’s Marketing Research Review under the title: “The Value of Being There:  Five ways to Breathe New Life into Qualitative Research.”

Observational research can be transformed into opportunity.

According to Kelley Styring, Observing with Impact includes intentionally looking for compensatory behaviors and conflicts.

The traditional focus group has struggled to remain relevant. But walking away from the richness of personal encounters and consumer intimacy insight isn’t the answer. 

I’ve spent hundreds of hours watching people shower, digging through women’s purses, and picking dried up French fries from under car seats, among other things, all in the name of science.

This ethnographic research, observing consumers in their own environment while they use a product, can provide compelling information. Yet, ethnography can be a risky proposition. By simply observing consumers, you might uncover useful insights, and you might not.

That’s because there’s simple observing like a fly on the wall, and then there’s what I like to call Observing with Impact.

Observing with Impact boils down to three specific things: 

  1. Intentionally looking for compensatory behaviors 
  2. Intentionally looking for and identifying conflicts
  3. Transforming these observations into high-octane thought-starters

Compensatory Behaviors are actions consumers take to make up for a failure in product performance. An expert observer will instantly spot that failure for what it offers: the opportunity to create an innovative solution.

For instance, in a study I conducted on what objects people carry in their cars, I found that people were stuffing trash under seats, in door pockets and back seat pockets. They were compensating for the lack of an integrated trash collection system in the vehicle, leading me to recommend various solutions to the problem.

Conflicts are different. Conflicts result from a consumer’s inability to rationalize their beliefs and their actual behaviors, or their inability to achieve a goal in the way that they perceive they should be able to achieve it. Some may point to that conflict and say that it is proof the consumer is lying, but I disagree. When I find a conflict between stated needs and observed behaviors, I know that’s a red flag identifying a market opportunity.

In another study for a stain remover, I found that consumers didn’t actually rub the product in as directed so it could activate.  Instead, they simply applied the product and stuck the clothing in the washer. By finding the difference between what consumers said they did and what they actually did, we found a marketing opportunity, such as adding a colorant that disappears when you rub it in.

Observational research can be transformed into opportunity for the innovator – if we open our eyes and see the signs consumers are sending every time they use a product.

It’s not just about reporting what we observe; it’s about offering thought starters (such as color change indicator mentioned above) that instigate the critical thinking that ultimately leads to strong ideas.  These ideas can come from you.  You don’t have to offer your observations and wait for the client team to come up with solutions.  Offer your own as thought starters and watch the transformation begin.

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