On April 19th, University of Akron marketing student, Lillyanne Sweitzer attended the 2018 American Marketing Association (AMA) Northeast Ohio Market Research Conference. This annual event brings together both research buyers and research sellers to share best practices and the latest trends in market research. in order to promote attendance to university students, the AMA provides a scholarship opportunity to waive the registration fee for students. This year, Lillyanne was a scholarship winner. Here is her account of the event.

As a student at the University of Akron, I was introduced to the idea of market research: systematically gathering data about people and analyzing it to better understand those peoples’ needs, through my Marketing Research class – a required course for all students in the marketing majors. I have since enjoyed market research and the way that it pushes marketers to be curious, analytical, and strategic. To continue learning more about this aspect of marketing, I attended the 2018 American Marketing Association Northeast Ohio (AMA NEO) Market Research Conference. The conference contained food, door prizes, and networking opportunities, but the main event consisted of 5 different speakers. These presentations are summarized below, followed by a brief note of what I considered to be the most relevant takeaway for a student in my shoes.

Research Without Regrets – Creating Insights That Get Action (Chris Grabarkiewicz-Davis and Carol Shea)
Market research involves asking questions to get answers and using that insight to make informed decisions. Yet a recent study found that almost 85% of corporate researchers say getting their business partners to act on the insights is a real challenge. It may be due to a lack of involvement by key personnel, missing background information, miscommunication, or an attempt to move too quickly. In general, if there is a disconnect between the business goal and the research, it often starts upfront. To avoid research regret, it is important to have a system in place that ensures a thorough and objective process. In their presentation, “Research Without Regrets – Creating Insights That Get Action,” Chris Grabarkiewicz-Davis and Carol Shea shared the success of the Smart Brief Decision Advancer – a new checklist-like technique that makes it possible to avoid the regret altogether. The Smart Brief makes it possible to show what questions need answers, with transparency, consistency, and objectivity. Through this, objectives are more likely to be met, report writing time is cut immensely, and client expectations are managed.
My Key Takeaway: Research regret is real, but it can be avoided by having a thorough system in place to get the right information from the get-go.

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Maximizing the Engagement of Moments of Truth Research with Interactive Stakeholder Presentations (Patrick Winslow, Cristina Shamatta, James Rohde)
FedEx Custom Critical seeks to gain market research from its clients, but their method of sharing this information has had to evolve in order to remain relevant. While a market researcher may fully understand the purpose and story behind the numbers in their reports, the stakeholders they present that research to, did not. To remedy this, FedEx (partnered with Schmidt Research) began creating more interactive stakeholder meetings. Schmidt Research was able to provide FedEx with interactive dashboards – a more hands-on way for partners to interact with the knowledge. Through the use of these workshop style presentations, FedEx and Schmidt found that stakeholders were more likely to understand the information and its sourcing. This led to better overall engagement, better support for endeavors, and a more robust discussion for the company moving forward.
My Key Takeaway: Present information in a way that is relevant to the listener. This may mean an increase in preparation time, but the result is an engaged audience that understands, believes, and can offer helpful viewpoints.

Linking the What with the Why: Combining Custom Research with Receipt Data
Terrie Wendricks and Kelly Gebhardt

Terrie Wendricks leads C+R Research ShopperEyes Division which leverages traditional and non-traditional methodologies to meet the challenges of today’s rapidly changing retail marketplace. In this presentation, Terrie Wendricks and Kelly Gebhardt shared the success of their partnership with Infoscout, an app-based receipt capture and longitudinal database that gathers from a panel of 400,000 consumers. Infoscout is the technology behind apps such as Shoparoo or Receipt Hog. The presentation showed how this new way of collecting information is convenient for the consumer, but answers critical questions for the researcher, such as who the customer is, what they buy and the drivers behind the purchase as well as when, where, why, and how they shop.
My Key Takeaway: An action as simple as snapping a photo of one’s receipt can provide powerful insight to many others. Don’t be afraid to try a new way of doing things.

The New Mainstream America (Brad Weiss-Holmes, Estrella Ho-Looney)
Brad Weiss-Holmes and Estrella Ho-Looney began their presentation with a game: Each attendee was given a cup and an assortment of Skittles, with each Skittle color representing a certain race. Attendees then placed in the cup the Skittles whose color corresponds to their answer to various questions (such as “what is the race of your significant other, what is the race of your best friend, etc). In the end, each participant had a cup of Skittles that showed how diverse their universe is. Brad and Estrella then shared some statistics about minorities. For example, today, over 40% of the US Population is non-white, and it is expected that minorities will be the majority by 2042. Millennials are also a force to be reckoned with, as they now make up 25% of the US population, 30% of the voting age population, and 40% of the working population. Finally, LGBTQ populations have risen to about 7% of the population. These people groups each have buying power and size in numbers; the companies who learn how to target them well will experience great success. This means including multiple perspectives and representations in everything from product design to team learning to the presentation of models in ads. Throughout all, the key is authenticity in representing diversity.
My Key Takeaway: Minorities will soon be the majority. Insight leaders need to make sure that these groups of people are included in research designs and that their perspectives are authentically brought to life.

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The Evolving World of Online Sample (Rod Antilla, Brian Lamar)
In the online sample world of market research, there are two major groups: buyers and sellers of the sample. One of the biggest shared concerns of these two parties is the quality of the sample. Both buyers and sellers have the responsibility in this area, whether it be through the questionnaire design, panel selection, in-study quality checks, or simple intuition or judgment calls. To make matters worse, a relatively new threat has emerged: fraud. Whether it is through ghost completes, click farms, or bots, data fraud is a very serious issue that currently costs businesses $1 billion per year. Rod (a buyer) and Brian (a seller) shared tips from both the buyer and seller perspectives regarding security against data fraud.
My Key Takeaway: When you are using an online sample, it is important to ask many questions and demand transparency to ensure that insights are being formed from only the highest-quality data.

In sum, I was very glad to have attended the 2018 AMA NEO Market Research Conference. While much of the information was better suited for those who were more deeply involved in the market research world, I still was able to learn new processes, techniques, and perspectives that will help me grow as a marketer.

By: Lillyanne Sweitzer