Top 5 trends you need to know from the 2015 MRA Conference

6/15/2015   By: Claire Booth

From the role of empathy to customer modes to facial recognition, the recent MRA conference in San Diego gave attendees lots to think about.  Two Lux employees attended and here are our five key takeaways.

Our role as researchers is to bring Empathy into the boardroom.

Emmy-winning journalist turned researcher Tom Bernthal described business as “empathy kryptonite.”  Brands will win if they champion empathy – it means they are listening to, and acting on, their customers’ pain points.  Customers crave and expect empathy.  Tom suggested 3 ways to ensure empathy is a part of the equation – which of these are you doing?

  1. Make room for emotion- make sure your researchers are fostering conversations that reveal deeper emotions and experience
  2. Dare to be wrong and challenge what you know- start each project with a series of hypotheses and then be open to refining them or letting them go
  3. Stories are the best vehicle to show and convey empathy – let your customers tell theirs and tell them one back (in their words)

Customer Modes as a new segmentation metric:  Beyond the typical demographic, behavioral and need-state segmentations, take a look at what MODE a customer is in – their behavior and perceptions will change based on their mode. Customers from the same target segment may have two entirely different experiences based on which mode they are currently in.  We are arguably more similar across modes than across a target segment.  We do not shop the same way every time; sometimes, we are in a hurry and simply want to get items as fast as possible while other times we have no intention to buy.

Researchers Stacy Symonds & Martie Woods shared how companies like Hallmark and Orbitz are squarely focused on trying to identify what mode a customer is in.  When viewing cards, for example, is the customer in a giving mode or more of a planning mode?  Similarly, Orbitz can tailor the right experience if they can decipher a customer’s mode – are they simply browsing the site or ready to immediately purchase a trip, in say, the next 5 minutes. Are you factoring modes into your research?

Study Behavior, Not Intention: Several presenters kicked off their presentations with a quick primer on Behavior Economics, that is, we are all fundamentally irrational creatures who make decisions not because they are in our best interest, but because of our various cognitive biases and shortcuts we take to avoid thinking too hard.  Two ways of getting at these biases and thus the real (in-articulable, sub-conscious) decision-making process are:

  1. Study behavior not intention.  Observe/film your market in-situ and have them explain their decisions once they can see their actual behavior played back.  Spend time prior to research discussing possible cognitive biases and how they may come into play – this will set up some hypotheses that you can then put to the test.
  2. Understand that we all have three long-term memory banks:  procedural (know-how), semantic (knowledge), episodic (recollections).  Have participants use images as a way to access these memories as people think in images, not words.  Once researchers better understand these memories, they will be able to better understand how participants are primed coming into the decision-making process

People do not think their feelings, they feel them…all over their face.  The emotional brain is 10x more active than the rational part of the brain and 95% of mental activity is intuitive, not consciously cognitive.  So how do we access this intuitive brain?  An understanding of cognitive biases certainly helps, but facial coding could be the future.  According to Dan Hill, a facial coding expert and author, facial coding is only 34% accurate (conservative estimate).  However, Dan’s point is that the area is growing exponentially and accuracy will greatly increase as technology learns.  Why should we care about facial coding?  Three reasons below:

  1. Universality – expressions aren’t socialized, they’re “hardwired” into our brains; as a result, even a person born blind has the same facial expressions as you or I and children as young as 18 months already exhibit all the core emotions
  2. Spontaneity – the face is the only place in the body where the muscles attach directly to the skin, resulting in real-time data that can’t be faked or masked
  3. Abundance – human beings have more facial muscles than any other species on the planet, ensuring a wealth of information

Disruptive trends in technology continuing to have an enormous impact on our industry:  Adobe’s Mark Ashton shared some of these trends as being:

  1. Mobile Shift:  More time now spent on the Smartphone than watching linear TV and eating combined (avg 2 hours and 57 mins/day).  When designing research, remember: devices are always on and always near; devices are NOT desktops; and when asking for data, don’t be greedy.
  2. Billions of devices + Big Data:  The Internet of Things is giving us a tsunami of data, researchers will need to be skilled in computational science.  Patterns don’t present themselves, we need to know what sorts of questions to be asking TO the data.
  3. Virtual Reality:  This year may be the tipping point.  The technology is becoming cheap enough to deploy and consumer interest is increasing.  Available on Amazon for $15, Google Cardboard has already surpassed one million purchases.  We’ll soon be seeing methodologies incorporating VR again, but in a more affordable way.