There’s been a lot of press since last week regarding polling and its usefulness and accuracy. This op-ed piece from the New York Times explains what Melior has been doing for the past 30 years: providing context to quantitative data. It’s not quick and dirty numbers that matter as much as the qualitative context in which they’re provided.
By Sharon Hackenbracht & Elisa Foster
There is an overwhelming amount of research about the Millennial Generation (also known as Generation Y). And now that they’ve entered adulthood, ranging between the ages of 18 and 34, Millennials are a hot topic among those studying trends in higher education, financial services, workforce development and how young adults are faring in the current economy. However, getting a sense of the Millennial mindset is tougher than you may think. Depending on who you ask, Millennials are everything from lazy and spoiled to confident and open-minded.
In our work with educational institutions, we’ve learned that a key to understanding Millennials is to look at one of the biggest influencers in their lives: Parents.
In order to understand the behavior of young adults, it is vital to also understand the behavior of parents who are providing financial and other assistance to their children. The last decade has seen a drastic increase in the number of adults between 18 and 34 who still live at home and rely on financial help from their parents. This not surprising news given that 16% of Millennials are unemployed and they are graduating from college with an average student loan debt of $29,000.
Parents of children who are in high school, college and in their twenties are becoming an increasingly important, though largely untapped, research segment. Increasingly, many are providing financial support, housing, career guidance, funding for education, health insurance and rent or mortgage payments. Some parents are even taking their kids to job interviews.
The implication is that if parents are providing support to their children as they become adults, it means that they have a good deal of influence over many aspects of their children’s lives: what kind of car they buy, what college they attend, what kind of bank accounts they hold, how much they are spending on travel and entertainment, etc.
In the course of our research at Melior, we’ve learned that parents often play a major role in such important considerations as what field of study to pursue at college. For instance, we’ve observed parents debating with their children about whether the child would major in business or liberal arts. It was apparent through these discussions that parents most often win the debate.
Ultimately, to understand the Millennial Generation, you also have to understand their parents’ perspectives and the dynamics of parent/child relationships that influence behavior and choices.
Are you a Millennial or the parent of a Millennial? Do you think Millennials depend on their parents more than previous generations? Please share your stories and opinions in the comments section below!
By Elisa Foster
Marketing researchers often refer the people they study as audiences, markets, populations, demographic groups and consumers. These categorizations are useful when conducting research for a particular product or industry. However, when you constantly describe people as objects and concepts it is easy to forget what they really are: humans. This is why we often like to think of the groups we research as communities. People are not just members of demographic groups – they live in communities with complex cultural traditions and social norms.
As researchers, it is important to understand the context in which people exist in their communities. Ethnicity, income, gender and age are not just demographic identifiers; they are the factors that make people unique. As Randy Bowden puts it on his blog, “Everyone’s different and different people are attracted to different things for different reasons.”
From couples shopping for engagement rings to high school seniors applying to college, we’ve studied an extremely wide range of communities. And each project demands a specific type of understanding. We’ve learned that when you take the time to understand a community and learn how to engage with that community, you get the most valuable information and insights.
For example, it was not enough to research the basic demographics and statistics of a city known for violence and a high crime rate. To truly understand this community, we had to delve deeper and ask more complex questions through focus group research. Why did families move to this city? How do they interact with other residents? How would they react if a crime took place in their neighborhood?
When we wanted to learn more about how mothers grocery shop for their families, we decided that an online bulletin board focus group would be the best way to understand how a community of mothers in a specific geographic region makes decisions about which products to buy.
Sometimes our work helps communities better understand themselves. Recognizing that its community was changing, a regional Jewish service association wanted to learn more about the people it serves and how to meet their needs. Melior worked with a network of organizations to distribute an online survey to community members. This method allowed us to reach as many people in the community as possible.
These examples highlight one of the keys to a successful research study: when research is tailored to the people being studied, the results will be more than data points and quotes – you will garner deeper insights and begin to hear the voice of a community.
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.
By Susan J. Levine and Elisa Foster
Do you know someone who works in consumer research or retail marketing? They’re probably in a frenzy right now because this week is the Super Bowl of consumer behavior research: Black Friday. For the past several weeks, we’ve been hearing and reading endless stories about who will shop, when they will shop and where they will shop on Black Friday.
However, this year’s Black Friday is special as more retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day. With this increase of stores extending their holiday hours, everyone wants to know how this year’s shopping behaviors will impact how we celebrate holidays in the future. Is this the end of Thanksgiving as we know it? Journalists and bloggers are using stats to “prove” many, and often contradictory, points:
- Many writers are citing National Retail Federation research to predict consumer spending on Black Friday and Thanksgiving.
- Some advise us to ignore the NRF’s “annual fabrication of retail sales data.”
- Others point to class divisions among Thanksgiving shoppers.
- And a few note that the appeal of Black Friday shopping is starting to lose its luster.
Let’s continue the conversation! Please take our 2-second poll about YOUR consumer behavior and pass it along to your friends. Then, stay tuned for our follow-up post next week to find out what really happened.
By Sindey Dranoff
As a lifelong Philadelphia-area resident, I consider myself pretty well cultured – I keep up with the growing restaurant scene, I purchase theater subscriptions, and I regularly attend performances at music venues in the region. Yet, until earlier this month I had never attended a Philadelphia Orchestra concert – and if it wasn’t for social media I would still be an Orchestra wannabe.
The Philadelphia Orchestra was scheduled to perform at Carnegie Hall on October 2nd, but because of a labor strike the concert was cancelled at the last minute – let’s call that the lemons. The Orchestra leadership quickly decided to offer a free pop-up concert for the people of Philadelphia – the lemonade!
How do you let an entire city know that their world-renowned orchestra will be performing a free concert at 6:30 that evening? You use social media and email marketing, then watch what happens – in this case, the Kimmel Center had a full audience. How do you let the rest of world know the concert was a success? You do something usually frowned upon at a performance: encourage the audience to take out their cell phones. At the end of the concert the conductor asked the audience to take pictures and videos and let everyone know about the concert and the Orchestra on social media.
This is a great example of how marketers and market researchers can capitalize on the success of a viral campaign – the Philadelphia Orchestra was able to attract a new audience (including myself). We already know that social media is an increasingly important tool in market research. As the technology to track and monitor social media advances, researchers have increased access to meaningful, up-to-date information. And, what could be more meaningful than media created and distributed by audiences in real time?
The Orchestra’s use of social media points to a valuable opportunity for organizations and researchers: encouraging audiences and customers to engage with a product (or performance) and document their experiences can produce a wealth of information. Furthermore, there are endless possibilities for organizations to use this information to enhance and support their marketing initiatives.
By Elisa Foster
As marketing researchers, we are constantly looking at demographic data. Race, income and education play a major role in the way we communicate with consumers. Last week’s 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the perfect time to reflect on the position and impact racial minorities have in business, commerce and America’s economic and social structures.
For a clear picture of how far we have (and have not) come, take a look at this government data compiled by Pew Research Center. And please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments section below. What role do racial demographics play in marketing your business?