What role can Google Glass play for Market Research?

Ben Hewitson considers the ways in which optically wearable technology will enable researchers to gain deeper insights…

Back in January, NewMR.org hosted a webinar on the potential for Google Glass to be used within Market Research. I, along with many others watched and listened intently as David Zakariaie, CEO of Glassic outlined his thoughts on the role the technology could play in our industry.

Google Glass

As the product is still in development, it is difficult to discern how, or even if Google Glass will be useful to us as researchers. However, my view is that over time, optically wearable tech of all descriptions will develop into resources that we can add to our methodological toolbox. There are two key applications of Google Glass in Market Research; both of which concern the practicalities of gathering data, but also require increased societal acceptance of the technology:

As an alternative to ‘in-situ’ eye-tracking: The technology holds particularly exciting implications for shopper and retail research, especially when we’re seeking to understand in-store decision making processes. Currently, eye-tracking equipment (goggles and backpacks) can be cumbersome and uncomfortable, impeding ‘natural’ behaviour. Participants often feel self-conscious because their attire attracts unwanted stares from other shoppers and this can in turn influence their behaviour. The equipment also needs to be precisely configured by a technician and can’t be adjusted by the participant.

Optical wearable tech could change this. Whilst it isn’t yet ‘conventional attire’, it could only be a few years before it is. And when it achieves ‘normalisation status’, participants will own their own versions of Glass: They will be familiar with them, they will be calibrated to their specific requirements and there will be a range of styles to suit even the most fashion conscious – stares of admiration will replace stares of bemusement.

Optically wearable tech will enable respondents to capture hands-free footage

Providing a better way of capturing ‘real life’ moments in consumer’s lives: Using the record function built-in to Glass, respondents will be able to capture their world – literally as they see it. Currently, we draw on smartphones or flipcams to gather this data – and Google Glass would work in the same way. However, the key differences with Glass are not only its ability to allow respondents to conduct ‘hands-free’ filming, thereby opening the door to experiences where we need to use our hands, such as cooking, shopping and driving, but also its ability to capture ‘natural’ footage more easily.

However, whilst these applications present exciting advancements, there are some clear barriers to Market Research appropriating the technology. First is our tendency to be slow in adopting and applying new technology to our studies. Many of us still perceive mobile as a ‘new’ medium through which to conduct research – it’s well over five years since smartphones began their march towards ubiquity.  Second is the cost of the devices. With the launch price of Glass expected to be around $1000 USD, will the opportunities present good value for money for research agencies? It seems unlikely. It is more likely that Glass will become the domain of specialist providers – much in the same way that eye-tracking firms operate today. Finally is the issue of bespoke software or apps developed for market research purposes – which don’t currently exist for Glass. Much of the potential for Market Research applications rests on the development of usable programmes – both at their front and back ends.

Ultimately though, Google Glass isn’t yet ready for Market Research purposes and Market Research isn’t yet ready for Google Glass. Indeed, I’m not sure society is ready. We’re going to need to wait until optically wearable tech becomes at least accepted, if not normalised in popular culture for us to be able to extract research value out of it.

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Relish goes pink for Breast Cancer Campaign’s ‘Wear it Pink’ day

Today, everyone at Relish has worn at least one item of pink clothing to support Breast Cancer Campaign’s ‘Wear it Pink’ day (http://www.breastcancercampaign.org/).

Some of the team really went to town with their outfits – Amy wore a pink onesie, Heike and Jen wore pink wigs and Adam took the title for the brightest pink polo shirt ever seen! Simon wore his lucky pink pants, Abbie wore a pink dressing gown and Tom and Jesse both wore classic pink shirts. Becks came in on her day off and even got baby Sam in on the action, with a rather fetching pair of pink socks!

We’ve all had a great day and most importantly, we’ve raised a very respectable £144.00 for the cause. A big thank you to Heike for organising and Monique for getting pizza in for everyone at lunchtime.

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Making Sense of Information Asymmetry

Simon reflects on a recent trip over the Easter break in Istanbul, and wonders how much we can learn from a simple Bazaar shopping experience…

If knowledge is power, no wonder consumers make error ridden judgements when purchasing goods and services.

One of the fascinating ideas from the Levitt & Dubner book ‘Freakonomics’ is the concept of Information Asymmetry. This occurs when one party is perceived to or actually holds more relevant information than the other party. The theory is that unless the party who is making the transaction feels that Information Asymmetry has been mitigated (as much as possible), they are unlikely to commit to the transaction (with another behavioural principle, Loss Aversion, kicking in).

The challenge for business is that Information Asymmetry is a factor of trade the world over.

I was recently in Istanbul with my wife, and while walking through one of the many fascinating Bazaars they have she stumbled across a necklace that she liked the look of. There was no price attached (as is the way in Bazaars!), so rather than enter in a discussion with the shop owner to identify the price she immediately felt unease, expecting to be overcharged and questioning the quality of the necklace as well. Her assumption was that by withholding critical information (i.e. price), the shop owner knew something she didn’t, so the transaction didn’t even start. The balance of information was clearly in favour of the trader before even entering the store, and her risk aversion emotions started to kick in.

One of Istanbul's many Bazaars

What happened afterwards was even more interesting. As my wife walked away, I enquired about the price (about £175) on her behalf. Sharing this information in its most basic form starts to add a whole number of cues about the product, for example the level of quality of materials, usage occasions, complimentary clothing etc. You’d also think it would start to balance out the perceived Information Asymmetry.

However, rather than joining in the conversation, my wife decided to go back to the hotel with her iPad and check the price vis-à-vis something similar (not the same) online. When she discovered that something similar (again, not the same) was available on Amazon for around £40 – £50 cheaper, this switched her perceptions of Information Asymmetry completely, where she thought she had the upper hand (by knowing something the trader didn’t). In this case, the internet was her ‘beacon of neutrality’ that helped make the decision, but it’s not always the case. Other verbal and non-verbal cues are also just as likely to help shift consumers perceptions of asymmetry.

The concept of Information Asymmetry is as baffling as it is clear. Armed with no information at all, my wife was able to make a decision that the odds were against her, rendering a potential transaction void. Armed with a tiny amount of information (price), my wife was able to draw all sorts of conclusions and find various reference points in order to justify her initial thoughts about not purchasing the necklace.

An example of Turkish jewellery

These sorts of experiences are happening daily for brands around the world. Consumers are avoiding conversations with brands where they feel Information Asymmetry is too heavily weighted in the brand’s favour. But how many of these consumer decisions are being made using hard factual evidence, and how many are being made through some irrational decision making process? And how many of these decisions are being made on hard, factual data versus unfair comparisons just to satisfy the desire to reinforce their original (and convenient) decision?

In order to help make the right decisions, consumers need to feel confident and that their choice is the best one they could possibly make. However, Information Asymmetry suggests that consumers are avoiding many decisions before even entering a dialogue with companies. To address this, more understanding of what is imbalanced and what is balanced is needed, and brands should be looking very carefully at the conversations they have, the language they use and the ‘shop floor’ in which they sell their goods and services. We need to explore the scenarios where consumers are avoiding conversations with brands, and understand more about how we can use verbal and non-verbal cues to help shift perceptions and encourage better dialogue and more opportunity to transact.

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