Randall Hula is a vice president in the Consumer & Retail division at Market Strategies International with more than two decades of market research consulting experience. Whether researching customer experience management, segmentation or product and service evaluation, his ultimate goal is to deliver insights that build stronger bonds between brands and customers. He has broad experience across industries, research methods and analytic techniques and understands that, regardless of industry, consumers face similar decision processes. It is within these processes that he focuses on understanding the deep, multilayered relationships between businesses and their end customers. Randall attended the University of Arkansas and continued his education at Harding University, where he earned a BBA with an emphasis in advertising and marketing. When not blogging, you’re most likely to find Randall with his cycling club training for another century ride or providing advocacy to the cycling community.
In May of this year, Applebee’s introduced its “hand-cut steaks over wood-fired grill” menu. It was a $40 million investment, and it hasn’t gone too well. In fact, Q2 sales were down 4%. It seems that, as far as consumers see it, wood-fired grilled steak is a blip for a brand that needs to do more than reconfigure kitchens to grill steaks. It’s still a steak at Applebee’s, and consumers aren’t biting (so to speak).
But the question that led to the initiative was right: how do you stay relevant when Millennials shun big chains and brands? Continue reading →
I just returned from the 2015 Corporate Researchers Conference in St. Louis—a well-run conference with a fair, though not quite balanced, cross section of brands and solution providers. I made some new friends, met some old friends, ate too much, stayed at an attractively remodeled hotel and saw some good presentations from very smart people.
There were many great themes, and the rapid adaptation of technologies for the purpose of data collection and management fueled much discussion, including our own presentation, How Technology Has Transformed Consumer Journey Research. But there was another prominent theme behind the presentations and parties. Once again I heard brands lamenting the lack of deep insight in an upper management-digestible form and providers lamenting the lack of time (as a function of revenue) to create deep insight in an upper management-digestible form. You know what I heard at conferences in 2005? Brands lamenting the lack of deep insight and providers lamenting the lack of time to create deep insight. What about 1995? The same.
With all these great technologies and the chasm growing between the what and where of data analytics and the why of attitudinal analytics, perhaps it’s time to face some truths so the undertone of an MR conference in 2025 isn’t that brands want more insight and providers want more time to provide insights. Oh, who are we kidding? If that’s the conversation in 2025, our industry will no longer be viable in that economy and others will have heeded the call. So what are some truths we should face?
Three years ago, Harvard Business Review labeled Data Scientist the sexiest job of the 21st Century. This pronouncement sent The Big Bang Theory to the top of syndication and made a Data Insights Department de rigueur in every firm that wanted to be taken seriously in marketing research consulting.
“Big Data” promised to be a death knell of classic primary marketing research. But as one salty veteran said to me: “This is what we did when scanner data came along in the 80s, but you still have to know why consumers bought the potato chips.” No doubt data analytics is a critical tool in predicting consumer behavior, but savvy research firms are combining this data with attitudinal data collected using creative methods to help brands better understand the reasoning behind the behavior.
I recently attended the 25th DistribuTECH Conference and Exhibition. As part of the conference, I attended the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative Symposium. Since my team and I conducted much of the research that was presented, I knew the content, but was interested in hearing the opinions of others at the meetings. You’ll have to visit the SGCC website to download the 2015 State of the Consumer Report, and I encourage you to do so, but much of what was discussed, and much of what we at Market Strategies have been advocating over the past year or two is that consumers clearly want the benefits that come with smart grid and smart meters, they just don’t necessarily want to talk about smart grids and smart meters. Awareness of, and favorability toward, the terms “smart grid” and “smart meter” has not changed much over the past 3-5 years. Yet consumers are more interested than ever in the benefits that come from these technologies.
We are emotional, rather than rational beings. Decisions are made at a subconscious level, though we like to think we are making rational decisions. There is a level of emotional engagement with the things we see and do. That is why constructively engaging customers in a manner they choose, with services and products they find beneficial, can lead to greater customer loyalty. The evidence is clear—engaged customers are more satisfied, more profitable and more loyal.
Loyal customers generally fall into one of three categories. There are Passive Loyals, Captive Loyals and Passionate Loyals, each requiring different methods to engage—and stay engaged.
How Energy Utilities Have Redefined Program Marketing
It seems hard to believe now, but from the turn of the century to 2008 Market Strategies International did not conduct a single segmentation study for an energy utility client. Since 2009, we have completed about a dozen.
What changed? Many utilities discovered a need to find more efficient and effective ways to market their energy efficiency, demand response and smart meter-enabled programs and services. Segmentation, a proven tool used widely in other industries, was ready to help meet these challenges.
Now that a critical mass of energy utilities has created sophisticated segmentation frameworks, we can begin to understand and measure the bottom line benefits. Understanding and applying segmentation in day-to-day operations can be a challenge. Nevertheless, there are a growing number of success stories that show how utilities are gaining real value from their investments in residential and business segmentation.
Did the Denver Broncos overpromise and under-deliver? In a contest billed as the unstoppable force versus the immovable object, the object dominated the force from start to finish.
Had you conducted a key driver analysis to the Super Bowl Championship for the Denver Broncos a few years ago, the driver with the most impact would likely have been to change the quarterback. Releasing Tim Tebow and eventually signing one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning, was a seismic shift toward the goal of winning the Super Bowl. Yet they failed to deliver.
In Market Strategies International’s E2 (Energy+Environment) study we, once again, see an uptick in consumer views that the US is heading in the right direction with regard to energy issues. And continuing a positive trend dating back to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the summer of 2010, electric and natural gas utilities are considered credible sources of information on environmental issues by almost 3 out of 4 consumers.
It doesn’t hurt that the industry is also being carried by another wave–technology–allowing us to engage our customers as never before.
This past week, I attended the 4th Annual Utility Customer Experience Management conference in Orlando. To be specific, I attended a conference at a hotel that piped pop hits from the 70s non-stop. In the three days that I was captive to Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat” and Donna Summer’s “Let’s Dance,” I heard a lot of talk about the migration to web-based portals designed to help consumers manage their account and home energy usage. Ideally, these web-based portals will lead to behavioral changes that save the customer money.