Is America Breaking Up with Thanksgiving?

Several major retailers made a splash in the news this year
with their plans to kick off the Holiday shopping season early ‘ by opening for
business on Thanksgiving Day.  Many of
the pundits reacted by insisting that retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Best
Buy, JCPenney and Macy’s are ‘stealing’ Thanksgiving by opening as early as 6
p.m.  However, we’ve got evidence that
the idea of Thanksgiving ‘ at least as a sacred 12-hour stretch of family,
carbs and football ‘ is waning among key consumer groups.
This initiative on the part of retailers can be seen in one
light as just one more facet of the changing cultural landscape.  Thanksgiving was historically a combination
of religious feelings (giving thanks), extended family gatherings; and major
multicourse meals.  As a society, we’ve become
more secular, our family size has shrunk, and we are much more likely to be
eating our meals on the fly. All of these forces of social change diminish the
fit of the Thanksgiving holiday with the way that we live today.
To find out more about how people actually feel about
Thanksgiving in general as well as their reactions to retailers’ new plans to
open their doors on the holiday, we conducted research and found some
surprising results.
First, our findings suggests that Americans do feel
differently about Thanksgiving, compared to years past.  We found a significant decrease in the number
of people who expect to feel a sense of nurturance and connection to others
over the holiday. When people focused on how they expect to feel this Thanksgiving,
the strength of expectations for these emotions was reduced by as much as 20%
compared to past Thanksgivings   We also saw
a very marked increase in people who expected that they might feel somewhat
isolated and disengaged on Thanksgiving.
I suspect it’s not that Americans don’t have the same
emotional yearnings to feel connected to their loved ones and to enjoy family
time.  It’s just that the secularization
of our lifestyles, the atomization of our household structures, and the
mobilization of our eating styles all militate against this holiday.
The Risk Retailers Take
So what about doing business on Thanksgiving?  We also asked consumers how they felt about
stores opening so much earlier on Thanksgiving, and their perception of stores
who might adopt this practice.  Here the
results are strikingly polarized.
About 15 percent of the respondents don’t just like the idea
of stores opening earlier, they love it, and they definitely plan to go
shopping. These respondents were generally avid shoppers, most of whom (82
percent) say they were already committed to shopping on Black Friday, and three
quarters of these consumers say they plan to show up at stores before they
open.  The prospect of stores opening on
Thanksgiving makes these people feel good. They get a sense that the stores
understand and care about their needs as harried bargain hunters, and they feel
empowered by these new store policies. Finally, they are thinking, a retail
brand understands how important it is for me to save money and finish my
holiday shopping effectively.     
On the other hand, two thirds of respondents appear to
loathe the idea of early openings. They state that they ‘definitely will not
shop’ on Thanksgiving.  
It makes them feel unhappy and disengaged, even defeated.
They feel as if these stores and the culture are working against them,
thwarting their desire to make the holiday special and meaningful for
themselves and their families.
So — retailers are rolling the dice. Are they better off
opening early? Will they increase sales to those who would have already shopped
on Black Friday?  Will the intensified
emotional connection among these shopping enthusiasts translate to better brand
connection throughout the holidays ‘ or will retailers simply spread the early
spending of this group over two days? Only the sales records of the season will
The potential downside is that retailers may sour their
brand connection with the much larger audience. And that’s a big risk: These
people didn’t just have no emotion about Thanksgiving openings, they had very
strong negative emotions. Will it be enough to turn them against certain store
brands? Some stores seem to think so: Both Nordstrom and Costco, for example,
have held fast to their refusal to open on Thursday.
Most likely, stores will make the call based on their own
assumptions about core customers.
In the end, however our culture is changing, it’s important
to realize that we love our families as much as we ever did, whether we are inclined
or capable of gathering the clan together in one large group. Thanks to the
scattering of American families, that reunion moment seems to be getting harder
and harder to pull off.
We fulfill our need for connectedness in other ways. Chalk
some of it up to Facebook and other social media, which allows us to connect to
distant relations in ways we hadn’t before. Getting together has new forms. Who
knows? Maybe we are closer to finding a virtual Thanksgiving.
Whether you head off to Wal-Mart or not, have a great Thanksgiving

David Forbes holds a Ph.D. in clinical and cognitive
psychology from Clark University, and was a member of the faculties of Harvard
Medical School Department of Psychiatry and the Harvard Laboratory of Human
Development before beginning his career as a business consultant. Dr. Forbes
founded Forbes Consulting over 20 years ago as a strategic market research
consultancy dedicated to creating business advantage through deep psychological
consumer insights. Since that time, he has built Forbes into a major resource
for scores of major corporations in the CPG, Financial Services, and Pharmaceuticals
industries, domestically and internationally.

10 Ways to Improve Your Digital Customer Experiences

Whenever customer experience professionals are asked how important it is to improve their digital experiences, they affirm that it is absolutely critical. But, there is still an ongoing struggle to identify what digital experience improvements they need to make. 
Customers today need to have great experiences when they interact with an organization’s digital presence, but what can businesses do to improve digital experiences? A new report from Forrester Research, ‘Top 10 Ways to Improve Digital Experiences,’ shares 10 pieces of advice:
10. Flex Your Analytics. A factual basis can be established for understanding where visitors go inside a website or app as well as what they do.
9. Conduct Expert Reviews of Digital Touchpoints. There’s user data and then there are ‘heuristic reviews,’ where experts ‘ who can either be users meeting the characteristics of targeted users or usability experts ‘ try to accomplish specific customer goals.
8. Reach Out to Customers.Get feedback from the people who are encountering the digital experience, with data is derived from surveys, customer feedback forms, emails, support calls, chat sessions and social media posts.
7. Adopt User-Centered Design Process. This involves customer research, idea-generation and iterative prototyping.
6. Take Advantage of the Inherent Characteristics of Digital Touchpoints. This provides the sane advice to use the features ‘ and the size of the screen ‘ of your targeted device. These can include interfaces that are optimized for a touch tablet screen or real-time data in a mobile app that changes content or offers based on location.
5. Get Outside Help When and Where You Need It. This includes tech help as well as specialists for, say, researching customers in their native environments.
4. Plan for the Post-Launch. This is often overlooked for how those great features and customer feedback are going to be maintained over time.
3. Bolster Your Brand. This is a common focus of companies looking to enhance the digital experience. But this distills the wisdom down to understanding your company’s positioning or supporting brand attributes in what is seen and done.
2. Measure Digital Touchpoint Performance Against Business Metrics. This offers the advice to figure out business objectives, ways to get there, how to measure customer response from all digital and non-digital channels and ROI.
1. Unify the Overall Customer Experience. This is a hot topic, as companies and their agencies try to present a unified experience across channels, which means a data consistency about the customer’s interactions and a consistency of feelings about the brand.

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1st, and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCic

Lessons Learned from The Market Research Event, Part 1

Why Researchers Must Invest In Adaptability

By Marc Dresner, IIR

With The Market Research Event 2013 a few weeks behind us and the Thanksgiving holiday approaching here in the States, this seemed a good time to offer some food for thought from this year’s conference.

For those who were unable to attend, TMRE 2013 in Nashville October 21-23 was loaded with more content than anyone could possibly consume in three short days’world-class keynotes, workshops, nine concurrent tracks’

Between my session notes, off-the-record discussions with friends in the industry and my on-camera interviews for TMRE‘s annual series, The Research Insighter (stay tuned!) I’ve had plenty to stew on.

I just can’t escape an obvious theme that you’ve all heard over and over but which nonetheless bears repeating: Change.

I was initially reluctant to address it here, because the topic frequently elicits a roll of the eyes, but hear me out.

I’m not talking about the hyped kind of change.

You’ll find no preachy rant, no breathless call to action, no hyperbolic lament about the industry’s fate here.

It’s just a quiet truth you can take to the bank: Constant change at a rapidly accelerating pace is upon us.

No news there, right? Stay with me.

I guess I’m writing about it because when I add up everything I heard at TMRE this year, there’s a nuance, a contour to ‘change’ that feels somehow different. Not more urgent, but maybe a little more tangible? Like, ‘Huh. This stuff all the futurists and assorted gurus have been talking about for years is actually coming to pass.’

The seed was planted during a private luncheon for research clients I attended at TMRE hosted by youth and family research firm Smarty Pants, whose founder and president, Wynne Tyree, informed us that among teens ‘Facebook is dead.’

I wasn’t shocked by this revelation. My mother’a grandmother of two’is an avid Facebook user. Nuf said.

Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat’that’s where the action is now. But only for now. I’ve a hunch that Snapchat’s CEO may rue the day he turned down Facebook’s $3 billion offer, because made-to-last is contracting fast.

Futurist Jared Weiner of Weiner, Edrich, Brown in his TMRE keynote dubbed the phenomenon ‘templosion”the implosion of really big things into short bursts of time.

‘Big companies used to take a long time to build; today they’re born and they die in record time,’ said Weiner, who punctuated his point with a boneyard of brands.

And not to pick on Facebook, but it exemplifies this trend. Not even 10 years old and already its innovation strategy now appears to be the same as that of any venerable corporation today: acquire. Snapchat isn’t its first foray; Facebook bought Instagram last year.

So what does this have to do with research?

Well, first of all, it’s clear that whether you’re a research provider or a client-sider, you don’t want to get hung up on a platform, because it may not matter tomorrow.

What if, say, your bailiwick is ratings? Now there’s a scary proposition.

Nielsen in October launched Twitter TV ratings, but Twitter is seven years old! That’s like #ancient!!!

And now that Twitter has IPO’d, it’s a safe bet the folks in charge there will soon adopt the same innovation strategy as their peers at Facebook.

Bottom line: I trust we’re all prepared to move quickly when Twitter falls from favor, because the people at Twitter are most likely already planning for that inevitability.

So I would humbly suggest that researchers maintain nimble investment strategies.
In an environment of flux, flexibility and speed are important. And let’s face it, neither attribute comes particularly naturally to research. I still remember all the flak Gordon Black took over his weighting schemes in Harris Interactive’s early days.

How you, as a research company or a client-sider, plan to allocate your time and money in order to keep up with the pace of change is becoming an increasingly tricky equation.

We need to be prepared to make some quick compromises in order not to fall behind.

Please check back tomorrow for part two. We’ll look at Malcolm Gladwell’s inverted U and why it may matter to researchers who want to invest in adaptability.

Thanks for reading!


Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s sr. editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at Follow him @mdrezz.

Infographic: 2013 marks the first year U.S. adults spent more time viewing media on digital devices

“2013 marks the first year U.S. adults spent more time viewing media on digital devices ‘ more than any other form. It appears that print, radio and even television have officially become unseated as dominate sources of media.” via &

Crossing the Digital Divide
by KISSmetrics.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

How Social Has Revolutionized the Media Industry from Twitter, Facebook, CBS, NBC & More

It’s no secret, we’re all trying to figure out where, when and how people are spending their time. In a socially interconnected world, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube competing for attention, being a part of it requires a more empathetic understanding of your customers at a deeper level.

Join us in January at  The Media Insights & Engagement Conference and get access to industry leaders, first hand, to help you better understand your consumers social media consumption habits and how to engage with them across screens.

Twitter’s Jeffrey Graham takes the stage discussing how people use Twitter, and how companies are using the social platform to connect and engage with Twitter users.

Facebook’s Fred Leach, Head of Measurement Research, Development & Partnerships, as he shares the secrets that show how reach and frequency of different media types drive return on advertising spend, and the measurement tools and standards necessary to measure and optimize advertising return.

Cross Industry Panel on The Future of Social Media and TV Measurement
Find out if there is a correlation between social media and TV viewership and if an era of complementing measurements will be a reality.
‘             David Poltrack, Chief Research Officer, CBS Corporation (NEW PANELIST JUST ANNOUNCED!)
‘             Daniel Slotwiner, Head of Ecosystem Measurement Team, Facebook (NEW PANELIST JUST ANNOUNCED!)
‘             Dave Kaplan, VP, Bravo Ad Sales & Digital Research, NBCUniversal
‘             Andrew Somosi, CEO, SocialGuide
‘             Beth Rockwood, SVP Market Resources and Advertising Sales Research, Discovery Communications

And that’s not all. The Media Insights & Engagement Conference has a breakout track devoted to The Role of Social, Digital, Video & LinTV, with presentations from Viacom, Participant Media, HBO, HUB Entertainment Research, Time, Inc., and more, covering the use of second screens to build show and advertising engagement,  safer digital practices, cross-platform media insights and the use of mobile. Download the brochure for full details.

Virgin America’s Safety Video Gives Customer Experience a New Song and Dance

Thanks to the digital revolution, customers are in control – they want what they want, when they want it. Customers have access to virtually all the information they need before you know they’re interested, and prospects are similarly informed before you even know they exist. Such access to information is disrupting the way you market to and connect with your customers. So, listen up.
In a world no longer able to compete by having the best product or price alone, today’s CMOs need to find new ways to reach and customers. Traditional marketing like print and broadcast are still relevant, but in order to reach today’s consumer, they need to do more. CMOs must own the customer experience (CX), both within marketing and across the enterprise.
CX is the primary reason Virgin America developed a following whose passion rivals that of Apple fans. A loyal fan base is a rarity for the airline industry, which tends to be hated for a flying experience. And it’s an experience that usually kicks off boringly with the safety demonstration.
How many times have you been on a plane where nobody is watching the safety demonstration?  This no longer happens on Virgin America. The airline has found a way to hark back to what the flying experience was all about ‘ entertainment. It has created a unique in-flight safety video, presented with a catchy tune, dance moves, performers and humor, the airline makes one seriously engaging video. In fact, Virgin America released it on its social channels and within a couple of weeks it reached over six million views on YouTube.
The bottom line is that CX is essential for brand success.  Organizations looking to use the customer experience as a differentiator would be better served finding synergies between the CMO and CXO to create that awesome customer experience ‘ and a competitive edge. By finding synergies that amplify the skills the CMO brings to the organization, companies can remain competitive in a rapidly evolving and complex business environment. The CEO too must embrace customer experience and it must become part of the corporate culture of an organization. It ‘belongs’ to everyone ‘ from the people who answer the phones to the people who create, develop the products.

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1st, and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc

From the Vault: 3 Approaches to Cross Media Data via Ogilvy

The inundation of consumer data thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and social media has inspired the term ‘Big Data.’ The majority of data out there is unstructured and non-actionable causing many companies across industries to be overwhelmed by the volume.

Luckily, cross-media marketing or communications is a solution as it establishes an interaction between the different media elements. Cross media opens a line of communication with an existing or potential customer produces results that are measurable. Cross-media communications are structured to move the audience or prospect across the different media using strong “calls-to-action.” Each touch point builds on the experience and the “narrative bridge” teases you to investigate. 
Since the inception of mass communication, marketers have been issuing the same message on multiple channels. Coordinated TV, radio, and print ads are nothing new. What makes a campaign become cross media is how the responses are funneled into a single data collection point to generate a dialogue. Marketers need to gather information from their clients and use that information to generate the follow on communications ‘ regardless of channel.
These days, marketers have to deal with the overflowing amount of data that businesses are having trouble keeping track of. They are being bombarded with information about their customers via television, print, digital, social, and mobile. As a result, there is an issue of understanding the level of awareness, favorability and purchase intent amidst all of this data.
Jorge Ruiz, partner and director of Media Analytics at Ogilvy, knows effective methods that help businesses utilize this valuable information. He sat down with IIR’s Marc Dresner at last year’s TMRE to discuss key approaches to media data in order to go beyond purchase intent. ‘There are effective methods for executing brand studies with research partners. But, I have to go beyond that because I have another component to look at, which is ‘how is it selling or how is it moving acquisition numbers”? Ruiz told Dresner.
According to Ruiz, here are 3 approaches to cross media data:
Survey-Only Data
This works great for time-sensitive purchases. If you do cross media studies and are able to send out the surveys and tag all your media to recognize it the day after the event, you can ask purchase questions to sample people who purchased it in the last 24 hours. It is important because you want to be able to translate that number into an estimate ROI within the survey data.
Cross Media Study Data
According to Ruiz, this works when you have the ability to match to a sales panel. This is very scalable in the consumer packaged goods world. It’s a matter of combining digital exposure data with sales panel data and finding ways to create a probability model for your offline exposure data.
Google Search Data
Using data and long-term trends discovered from it, you can use search as an indirect variable. As you are building consideration you are actually seeing changes in search and it makes sense for certain categories. As long as you know people are going to search for product line, it makes perfect sense.
‘There are a lot of different approaches and methodologies, but I love every single one of them,’ said Ruiz. ‘I worry less about which approach has the best methodology, and worry about there is not enough scale.’
To watch the full interview, click here:

Media Insights & Engagement

The trends and changes in media consumption habits binge viewing, companion devices, social TV, cord cutting, the new watercooler – are challenges you face every day. Not only do you need to understand how media is being consumed, but also how to better engage with consumers on all screens wherever they are watching. We invite you to join us at the Media Insights & Engagement Conference taking place on Jan.29-31, 2014, in Miami to collaborate with all the key players in the media industry, including Cable, Broadband, OTT, Satellite, and Telecommunications, navigate content and explore new opportunities with insights-rich decision making.

* Republished with permission from original here.

Is Your Customer Experience Holiday-Ready?

There are only 43 days until Christmas. Are you ready? Is your company’s customer experience ready?
You better be. This year, the first full night of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide for the first time since 1888. Now, thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices, holiday shopping can be done from a variety of sources ‘ in-store, mobile and desktop. No matter where customers are, most expect to have the experience stay the same.
It the past, stores didn’t start to prepare for the holiday season until after Thanksgiving, and there was an expectation that you shopped when the stores were open and if you missed out. As shopping online became popular, retailers needed not only to maintain an active in-store presence, but also manage inventory online. Some stores stay open 24-hours between Thanksgiving and Christmas, making it easier than ever to find the perfect gift any time of day or night.
If you’re not focused on turning customers from browsers into buyers, you can bet that they will go elsewhere to make their purchases. So, how can retailers prepare to handle omnichannel marketing and help customers find the best products at the right prices?