The Rights and Wrongs of Cheating Customers

The Rights and Wrongs of Cheating Customers

“Woah there mule!” as Yosemite Sam used to say, am I suggesting that it can be ‘right’ to cheat customers? Yes, I am (kind of).  Let me explain. I recently had a complaint about a product.  A few years ago I purchased a heart rate monitor watch and, the other day, when I went to use it the strap simply disintegrated. Now I know that the product gets used in a tough environment; there’s no easy way to say this other than things get pretty sweaty when you’re working out.  But I’d always rinsed the watch off and, anyway, coping with sweat is a prerequisite for something worn next to the skin for exercise.  Whilst we’re at it, the band that goes around my chest looks like new, so it’s not as if we’re beyond the capability of modern plastics.  If they can put a man on the moon… and […]

Playing with Market Research

One of the advantages of understanding how the process of asking people questions influences them is that you can have fun demonstrating its impact. I was recently invited to speak to a local business group and took the opportunity to demonstrate the frailty of asking questions and the nature of the unconscious mind. Whilst the samples were too small to be scientifically valid, the differences in responses to my fake research were both predictable and entertaining. I set up a taste test using three very similar products: one was from a value range, one from the ‘standard’ range and one the premium offer.  Everyone was led to believe that they were taking part in legitimate market research and that they all had the same questions. In fact there were five different questionnaires, all asking the participants to taste three products and answer some questions. What was I able to demonstrate? […]

Amazon Test New Website Design

It’s always interesting to see what ideas a web giant like Amazon is evaluating, particularly when the change is more than just a subtle adjustment. At present they’re trying out a very different home page. One thing Amazon does that is super-smart is split test.  They don’t rely on the vague irrelevancies of what customers tell them in market research to decide whether a change is worth making: they send customers to the new look at random and check to see what the impact is on behaviour (and particularly on conversion).  This means the evaluation isn’t done as an artificial conscious exercise, people don’t know they’re taking part in research: as a result the unconscious drivers of consumer actions are still ‘in-play’ and the artificial influence that comes from asking questions isn’t an issue. From this perspective it doesn’t really matter what I or anyone else thinks when they evaluate […]

Why Market Researchers Shouldn’t Read Consumer.ology

The title the ‘International Journal of Market Research’ (IJMR) sounds undeniably impressive.  Generally speaking journals are good things, bringing together peer reviewed papers from people pushing the boundaries in a particular field. But I wonder… do astrologers have a Journal of Astrology?  Google suggests that they do, sort of – it looks as though it might just be one astrologer selling predictions. There’s a National Journal of Homeopathy – I wonder, to paraphrase Tim Minchin, if they’ve had any papers on how water forgets about the wee and poo it’s had in it and just remembers the traces of medicinally advantageous ingredients? My point is that it’s easy to get a false sense of validity from a name.  In Consumer.ology I describe market research as a pseudo-science and, arguably, having an ‘International Journal’ is all part of the industry’s mystique. I must declare a personal interest at this point: recently […]