Sunday, 23 February 2014

BLOG -- A Couple Aftereffects of Working in the Market Research Industry

NOTE:  If you read this entry before February 24th, 2014, 8:45 PM, you may have read an earlier iteration that contained a couple of misinformation and vague terms. Well, vague-ish terms will still be there, but hopefully, the misinformation has been cleared up.

I don't know how interesting this entry will be. It's kinda been on my mind for a while, so I figure, why not blog about it? This entry won't be a knock against the Market Research Industry -- just a couple of observations I've made.

So I've been working in the Market Research Industry for a while now. Since I never took any Market Research-focused programs before employment, pretty much everything was new to me and I had to learn my butt off (I still have more learning to do). Of course, working in Market Research has resulted in many aftereffects (like my love of Excel), but here are two that I consider most... "aftereffect"-like -- like a lingering habit you just can't kick.

1. Brand Awareness Goes Up OVER 9000 -- Before working in the Market Research Industry, I probably only knew a handful of brand names for whatever categories I was interested in. Back then, I was able to gloss over brands I didn't recognize when grocery-shopping. That's not the case anymore. 

One question that gets answered quite often in Market Research is how a client's brand is doing against the competition. And when I say competition, I don't mean just the major competition -- I mean the big names PLUS others. How would I come up with the other names if I didn't already know them? Research the category to see what comes up, exposing the brand's name to me. If I'm ever involved in a study that includes a virtual shopping exercise, there's a good chance that I may have to go out and buy the products or test the environment when it's ready. Either actions expose me to the brand and its packaging. One such study (study with a virtual shopping experience) actually affected my shopping preferences!

When I shop now, either in a supermarket or wherever, I notice way more brands. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. Having more options is nice -- but I worry for my wallet, haha.

2. Meta-Self-Evaluation -- So this is something that I've been thinking about for the past few weeks. I was recently involved in a study that had a Conjoint exercise. Even though I've worked on studies with Conjoint in the past, somebody else always did the analysis of it, so I never bothered to learn about it. In all honesty, the set up of Conjoint and its outputs always intimidated me -- it looked so complex that I thought I would never understand it. Now, I understand it a little -- at least, I think I do -- and it is interesting stuff.

To talk a bit about Conjoint (it is actually a little lengthy so please bear with me), it is a method that runs with this idea in mind (if this is way off the mark, somebody tell me!):

When deciding to do an action vs. doing another action, or choosing between one product / service or another, we subconsciously assign a value (our own, personal value) to each of the various factors that could affect the decision. This could be the physical look of a product, the specific type of service that's offered, or whatever else. The choice we make in the end would be the decision that has the highest total value.

Conjoint essentially tries to determine the value of each factor and the importance of them.

The design for Conjoint often involves the evaluation of many different scenarios with varying combinations of features, but for the purposes of this blog length (don't want you scrolling like crazy!), let's just go with one scenario (unless you walk into a store and decide to evaluate your options elsewhere, one scenario is kinda close to a real life situation): 

Let's say I am trying to buy between, I don't know, three magical potions. Assuming that bottle shape and colour are the same, below are the various features / factors that I subconsciously notice for each potion.

Potion #1:
-tastes like strawberry 
-grants me the temporary power to see through walls
-lasts for 30 days
-any side effects: temporary blindness for 7 days
-costs $300

Potion #2:
-tastes like wood
-grants me the temporary power to read people's minds
-lasts for 2 years
-any side effects: amnesia for 30 days
-costs $5,000

Potion #3:
-tastes like BBQ chips
-grants me the temporary power to breathe life into my fantasies, either drawn or written
-lasts for 7 days (creations remain alive until the original source is destroyed)
-any side effects: none
-costs $20,000

 So, let's just say I have enough money to afford any of these potions. When presented with these three options, I may subconsciously value the features / factors like below (NOTE: This is just to illustrate; Conjoint analysis would involve determining these values from many different combinations, using an algorithm that has nothing to do with this blog):

Potion #1: (Total value:5)
-tastes like strawberry (0 -- eh... strawberry flavour is okay, I guess) 
-grants me the temporary power to see through walls (1 -- this is kinda nifty)
-lasts for 30 days (2 -- 30 days is a nice duration)
-any side effects: temporary blindness for 7 days (-1 -- don't like this effect)
-costs $300 (3 -- okay price, I guess)

Potion #2: (Total value:3)
-tastes like wood (-1 -- who wants to taste wood?)
-grants me the temporary power to read people's minds (2 -- this would be awesome!)
-lasts for 2 years (3 -- Oh yeah, 2 years of reading people's minds!)
-any side effects: amnesia for 30 days (-2 -- I can't stand the thought of losing my memories)
-costs $5,000 (1 -- Yuck, but do-able, I guess)

Potion #3: (Total value:7)
-tastes like BBQ chips (3 -- I LOVE CHIPS!)
-grants me the temporary power to breathe life into my fantasies, either drawn or written (3 -- way cool! I'll never be alone!)
-lasts for 7 days (creations remain alive until the original source is destroyed) (1 -- darn, but at least my creations stay alive)
-any side effects: none (3 -- now that's what I like to hear!)
-costs $20,000 (-3 -- Oh my...)

Looking at the total value of each potion, I would buy Potion #3.

Now, let's change up my feeling about buying the potions. Let's say I was really hesitant to buy any of them -- I heard about these potions from a friend of a friend (how reliable is that??). Now, even though it's not presented as a physical option, "none" is also an option, and I can subconsciously assign a value to that as well. Even before I could finish typing that last sentence, I knew that I did.

Going back to my original attitude (laidback and keen on buying a potion), let's say I subconsciously value "buying no potions" as 5 (which is lower than Potion #3, so Potion #3 still wins). BUT... now that I am really hesitant, I may subconsciously place a higher value on "buying no potions"... to a 9. Assuming that I still subconsciously value each feature / factor the same as before, I would NOT buy any potion in this case, because "buying no potions" has the highest total value. Isn't this stuff so cool?

Now I just have to mention: this is just ONE kind of analysis that Conjoint provides. I did not mention anything at all about interaction effects, share of preference, etc. I am just scratching the surface, which is enough for me to get to my next bit (also, I am still learning, but that's besides the point).

So where am I going with this? Well, after learning about Conjoint, I've been thinking about my own choices! Hahaha. I wonder about what factors may be really important to me -- what could get me to "choose it". Like, when Rightstuf was having their Holiday sale last year, I made a lot of blind buys. Besides often feeling agreeable with the story synopsis of whichever show described at Anime News Network, what other factors came into play? I know that fairly high ratings for each show was considered, but to what degree? 

And then, of course, comes my thoughts about my video game-buying behaviour. There are some video games that I am willing to pay full price, day one. There are some video games where I wouldn't mind picking it up later on. What sort of factors am I evaluating here? How do I decide which one goes in the "DAY ONE, MOTHERF***ER!" pile and which one goes in the "I WILL WAIT" pile? I already have some ideas about the kind of factors I consider, and I may blog about it in the future.

Here's another situation that's happened recently. It's not something I wonder about, but I think it illustrates the evaluation of a couple of factors nicely. It also gives me a chance to mention it *squee*! Last weekend, my sister, her fiance, and I visited a travel agency to book tickets to Japan in May (yeah! I'm going to Japan in May!). We asked if the rep could also make hotel bookings for us and my sister's fiance listed two hotels he had in mind. He chose those hotels because a) they were fairly close to a station, and b) the user ratings were high. 

The rep contacted somebody to see if we could get any discount on the hotels. The rep told us that he could book either of the two hotels for us, but there wouldn't be a discount. He also offered another hotel option that would be farther away from the station but would cost us $200 less. My sister's fiance checked the hotel online and it had a 3-star rating. After discussing it amongst us, we went with one of the hotels that was on my sister's fiance's list. In that situation, closeness to the station was more important than price (at least, more important than a discount of $200).

Now, I've almost always been self-conscious / analytical about my actions, but this Conjoint stuff just takes things to a whole new level!

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading!! If you have any comments, feel free. If you have any suggestions of where to go in Japan or what to check out (no promises about whether they will be experienced or not), please let me know as well.

You all have a good week! And I hope you don't start meta-self-evaluating yourself. :)

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