The “Surban” Millennials Trend: What We’ve Learned and Where It’s Going

Millennials – where are they going?

Up to now, millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1996, have favored city living.  Nine in ten millennials currently live in metropolitan areas.  However, a problem has arisen, and as a result, a new trend has started to emerge.  As millennials – roughly ages 22 to 37 – begin to marry and raise families of their own, they are faced with higher and higher housing costs, as well as poor public schooling.  These factors have begun driving millennials increasingly to move to the suburbs.

What do they want?

In moving to the suburbs, however, millennials want to take a number of key elements of urban living with them to their new homes – walkability and access to public transit, as well as close proximity to amenities such as restaurants, grocery stores, day care, health care/fitness centers, and community events and entertainment. This is giving rise to a new type of suburb called a “surban”.

What is a “surban”?

“Surban”, a term coined by John Burns Real Estate Consulting in California, is a suburban area that has the feel of an urban area, with walkability to great retail (like stores and restaurants) from a house or apartment.  Ideally, these communities offer the best of both worlds – larger, more affordable homes in safer environments with good schools, but also a sense of community, convenience, and in general, a sense of place.  It’s a suburb that is designed with a kind of village mentality in mind.

In the Philadelphia area, an example of a “surban” can be seen in the Village at Valley Forge in King of Prussia – a newer development that bills itself as a place to “live, shop and dine.”

What does this mean?

As millennials continue to move out of the city and find new homes and communities in which to live, this shift in the population will create new opportunities for variety of businesses, such as food markets and household furnishings stores, as well as for institutions like healthcare providers that are seeking to develop and expand their reach.

Want to continue the conversation about millennials and surban living?  Contact Sharon Hackenbracht at shackenbracht@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x112, or Linda McAleer at lmcaleer@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x104.

Federations

How Federations can make the “bets” that really count for their communities

In a recent eJewish Philanthropy post, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer crafts a compelling case for “making a big bet” when investing in the Jewish community.  He notes the transformative effects of “big bets” such as Birthright, PJ Library and OneTable (helping young Jews share Shabbat dinners).

Most Federations, however, don’t have the luxury of making one “big bet.”  Instead, they face myriad competing demands to support programs and services of undeniable value to both their local and global Jewish communities.  How, then, do Federations decide which funding priorities to “bet” on – the ones that will pay off, by eliciting donor support and making their communities flourish?

One key for Federations to creating an effective funding strategy is understanding the priorities of their community – that is, identifying the programs and issues their community believes Federation should support.  In our work with various Jewish communities, we have seen significant, often surprising, differences in what communities identify as their desired funding priorities for their Federation, including:

  • Education
  • Support for Israel and global Jewry
  • Safety/security-related issues
  • Social issues (e.g., supports for vulnerable populations including the elderly, Holocaust survivors, people with disabilities, etc.)

Knowing what a community wants its Federation to fund and aligning the allocation process with those priorities can help maximize the impact of Federation’s investments.  By incorporating the community’s voice, Federations invest more than just the dollars they’ve raised… they invest community aspirations, which is more likely to translate to greater community satisfaction, participation and financial support.  Therefore, it is likely that this “bet” will literally pay off for Federation – with increased growth in the value of individual charitable donations and number of donors.

If you aren’t sure what your community’s funding priorities are, contact us.  We can help you find out.


Contact Sue Levine at slevine@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x107.

jewish community studies

If You Ask, We Answer: Part 3 – Jewish Community Studies

Continuing our series about the common questions that our clients ask us:  our first post focused on the higher education sector.  This was followed by our post on the healthcare sector.  We now turn our attention to the world of Jewish community studies.

For 35 years and counting, The Melior Group has been in the business of answering questions for our clients.  And, while the techniques and methods we use to answer those questions have changed over time, many of the questions have not.

So when it comes to our clients in the Jewish community – Federations, synagogues, Day Schools and social services organizations – what kinds of questions is Melior answering, and how are our clients using the information?

At the most fundamental level, our clients want to know how they can make their Jewish communities more vibrant and their members more engaged.

Jewish communities these days often find themselves struggling to be relevant to their members.  While the needs of some in the community may be well-served by traditional communal institutions, new strategies and approaches are needed to combat decline and ensure long-term survival.

By using a consumer behavior approach to understanding community needs, interests, behaviors and attitudes, our work provides new insights into what makes these communities “tick”, and how best to leverage those insights to build stronger communities.  Community leaders want to know…

  • What does our community “look like” – demographically, attitudinally, spiritually, emotionally and even philanthropically?
  • What’s working and what’s not – programmatically and institutionally?
  • Where are the gaps? What do we need to do better?
  • How well do community members understand what we do? How can we better engage those at the margins of the community?
  • Where is the community headed?

The answers we provide have been used by our clients in a variety of ways, allowing them to:

  • Make informed policy decisions
  • Set priorities
  • Launch, grow, and sunset programs
  • Determine funding allocations based on credible data, not instinct
  • Bolster community planning efforts
  • Amplify development efforts

Though our findings can sometimes surprise, they provide a starting point for community soul-searching and ultimately, strengthening.

In addition to the questions we ask, our rigorous approach to figuring out who we need to reach in order to gather the information clients need, and determining the best methodology for gathering information, is central to our work.

Our research can help Jewish communities, their agencies and institutions, explore all of these issues and more.  Give us a call or send us an email and let us know how we can help.


For more information, contact Sue Levine at slevine@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x107.

emr

Impact of EMR on Patient Experience: Qualitative Review and Impressions

There is general agreement in the healthcare field that Electronic Medical Records (EMR) will eventually enhance quality of care, achieve cost savings, and improve the patient experience.  But, so far as consumers are concerned, the general feeling is… “are we there yet?”  Have the benefits of EMR trickled down to the point where patients understand what all the fuss is about?

In my role as a qualitative researcher hired by hospitals, healthcare systems, and insurance providers for the past 20+ years, I have had a front row seat for discussions about healthcare.  While so much in the sector has changed, consumers’ expectations for how they will be treated, and their satisfactions and disappointments, have remained constant.

Undoubtedly, most consumers are aware of EMR adoption; haven’t we all had the experience within the last few years of being asked to be patient (no pun intended) while our providers transition?  Of filling out lengthy healthcare forms which will be attached to our medical records? Of periodically updating acknowledgement of HIPAA policies?  Many of us even use hospital portals to communicate with our physicians, make appointments, request prescription refills, and see test results.

So overall, what has been the impact of EMR on the patient experience?

In the positive column, many consumers are aware of, and have come to appreciate, the benefits of having a centralized healthcare record that all providers within a system can refer to.  It is efficient (fewer questions when seeing a new provider within the same system), and makes people feel safe (“they know my medical history”) and cared for.  Having experienced these benefits, patients are more likely to request and accept referrals to providers within the same system.  In the words of one focus group participant…

“No matter what location you go within (health system), they can see your records…and then I can go into the portal and see all of my records from every location (within the health system) that I have been to.”

Have any other benefits of EMR trickled down to patients?  In our experience, not so much.  In focus groups, interviews and surveys, consumers continue to tell us about the delays and glitches in healthcare communication and service that providers blame on their EMR conversion processes.  Additionally, lots of emergency rooms – even those connected to providers that consumers often use for their healthcare – still don’t have access to full patient records.  The need to gather health information in the ER from patients and families reduces efficiency and exacerbates stress –  definitely not consistent with a better healthcare experience.  And finally, we hear a lot of complaints from people who say, “my doctor spends most of the appointment on the computer, and doesn’t even look at me while talking.”

In sum, while EMR is no doubt here to stay, at this point in time, many of its advantages remain elusive to those who it is supposed to help the most: patients. Hopefully the next time I write about this topic, when consumers ask “are we there yet?”, the answer will be, “we’re getting closer.”


For more information please contact Elizabeth Cohen at lcohen@meliorgroup.com/215-545-0054 ext. 103

focus group

Let’s Focus Group It

I’ve been designing and moderating focus groups for three decades.  What an amazing idea:  put 10 of your best customer prospects in a room or 10 of your target “personas” in a room or 10 of the people you hope will vote for you or buy your product or service… and have them discuss why your product or service is best, how it could be improved, what it means to them to have it, what your competitors are doing better than you, how they hope your product or service will change their lives.

I used to resent the use of the title phrase “let’s focus group it,” determining that it demeaned the science and value of the group dynamic.  But, I’ve changed my mind.  Keeping “focus groups” front and center to help organizations understand “consumer” behavior is what I hope for.

This blog post came to mind when I saw this charming comic (I love comics!) about focus grouping in the 16th Century.

focus group

Six Chix comic by Isabella Bannerman, published in The Philadelphia Inquirer

But, from the point of view of the experienced moderator (me), I say this:  let’s not misuse these great tools and presume that they are quantitative survey samples or polls.  Focus groups work best when you need to hear the “whys” behind the numbers or the choices, when you want to learn what will really impact people choosing your product or service.  And, you need a moderator who knows how and when to ask the “whys” and help people consider their choices… because understanding that contributes to design of effective marketing communications, strategies, product concepts, and reasons-to-choose/benefits.

Let’s talk more about how we design and moderate focus groups for optimal results.


For more information, contact Linda McAleer at lmcaleer@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x104.

I Don’t Care What You Think Until I Think That You Care

“I don’t care what you think until I think that you care.”

I heard that quote and I can’t stop thinking about how perfectly this applies to health care, specifically to consumers’ thoughts and attitudes about the kind of health care they are seeking.

Over the years, The Melior Group has conducted thousands of focus groups with consumers about their decision-making and preferences for providers. The word “quality” gets used a lot. We hear some version of the statement “I want to go to a hospital/doctor/other provider that is known for delivering high quality care”  in every single focus group.

So what does “high quality healthcare” mean?

I’ve asked this question in more ways than I can count, searching, searching for clarity.

Because every time I would ask that question, I would get what I believed was a naïve answer – something like:  “A quality doctor is someone who listens to me,” or, “ I want to go someplace where I can really talk to my doctor.”

After hearing some version of this for the umpteenth time, I told myself that if I could only ask the question right, then I would get a “better” answer, like “quality healthcare means there are good outcomes”  or “quality means practicing evidence-based medicine.” 

I told myself that the consumers who were focused on doctors’ communication skills and “bedside manner” were missing the point:  to my mind, healthcare “quality” had nothing to do with interpersonal skills.

And then I heard that quote.

It was really an “ah ha” moment.  Of course!  As a patient, why would I value what a doctor was recommending to me – even if he/she was amazingly credentialed, the leading doctor in that field, educated at Harvard, yada yada – unless that doctor seemed to care enough about me to attempt to really get to the bottom of my particular problem, and my goals for treatment?

So what does caring in the medical setting mean? Does it mean…

Wearing a button that says “Ask me”?
Making small talk in the examining room?
Claiming, in advertising, that each patient is more than a number? 

I don’t think so.  Rather, I think that my focus group participants have got it right:  by listening — really listening,  restating the information to make clear that they have heard what their patient is saying, and asking the right questions — medical providers convey caring.  In so doing physicians are  better able to diagnose the real problem, and to suggest a treatment approach that a patient will be more likely to comply with.

Now that sounds like high quality healthcare.


Elizabeth Cohen is Vice President of The Melior Group, and our lead consultant in our work in the health care sector.

For more information please visit our Healthcare page or contact Elizabeth Cohen at lcohen@meliorgroup.com / 215-545-0054 x103.

Polling v Research

Polling v. Marketing Research

As the presidential election cycle heats up, pre-election polling – which is used to gauge candidates’ support and predict election outcomes – is under increased scrutiny.  Publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, US News and World Report  have written about recent “disasters”, that is, election outcomes which were not aligned with pre-election polling results.

If Polling is Flawed, How Accurate is Marketing Research?

All of this publicity about flawed polling has generated a degree of panic among some of our clients (and us!).  The Melior Group works with all kinds of organizations that are interested in developing quantitative evidence – which some equate with a “poll” — to support decisions including introduction of a new product or service, development of a new marketing strategy, and myriad other information needs.   While unexpected election results and the pursuant head-scratching about flawed polling generate headlines, it is the marketing researchers in the trenches who bear the brunt of our clients’ angst.   They wonder about the accuracy of quantitative research, and question its role in their decision-making.

Cost-effective, Thoughtful, and Accurate Assessments

So what are marketing researchers to do when their client wants, say, to assess the impact of a marketing campaign through pre- and post-campaign research?  In the old days, the knee-jerk approach might be a telephone survey to collect a statistically rigorous sample with a low margin of error – the better to see real “movement” in the data.

But in this new world of ours, we say to our client, “that statistically rigorous sample with the low margin of error is increasingly difficult — and expensive! — to collect.”  Just showing them the costs is often enough to change the conversation to, “how can we assess the impact of the new marketing campaign in the most cost-effective, thoughtful, and accurate way possible?”

Meet People Where They Live

One approach is to focus on specific market segments, that is, to truly conduct Marketing Research.  Instead of trying to get a representative sample of the whole universe via one polling method, i.e., telephone or online, we recognize that more success can be had by meeting people where they live. For millennials, creative uses of social media can be surprisingly fruitful for marketing research purposes. And for middle-class boomers, online surveys can be just the right approach.

Focusing on specific market segments, and tailoring data collection appropriately, has other benefits too.  Just the very process of reconsidering the approach can propel us to be more thoughtful in our determination of what we truly want to learn.  Is it more important to see small movements in percentage of awareness and advertising recall, or might our client gain additional benefit from a deeper understanding of  attitudes, impressions and brand, within and in comparison to key segments?  We would argue that the latter can often be of greater use.

So does that mean we think that pre-election polling is for dinosaurs?  Not at all.  For a presidential race, say, margins of error can mean the difference between giving up on a state, and doing a full court campaign press.   But for marketing research purposes, reflecting on the true usefulness of measures that rely on statistically perfect samples may have unintended, and very positive, consequences.

 


For more information please contact  Elizabeth Cohen at lcohen@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x103 or please contact us.

The Secular/Cultural Jewish Segment: More Than Meets the Eye

Ever since the publication of the Pew Study on American Jewry in late 2013, there has been a lot of hand wringing over findings that suggest a Jewish community in decline. Headlines blasted the dire news – “1 in 4 Jews are losing their religion!”  “Intermarriage rates continue to rise!”  “Major shift in Jewish identity noted as number of Secular/Cultural Jews grows!”  

For many community leaders, the last point is particularly troublesome.  When viewed on traditional measures of engagement – synagogue affiliation, raising their children as Jews, marrying other Jews, supporting Jewish causes and communal institutions – it is clear that Secular/Cultural Jews are less engaged in the community as a whole. And while that is all true… let’s not write off this growing segment just yet.

You Might Be Surprised To Learn…

Melior’s recent research reveals some surprising, if counter-intuitive, insights into the relationship this growing segment of American Jewry has with the established Jewish community.  In one community we studied, for example…

  • 35% donated to their local Jewish Federation in the past year
  • 30% belong to a religious institution (synagogue/temple/shul)
  • 22% send/sent a child to Jewish Day School

Strategies to Strengthen the Connection

And, in our experience, these results are not unique. Given this, what actions can community leaders take to strengthen the connection between Secular/Cultural Jews and the established Jewish community? Here are some strategies to consider:

Segment. Recognize that not all secular/cultural Jews are alike, and develop outreach strategies tailored to the sub-segments (i.e., those who are connected to traditional communal institutions vs. those who aren’t).

Simplify. Meet Secular/Cultural Jews ‘where they live’ – both figuratively and literally. Offer events/programs tailored to their interests (e.g., food, books, social causes, etc.) and bring these programs to more convenient locales.  Our research shows that secular/cultural Jews often live on the outskirts of a community so make it easy for them to participate.

Stay the course. Like many others within the Jewish community, the relationship of Secular/Cultural Jews to Jewish communal organizations and causes may wax and wane over time due to changes in personal circumstances, interests, and experiences. Keeping lines of communication open yields opportunities to deepen the connection when the opportunity presents itself.


For more information contact Susan J. Levine at sjlevine@meliorgroup.com / 215-545-0054 ext 107 or Linda McAleer at lmcaleer@meliorgroup.com / 215-545-0054 ext 104.

Holiday Shopping Update: And the Winner is…The Internet!

Online Shopping is an important part of holiday shopping

By Susan J. Levine and Elisa Foster

Last week, we asked you to take a quick poll about your plans to go shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  While a large majority of those who took our poll said they would not shop on either day, retailers lured big crowds into the stores with aggressive marketing and steep discounts.  The National Retail Federation estimates that a record 141 million people took advantage of the holiday sales over the four-day weekend that began on Thanksgiving and ended on Sunday.  For many Americans, Black Friday shopping – and recently Thanksgiving Day shopping – has become a holiday tradition. We all know families who finish Thanksgiving dinner then immediately start planning their trips to the local malls and standing in line outside of big box stores.

However, “the economy spoke loud and clear over the past few days,” according to the CEO of Belus Capital Advisors.  People flocked to the stores, but they didn’t spend much money.  Shoppers spent an estimated 1.7 billion dollars less than they did last year and physical stores saw their first decline in spending on Black Friday weekend since 2009.

While brick and mortar stores suffered a decrease in spending, consumers flooded the Internet over the weekend and on Cyber Monday.  In fact, Cyber Monday shopping increased by 18% compared to last year.  And notably, mobile shopping (from smartphones and tablets) accounted for 30% of all online traffic.

This drastic increase in online shopping and use of mobile technology is a sign of the times.  Americans across age, income and ethnic lines are becoming more comfortable conducting business and making purchases online.  For instance, in a recent survey conducted by Melior, 70% of respondents said they pay bills online.  The increasing success of Cyber Monday is just another sign that technology and online shoppers (a.k.a. Invisible Customers) will continue to impact our economy in future years.

Now that we’ve talked about holiday spending, it’s time to focus on holiday giving.  Stay tuned for our update on Giving Tuesday and how we can all give back this holiday season.