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Key Learnings from TMRE 2016 - Consumer Behaviour, DIY, Omnichannel and Millennials

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The Market Research Event, TMRE, is an annual conference that seeks to unite both clients and vendors, positioning itself as the only event in the world with twice as many client side participants than any other industry event of its kind. This year, it was held in Boca Raton, Florida, and covered a wide range of topics, including: People; Tools, Tech, and Methodology; Innovation, Macro Trends; Customer; Omni-Shopper, B2B / Health&Wellness; and Partnerships. TMRE hosts a broad array of speakers, from CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies to Neuroscientists that seek to decode the mind of the consumer.

The theme of the entire event was “Command the Boardroom”, which focused on how to bring the eyes and ears of the consumer into the boardroom itself. The presence of the Consumer Insights function is not only needed to energise the boardroom on the importance of the ever changing consumer, but it is crucial in representing the big ideas that drive business growth.

With that theme setting the stage for the event, the following four trends emerged from the speakers:

Consumer behaviour                                                                                     

Better understanding the inner workings of the consumer was a common theme at this year’s TMRE Conference. Zoe Chance, Author of “Better Influence” and Assistant Professor of Marketing at Yale School of Management, led a keynote on Mastering Influence & Persuasion.

Chance was driven to leave the world of corporate marketing to understand behavioral economics after observing a repeating trend: companies often put a lot of time, money and energy into using data for business decisions, but in the end, would use their guts anyway. Why is that?

Chance went on to explain the difference between System 1 and System 2 decision making. These are better known as the unconscious and conscious mind, or as she called them: “Alligator Brain” and “The Court”. The unconscious mind is fast, it’s intuitive and it’s automatic. On the other hand, the conscious mind is slow, deliberate and effortful. Most of us believe that we’re making decisions with The Court, but Alligator Brain kicks in far more often than we care to realise.

Rather than trying to ineffectively engage consumers’ conscious mind, Chance suggests that instead we should be working to peak the Alligator Brain with her 5 key forces of influence:

  • Labelling: giving a name to the behaviour that you wish to encourage or discourage.
  • Ease: “Alligators are lazy”; companies like Uber, Tinder and Amazon are great examples of how to make it as easy as possible for consumers to take action.
  • Attention: creating open loops, or Moments of Truth (as coined by P&G), both stimulate curiosity since we as consumers have an insatiable want to close the loop.
  • Scarcity: loss aversion is a powerful motivator and can be roused by communications such as limited time, limited quantity and exclusivity.
  • “Hot Potato”: when forced with resistance, give it back as a problem to solve. If someone says they’re not interested, instead try asking: “You’re not interested?” as a way to promote deliberate decision making.

The subject of the conscious versus unconscious mind was revisited again by David Eagleman: Neuroscientist, Author of “Incognito: the Secret Lives of the Brain” and Host of PBS’ “The Brain with David Eagleman”.

In his talk on “Emotion, Motivation, and Reputation”, he explained that there is an enormous gap between what your brain is doing and what your conscious mind is actually thinking. “Everything about your cognition is happening incognito,” Eagleman said. The implication of the unconscious brain being the core driver of decision making is that asking consumers questions about their decision making process is irrelevant.

Neuroscience can tell us a lot about the driving forces behind the consumer path to purchase. Eagleman explained that there are three networks in the brain: one for price point, one for pleasure and one for how the decision itself is viewed:

  • Valuation: everything is judged in context. Saving $10 on a pair of headphones has a higher consumer response than saving $10 on an iPhone, despite the benefit being equal. We as consumers do not actually know what we want until we see it in context.
  • Emotion: despite our want to believe we are rational and unbiased, our actions prove otherwise. For instance, did you know that humans make harsher decisions if in a fowl smelling room?
  • Social: Eagleman explained that “people are wired to understand companies the same way they understand people. Breaches of trust travel fast and are un-erasable.”

Do-it-yourself research

DIY Research was a key theme for one of the tracks at the event, focusing on how and when to ‘be scrappy’ with research. DIY research is a cost effective alternative to outsourcing solutions that allows you to analyse research results in real time. As Andrea Stokes, the Senior Director of Consumer Insights at Marriott International, said in her session titled, “Cheap and Cheerful DIY Research”, it’s important to know when it makes sense to pursue DIY research and also when it makes sense not to:

5 reasons to go DIY:

  • When you need it fast
  • When you have an easily accessible customer database
  • When the question is not a $20,000+ question
  • When a question can be answered by consumer feedback alone, meaning that advanced analytics and modelling are not required
  • When you have only 60 minutes of your stakeholders’ time

5 reasons not to go DIY:

  • When the ask is complex
  • When more than one translation is needed
  • When data will help to defend or prevent a large investment
  • When the CEO needs to make a business case to the Board of Directors
  • When research is needed for crisis management

Some of the tools that Stokes suggests to aid in DIY research are software, such as survey software and an insight community platform through which to conduct your research. Mobile devices like iPads and smartphones make data collection fast and easy, while tools such as excel or other data visualization programs like Tableau are essential for storytelling. Last, all that is needed is you (and maybe a videographer to capture the process).

Millennials and the future of retail

  1. Any Channel, Anytime, Anywhere: Today’s consumer is very busy with little downtime, always on the go, always carrying their phones and always connected to the internet. Consumers are looking for a more convenient and seamless way to shop given their busy lifestyles. Many businesses realize this and are changing to fit consumer’s needs by providing seamless easier ways to shop. Several examples include:
  • Sephora Flash – Sephora’s new stores that allow consumers to purchase an item online or through the app and pick up in store the following days
  • Charity Wait – an app that allows consumers to donate to a charity in order to skip a line at their favourite restaurant
  • Shyp – an app that allows consumers to ship out postal packages without having to visit the USPS store. The consumer arranges a time for pick-up and Shyp will pick up the box and send it to the nearby post office.
  • Task Rabbit – an app that offers a personal assistant to complete your tasks that you have to do throughout the day, making your day more efficient
  1. Customized Products: Even though consumers are on the go, they are still making specific decisions on what they are purchasing. Consumers are looking for more personalisation and customisation in their lives and they want it to be easy.
  • Ugg has made it easier for consumers to try on shoes by providing them with an interactive floor mat that allows them to picture what the shoe would look like on
  1. Break Free of Demographics: Consumers want to break free of demographics. They are looking for more of a new wholesome look which basically means retailers should start positioning products as being non-gender.


Many large tech gurus such as Facebook even have a difficult time capturing all types of consumer market research data. Companies like Facebook capture any shopper data on mobile phones and desk top data but are not able to see what is happening outside of their own space. Facebook expresses that it is important to capture all channels of shopper insights to understand the full data set for the ever changing consumer.

Facebook has found that through their internal data numbers, consumers tend to have a purchasing pattern per omnichannel. Many consumer turn to mobile to shop for categories that are less expensive, perhaps because it doesn’t take much thought or commitment to purchase these items that might be used every day. However, consumers tend to turn to their desktop for categories that are more expensive which may be due to internet connection worry or being able to see the product on a larger screen.

What Facebook is unaware of through internal data is in-store shopping habits. This type of data may help companies like Facebook understand what brand elements trigger market behaviour, what is going to drive consumers to make purchases in store, what the importance of labels play when shopping in different channels and how can they measure behaviour of a shopper on each channel.


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