Types of Research

Speedback offers research solutions for all types of research needs.


Advertisement Concepts

Description:

Before committing to a major media buy, companies often wish to check the reaction of potential recipients of the advertising. These reactions can be tested at several stages of the creative development cycle. When the idea is young, it can be tested as a "concept statement" which is a succinct paragraph describing the key messages. As the idea proceeds to actual renderings, various options can be tested to see which one produces the best results. [See Sensation Transference]. It is often desirable to test the various underlying messages' appeal to make sure that the messages themselves are on target (e.g. you can have an ad which communicates unimportant messages very well.)

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Advertising Tracking

When companies advertise their goods and services, they are often interested in measuring the effect that the communications have on their intended audiences. Two types of measurements are generally referred to as "advertising tracking." The first is a one-time assessment of an individual ad's performance. This measurement normally begins with a "baseline" reading on awareness and perception prior to the ad's release. Immediately following the "flight," another, similar wave of research is conducted and the results are compared to the baseline. In a large enough sample, changes in awareness and perception can be traced to the effect of the advertisement (assuming nothing else has radically influenced the market).

The second type of advertising tracking study traces the long-term effect of the communication plan. This is referred to as "longitudinal" tracking. Companies find this type of research useful because, over time, the general effectiveness of any specific advertisement begins to diminish. The life cycle of an ad's effectiveness can be mapped, and at the correct time it can be replaced with new material to "revitalize" the communication of the desired messages.

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Awareness, Attitude and Usage

One of the most basic, exploratory forms of marketing research is the AAU (Awareness, Attitude and Usage Study.) This type of survey is used to assess the general state of the market for a particular brand, product, or service. These surveys can draw on the opinions of both consumer and/or business customers.

Awareness is almost always tested first in this type of study (otherwise the respondents would be biased by other information being gathered.) Awareness is tested in both unaided and aided forms. Unaided awareness consists of all the brands, companies, product names, etc. that the respondents can think of on their own. In a quick, reactive type survey this measurement of awareness is also called "top of mind" awareness. Aided awareness is then tested by reading a list of pertinent brands, products, etc. and asking the respondent to state which ones they have heard of (not including the ones already mentioned.) Total Awareness is usually given as the sum of unaided plus aided awareness.

Attitudes are the opinions associated with the brands, products, etc. that are being tested. The attitudes towards the brands can help determine strengths or "equities" (which should be preserved) and weaknesses (that should be corrected.)

Usage patterns, which are a subset of the demographic profile, help reveal the how the respondents are interacting with the brand, product or service. This is particularly important as a comparative measurement against the attitudes -- e.g. Do heavy users have different opinions or priorities than the occasional users? Other demographics, such as gender, age, income, etc. also help to isolate particular groups that are particularly good (or bad) prospective customers.

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Brand Equity

"Equities" are those attributes associated with a brand which can be considered assets for the company. Like any form of assets, brand equities are usually purchased for a price. Years of advertising, promotion, quality and customer service can form a lasting impression of the brand that create unique and differentiating competitive advantages in terms of consumer recognition and good will.

Equities fall into two distinct categories: "abstract equities" and "tangible equities." Abstract equities are those attributes of the brand, product or service that exist in the mind of the customers. Examples of abstract equities include perceptions of "high quality," "trust," "performance," etc.

Tangible equities are the physical manifestations of the brand including design elements such as packages, logos, typefaces, colors, characters, etc. [See Packaging Tests]

Before making major design or positioning changes, many firms like to research what their current equities are and then assess what would happen if changes are made. Moving too rapidly to a new look or corporate personality can disenfranchise current customers and wash away advantages derived from awareness and long-term brand associations.

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Brand Positioning

Brand positioning refers to the strategic way in which the brand's image is conveyed to customers. Positioning helps to create a unique, differentiable rationale for the purchase of your products or services versus a competitor's. Examples of various positioning strategies include messages such as: "Value Brand," "High End Brand," "Known for Customer Service," "High Quality," "Technology Leader," etc.

Positioning is usually driven by three things: 1) Management Desires, 2) Market Needs, and 3) Competition within the market segment.

Management desires often involve the way that the company's leadership would "like" the market to perceive them (e.g. good value, high quality, on-time, etc.) Research can provide a picture of customer perceptions that reflect how well the market's opinion of the brand match those of management's desires. Specific areas of strengths and weaknesses can be identified for corrective action.

Market needs can be identified as gaps between desired product and service characteristics (market ideals) and those currently available. Measuring these "need gaps" can help to identify new positioning opportunities.

Current competitive positioning is also very important to bear in mind when evaluating your own brand position. It is usually safer, more productive and less expensive to assume a unique position in the market than one that is very close to another competitor. This is particularly true when the other competitors are well established. Research can be used to produce a "brand map" of the market which shows the key competitors' current perceived positions.

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Brand Tracking

Like other forms of tracking studies (sometimes referred to as longitudinal studies), brand tracking measures changes in the market over time. Examples of these changes might include things like new product introductions, new competitors, advertising campaigns, public relations initiatives, articles in the press, etc. With each successive change, how people perceive one brand versus another may be subtly impacted.

Companies track their brand's positioning for many reasons...to keep the brand contemporary, to counter competitive actions, to create marketing communications plans and to provide a feedback mechanism on long-term strategic positioning plans.

Often a long-term brand tracking study will begin within an [Awareness, Attitude and Usage] study, to provide a baseline reading, then the brand's position is tracked over time.

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Business-to-business

Business-to-business research differs in several key ways from general consumer research. First, the target audience for a business-related product is generally more sophisticated and better informed about a particular class of products than a typical consumer. Second, the purchase decision may be spread out among more people in the business setting -- requiring the researcher to determine the level of purchase influence that various respondents may have. Third, the business market is usually more time-conscious than the general consumer -- necessitating rapid, to-the-point survey techniques. Speedback offers many ways in which businesspeople may be surveyed, including methods with high entertainment value and time-savings. Contact us for a detailed proposal designed to meet your specific needs.

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Competitive Analysis

One of the most frequently requested types of information that companies desire is insight into the competition they face. Competitive comparisons are built into most types of studies.

Two major forms of competitive analysis are 1) Competitive Intelligence and 2) Market perceptions of competitors.

Competitive intelligence is the gathering of all types of hard data on a competitor from both published and unpublished sources. An example of published sources might include a scan of the Internet for company facts, credit history, new product announcements, etc. Unpublished sources might include interviews with employees and or the trade press to determine the direction of product or service development before it is officially made public.

Market perception competitive studies are usually done to ascertain the competition's strengths and weaknesses with regard to the consumer's desire to do business with them.

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Customer Satisfaction

A key goal in marketing is to keep the current customer base satisfied and enthusiastic about your products and/or services. Research can be used to test the relative levels of satisfaction with your offerings versus those of your current competitors. In addition, gaps in satisfaction between what is currently available and what the "ideal" product or service would be can identify areas for new product development and/or competitive differentiation.

After a baseline study is completed, the study can be repeated on an on-going (or longitudinal) basis. This process will help keep customer satisfaction at the forefront of the corporation's attention and provide more immediate feedback as to potential problems. Results from these studies can uncover problems that, if corrected, will result in the greatest net gain in satisfaction.

Speedback offers numerous ways of conducting customer satisfaction research. A detailed, customized proposal can be produced according to your needs and specifications.

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New Products

Getting customer feedback for the development of new products is a vital role of marketing research. In general, there are three distinct phases of new product development in which research can be useful: 1) Determining market requirements, 2) Testing features and design alternatives and 3) Measuring aspects of market feedback related to commercialization.

Determining the market requirements involves determining the gaps between what is currently available and what customers' ultimately desire. In addition, market requirements research attempts to determine how much better a new product must be in order to be perceived as "goodn enough to switch." Finally, this stage of research can be used to determine overall reactions to a new product concept and get a preliminary read on market potential for the product or service.

During the design phase of the product or service, frequent iterations of testing with potential customers can provide valuable feedback to the design team. Feature testing, in-home studies and focus groups can be used to answer questions from the consumers' standpoint.

Prior to launch, [positioning], [competitive analysis], [product feature evaluation], [pricing], [packaging, design and name testing] and other studies may prove useful to product management.

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Packaging, Design and Name Testing

Speedback believes in the use of sensation transference techniques for testing packaging.

Sensation Transference: The phenomenon related to how people make judgments on an "object's" attributes, based on the context in which the object is presented.

For example:

People DO judge a book by its cover,

They make judgments about you based on the clothes you wear,

They make assumptions about you based on how you talk,

They consider whether or not to go to a particular movie based on its name.

From a business perspective:

People try new products based on

How do "Sensation Transference" techniques make our research different from direct methodologies?

Sensation transference techniques are appropriate in cases where you need to measure the impact of intangible factors on tangible objects.

In our practice, these intangibles usually involve creative issues like package design, advertising claims, product names, etc. -- in other words, marketing elements that attempt to influence how consumers think about products.

Direct methodology (such as is used in a focus group) attempts to measure consumers' impressions of an intangible item by asking questions about it. (E.g. "What do you think of this brand name?")

Sensation Transference/indirect methodology provides insight by focusing on the tangible item using the intangible item as the stimulus. (E.g. "Do you think that a cookie with the brand name "Chewsies" would taste good?) When the intangibles are tested using the same, controlled line of questioning, differences can be attributed to the perceptual effect created by the intangible.

What is wrong with focus groups or other direct methods of testing intangibles?

Direct methodologies often don't address the right questions...

In a focus group, consumers attempt to evaluate the intangible object (the name), but we want them to buy or use the tangible object (the cookies.) This disconnect produces answers that aren't usually related to what we wish to know. Whether someone "likes" the intangible or not, is often unrelated to the degree to which you can predict whether they will buy the tangible product or not.

We often hear of cases where people have said that they liked a package, etc., but wouldn't buy it for some reason related to their perceptions of the product inside. Direct methodologies often miss these cognitive mismatches between reported and actual behaviors.

Direct methodologies don't generate actionable data...

Consumers generally can't answer questions concerning intangible issues relating to name associations, design, persuasion, etc. First, they don't have the vocabulary, background or experience to discuss marketing and design issues with any credibility. Using direct methodology you will often get "feedback" such as: "The package needs more yellow in it." This is not reasonable, actionable advice to expect from consumers .

Secondly, consumers are generally intimidated when asked to "judge" names or designs and don't want to give answers that will make them look naive or uninformed.

Direct methodologies can force respondents into socially unacceptable situations that bias answers...

Consumers often do not want to admit their true feelings about the influence of design elements in their lives. Very few people admit to being influenced by marketing elements such as packaging design, names and advertising. Once again, this can produce biased answers and unpredictable results.

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Pricing

How to price products and services is of critical interest to many of Speedback clients. Three methods are traditionally used in assessing pricing strategies: 1) Comparative Worth Analyses, 2) Part-Worth Modeling and 3) Conjoint Analysis.

Comparative worth analyses work on the premise that if you know the value of an existing competitor's products or services, and you can measure the approximate difference in perceived worth between that competitor's product desirability and your own, then you can establish a relative price position that should be stable over some period of time. For instance if people perceive your product as producing 20% more of a sense of value than your competitor -- you should price your product or service 20% higher than theirs. If they drop their prices, you should take up a new position 20% above their new price point.

Part-Worth models use regression to identify individual features that add to the sense of product value. These models work by "adding up" the sum of the individual parts to approximate the relative value that one company's products or services has versus another's. Again, you use these relative price positions to peg your prices to the competition.

Conjoint, or tradeoff analysis, is a method by which respondents consider alternatives and state a likelihood of purchase or preference for each alternative. As the respondent continues to make choices, a pattern begins to emerge which, through complex multiple regression techniques, can be broken down and analyzed as to the individual features that contribute most to the perception of value. The measurements of the value contributed by the component parts are given in relative units called "utils."

Conjoint analyses produce several types of information. First, they tell us what features (and levels of features) are most valued by the customers. Second, they allow us to model how likely people will be to purchase various configurations of products, the share of revenue that the product most likely will receive and what role price plays in the assessment of acceptability.

Adaptive Conjoint Analysis™ is a computer-based form of conjoint that "learns" as the respondent makes choices -- limiting the overall number of choices that have to be presented in order to calculate accurate utilities. ACA™ can be included as a module in disk-based surveys or can be run on its own as a stand-alone test.

Discrete choice conjoint is similar to regular conjoint except that, in addition to specific product configurations that we wish to test, the respondents are also allowed to choose "none" of the options. This form of conjoint is helpful when trying to measure the actual unit volume of products that people will most likely purchase.

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Product Feature Evaluation

Assessing the value of specific features and how much people will be willing to pay for new functions or benefits is of tremendous interest to product managers. Many of the same techniques used to evaluate pricing can also be used to judge the relative impact of features on overall perceived value. In particular, Speedback prefers to use conjoint analysis for this type of study.

Conjoint, or tradeoff analysis, is a method by which respondents consider alternatives and state a likelihood of purchase or preference for each alternative. As the respondent continues to make choices, a pattern begins to emerge which, through complex multiple regression techniques, can be broken down and analyzed to reveal the individual features that contribute most to the perception of value. The measurements of the value contributed by the component parts are given in relative units called "utils."

Conjoint analyses produce several types of information. First, they tell us what features (and levels of features) are most valued by the customers. Second, they allow us to model how likely people will be to purchase various configurations of products, the share of revenue that the product most likely will receive and what role price plays in the assessment of acceptability.

Adaptive Conjoint Analysis™ is a computer-based form of conjoint that "learns" as the respondent makes choices -- limiting the overall number of choices that have to be presented in order to calculate accurate utilities. ACA™ can be included as a module in disk-based surveys or can be run on its own as a stand-alone test.

Discrete choice conjoint is similar to regular conjoint except that, in addition to specific product configurations that we wish to test, the respondents are also allowed to choose "none" of the options. This form of conjoint is helpful when trying to measure the actual unit volume of products that people will most likely purchase.

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Segmentation

Segmentation analysis is frequently used to identify potential target customer groups in a market. Segmentation may be performed on either feature-based, attitudinal, behavioral or demographic data using many different multivariate clustering techniques. The type of technique used generally depends on the nature of the data and how the clusters are to be interpreted.

In general, segmentation helps you to break up the market into groups of customers who tend to view things similarly. For instance, within a given market there may be a group of people who are particularly price sensitive or who are interested in the latest technology no matter what it costs. By isolating and identifying these various groups, research can provide the marketing manager with several important tools:

"Market dimensionalization" is a term used to describe the mapping of the key issues that influence people -- such as "cost," "brand consciousness," "techno-phobia," etc. This helps the manager to determine what things are most important in the market.

"Segment sizing" shows how large the various groupings of people are. (If segments are very small it may be hard to market to them.)

"Communications profiling" gives the manager insight into the key messages that can be used to reach any one specific segment. These messages can be compared to the customer's current perceptions of the product or service to determine how good a fit there is for marketing to any one specific segment.

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Software User Interface Testing

Concept and Content Testing

Before beginning the in-depth testing of the software itself, we are frequently asked to assess the overall concept of the system. Questions frequently asked include: "Does this type of program interest you?" "Would you use it?" "How do you think it would work?" These questions are useful not only in determining overall interest in the product or system, but also as a way to calibrate the responses from individual respondents. (For example, an initially negative respondent who turns out to be extremely enthusiastic demonstrates a greater shift in attitude based on demonstration than one who is positively predisposed to begin with.)

In addition to the overall concept, specific areas of content are also of interest to many of our clients. "Which of the apparent functions appeal to you most?" "What do you think you would explore first? Why?" "Are there things that you think you might avoid initially? Why?" By getting a sense of the overall content reaction, we can begin to develop a hypothetical hierarchy of content importance.

Navigation and Functionality


After assessing the respondent's initial reactions to the product, we generally begin the in-depth testing part of the procedure. This entails having the respondent step through a series of pre-determined task assignments that are designed to show various areas of functionality withinm the software. These tasks are done with a minimum of guidance from the test moderator, whose role is to encourage the respondent to talk through their rationale and decision-making process.

The value of these exercises comes from the observation of the strategies that people employ when attempting to use the software. "What do they do first?" "What is their logic?" "From the respondent's viewpoint, do things work in a logical and consistent way?" "If they make an error, what is the 'recovery' strategy?" "Does the system provide the experience that they had thought it would?" "Was it clear and intuitive in the way it operates?" "Do they use the tools provided (e.g. "help," etc.)?"

In addition to the functionality of the software, the ability to navigate, or move from area to area is also generally a part of this testing. "Can the respondent get to the place where they wish to be?" "Do they seem to know where they are at all times?" "Is there a clear method for going back or undoing mistakes?"

During the observation it is common to observe different user personalities. "Is the respondent aggressive or passive?" "Do they like to explore different options and functions or do they want immediate results?" "Are they problem solvers or do they give up at the first sign of trouble?" All of these traits will help determine how the software design will play in the open market with various user types.

User Interface Graphic Communications

A separate area that we are often asked to explore is the user interface's graphic communication. This entails soliciting comments on the overall "look and feel" of the product. Various attributes that the software might communicate simply from its look and layout include things like: "More for business," "More for expert computer users," "More for Novices," "Hard to learn," "Useful," "Seems game-like," etc.

Respondent input regarding ease of reading, clarity of images, degree of "clutter," etc. can be elicited. (Note: Feedback from respondents, who are not trained UI developers, should be weighed with caution against their ability to provide meaningful feedback.)

Iconology

A specialized area of exploration includes the testing of icons for recognizability and meaning. Respondents can be asked to describe the anticipated action resulting from engaging a particular icon. In addition, the test moderator can ask the respondent to identify the symbols or characters used in the icon itself -- and to interpret their meaning.

In this type of testing, it is often wise to present several options for any specific icon in order to test the range of comprehension, (e.g. is the entire concept hard to grasp or is it just the selection of one icon symbol versus another that makes it hard to understand?)

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Usability Testing

In order to understand how customers will respond to new software versions or software and Web site changes, many companies are undertaking User Interface (UI) Research and Usability Testing. Speedback possesses the expertise needed to conduct UI Research and Usability Testing which will allow clients to quickly monitor, evaluate and refine new and existing services or products. This testing allows both developers and marketing staff within a company to view real-time customer reaction to their software designs or actual prototypes.

Interview segments for UI testing include "Concept and Content", "Navigation and Functionality", "User Interface Graphic Communication", and "Iconology". Each of these topic areas are further outlined in the "Types of Methodologies We Use" section of this web site.

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WWW Site Evaluation

Speedback's Beta Web site evaluation service provides you the opportunity to improve your Web site before it is posted to the Internet community. We have several options to test a Beta Site.

In our Web Panel Evaluation, we will send a representative sample of our Web panel members to visit your new site (which is located in a password protected area). After examining your site, our panel members will answer an online questionnaire which examines what they think of your Beta site and how it can be improved. The survey will contain our standard SurveySite questions and additional ones which will probe how your Beta site can be improved to increase visitor satisfaction. We will even provide normative scores which will tell you how your Beta site compares to others we have tested.

For most Web sites we include the following qualitative questions.

1. Overall reaction to the new Web site
2. Reaction to specific design/usage features (ease of use, organization etc)
3. Reaction to specific parts of the Web site
4. Sources of visitor frustration, boredom, confusion etc.
5. Parts of site most enjoyed/least enjoyed
6. Parts of site found most useful/least useful
7. Expectations
8. Likelihood of repeat visit
9. Suggestions for improvement

Don't wait until your site is posted on the Web to find out what visitors think. Call us and we will tell you more about how our Beta site evaluation service can improve the effectiveness of your new Web site.

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