Scientific Data Analysis and the Death of Predictive Analytics: Peter Shafer

Scientific Data Analysis and the Death of Predictive Analytics: Peter Shafer

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This week on the Voices of CX Podcast we hosted Peter Shafer, VP of Sales and Marketing at The Prosper Group. He gets up in the morning to connect the dots between human behaviors and the scientific data analysis that explains the story behind them. It would be hard enough if the fast-paced and unpredictable world we live in hadn’t rendered most predictive analytics almost useless, but that doesn’t stop him from bringing scientific rigor to every client’s market research.

About Peter Shafer

Peter helps clients successfully invest in all types of digital marketing campaigns to effectively communicate their messages and build long-term audience engagement with our clients’ brands.

In today’s competitive digital environment, Peter knows that context, content, and collaboration are keys to success. He loves to help clients build digital strategies that work and exceed their expectations.

Connect with Peter Shafer

Follow Peter on LinkedIn

Reach out at [email protected]

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About Voices of CX Podcast

The Voices of CX Podcast is a podcast that covers all things business strategies, customer decision insight, empathetic leadership practices, and tips for sustainable profitability. With a little bit of geeking out on behavioral science, A.I. and other innovation sprinkled in here and there. The guests span multiple industries, but all of them have years of experience to bring to the table.

📩Got something to say about CX or want to be featured on the show? Let us know! Email the Producer ([email protected]).

Transcript 

Mary

Hello and welcome back. We are reaching the final stretch for Voices of CX podcasts season nine. And today I am joined by Peter Schafer. Peter, I’m going to let you introduce yourself to the audience. I’m not going to steal any of your thunder here. I promise.

Peter

Great. I am currently the executive vice president of sales and marketing for a boutique communications firm called Everest Communications based out of Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., And in my career, it’s kind of had two parallel tracks. One has been in public relations and professional communications, and the second has been around market research and polling and working with companies on understanding not only the insights, but then communicating those insights and getting and propelling people forward based on those insights.

So I’ve worked for Gallup Poll. Harris Poll was CEO of a firm called KRC Research, which was part of Interpublic Group. So I’ve had this mix of, you know, data and data analytics and communications throughout my career.

Mary

That’s really interesting. That’s such an interesting mix because somehow it is related, even though it’s not commonly bunched together, like the PR thing with the polling and surveying thing. I do see the connection there. Did you have any time working in politics or anything like that?

Peter

I have. I worked in public affairs mainly, especially around issues management and some other things. So that’s the nexus point where it started to come together But and in fact, one the firm, the parent firm that owns Evans Communications, does political consulting as well. So there is a there is a certainly a connection point there.

Mary

So what do you think it is that makes you feel so passionate about the work you do? What is it that inspires you that when you wake up in the morning, I’m like, Yes, I get to do that.

Peter

Yeah. Well, you know, it’s two particular things really. One is that it allows me to satisfy my curiosity about human nature and about what people say and what they do. And often how that doesn’t necessarily match up, especially when you’re looking at data that, you know, intention versus action. So, you know, it satisfies that curiosity The second is that it’s there’s always something brand new happening in the data field or in the public arena.

And so that level of of change and dynamic creativity, you know, that’s attractive as well. So that’s one of the things that you mentioned. That’s what gets me up in the morning. And and really revved up about what I get to do with my clients and also with with my colleagues.

Mary

Yeah. I think there’s something really exciting also about promoting actionability around what you’re able to retrieve from data. And that’s something that we see as kind of a big problem in the world of customer experience, in the world of marketing, really is that there’s so much data, there’s almost a surplus of data everywhere you look and and finding something that actually makes a difference and moves the needle is such a challenge.

I don’t want to use to needle analogies in the same paragraph, but it’s like finding the needle in a haystack. So is there something that you have used or something that you have found throughout your career that has allowed you to be able to pull action from insights?

Peter

Yeah, you know, it’s a particular I guess, avocation or hobby more than it is, say, quote unquote, a profession, even though that is my job, is to look at data sets and to make sense of them and build narratives from those data sets around action or convincing somebody that they need to to ultimately take action The one thing that you mentioned there that I find really kind of interesting is that I think people underestimate just how much data they have access to on a day to day basis, I think.

And then they start compartmentalizing and making it smaller and smaller and smaller so they can do it. But you know, there’s a statistic and I find it kind of interesting, that in order to do your job on a day to day basis, a normal employee at a normal company, they’re using at least 15 pieces of different software. So you figure that even those 15 pieces of software are all generating new statistics, new pieces of data.

And I think really people ultimately get intimidated by trying to connect those dots. So one thing that that I’ve tried to do in my career is just be very, very clear about the outcome that I want one before I start looking at the data itself. You know, what questions do I need to have answers to? What is it that I really have to have in order to make an informed decision? Because I don’t want to get into the analysis by paralysis part.

The second thing is, does what I see in the data actually match up with what I’m seeing in the real world? Because oftentimes the statistics don’t necessarily match what’s going on behaviorally or even emotionally. And this is a statistic right now about 42% of Americans self-report that they are suffering from some level of mental illness. So you figure that four out of ten responses that you get on a survey are driven by this kind of mental health level.

So it does have some impact on the way people are answering questions, but it also has an impact on the way we need to look at how we interpret that data as well. And then the third thing is that every time that I see a piece of data that I think is either relevant to what I’m doing or interesting, I write it, actually physically write it down and then go back and try to connect the dots that way.

And there’s some, you know, elegance in the simplicity of just connecting those numbers together and saying, yeah, there you go. Exactly. I’ve got about a hundred moleskin that I’m working on, but any one time. But just actually writing it down has some level of translation for me about, Oh, that makes sense. And or I can see this pattern starting to emerge. Yeah, but those are the three things.

Mary

Yeah. I mean, this sounds like a very scientific approach to data. And the one thing that I’m interested in is what are some of the methods that you’ve implemented in order to avoid bias when when you’re doing this research? You come in with that hypothesis, you know, how do you make sure that that hypothesis isn’t biased, you know?

Peter

You know, that’s an excellent question. There are three techniques that I use that that are helpful, at least in forming, you know, or at least removing as much of the bias as I can and out of it. The first thing is I ask the same question in different ways. I change up the wording to see if we have a consistent set of variables that we can look at.

And, and sometimes that, you know, just even changing the wording, the question or the way the questions structured will lead to different results. So that’s number one. The number two is I before I really even launch or ask a question in a formal way, I test it out and actually get information from my colleagues. Were you able to answer this?

Does it make sense? Does it reflect where you are or could you easily answer it? Because that, I think, is one of the hardest biases to account for is your individual interpretation of what I’m trying to get from you. And then the third thing is that on the back end, I try not to go into looking at the data with any preconceived notion or, you know, or even the hypothesis.

The last thing I look at, I start looking at patterns and seeing if there is something that would jump out. And and I use this example when I work for Gallup Poll back in 22,000 we did a survey on people’s feelings towards the Supreme Court and their opinions about it. It was 61% after the election after the Supreme Court intervened and you know, did the George Bush Al Gore race it was still 61%.

What had happened was all the numbers behind it had changed. So it had shifted, you know, so that now it was Republican support, not Democrat support. So sometimes you have to dig beneath the surface and get it. You just can’t take it for face value.

Mary

That’s really interesting. And what happens in your career when you’re looking at a data set and you know you’re convinced that there’s gotta be something relevant in there, but it’s just noise, like there’s no detectable pattern. Yeah, but you know, what is what is your way to try to work around that noise and find something relevant?

Peter

I’d like to say that I’m able to do that pretty successfully, but I’m not. It is and the first thing I look at is did I ask the right questions? Did I or is this, you know, did I structure this question in a way that actually would give me information back? And oftentimes what happens is that either I could have used a different scale I could have worded it differently, you know, and I this is a really bad statistical description.

But, you know, when you’re in that like 2.8 to three point to range, that neutral, really kind of bland, and you’re like, oh, man, really? You know, you just want to know, did anybody really. Does anybody really care about the question? The second is that I compare what I find with other data sets from the past to at least see if there is any change or anything that I could report on that might be significant in either a trend that might be moving or in some other particular, you know, issue area.

And oftentimes that helps at least give me maybe a starting point to kind of look at something different. And you mentioned it earlier, we have so much data available that so much it’s easy. It’s easy, actually, to do that, to take a backward look and then and then look for it. The third thing that I do is just really it sounds kind of counter to if I just walk away from it and then come back with a fresh look because oftentimes like what you said, you just get so deep into the numbers and so deep into the research and you’re searching for the needle in the haystack.

And then you realize that you know, the haystack is overwhelming. You just have to step back out of it and then come at it with a different, you know, just a different perspective. You know, I’ve never been able to quantify but I would say right now in most surveys that probably about 60% of it generates noise and maybe 40% of it really generates something that’s that useful and helpful.

Mary

So, yeah, yeah, I would agree with that. Now, how how is it that you and your line of business, how are we dealing with the low response rates of surveys where people just have very little interest? I know that this changes from segment to segment when it comes to consumers specifically You know, I had a guest on the podcast a couple of years ago.

It’s funny to say that. And he talked about how Americans are bombarded with over 40 million survey requests, 40 billion surveys, sorry, that’s a much larger number per year. And it’s you know, it’s exhausting. It causes burnout, you know, so to a point where I think consumers are so burnt out that even when they want to answer a survey, there’s resistance because they feel there’s a lot of inaction behind it.

Is there something that you have noticed has been changing in the industry? In an attempt to try to salvage this research?

Peter

Yeah, it’s that’s a really, really excellent question, Mary. There have been a couple of things that have happened, and I wouldn’t say that any one of them has been terrifically successful, but there have been some things. The first is that many, many large organizations, companies, consumer focused, have created online communities instead and their own panels, instead of relying on outside sources for sample.

And what that does is that it allows them to add individual variables about a person so that they can then look and analyze the responses. And oftentimes that group could be, you know, for example, frequent fliers. It could be frequent shoppers based on your shopper card. So it makes it’s an easy way to join. It’s a large enough group where they can at least, you know, get their surveys completed.

And that has been, for the most part, a pretty successful I guess, alternative to outside sample. When I was working in the market research area, I think we estimated that was about 8 million people and basically it’s the same 8 million people participate in all of the surveys. So it’s a little bit you know, what it is? It is a quality issue, as you mentioned.

That’s just you know, the second thing is that people the companies that have panels in the companies that that provide sample have been changing up their incentive structures to make it more attractive to do some of these things. So instead of being points driven, it’s now gift card driven because it’s instant gratification and some other things. And then they’ve also taken that and they’ve gone to affinity groups and offered those affinity groups both an individual incentive, but also an incentive for the group.

So if you’re a part of, you know, an association, let’s say, and every time you complete a survey, the association gets a donation from the firm. So it’s, you know, kind of altruistic in that’s a model has made a comeback. But the incentive structure is one other area. The third and this isn’t really talked about that much is that a number of the companies are shrinking the number of questions they ask on a survey.

So it used to be the standard was anywhere between 15 to 18 minutes. Now the standard is anywhere between eight to 12 minutes. And that’s you know and I think right now about 45% of all surveys that are taken online are done on a mobile device. So you know they’ve accounted for that as well. But one of the one of the downsides to that is that because they’re, you know, you only have 20 questions to ask is that the questionnaire flow and the sequencing is not as elegant as it used to be.

So there’s a lot more abrupt. It’s almost like you’re being interchange of subjects. Yes, exactly. It’s almost, you know, it’s like, well, why did you this when did you do this? You know, and it’s the one thing that I will say, and this is from a consumer side, is that the consumer themselves have gotten a lot smarter about surveys, a lot smarter about how to answer questions.

And they’ve also gotten smarter about what they engage with and what they don’t engage with. One of the things that that has been the market research world has been trying to compensate for is that they’ve changed their statistical weighting schemes on the back end to account for lower completions, lower number of participants and those types of things. I think right now, I heard it, this is you know, if you want to get one complete, you have to contact at least 60 people to get that one complete. So, yeah.

Mary

Another trend I think in marketing research in general has been gathering unstructured data, which is now so abundant. Right. Would you say that the quality of data is better just as good or worse?

Peter

Oh, that’s a great question. I think it’s probably I think the quantity of data is worse. I think we still struggle with on the unstructured data itself. I think we still struggle with how to try to, number one, structure it. But number two is how to stop looking at that each unstructured set of data as with the same methodology, if that makes sense, I’m probably not.

Is that you know, I joke about this a lot with my colleagues because we do this in political polling a lot is that, you know, everybody has a statistics one to one background. But in order to do some of this unstructured data analysis, you need a little bit more, you know, statistical background. And I think we take those rudimentary methods and apply them the same to every data set.

And each data set is different, especially now with the amount of behavioral data that is available to us. You know, you can look on your mobile device and it can tell you what apps you’ve been on and how long and where you’ve been and things like that and that it can be very powerful if you interpret it in a, you know, multitude of ways.

But if you only look at it in a monolithic way, it’s not going to be that helpful. And I think that’s the case is that we’re looking at a lot of this unstructured data with the same the same lens all the time.

Mary

Yeah. Now, along those same lines, there are a lot of organizations out there that have given up serving entirely and exchanged it for predictive analytics. So just looking at the transactional data that they have, looking at the unstructured data, building the building patterns and forming predictions and all of that is fine and well until you have a black swan event and all of a sudden the market gets shipped upside down and shaken.

Right. And all of a sudden your predictive data is useless, useless because it isn’t at all a representation of what’s going to happen in in the forthcoming years. So what to do then? Have you noticed kind of a change in organizations going back to hot data let’s say, as opposed to analyzing transactional data with like predictive analysis and stuff?

Peter

Yeah, I’ve seen, I guess a renaissance like you mentioned, I think well, one thing is the emergence of focus groups. Yeah. A lot of marketers abandoned focus groups ten years ago. Oh, you couldn’t assign values to it and things like that. And now that they’re more, you know, more ways to collect that data, whether it’s online, the resume or something, or whether it’s through, you know, an actual face to face focus group a lot of marketers are going back to that because they need to answer the question why?

And surveys really don’t ever answer. The second thing that focus groups do is that they can give you a pretty good handle on intensity of that feeling. And again, surveys and even behavioral data and transactional data don’t allow that. So a lot of companies I know have kind of done it used to be a call quant call formula where it was we asked, you know, we’d ask them questions that would inform our questionnaire.

And then the questionnaire, once we got the results back, we would take a look at the you know, we do a focus group to see if that’s what was what we really found. I think the qual part on the end is coming back now where it’s OK, we’re seeing this transactional trend here. You know, number one, is it is it true?

Number two is does it fit in what we think, you know, currently is going on? And then then third is how do we act on it? And I think that’s the part that, you know, I think that’s the part that is the most interesting part is that that call part now gives you context to make act or take action.

Mary

Yeah, I can attest for this, I’m a board member at the Masters of Market Research Studies from UGA and I go to the career fair, and I speak to the candidates. And one thing that I noticed is this reawakening of the passion for qualitative research. And I mean, I’ve spoken to several candidates that have said, I don’t want to do quantitative.

I’m passionate about qual, about understanding, speaking to people. And in fact, I think that the methodologies around qualitative research have gotten so much more interesting. And now there is technology involved. I mean, I know some companies that have online qualitative or online focus group. I think Ramesh is one of those, right? Yeah, it does. Really interesting job in that.

Yeah. And in my company here, Worthix, we try to offer qual plus quant at scale. And we built qualitative questions into our surveys. So it’s interesting that this has gotten so much focus that’s it after so long. And like you think about focus groups, you think about this, oh, like rooms with a two way or the one way mirror and the executives on one side. And I don’t think that that’s it’s changed a lot, hasn’t it?

Peter

It really has. And, you know, it’s changed on both sides of the equation. It’s changed on the consumer side because they’re much more willing to share and they’re much more at ease about sharing because of that. You know, not only I think the technology, but also just that’s the way that they are now, you know, conditioned for like.

Yeah, right. But to do, you know, on the on the corporate side, I think that it’s a lot less sterile, for lack of a better way to put it. So it’s not like you’re just thrown into a room and it’s it’s there and the other thing, too, and this is I think really changed is that now data collection is a two way street.

Consumers have more power over what they will or will not share. And privacy is continuing to become a big issue. But, you know, that’s that’s a conscious choice that people are making it used to be that I ask you a question, you give me an answer, and that’s the extent of the transaction. And now it’s I’m willing to talk about having a dialog.

And I think that’s one of the reasons why companies have started to shift more into, you know, client success and client engagement. Because that it it it allows more information sharing, but it also allows for more dialog and collaboration. And I think that trend is going to continue to play out and expand. I think one of the things that we need to start watching is how we use that the qualitative for innovation, not for looking back at confirming what we already know or confirming data that and getting context around that. You know, that that futuristic look is going to be really, really important.

Mary

So it’s a really good point that you made about privacy and how we’re now able to personalize which data we share with companies. Whereas it was kind of almost like the Old West when it came to what sort of data companies were gathering on their customers for so long. And customers had no idea and it was basically just harvesting all of this information that we didn’t know we were sharing.

And now we get to pick and many people are opting to not share that data. So I believe that there’s going to be a come to Jesus moment when it comes to how data is collected and what we can do with it. And even on on a more like in my case, where I work in marketing, where we can no longer gather a lot of information that used to be very accessible to us and it just no longer exists.

And since companies like Google and Apple have stopped sharing with third parties, what happens is that we can no longer get an accurate reading of the market because that there’s a gap when it comes to that information. So we’re navigating blind when it comes to any users from big tech companies that have stopped sharing with third parties so we have to change the way that we’re doing things. And perhaps a return to Dialoging, like you said, could be the solution for the cookie loss era. Yeah, and.

Peter

You make an excellent point on that, Mary, and that is that I think marketers in general have been slow to change or slow to respond to some of these major shifts in not only the way Google and Apple operate but also just even second and third party data and even and even about how first party data is used in their day to day I did.

I had about a year ago, I had a conversation with a couple of university presidents, and we’re talking about how much data they’re sitting on top of. I mean, they’ve got student data, they’ve got alumni data. They’ve got probably some of the richest asset data out there. Because you’re, you know, if you’re share with your alma mater.

Sure. And I know the giving habits. I know what you know. And I told them, I said, at some point, you’re marketing department is going to have to say this is actually an asset that we need to build value from. It’s not just a static data set. And I think a lot of you know, a lot of marketers take it for granted that since I have all this data, it’s you know, it’s just I can do whatever I want with it or I’ll do with it. I’ll do something with it later. And yeah. And that’s and that’s later is already you know, that’s already it’s it’s already too late.

Mary

That’s a good point, Peter, because when you think about it, the expiry date on data has gotten shorter and shorter.

Peter

That’s right.

Mary

Like when you have changes like monumental changes in the market every couple of months, you know that. So how good is that data set even? How long is it good for when you think about it? So especially when tracking consumer behavior, which is crazy.

Peter

Yeah. Yeah. And you know, you make a great point. I would, wouldn’t even try to put an expiration date on it except for to say that, you know, probably it’s going to within, within a month to 45 days. Yeah. It’s going to be, it’s probably going to be stale.

Mary

And let me figure it, how does that work for research companies that it takes so long to put a survey together, send that survey out collect responses, do the back-end processing and then turn that into tableaus and reports, et cetera, to present by the time you present it it’s no longer good like what is the solution? Is the solution to put in trackers long term? Is it evergreen?

Peter

That’s that’s a great question. I you know, more companies have canceled trackers than have started them recently. One trend that did happen because of COVID was that was such a disruptive moment that almost every research firm that I knew actually gained business because people just they needed to figure out what was going on. That has started to cut back a little bit.

But, you know, your point is, I think really spot on is that they they respond to major disruptions, but they’re not responding to these little minor disruptions that are that may not seem like they’re big, but they’re actually, like you said, market changing you know, in this morning’s headlines, Kellogg’s going to split into three different companies. You know, I’m sure, you know, there are there are a lot of people going OK, well, am I going to get my you know, what’s the cereal?

Is it going to be the cereal division? Snack division? I mean, you know, because that is going to disrupt a lot of things, supply chain disruptions. I can’t get my product. I can’t get this. I can’t get this this change the landscape of, you know, a buying habits as well as is reported. All over the news. So you’re right.

I mean, some of these minor disruptions are actually a lot more consequential than I think marketers are giving. You know, giving. Yeah.

Mary

I was reading some research on retail and how they’ve got this these two problems that are contradictory where they’ve got surplus of inventory like Target announced and andat the same time, they’ve got shortage of inventory and other things. And and what’s happening is that companies aren’t quick enough to identify the trends and the changes in consumer purchase behaviors.

So they’re stocking up on the wrong things and they’re not buying enough of the things that customers want. So they’re really just missing the, the, the, the ball at say or dropping the ball on what customers want. And that’s so interesting. To me because it’s causing such a monumental issue in retail where they’ve got just tons of a product that nobody wants.

And then none of the product that people actually want. And then when they finally stock up in the thing that people wanted two months ago, people no longer want that and they moved on to the next thing. And this is all so connected to the behavior of the new generations when it comes to everything. You know, if you look at TikTok, how long is a TikTok trend?

Even active a week, maybe a week, and everyone is really on board. You know, I was watching this thing about Kate Bush’s running up that hill and how it broke all these records of being, you know, like the oldest song to reach number one or a song that took the longest to reach number one because it was featured in Stranger Things and all of a sudden all these generations discovered the song.

So every single TikTok you were watching had that song playing for maybe five days and now they’re on to the next thing. That trend is over. By the time the media reports on it, it is done, you know, and like, that’s how I know when a trend is over, when it comes out on mainstream media, it’s because, you know, tick tock has moved on to something else.

So if you consider that sort of speed of change in media and in media consumption and you apply it to the rest of the market, that that’s how fast people, consumers habits change as well because they’re all jumping on the next trend and trends come and go at the speed of light, you know?

Peter

Exactly.

Mary

Either these big box retailers and giant monumental companies are going to have to find some new way to provide what customers want or they’re going to be in really, really deep trouble. Or we have to find some way of changing people’s consumption habits?

Peter

Very well. You know, and to your point, and there’s an interesting you know, you’ve got it well, I used to work for an entertainment company as a client, and there’s a lot of information that people have or that people give based on their entertainment habits that actually are a lot more predictive than, you know, than people realize. And so we started asking, you know, what, three shows are you streaming right now?

What three? And typically you could tell by the genre, you know, a little bit more about that person’s purchasing habits. One of the things that we discovered, though, was this whole new nostalgia about products that were placed in those shows a long time ago. They’re now starting to reemerge. You know, like you said, the Kate Bush song.

I mean, I remember that from, you know, a long, long time ago, you know, but a product placement and Stranger Things, a product placement in Friends from 20 years ago that were in reruns. What was in the office you know, there when you look at those type streaming services and you think, man, wow, this is you know it does I think it causes is it should cause people to have a different level of curiosity and maybe a different level of questioning.

You know should I pay attention to this? Should I look at this, you know, on the ticktock thing, for example, you know, because that cycle is so quick yeah. It’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen next.

Mary

And it’s not even worth it for companies to jump on board, you know, like an example, for instance, is CUPE Mayo. Do you know Cup Mayo?

Peter

I don’t think so.

Mary

Kewpie Mayo is Japanese mayonnaise. And it’s been kind of a cult favorite for foodies and kind of everyone who’s in the food scene for some time now. OK, and I’ve been a really big fan of Cube for a while and then an influencer on on Tech Talk. And then, of course, share to all the other media posted a recipe about how to make some disgusting contraption of day old rice, shredded salmon, kewpie mayo, and then put it in a little seaweed.

Right, chip. And that being a meal. And this blew up. It blew up, right? So couple of course, was not expecting this. They didn’t prepare for this in advance. It disappeared off the shelves. People like me couldn’t find you anywhere. And then all the stores stocked up on ship and they had endless shelves, a cube. And then the trend was over.

And now they’ve got too much product that doesn’t have the same outlets, say. And there was a huge disruption to production. They had to increase production for a while and then production died off. And then I imagine, I don’t know supply chain, I don’t know how this works, but I imagine it could be extremely disruptive. So is this even a trend that companies want to jump on?

Like, how do you know if ultimately it’s going to be more disruptive or if it’s actually going to be favorable for your brand? How do you keep up?

Peter

Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think that it’s you know, most people that I know fall into that trap of exactly that cycle that you just described is that they over overestimate and then have to recalibrate on the back end and I was working with a product consumer product company a while ago where they had a similar situation where they’re you know, they had a bump a significant bump in sales because of an influencer.

They ramped up production, then they drop back down. The thing that was really interesting was that in order to move the product, that the oversupply now they dropped the price and that devalued the the brand equity that they had had. So now that came off looking like they were you know, what’s the word I’m looking for a bargain company and not more of a, you know, luxury brand.

And, you know, and I think that if you are if you are taken in by the temptation of reacting to this instead of responding to it. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I think you’re going to get yourself into some traps. And I think, you know, I there are a lot of people who’ve made a lot of money based on fad marketing.

And, you know, and in some regard, if you decide to make a serious decision to give in to the fad, you’re going to have to deal with the consequences of that fad. And I think that that’s that analysis is not really done until you have it’s too late.

Mary

So I mean, like this is this is an opportunity here, both you and me, Peter, we’ve been in this industry for a while. You a lot longer than me. You’ve got more experience in it. How what should companies do? How can they even predict these spikes? Should they predict these spikes? Should they just roll with it? How do they keep up with the speed of change?

How do they focus on what truly matters and not get on board some fad that passes over and then they disrupted everything for nothing? What is an interesting solution here?

Peter

You know, it’s a great question. And I there a couple of things that I have talked about with my clients in regard to just, you know, trying to grasp on to some of this and making more sense. And, you know, in our industry, especially on the communication side, you mentioned that, you know, a tick tock might have a five day lifespan.

We had a situation happen two weeks ago where one of our clients was the subject of a media story. And our advice to them was in three days, this is going to go away. So don’t just don’t respond yet. Three days later, it was, you know. No. And nobody brought it back up again. And it used to be that those news cycles could be weeks or months.

Now it’s days or hours. And I think so. So number one is I think you need to really question your assumption and change your mindset around it and listen to some of the people that, you know. May I for example, I listen to my kids a lot when they talk about what they do and how they’re buying. And, you know, and sometimes, you know, what they do in regards to engaging with a particular brand or, you know, what they see on Tick Tock, would they go?

This happened actually this weekend. My daughter had seen a performer on YouTube and bought tickets to his concert in Washington, D.C. So, you know, it’s just kind of all these different channels that are available. The second is, is that I suggest that they create a future committee where it’s only it’s, you know, four or five people, but all they talk about is the future and disruptions that they are seeing in their own personal lives.

And just ask the question, would that have an impact on us? Does this have it? So, you know, for example, I work with a client who has a five person committee on reacting to the great resignation. You know, and some people say the great resignation is over now because of that. Right I mean, you know, you just have to kind of keep testing and keep testing.

Third, though, and this is something that’s both on the market research side and whatever is that you just make a list of those sources of intelligence that you need to be taking a look at, both old and new. And so so for example, is everybody, whether you are on tick tock or not, should be watching or at least have some idea of what’s going on with someone.

Mary

Yeah. Yeah, it’s monitoring it, right? For sure.

Peter

Yeah. I mean, in and there other you know, I guess I don’t want to say lower level channels, but channels that are less used but are as significant as they are. I mean, one, one of the questions that I like to ask a lot of consumers is we just mentioned a couple or I mentioned a couple minutes ago is what are you streaming right now?

Because it tells me whether you’re binge watching, it tells me what you’re you know, there’s some things, but it’s not a threatening question. It’s not like, did you buy this? Did you? And so I think that there ought to be a battery of questions that should be asked that would give you an indication of just where people are in their, you know, brilliant, you know, and just keep repeating those because I think sometimes we tend to think about we’re trying to measure people’s behavior, but we don’t talk to them about what’s motivating that behavior that much.

Yeah. Going back to the call for a second, but there are some connections to that behavior that I think are could signal some shifts in the way people are operating and you mentioned it earlier, and I think it’s absolutely spot on. I think there is a generational component to it. I just don’t think we’ve sorted out yet what that yeah.

Mary

I really like that idea, Peter, about making a future panel. And I would take it one step further and say that, you know, for your future panel, depending on who you serve and how big your market is, make sure you have some diversity on there to be an accurate representation of your market that you’re able to get all these different points of view.

You know, so if you if you are kind of transgenerational, make sure that you’ve got some samples of each generation of your buyers on there. Make sure you have racial diversity, make sure you have diversity of thought. So important, you know, and diversity of channels like you said, and being able to have just someone that’s keeping the brand in mind when tracking all of these trends.

And like you said, how does this trend affect our brand? Is this something that we should be concerned about? Is this something that we should somehow strategize on and take protective measures about? And all of these things are so crucial. So crucial. I actually really like that idea of good.

Peter

Yeah. I you know, and I tend to be or fall into the camp of less or more informal than formal because then it doesn’t become just another meeting on my calendar kind of thing. But but I’ve seen it work very effectively in both corporate and not for profit atmospheres. The one thing that I would say is that they tend to have shorter shelf lives or shorter than maybe they, they should because I think that there’s this desire to solve that issue and get it done quickly and move on that it doesn’t allow for some of that bubbling up that that should occur. That could occur. And it does, I think maybe diminish the the result.

Mary

Yeah. Well, you know what, Peter, I’m going to have to have you back on the show. Because I have all of these things that I was supposed to talk to you about, and I didn’t because we got carried away. But we were talking about stuff that’s so current. I don’t know how long it’s going to be current or when these trends are going to change.

For now, I think that this is such a relative or a relevant conversation to the reality of research nowadays, and it’s been so insightful and so fun to have you on. Thank you so much.

Peter

No, it’s been all my pleasure. Mary, thank you very much. And I’m glad that, you know, I’m glad we actually did some of the detours because maybe we could actually delve into some other things that that are as relevant to the audience.

Mary

Absolutely. Well, to our audience, who I imagine are going to enjoy this conversation as much as I did. How can they talk to you? How can they listen to you? How can they contact you? If they have follow up questions or if they just want to learn more?

Peter

Sure, they can reach me at LinkedIn. I’m at Pete Shafer on LinkedIn and my email address, which is the probably the easiest way to get a hold of me is [email protected] and I’d be more than happy to talk about this and you know, even some more, I guess a more statistical side on the on the research stuff.

Mary

So that’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Peter. It’s been a pleasure having you to all of our listeners and viewers, thanks for joining us and we’ll see you again soon. Thank you.


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Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix, the world's first cognitive dialogue technology, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.

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