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According to a recent poll of Central New Yorkers conducted by Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) ViewPoint, 24% of individuals purchase 10 to 12 gifts this holiday season, with 21% purchasing for 7 to 9 people, and 19% for both 4 to 6 and more than 15 people. When it comes to starting their holiday shopping, many (32%) stated that they start up to 3 months beforehand, while 25% start less than a month before and 16% start shopping on Black Friday. Nearly half (48%) of participants took on the Black Friday crowds this season, and of those who shop on Black Friday, only 38% will arrive before the store opens.

When we asked respondents to indicate who the hardest person to shop for is, many females said it was their boyfriend/husband (30%), with fathers coming in second (18%). The males responded similarly with close to half (41%) saying their girlfriend/wife, and mothers coming in second (19%) as the hardest to buy for during the holiday season.

As much as we don’t like admitting it, some gifts are just not your style, you couldn’t see yourself using it, or you just don’t want it (putting it nicely). When we asked respondents if they have ever re-gifted a present during the holiday season, more than half (51%) confirmed that they have.

Respondents indicated that on average, they spend approximately $945 during the holiday season. More than half (57%) of respondents stated that they do a majority of their holiday shopping online, and 39% shop at shopping malls/general stand alone stores. Of those who shop online, 90% plan to shop on Amazon.com this holiday season, while 75% will shop on retail websites such as Walmart.com, Target.com, and jcpenney.com. Others (24%) indicated that they will shop at discount online sites such as Overstock.com, Wayfair.com, Jet.com, and Zulily.com. All of that holiday shopping takes some time, about 6 to 10 hours on average (29%).

Survey results also indicated that many people plan to stay local for the holidays. About three fourths of respondents (72%) do not plan to travel out of town this holiday season. Of those traveling, the average distance they will journey is 913 miles.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at http://www.RMSresults.com. Happy Holidays!

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Since the 5th century, Valentine’s Day has been celebrated with loved ones on February 14th to commemorate St. Valentine. Opinions differ on who St. Valentine was. Some believe there are multiple saints this holiday could have stemmed from, while others believe this holiday was created and first referenced in a poem titled, “The Parliament of Fowls,” by Geoffrey Chaucer. Somewhat known today as the greeting card industry’s holiday, Valentine’s Day is coined as the perfect holiday for giving loved ones flowers, chocolates, and a carefully picked out Valentine’s Day card. As researchers, we couldn’t help but wonder what Valentine’s Day looks like by the numbers!

Valentines Day infographic-01

About RMS

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a full service marketing and market research firm located in Baldwinsville, NY. RMS provides an array of research methodologies that result in actionable insights and recommendations for the client to enhance decision making. RMS is also home to QualiSight, a premier focus group and interview research facility, and RMS ViewPoint, a leading consumer research panel in Central New York. To learn more, visit our website at: RMSresults.com

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Survey Shows Majority Prepared, Avoid Black Friday, Embrace Cyber Monday

This blog post was written by Erin Wisneski, Communications Coordinator for Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS).  

The New Year has dawned and, as our Top Ten Trends of 2012 laid out, many exciting developments are o­n the horizon for market research. Before we embrace these changes, however, let’s review the recent hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

holiday shopping market research central new york

In an effort to show the lighter side of market research, in addition to better understanding Central New York’s consumer, Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) conducted a holiday shopping survey. While the results won’t cause revolutionary changes in the way vendors prepare for the holiday season, there are some intriguing insights to consider.

For example, more than three-quarters (76.1%) of shoppers surveyed said they made a list prior to beginning their holiday shopping, and nearly nine-tenths of those (88.6%) “checked it twice.” This indicates most shoppers have a plan prior to beginning their holiday shopping. In addition, 63 percent said they have a holiday gift budget, which more than half (52.2%) said was about the same as the previous year. Those who were planning to spend more and less than the previous year were exactly the same percentage (23.9%).

As for the prepared shoppers, 50 percent of those surveyed said they begin their shopping prior to Thanksgiving and 8.7 percent said they finish before Turkey Day – talk about a stress-free December. Of those who begin after Thanksgiving, more than a quarter of shoppers surveyed (28.3%) said they steer clear of Black Friday while 17.4 percent said they venture out. Surprisingly, when it came to established sales days for in-person shopping (Black Friday and Small Business Saturday), the majority of those surveyed did not shop on those days; 63 percent said no to Black Friday and 65.2 percent said no to Small Business Saturday. On the other hand, a majority (58.8%) of shoppers surveyed did take advantage of Cyber Monday. While 41.3 percent said they shop the day before the holiday, a small percentage (4.3%) procrastinate beginning and ending their shopping Christmas Eve – sounds like risky business! Of course, that all depends on the size of your list.

Nearly a majority (47.8%) of shoppers surveyed said they shop for five to 10 people, while 30.4 percent shop for 11 to 20 people, 13 percent shop for less than five people, and 8.7 percent buy gifts for more than 20 people (that’s quite a list!). When it came to budget specifics, 39.1 percent said they spent between $501 to $1,000 on gifts, while 30.4 percent spent between $101 to $500, 28.3 percent spent more than $1,000, and 2.2 percent spent less than $100. How did they pay for their gifts? A near majority (45.7%) paid for most purchases with a credit card, while 43.4 percent stayed in the black using either cash (13%) or ATM/debit card (30.4%). A small percentage (4.3%) used lay away.

Despite the ease Internet shopping can provide during this hectic season, 63 percent of shoppers surveyed said they did the majority of their shopping in person, while 34.8 percent did the majority online. In fact, nearly all (93.5%) of those surveyed said they do some shopping in person. Of course, this doesn’t mean those surveyed aren’t taking advantage of online shopping as nearly three-quarters (73.9%) said they made online purchases. While only 2.2 percent used mail order catalogs for the majority of their shopping, 32.6 percent also said they did some catalog shopping; 6.5 percent said they did some shopping via telephone, but no one surveyed said the majority of their shopping was conducted in this manner.

Last, but certainly not least, is where shoppers looked for sales and specials – an interesting statistic for vendors. Online research (41.3%) and newspaper circulars (32.6%) blew away other mediums (radio/TV ads – 2.2%, mail flyers – 6.5%, in-store ads – 8.7%, email newsletters and alerts – 6.5%, and other – 2.2%) for promotions, according to shoppers surveyed. Even more interesting is that none of the shoppers surveyed said they were influenced by website banner ads.

While this is just a fun and brief glimpse into the holiday shopping habits of the CNY shopper, it certainly provides food for thought such as the preparations shoppers engage in prior to fulfilling their lists, the means in which vendors reach these shoppers and the “hype” surrounding established shopping days. Keep these statistics in mind when planning for the 2012 holiday season.

To learn more about surveys and market research, contact Sandy Baker at Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) via email (SandyB@RMSresults.com) or phone (315) 635-9802.

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Here in the Bunker, we believe market research is for everybody and can apply to just about every situation. To prove our point, and to continue our annual tradition of celebrating the Fourth of July holiday with a snarky blog post, we have come up with a list of significant figures from American history and our  recommendation of a market research technique that, in retrospect, could have helped them or the people around them:

1. Sir Walter Raleigh, founder of The Lost Colony of Roanoke – Site selection study.market research syracuse ny 2

2. The Canarsie tribe, who allegedly sold Manhattan island to the Dutch for a load of cloth, beads and trinkets — Van Westendorp’s Price Sensitivity Meter.

3. The Salem Witch Trial defendants – Jury pool research.

4. Benedict Arnold — Brand loyalty tracking survey.

5. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America during its 4-year history – Long-range feasibility study.

6. William Seward, who, in a rare case of the Federal government getting a good bargain, purchased Alaska for 2 cents per acre – Shop-along field observation.

7. General George Custer, loser of the Battle of Little Big Horn – Strategic planning consultation.

8. Thomas Edison, inventor and holder of over 1,000 patents – New product concept focus groups.

9. Charles Lindbergh, who in the 1930s, advocated stronger U.S. ties with Nazi Germany – Competitive threat analysis.

10. O.J. Simpson, who led police on an ill-fated chase on the L.A. freeway system – Traffic volume study.

11. Al Gore, who lost the 2000 presidential race, despite winning the popular vote – Data weighting.

Happy birthday, America! Have a fun and safe holiday weekend.

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With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, the day after Saturday (yes, it’s this Sunday, May 8th – yet another reminder!), we put together a few things we have heard our mothers say.  Although they probably didn’t have market research in mind as they were trying to teach us valuable life lessons, we always have market research on the mind here in the Bunker.  Here is our spin on some classic sayings from moms and their impact on our daily market research work.

1. “Would you jump off a bridge if everyone else did?”  The time-tested advice saying you don’t have to do something just because everyone else is.  We equate this to some of the new methodologies that are emerging in the marketing research industry.  Just because a methodology or concept sounds new and trendy (e.g., crowdsourcing), doesn’t mean it’s right for your project or your client.  Quite often, it can be best to stick with a proven and reliable methodology for conducting research.  Even when all options are considered for a quantitative study – timeline, cost, deliverables – sometimes you just can’t beat the data quality offered by a well-prepared telephone survey.

2. “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.”   Seems pretty basic right?  But when you’re conducting market research, no matter how small the scope may be, how small the client may be, or how small the bid, make sure it is done right.  This valuable life lesson from mom can be carried through all phases of market research – proposal writing, survey design, fieldwork, quality control monitoring, analysis, report writing, and presentations.

3. “Don’t leave the dinner table until you finish all of your vegetables!”  Sometimes that little side-dish might not be the tastiest thing, but there are tons of reasons your mom is telling you to eat it.  If you’re conducting market research, don’t cut corners because something is unpleasant to get through.  For instance, it may mean staying late and running those extra cross-tabulations for your client’s report.  For businesses about to engage market research, it could also mean taking the time to put together your customer data no matter how unorganized it may be.

4. “Go outside and play!”  From a market research perspective, we find this applies best with our site selection market research in terms of always going to visit the site or plot of land in person.  This helps the research team get on-site perspectives on the proposed location.  However, the adage “go outside and play” can apply to really any market research project you work on.  If you are doing a survey for a restaurant, take a night to eat there to see firsthand how the food and service rates on your scale.  If you are doing a survey on a local entertainment venue, take some time one weekend and go check it out.  It will provide you with observational data and help you better interpret survey responses because you’ve actually experienced it yourself.

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Here in the Bunker, we put together everything that we, as market researchers, love.  So in honor of Valentine’s Day 2011, here they are:

  1. Unexpectedly high response rates.  Reaching the survey completes quota on the first day of an online survey; recruiting a peculiar niche for a focus group in a few days; receiving a majority of the mail survey responses in first few batches of incoming mail – these are all things we love!
  2. Large respondent pools.  This goes along with high response rates; having a large pool of respondents to work with makes the initial stages of the research process a lot easier, and along with that, a lot more reliable as you are likely to receive more completes.
  3. Full attendance at focus groups.  Our research relies heavily upon participants when conducting focus groups.  When questionable weather is on the horizon, a market researcher is always worried about being stood-up by respondents.
  4. Respondents that provide valuable and clean information.  Well thought out answers create a great foundation for market research.  Knowing the respondent really took the time to contribute their input is something we love.  A bonus desire: respondents who use proper spelling and grammar while entering open-ended responses.
  5. Receiving thanks from survey respondents.  Every so often we run into a respondent where they are not only willing to voice their feedback, but also appreciate the opportunity to provide their feedback to our client. 
  6. Having those “ah-ha” moments when analyzing data.  Drawing valuable recommendations from the research and finding information that we know will help the client is one of the things we love the most.  Those “ah-ha” moments – the need for a specific change that becomes realized in the research process – make our jobs worthwhile.
  7. When a client acts on the findings of a research project.  Knowing that your research report isn’t just collecting dust always makes you feel good about the research you conducted.  Seeing a company take and act on your findings is especially nice.  Every so often, you might see your data included in the new marketing campaign that goes out to the masses.
  8. Seeing the end value your research provides to the client.   Seeing your market research incorporated into a business plan is a wonderful feeling – especially when the business sees a great return and achieves their goals.  In feasibility studies, seeing concepts that were tested get built and flourish into something great is what we love to see.

These are some of the things we love as market researchers.  I’m sure there are many more things, so please feel free to comment and add the things you love to the list!

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Market Research can be quite a valuable tool for a business.  It helps a business make decisions based on actuality rather than hunches.  When going through the process of conducting research, it is important to get the most value out of it as possible.  We came up with a few tips (resolutions!) to help you get the most out of your Market Research.

  1. Understand the goal of your Market Research. It is important to consider the end goal of your market research – what exactly do you hope to get out of it?  The question is something that needs to be frequently revisited (especially in the early stages of research).  Reminding yourself of the goals will help keep a direction to your project.
  2. Utilize the flexibility of Market Research. In Market Research, there is a seemingly endless combination of methodologies and options available.  You may soon come to realize that one option is better than another for a certain component of your research.  There are many tools in a Market Researcher’s toolbox you may not be aware of, and it is a good idea to evaluate your options before deciding if something is feasible or not.
  3. Provide as much information as possible to your Market Research team. Making available relevant data and documents to your market research team is a great way to increase the overall value of your research.  Unrealized findings may appear out of a company’s own data when analyzed from a variety of angles.  Companies oftentimes have years of records and feedback that can be used to identify trends.  Findings in the data may provide realizations that the scope of the research needs to be altered in order to provide a greater benefit or to answer a significant question.
  4. Explore the problem that exists before attempting to break it down.  If you don’t fully understand your problem, you should direct your effort into exploring the problem before attempting to solve it. Conducting exploratory research through qualitative methods (such as in-depth interviews or focus groups) is one example of a way to gain insight on a problem, while at the same time developing a foundation for which to answer the problem.
  5. Follow up on your research (when necessary).  You have conducted a few focus groups, and you now realize where your problem stands and have a few ideas on how to fix it.  You know change needs to be instituted, but you would like to expand on what type of change your target audience would prefer.  Conducting a study, in this case, to gather statically reliable information on your audience as a whole is one way to follow up your research and provide a solid solution.
  6. Develop a strategy/set of plans to utilize the results of your market research and carry out your recommendations. Even if the research did not come to the conclusion that you had expected, a market research report is a valuable collection of information.  Develop a plan to follow through with changes that are based on your market research results.  Having an understanding of your audience/customer is something that should be acted on without delay – make use of the information gathered while it is still valuable and fresh.

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Happy Holidays!

-The Bunker

*Image attained from wordle.net

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In honor of Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, the RMS Research Bunker did a little secondary research and pulled some interesting tidbits about the holiday.  Here are some of our advanced secondary research findings from our expert team of Googlers:

  • Americans feast on 535 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the United States at Thanksgiving. That number represents one sixth of all the turkeys sold in the U.S. each year.
  • The average person consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day.
  • The average weight of a turkey purchased at Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.
  • A 15-pound turkey usually has about 70% white meat and 30% dark meat.
  • 60% of adult males say they take a nap on Thanksgiving.
  • 56% of adult females say they take a nap on Thanksgiving.
  • 22% of Americans say their kitchen would fail a food-safety inspection.
  • 53% of Americans say they do not use disinfectant on kitchen counters.

Sources: The Water Quality & Health Council, Allrecipes.com, Domino’s Pizza, Dunkin’ Donuts, Chemistry.com, 1800flowers.com, WHSV.com.

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Halloween is just a few days away. In honor of the scariest holiday on the calendar, we here at the Bunker Blog want to provide our fellow market researchers with some spooky situations. For the most part, the market research community is a pretty even-tempered bunch. We’re not the kind of people who will jump out of our shoes at the sight of fake blood or a rubber monster mask. But there are things that are guaranteed to terrify us. That’s what this post is about.

1. When Mother Nature Hates You

It’s the night of the big focus groups. The participants have all been recruited, enticed by a lucrative honorarium. The facility has been paid for. The client has come in from out-of-town. Maybe you’ve come in from out-of-town. And then, an hour before the night’s first group, a blizzard hits and your participants stay home in droves. Looks like you’ll be rescheduling this one.  Okay, we admit it. Being located in Syracuse, NY, this one might have actually happened to us a few times. In reality, Syracusans are fortunate if it doesn’t snow on Halloween.

2. Computer Gremlins – The Online Survey That Goes Offline

You’ve launched a major online survey. Email invites have gone out to perhaps thousands of potential respondents. Imagine how ticked off they’ll be when they click on the link, only to receive an error message because a server or your service provider somewhere has gone down. Many of them won’t try a second time. If you’re lucky, they’ll start emailing and calling your office using the contact info you provided. You’ll get messages stating there’s a problem, many of which will be more irate than a group of trick-or-treaters after they visit the house of that elderly couple that gives out pennies instead of candy.   Test, test and retest your survey link before launch.  Make your IT department or provider aware of the upcoming survey before it happens. Control the things you can control.

3. Scary Silences – The In-Depth Interviewee with Nothing to Say

The great thing about B2B in-depth interviews (IDIs) is that they are usually conducted among people who are experts on a given topic, unless it’s a general B2C study. When they start talking, they have a wealth of information to offer. The problem comes when they don’t start talking. Sometimes interviewees clam up when you get them on the phone – or worse yet, you have traveled to their office to talk to them in person. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they’re naturally shy. Whatever the cause, when the cat gets the interviewee’s tongue, it leaves you with not much other than a lot of awkward silences and unanswered questions. When you’re in the middle of a bumpy qualitative research project, nobody can hear you scream (unless they sit next to your cubicle). There are a lot of different tried and true techniques an interviewer can use to probe for information, but sometimes there is nothing you can do.

4. Tiny Terrors – The Minuscule Survey Response Rate

Your call center has two weeks to get 400 completes for a telephone survey that needs to be done by the end of the month. On the first day of putting full resources on it they get…three. Discovering that people aren’t completing your survey at the rate you had budgeted for is always good for a pit in the stomach. You are faced with the situation of having to relax the screener criteria, putting maximum resources on a project, or having to tell the client that the timeline will be delayed. Or all three. It’s like going to the mansion on the hill for trick-or-treating to get that king size Snicker’s bar you get every year, but as you see it from a distance the porch light is off. Again, doing some pretests up front will help you judge the response rate before going all-in.  After you’ve done enough similar studies in particular industries like RMS has, we can estimate a response rate with a specific audience quite accurately.

5. More Computer Gremlins – When PowerPoint Gives Up the Ghost

This is perhaps the most classic nightmare scenario on the list. Equivalent to the feeling you had when your cheap rubber band snapped on your Spiderman mask when you were 6. You’re standing in front of a board room, maybe even an auditorium. You’re there to deliver a summary of research findings to an eager audience. Minutes before the presentation, you discover that PowerPoint doesn’t work properly. Even worse is when it breaks down in the middle of the presentation. Worse still is when the breakdown results in the image of your computer desktop with all the non work-related shortcut icons being displayed for the whole room to ponder. “How much time did this guy spend playing solitaire when he should have been writing our report and figuring out how to use PowerPoint?” It’s always a good backup plan to save the presentation beforehand in various locations.  Or even have a 2nd computer available for such issues.  All in all, sometimes there’s nothing you can do about this gremlin.  Even if you don’t feed it after midnight.

If you work in market research, those situations probably gave you cold sweats just thinking about them. Perhaps even some of them have happened to you. Sleep well tonight. Bwahahahahaha!!!

Feel free to share any nightmarish stories you might have from your market research history – the Bunker welcomes some additional frights.

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