Tag Archives: Gongos Research

Lead up to the IIR TDMR Interview with Greg Heist of Gongos Research

This post is co-posted with The Green Book.

For our latest interview with presenters at the upcoming IIR Technology Driven Market Research Event the IIR and GreenBook bring you an interview with Greg Heist, Vice President of Research Innovation for Gongos Research.

I had the opportunity to spend 2 days with Greg and the team at Gongos Research last month, and I have to say that he and the entire Gongos team are some of the smartest (and nicest!) folks I have ever met. Gongos is a great example of a company firmly rooted in the absolute best of traditional market research while also reaching towards the unlimited potential of the new research paradigm. I was impressed by the innovative thinking and creativity of Greg, the way the entire organization is embracing the ideas he is championing, and their commitment to transform their business. I expect the success Gongos has had to date is just the tip of the iceberg; this is a company that will help lead our industry in the years to come.
This interview was conducted over several days via email. I think you’ll find it interesting, enlightening, and maybe even inspiring. Without further ado (or gushing!) here is my interview with Greg:

LM: Gongos Research has been coming on strong with your roll-out of new products that are generating a lot of interest within the market research space. Why do you think that is?

GH: As an organization, there are three things that get us excited to come into the office everyday: the opportunity to work with our fellow employees, our desire to help our clients understand their customers in new ways by doing great research and our drive to leverage technology and innovation to create a new norm for marketing research.

I’d like to think that the products we’ve been developing’and in particular the ioCommunities mobile app we launched last September’are generating excitement for the same reasons we’re so excited about them: because they tap into an exciting new frontier for our field. Devices like smartphones have untethered consumers from their computers, and products like ioCommunities mobile are in sync with this cultural shift and truly create a real-time conversation with consumers wherever they are.

LM: What do you think are the major drivers of change in the market research space right now and how is Gongos Research planning to take advantage of those trends?

GH: Without question, the two major drivers of change in the research world are the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablet devices and the explosive growth of growth of social media as the primary way we engage with one another online. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that each of these is a revolution that has permanently changed our culture.
From my perspective, the fact that these two megatrends are happening simultaneously is sending shock waves throughout the historically ‘staid and steady’ marketing research industry. It’s an exciting time to be in research because it is challenging all of us to either modify how we approach traditional methods or else rapidly create entirely new approaches. It’s personally fun to see all of this innovation going on and I’m constantly impressed by all of the great work various firms in our industry are doing.
From a Gongos perspective, we have made the smartphone revolution a core part of our innovation strategy. To that end, as I mentioned, we’ve launched the ioCommunities mobile app for iOS and our smartphone-based online survey platform (which works across all smartphone platforms). We’re diligently at work on the development of ioCommunities mobile for Android and plan to roll that out in the coming months.
In the social media sphere, we’ve been providing MROCs for our clients for over 5 years, and continuing to make our communities more ‘social’ is another core thrust for us in 2011. We have various initiatives going on in that regard right now and, as I meet with employees working on them, I’m amazed by the excitement and the number of powerful ideas that are being generated. I really look forward to seeing how they all take shape!

LM: I couldn’t agree with you more, and it’s great to hear of a leading established firm like Gongos embracing these new trends and actively working to leverage them, rather than fight them! Based on your current plans regarding integrating mobile, MROCs, and other social media elements into your research offerings, what do you see as the next major development that you’ll be looking at? Gaming, text analytics, social media market mix analysis, or’?

GH: To be quite honest, we are either currently looking at or working on capabilities in all of these areas right now. There are a lot of interesting ideas kicking around amongst our team and we are working hard at prioritizing them based on our longer term innovation strategy. Personally, I’m really intrigued by the possibilities of applying gaming within an MR context. It’s probably the area that has spawned some of the most innovative ideas and everyone is really energized about them!

LM: Applying the ‘gamification’ model to MR is one of the areas I’m most excited about as well. It would seem to be a great fit for Gongos based on your MROC product and internal data collection platform. Are you thinking of applying the gaming engagement model to your ioCommunities or are you actually exploring developing gaming interfaces as a data collection tool?

GH: At the moment, we have teams actively investigating both of these areas of gaming. Developing a game interface that delivers valid and meaningful research insights across product categories and brands while simultaneously being fun and engaging for players is a considerable challenge. If we ultimately decide to go down that path, it will be because we think we have a legitimate chance of achieving both of those objectives. To get something like that really ‘right’ is going to take some time, but we are definitely interested in exploring it further.

LM: Gongos seems unusual in that you are more of a traditional Full Service supplier, yet seem to have an advanced in-house innovation and development team. Most of your competitors use 3rd party solutions. What drove you to go down the custom development path and where do you see the company headed in the future as a result?

GH: We started down the path of creating proprietary research platforms primarily because of some of the unique requirements our core clients had relative to data collection and analysis. When we looked out there for off-the-shelf solutions to meet these needs, we didn’t find any so we committed to develop them ourselves. Over time, that has continued to be true and we have been able to tightly integrate our community, survey and mobile platforms to provide some really robust capabilities for our clients.
We really like what we have created so far, but also see lots of areas where we can (take) these platforms individually and collectively. My team is focused on trying to both expand the capabilities of our existing technologies as well as developing new capabilities that will integrate with them. I certainly see us continuing to invest in this area since they really provide us with flexibility and unique capabilities that we wouldn’t have if we were solely reliant on 3rd party solutions. Needless to say, our developers aren’t lacking things to work on’

LM: Gongos is one of the few MR firms that I know of that has a senior level role, plus the infrastructure to support them, dedicated to innovation. Why did the company choose to invest in innovation as a core strategy and why do you think the industry as a whole struggles with the concept of investing in innovation?

GH: The reason we continue to invest aggressively in innovation is actually pretty simple: we’ve seen it help us deliver new kinds of insights for our clients and be a catalyst for our company’s growth. But, our experience also speaks to why it’s a struggle: it’s hard to create’and pay for’that infrastructure. Getting clients to embrace innovation requires extra work because we often need to educate them about what we have created and demonstrate why it results in good research. Finally, innovation requires constantly rethinking our assumptions about what marketing research is. It’s tempting to ‘go with the flow’ and be content with doing things the way they have been done.
Internally, we are also focusing both on methodological innovation as well as technological innovation. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make both happen, and so I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to help rally the organization around both areas and ensuring that’at the end of the day’we are delivering purposeful innovation to our clients rather than simply innovating just for the sake of innovating.

LM: Based on your inclusion on the Honomichl list, it appears that you achieved the miraculous feat of growing during the Great Recession; how the heck did you pull that off?

GH: Well, first of all, we certainly feel fortunate to have gone through such an incredibly tumultuous time without experiencing a significant downturn in our business or laying off any of our employees. I think our company’s focus on long-term strategy coupled with the great work our employees have done with our client partners successfully helped us navigate through that time. During this period of time we also began some new client partnerships that quickly grew beyond our initial expectations, so that clearly had a positive impact on our growth, as well. We were also really transparent with our staff about how we were responding to the crisis and I think that helped our employees understand what we were doing and why we were doing it

LM: Thinking ahead 2-3 years, what do you think the Market Research industry will look like? What type of companies will be successful, what capabilities will be needed, and what new types of companies will be a part of what we think of as MR?

GH: I’m literally blown away by how rapidly things are changing in the research industry. There have been more disruptive innovations in the past 5 years than in the previous 15, without question. And, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. So, looking ahead 2-3 years, I see social media and mobile research quickly becoming a mainstream part of how companies gain insights from consumers. With that will come a continuing re-definition of what marketing research is and how it is used. I also see more and more technology companies entering the mix and offering specific research solutions and becoming even more formidable competitors for traditional research firms.
Going forward, I think we are all going to be increasingly challenged to embrace change and create change in how we help our clients succeed and grow. If our industry wants to remain relevant and viable long-term, I think our very future depends on it.
At the same time, I don’t want to end on a doom-and-gloom message! This is’I think’an extremely exciting time. There is so much good work being done and an incredibly innovative spirit is flourishing throughout the industry. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds and excited and proud of the fact that Gongos is a part of it.

LM: I agree; it’s an exciting time and I’m actually really optimistic about where the industry is going, thanks in no small part to companies like Gongos! OK, last 2 questions: can you give me a ‘sneak peek’ into your presentation at the TDMR? What are you covering and what do you hope for the audience to get from it?

GH: My colleague Joyce Salisbury (Senior Manager, Global Market Research ‘New Methods, General Motors) and I are discussing the topic, ‘The App is Where It’s At: The Power of Untethering Online Communities’. In our session, we are going to be sharing our perspectives on how the powerful intersection of the smartphone revolution and online communities opens up an entirely new spectrum of ways to engage with and learn from consumers. We also will be talking about what we feel this means for the research industry from a generational perspective for Gen Y and beyond. We’ve learned a lot in the six months since the launch of ioCommunities mobile, and we’re looking forward to sharing our thoughts about where this rapidly emerging technology may lead us in the future.

LM: And finally, what’s next for Gongos Research in 2011? What new tricks that we haven’t covered do you have up your sleeves?

GH: Lenny, if I told you that it wouldn’t be much of a trick then, would it’ Seriously, though, since this interview has been about TDMR and what Gongos has been working on in the technology innovation space, we haven’t really talked about what we are doing on the methodology end of things to support the technology we’ve been developing. As researchers, we are really committed to helping our clients understand how they can best take advantage of these new technologies to produce great research. In light of that, we’ve got a ‘research on research’ initiative right now using our mobile survey platform to conduct some very statistically rigorous comparisons of data collected online and via smartphones. Michael Alioto, Ph.D,our VP of Marketing Sciences, is leading this initiative and we feel as though it has the potential to strongly challenge some of the accepted ‘givens’ about how mobile surveys and may help shape a new paradigm for them. We’re really passionate about what we are doing here and are looking forward to sharing the results of this later this year.
Great chatting with you, Lenny! And looking forward to seeing you at TDMR!!

About Greg Heist: Vice President, Research Innovation & Technology at Gongos Research
As the Vice President of Research Innovation for Gongos Research, Greg is responsible for guiding the innovation strategy at the company. From white-board concepts to product development, Greg and his team ensure that technology and innovation support a primary role ‘ to make the research process more engaging for consumers and more meaningful and powerful for corporations.

A practitioner and moderator with over 16 years of research under his belt, Greg is a visionary at heart. He believes we are in the midst of an evolution in the way we conduct research, and he plans to help pave the way. As an industry speaker at events produced by the IIR & AMA and author published in Quirk’s Marketing Research Review, Greg has examined how advanced platforms such as virtual shopping and online research communities are increasing respondent engagement, while providing customizable, forward-thinking solutions for clients.

Greg received his BS in Industrial Administration from Kettering University, and his MS in Humanistic and Clinical Psychology from the Michigan School of Professional Psychology.

Consumers want to be a part of the creation process

According to Gongos Research, 92% of consumers surveyed want to be a part of the product development process. They would like to be work with companies in new products and packaging in categories including snacks and beverages, consumer electronics and health and wellness.

The survey also found that:
‘do not necessarily expect recognition or direct compensation’ for their contribution, 73% would expect to receive a sample product. Seventy-six percent said that they would be willing to forgo acknowledgement or creative license for their ideas, protecting the company from claims based on intellectual property rights of royalty expectations.

Read the full article here.

Research communities can be as Communities can be easy on the purse strings

For the first time this year, Gongos Research decided to raffle away a handbag that this year’s TMRE. They wanted to create something that showed who they were as a company and that aligned with their presentation with Domino’s Pizza. So with the motto of “Research communities can be easy on the purse strings when you know how to leverage and be creative with them,” they gave away a Burberry handbag. Susan Scarlet, the director of marketing and public relations at Gongos Research, said this was the perfect raffle prize to match the Gongos brand and their presentation with Domino’s Pizza. The lucky winner of the raffle was Debbie Lunsford, of The Coca Cola Company, pictured in the middle, along with Susan Scarlet (left) and Christi Walters (right), both of Gongos Research.

Web 2.0 & Community Research Symposium: More for Less: Leveraging Research Communities to Maximize Your Budget

More for Less: Using ResearchCommunities to Stretch Your BudgetChristi Walters, Gongos ResearchKristin Lozon, Domino’s Pizza

Updated: Video from the presenters below

Domino’s research investment and how it’s paid off. A lot of research has come of this online community.

Domino’s research community was created by Gongos. Not a typical web community, it’s for qualitative and quantative data. They’ve divided it into different research segments.

Domino’s Research department is very small. Two people have just joined the team. Many demands for information, as the economy worsened, there were more needs for information. They needed information to make decisions on a timely basis. They needed a timely pulse on their customer. How were the external factors influencing the buying behavior of the customers? What was the role of pizza and food? Was it an everyday purpose or a special occasion in the economic climate? All of these were things they were trying to understand?

They use a forum to understand what’s going on from their consumers. They have discussions and the Domino’s research team monitors it. There are 300 members in this group.

Pizza community is unbranded. The members are asked pizza questions, lifestyle questions. Half way through the community process, it’s revealed that the company behind the community is Domino’s.

Pizza Hut beat Domino’s to the pasta market. They used the community to ask quantitative questions to find out about the competitive product. They could evaluate the pizza hut offering to find out the strengths and weaknesses, then used those lead them to individualized servings, greater variety consumers couldn’t make at home, and that there were doubts about quality.

An example of how the research community was used is with the bread bowls. The target for the pasta bowls is for families, however initial pitch did not work. . They used the community to test out the commercial, and found out that this commercial highlight the bread bowls was inappropriate. They made the spot acceptable to launch with advice of research community, and were able to change scenes and voiceovers to make commercial better for the public. They community also wanted more breadsticks so they put the pasta in a bread bowl to meet the community’s needs. Domino’s saved $534,600 using their online research community.

To create an online community:
-Make sure you have the correct partner to do the research with
-Surprise value is something you can get from your community. They’ve changed over the years. They can allow companies to be creative, and they go beyond traditional research, as well as create a dynamic environment.
-Responses from consumers are better, they’re the off the top of their head answers as opposed to the calculated answers that could come from other areas.

Future Domino’s projects with their community include logo design and filming members ordering process

The Domino’s research community is screened. The incentive structure for the research community is varied. They earn points for sponsored activity, and the activity has $10 Amazon.com gift card at the end of the month. The community is a great value for the customers and the researchers. They asked for the incentive ideas from their consumers.

A look at TMRE: More for Less: Leveraging Research Communities to Maximize Your Budget

Christi Walters, Gongos Research and Kristin Lozon, Domino’s Pizza recently took time to sit down and discuss the importance of online communities in research, along with the valuable contributions they can make to both researchers and the organization. You can read the transcript here.

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They will be presenting ‘More for Less: Leveraging Research Communities to Maximize Your Budget,’ during the Web 2.0 & Community Research Conference Symposium at The Market Research Event on Monday, October 19.

Christi Walters is the Principal of Consumer Products at Gongos Research. As a principal and owner of Gongos Research, Christi has been integral to the growth and diversification strategy of the company since it opened its doors in 1991. Kristin Lozon is the Manager of Consumer Insights and Strategy at Domino’s Pizza. Kristin currently oversees all consumer and market research related initiatives for the company.

And with that said, I would like to welcome Christi and Kristin.

Kristin, first can you tell us how did Domino’s first decide that communities were an area in which they wanted to focus research initiatives?

Kristin Lozon: Sure, we’re always looking for I’d say new innovative methods to help us conduct our research we are a very small department at Domino’s, so we’re always looking for new innovative ways to reduce time and costs yet still yield actionable insights and information that we can use to develop new products, services. We are aiming to get quality event from our consumers. So I was at a Market Research Event about six years ago, and there was some talk of web communities and their value and specifically I remember one conversation that I was having with the gentleman from General Motors and talking about the cost savings, quick turn around time and the value that web communities were to his organization and so I start to look into it. I found that here were some companies who had just starting using or offering web communities as more of a platform. They had the software platform offered to utilize to get in touch with your constituent, but there were other companies like Gongos that were taking it a bit further, not just offering up the platform, but also offering the tools and the insight from a research perspective, and that’s how we ended up partnering up with Gongos. I actually needed someone to help me from an innovative and research method, as well as gathering insights and helping to communicate them back to me versus just a host.

What have you learned from your experiences with community research to date?

Christi Walters: Oh gosh, you know it’s really surprising how much more you can really do with a research community. To give you a couple of examples, research communities allow you to have really quick turn around of information. So rather than spending weeks and weeks developing a plans and executing and ad hoc research, you can do research within a matter of hours and even days instead of the weeks that are sometimes involved. It also allows for the research company and Domino’s and some of their marketers to have 24/7 access to their consumer target. Since this is the internet, people can do it on their own time, at their own speed, in their own environment which often allows consumers to be more expressive and open with their own opinions. Sometimes they tell us stuff that sometimes were really not sure we want to know. You can also research hot topics as soon as they come up. For example, you know those ad hoc things that you’re in a meeting and someone says ‘Gosh it would be great to know this.’ [When you have an online community you] have convenient sample allows you to just run back, make a phone call, and within 24 hours you can have that topic posted and ready to go. You can also, in that same vain, you can also have some provide some critical information to support some decisions that might otherwise be made without the benefit of having research to back up the decisions. The consumer insights can be invaluable. We try to be as in touch with the consumers as possible, there are often times when a bad decision is made. A community can really help you to make really informed and good decisions.

And then finally, I think communities, especially research communities really help you build a great amount of excitement. And in an essence, communities help build loyalty around brands. So with the Domino’s community, we started on an unbranded perspective, and we asked all the questions we need to ask from and unbranded, clean slate perspective, but then at some point during the running of the community, we expose that it’s Domino’s. Then our folks in the community we get super excited about Domino’s and become those brand advocates that at the end of the community, know they’ll become.

In your opinion is community research as cost effective as people think?
Kristin Lozon: I would say it’s probably even more cost effective than people think. I mean you can put together the dollars and cents and I can talk to that in a minute, but I would say it goes beyond just the dollars and cents. And in terms of value, it’s more than just the money, it comes down to the time savings, and also the connection you have with you consumer base. And this is one way you can actually feel like you’re getting real insight from them from various different methods of approaching them. You not only can get information back like you would form a survey, but you have dialogues and online chats. You really hear what they have to say and what they’re thinking in their own words.

We also have a part of the community called the ‘Coffee House’ where they can talk to each other. And it’s amazing how much you can learn by seeing what they have to say to each other. So you’re really getting the real side of the consumer and getting to know them. And that’s I think is the most valuable, and that was something that we really wanted to do. (We wanted to really know and understand them from) where they live, and how they speak versus how they speak versus just answering our survey questions. And so it’s really hard to put a dollar amount on that, but I would say, since people are really interested, in terms of dollars and cents if I look at our research budget, I probably wouldn’t have been able to gain half the insights that we typically were able to gain through the community. If we put together some of the qualitative dialogues and quantitative surveys that we’ve done over a year, and add that up to about 90 different topics through both qualitative and quantitative. The cost to research those same topics on an ad hoc basis, we’ve probably saved over half a million dollars in one year.

How have you been successful in measuring the effectiveness of your research initiatives in communities?

Kristin Lozon: I would say from a Domino’s perspective, the continuous involvement and interest from our executive team, as well as my peer group from various departments, we get question that people ask us to pose to our community members, from product development to brand managers to our operations team, so we’re getting question from various departments continuously. They are very interested in and excited to receive the reports. We’re adding more and more people to our distribution lists for our summary reports, and you know they’re reading them because they come back with additional questions. This is just awesome, we love to have this happen. So I think from that perspective, we know that the internal constituents are very happy and interested in it, so that says to me that it’s been very effective. Gongos actually helped us promote the community through the organization by providing us with little Post-It notes that had the name of the community on it. So what we did was after presenting insights from the community, we passed the post-it note to the, a deck, to each person in the room. There were 50 or so people in the room at a time. We gave them each a stack of post it notes. And we said ‘Hey, whenever you have a question that you need to ask, or that you want to know the answer from the consumer, just write it on the Post-it note and drop it by my desk.’ It was amazing how many people came back for more Post-It notes, how many Post-It notes were at my desk. So you know that people are utilizing it and that they’re getting valuable information from it.

Christi Walters: And I would say from a Gongos Research perspective, one of the ways we’ve been able to measure the effectiveness of the communities, and oftentimes, we’ll engage with a client for a six month period. Where they’re not sure if its’ going to be going for a year, so we say, OK Let’s try it for six months. And I say a hallmark for success is the majority of the time, our clients will up it for a year period. The other hallmark of success for research communities is the creativity that we’re able to do. We’re able to not only do the basic dialogues or surveys, but we have really spanned the gamut of what we’ve been able to do in terms of product placement, executive chats, some booster sells in key cities where we can go and do in-person research. We’ve done countless other very creative elements of research and really added to the essence of what a research community can give you. So that’s kind of how we measure success. We’ve been so blessed with clients like Kristin, who have allowed us to stretch the parameters of what a typical research community can do. And every time we stretch, we learn a little bit more. And as we learn a little bit more I believe our communities become more effective.

Kristin Lozon: One other thing I’d like to add, I think I kind of glossed over it, it’s very important. I know that the community is successful and that people believe in the information they’re getting because we’ve used it to make some really critical decisions in the organization. I think that’s very important to note. We have actually tested some scripts or early stage advertising and we’ve made go/no go decisions based on the results from that. We’ve tested some new product and promotional ideas and again, made some changes to what we were going to originally produce or launch or scrapped it all together or when there’s different direction based on the information we’ve learned from the from community.

Do you think community research is here to stay?

Christi Walters: You know I’d say absolutely. We’ve been doing research communities now for five years. We’ve learned a ton over the five years. And now we’re just beginning to understand more of the breadth of the research applications that you can do via community. We’re really careful to say that this isn’t a one-size fits all. It’s not a solution for every kind of research. There’s still a place for the traditional marketing research approaches that we use. We are using research communities as a platform for understanding consumer needs, understanding how products fit into their daily lives, having respondents interact with products, using them to co-create with clients like Domino’s, and spurring new and innovative ideas, we use them to evaluate concepts and advertising. We’re able to bring into media feeds, and allow people to react to what may be going on in the outside media. And as the years go on, we’re finding that even more and more creative applications to use the community for. In fact, I think as we think into the future, our research, innovation and technologies team are thinking ahead and we’re adding on to the platform. We just launched the 2.0 application of the platform. With many many enhanced applications such as social networking and easier ways to manipulate the data from a user perspective. As we look further into the future, there may be applications where you can use your telephone devices, and enhanced ways to put on visuals either still photos or digital video interfaces, so there are many many applications as we move into the future.

Kristin Lozon: From a corporate perspective, I would as, as timelines are constantly shortened, we need to continually innovate. It’s very helpful to tap into the voice of the consumer and have them help us better understand their needs. It really shortens our development process considerably; I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Consumers know more and want more and expect more from companies. And for us to be able to truly engage with them at a level that we really can’t do for other methods, and for us, certainly, and for the decisions we’ve been able to make with it, web communities are here to stay.

Guest Post: Greg Heist

This is posted on behalf of Greg Heist, Director of Research Innovation, Gongos Research. He will be a Speaker at The Market Research Event for the presentation of: ‘Collaborate & Innovate: Building True Research Partners’ As the Director of Research Innovation for Gongos Research, Greg Heist is responsible for guiding the innovation strategy at the company. From white-board concepts to product development, Greg and his team ensure that innovation supports a primary role ‘ to make the research process more engaging for consumers and more meaningful and powerful for corporations. A practitioner with over 16 years of research under his belt, Greg is a visionary at heart. He believes we are in the midst of an evolution in the way we conduct research, and he plans to help pave the way. He and colleague Mitch Sanders, Ph.D., co-authored a white paper appearing in Quirk’s October issue which puts online communities to the test. The article answers crucial questions about data quality and new types of consumer experiences in an online world. Here is an excerpt from the article titled ‘Are Online Communities Driving a New Research Paradigm’? Over the past several years, online communities have developed into powerful platforms for engaging customers in extended conversations. As more and more corporations embrace online communities, many market researchers are eager to pursue a more sophisticated set of research applications within them. General Motors was among the first in the industry to take private online communities to this next level in order to substantiate the application of consumer insights. Broadening their scope, they needed online communities not only to act as a vehicle for interaction and observation, but also to carry statistical weight. GM’s experience, and the experiences of other companies pursuing quantitative results, suggests that the industry still yearns for answers to significant questions about the quality of insights generated by online communities. The article is useful in that it will point to the potential for online communities to represent a new research paradigm.