The four founders of PrideBites first knew they were onto something when their box of 50 trojan-shaped dog toys sold out in under an hour at a USC football game. “They were so different and colorful, but the stitching was still very high quality,” says co-founder Steven Blustein. “It became clear that there is demand for dog toys that hit the sweet spot between design and durability.” As new entrants into an industry with particularly established distribution relationships, PrideBites knew they needed to be smart about how they expanded their product line.
“Retailers will always want a cheaper product that has tried and true features. We need to know that we have what consumers really want.”
As a small business, it can be difficult to quickly and affordably access detailed market research. “We had broad statistics about the pet goods industry, but nothing about the demand for rubber versus plush.” Using insights from Google Consumer Surveys, PrideBites could more closely hone in on messaging and feature priorities. Surveys showing that people don’t play with their dogs in the water influenced their decision to de-emphasize waterproof features on the packaging. Similarly, surveys indicating that machine-washability isn’t important to consumers the way it is to retailers helped differentiate the important selling points across audiences. They also validated their hunch that dog lovers value contributions to pet charities, and are now developing ways to support animal welfare organizations.
After completing their first set of surveys, Blustein is excited about future questions PrideBites will be able to answer using Google Consumer Surveys. “We couldn’t take our eyes off the results and would love to ask more targeted questions about price thresholds for various demographics, and how long men versus women expect a dog toy to last.”
Founded in 1989 by a San Francisco bike messenger, Timbuk2 makes custom bags built for urban adventure. Their loyal following cuts across the bike and tech worlds, due in part to the company’s heritage and in part to offering the world’s first online customizer. While these two communities are well aware of the brand, Timbuk2 wants to promote awareness and grow their following beyond their current niche.
“When I’ve seen market research reports in the past, the vendor delivers a giant PowerPoint deck. Using the Google Consumer Surveys interface, I could manipulate the graphs and see the data come to life. Not only did we get top line results, but we could also use demographic filtering to look at how our awareness differed by age range or gender.”
Lizzy Fallows, Timbuk2’s Brand Experience Manager, turned to Google Consumer Surveys to track the company’s brand awareness over time. “As a marketing team, we want to be able to prove that we’re growing awareness, but until now we didn’t have a good way to measure it,” she said. “We didn’t have the budget or manpower to run traditional market research, but now we can benchmark at a much lower cost and with much greater efficiency.” Fallows and her team ran a series of four questions assessing familiarity with Timbuk2, how respondents first heard about the brand, and how their awareness compared with competitors. By running these same questions on a quarterly basis, Fallows plans to track movement over time and determine which programs help move the needle. The data will help her make more informed decisions about how to fund marketing activities across direct-to-consumer and wholesale channels.
Getting the brand tracker up and running was easier and faster than Fallows suspected. “Writing and running a survey seems really daunting,” she remarked. “I thought it would take a week to write questions and get our survey live but the question templates made it really fast. We had statistically relevant data back within two days. It was shockingly easy.”
Fallows appreciated the ability to manipulate the data visually: “When I’ve seen market research reports in the past, the vendor delivers a giant PowerPoint deck. Using the Google Consumer Surveys interface, I could manipulate the graphs and see the data come to life. Not only did we get top line results, but we could also use demographic filtering to look at how our awareness differed by age range or gender.” Overall, the results were somewhat of a wake up call for Fallows and her team. “It’s motivating to see these results. It validates our gut feeling and helps us focus on the big picture rather than getting stuck in the minutiae.”
Moving forward, Timbuk2 plans to use Google Consumer Surveys to inform product development in addition to tracking brand awareness. As a trial, Fallows ran a survey specific to the company’s recently launched diaper bag (the “Stork”). By having respondents rank the importance of various features (machine washable, removable changing pad, bottle pockets, stroller straps, etc.) she was able to validate some of the decisions made thus far. “We debated whether or not to call out that the Stork is machine washable,” Fallows recalled. “The data from Google Consumer Surveys confirms that we made the right feature tradeoffs, like including bottle compartments but not worrying about stroller straps. Next time,” she added, “we’ll be able to ask questions like this up front and collect data from an audience broader than our current fanbase.”
After training at Le Cordon Bleu in London and experimenting with making her own organic popcorn flavored with exotic seasonings, Jean Arnold founded 479° Popcorn. Named after her discovery that 479 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal temperature for popping corn, 479° Popcorn is made by hand in San Francisco using the highest quality, all-natural ingredients.
The company has a loyal following of foodie fans, despite spending virtually nothing on marketing or sales. Arnold attributes her success thus far to a clear focus on product quality: “Taste is paramount. Because we’re a small company, we can tweak our recipes as we go along and constantly improve them.”
Arnold relied on a combination of her own instinct and feedback from friends, family, and customers to choose 479° Popcorn’s initial flavors, as well as its branding and packaging. “Traditional research is frustrating for companies with small budgets because surveys and focus groups cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she said. “So you do what you can in a modest way. At the end of the day, I had to go with my gut.”
“Research is a luxury for most companies. Ninety-nine percent of small to medium size companies out there make these decisions without this kind of data, but ten cents per response or $120-$150 per question is totally accessible for a company of our size or anyone who is thinking about starting a company.”
When she first heard about Google Consumer Surveys, Arnold was excited by the prospect of validating some of her gut decisions as well as collecting data to inform future product direction. “The name says it all!” Arnold remarked. “We wanted insight from consumers on a number of questions. As much as we could rely on our instincts about what people want, it’s really useful to have hard, tangible data to point us in the right direction.” After formulating her questions, Arnold ran a survey with questions on packaging, flavors, and naming. She had results back within a matter of days. “It’s amazing -- it’s so easy to read the results, and I can slice and dice based on demographic info,” she said.
Some of the results helped 479° define future product direction: “As much as we’re committed to being a premium, artisanal brand, we’ve been interested in adding a couple new flavors that are more inclusive. Now that we’ve confirmed there’s such a preference for chocolate peppermint as a holiday flavor, we’re already looking into developing it,” said Arnold. Other results are definitely food for thought, though they may not be as immediately actionable: “You can see definitive trends on certain things, like clear packaging,” she continued. “People like to see the product they’re going to eat before they eat it. But there are real tradeoffs between shelf life and this kind of transparency, and delivering a fresh product is really important to us too.”
“Research is a luxury for most companies. Ninety-nine percent of small to medium size companies out there make these decisions without this kind of data, but ten cents per response or $120-$150 per question is totally accessible for a company of our size or anyone who is thinking about starting a company,” added Arnold. “I’m extraordinarily happy with this tool. Once you see the value of what it can do and how you can use the data to substantiate or invalidate what your gut is telling you it’s pretty powerful.”
King Arthur Flour is America’s oldest flour company and premier baking resource, offering ingredients, mixes, tools, recipes, educational opportunities, and inspiration to bakers worldwide. The company was founded in 1790 and has been employee-owned since 1996.
Understanding bakers’ motivations and behavior is paramount to King Arthur’s success. Research is such a part of King Arthur’s culture that their test kitchen even has a “bite and write” policy -- if employees or visitors taste test recipes, they’re encouraged to provide quick feedback via comment cards. The company employs a panel of local people near their headquarters in Norwich, Vermont to look at packaging and try out new products. But Amy Roy, Brand Research and Consumer Insights Analyst, knows they can’t rely exclusively on this panel’s feedback: “If you’re going to launch a new product nationally you don’t want to limit your research to a small panel in Vermont.” She and Tom Payne, Director of Marketing, have used a variety of research tools to gather information for product development, from focus groups to surveying the company’s own customer lists via email. “You usually have to spend a fortune to get robust data and the turnaround time is around six weeks,” said Payne.
When Roy and Payne first heard about Google Consumer Surveys, they were excited about the prospect of collecting data from a representative sample of the U.S. Internet audience faster and more cost effectively than before. They ran questions on a variety of topics including customer loyalty programs, flour purchase behavior, and gluten free baking mixes. “We expected it to be fast,” said Payne. “It was Google. But we were amazed at the sheer number of people who responded and the speed with which we got results.” Roy agreed, “It was quicker than we even imagined. Within a couple hours we had responses from a few hundred people. We could monitor the results as they came in until we had the number of responses we needed to have statistically significant results.”
“We expected it to be fast,” said Payne. “It was Google. But we were amazed at the sheer number of people who responded and the speed with which we got results.”
Some of the results were surprising. “When we looked at what prompted respondents’ last purchase of flour, we saw that people buy flour because a recipe calls for it, or because they’re baking for someone’s birthday or a holiday, not as much because it was on sale or a good deal,” said Payne. “If you inspire people and give them a reason to bake they will do it,” Roy added. “This validated some of the decisions we’ve made: from creating a website and catalog that makes you want to eat to running seasonal programs for holidays like Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.” King Arthur’s sales team can chose how much of their marketing budgets to use for these types of promotions with retail partners versus put toward price reductions. “We’re going to share these results with our salespeople since the data can inform their decisions and encourage them to do more promotionally beyond just discounting the product,” said Payne.
Roy and Payne also researched people’s attitudes toward paid customer loyalty programs. “We’d anticipated paid loyalty programs being more widely adopted, but a large percentage of people don’t participate in any loyalty programs,” Payne said. “Our new business development team has been working in this area and some of this data directly answers questions that team has,” Roy added, “so this might shake things up a bit. Maybe we’ll avert an expensive decision to create a program that wouldn’t be all that popular.”
King Arthur Flour has embraced a mantra of “fail fast, fail cheap,” so being able to collect data quickly and inexpensively fits right into their corporate culture. “Budget-wise this is a very smart tool. Spending ten or twenty thousand dollars to answer a couple of questions doesn’t make a lot of sense, but spending a couple hundred certainly does,” remarked Roy. “Instead of just an internal gut check or feedback from our local panel, we can get real results and much larger sample sizes complete with demographic filtering in the same timeframe.”
Lucky Brand has been making vintage-inspired, great fitting denim since 1990 and operates 177 stores across the United States. Their women’s and men’s fashions are also available in major department stores and online. Charlie Cole, Vice President of Online Marketing, runs Lucky’s ecommerce channel, currently a $30M business.
While Cole understands the value of market research, prior to using Google Consumer Surveys he hadn’t invested in it. The tools he was familiar with were either too biased or too labor and cost intensive: “There wasn’t really an easy way to do quantitative research and get agnostic results. All of the online research tools I’d encountered were about intercepting web traffic on your own ecommerce site and offering respondents incentives in order to complete long form surveys. The alternative is usually focus groups, which are incredibly time intensive and have similar self-selection bias.”
When he heard about Google’s market research product, Cole was excited to give it a try. “I’m big on opportunity cost: if I can try something in an hour, it’s ok if it potentially has value, but I’m not going to spend twenty hours on something that may not lead anywhere.” Google Consumer Surveys fit the bill. “I huddled with my team, came up with questions, and had results back in less than a week. The whole thing took about an hour of my time,” said Cole.
“People aren’t as comfortable buying clothes online as we think they are,” he said. “Literally, I got these results and I walked into my marketing team and we started thinking about how we could better support our stores. We need to do more to layer our promotional balance, to make customers who aren’t going to buy from our website aware of other outlets for doing so.”
Cole and his team ran a series of survey questions about online versus offline purchase behavior -- an important topic for Lucky as an “omnichannel retailer.” Because he lives and breathes in the online world, some of the results surprised to Cole. “People aren’t as comfortable buying clothes online as we think they are,” he said. “Literally, I got these results and I walked into my marketing team and we started thinking about how we could better support our stores. We need to do more to layer our promotional balance, to make customers who aren’t going to buy from our website aware of other outlets for doing so.” As a result of these insights, the ecommerce team is now driving people to retailers from their promotional emails, not just to their own website. “It’s counter to a lot of online thought, but we’re now putting together emails that drive people to store -- all of our marketing campaigns going forward should have an offline component.”
In addition, Cole collected data on how his market viewed daily deal sites to inform Lucky’s 2012 online roadmap. He learned that promotions like this can negatively impact premium brands, information that has helped frame his marketing budget: “I never thought that people had a negative affiliation to daily deal sites,” he said. “It’s made me think that daily deals aren’t as big a part of my 2012 roadmap as I once thought they would be.”
Moving forward, Cole would like to use Google Consumer Surveys to ask more specific brand and merchandising questions. For example, he’d like to know “Which of the trends from last holiday do you see coming back for holiday 2012?” to help inform which Lucky products to highlight on the site and through his Winter 2012 campaigns.
Kasa Indian Eatery owners Tim Volkema and Suresh and Anamika Khanna have a common goal: sharing homestyle Indian food with a broad audience of people. Their “taqueria-style” restaurant in San Francisco’s Castro district has been serving fresh, authentic Indian food in an accessible format since June 2008. In 2011, they added two food trucks to the mix to help get their food into more people’s hands.
Before their initial opening, the owners collected feedback from their friends and family members on everything from the restaurant’s name to specific recipes. “At first it was completely unscientific,” said Suresh Khanna. “We had people coming to our house for food tastings and writing comments on napkins. Then we tried a couple different online survey tools, which were helpful, but the results were skewed because responses were all from people in our existing networks.” Volkema, who previously worked at a multinational food and beverage brand and had experience with market research added, “It was never a slam dunk. We weren’t sure if we were polluting the results or if they were just inconclusive.”
When they heard about Google Consumer Surveys, Khanna and Volkema had been discussing new menu items and marketing messaging for Kasa. In addition to informing these decisions, they ran a series of questions to assess customer behavior around food trucks. Using a screening question, the two owners were able to exclusively target respondents who liked Indian food.
“Getting results that are statistically significant is something that we’ve struggled with in the past when we’ve tried to do survey work on our own. Google Consumer Surveys automatically does things that help give us confidence in the data, from rotating multiple choice answers to avoid position bias to providing templates that help businesses structure their questions in a non-leading way.”
Some of the results validated decisions they had already made, like focusing their truck business on lunch. Others were a little surprising. For example, Kasa’s owners had been considering adding an Indian burrito to their lineup, but Google Consumer Surveys results showed more interest in their current kati roll -- similar to an Indian burrito but smaller and made with authentic Indian bread rather than a flour tortilla. “It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time,” said Khanna. “To what extent do we compromise authenticity for accessibility? Results like this show that while there’s a market for Indian burritos, people are even more interested in classic Indian street food.”
“I didn’t expect as much granularity in the results,” Volkema remarked after playing with the reporting interface. “Getting results that are statistically significant is something that we’ve struggled with in the past when we’ve tried to do survey work on our own. Consumer Insights automatically does things that help give us confidence in the data, from rotating multiple choice answers to avoid position bias to providing templates that help businesses structure their questions in a non-leading way.”
As they look to turn the world onto honest, authentic Indian food, Kasa’s owners are interested in asking more questions to inform their decisions. “Compared with other ways I’ve done market research in the past, Google Consumer Surveys provides higher quality results at lower cost. When you’re a small to medium sized business, you think twice about how much you should spend on research. When you can get answers to questions from a targeted audience for less than a thousand dollars, it’s pretty encouraging.”
Reorient blends and slow-brews whole herbs by hand to create health beverages rooted in the art of traditional Chinese medicine. Founded in 2011 by Jess Ng and currently available in natural food stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, Reorient seeks to create a premium product that appeals to urban dwellers interested in healthy lifestyles.
Ng’s background in retail and tech marketing led her to approach Reorient as a startup in the consumer packaged goods space. Rather than going for wide distribution from the start, Ng first approached distribution store by store in order to connect directly with consumers and get feedback about the product and its packaging in particular.
When she first heard about Google Consumer Surveys, Ng was in the process of refining Reorient’s packaging and immediately saw the new market research platform as a way to test her designs. Prior to that, Ng relied mainly on gut instinct and feedback from friends, but wasn’t able to reach a representative sample of her target audience. “We would consult with retailers, ask dozens of our closest friends and just go with our guts,” she said. “As a new business eager to launch our products, we didn’t want to spend the time or money to do more quantitative research that we weren’t sure would be conclusive anyway.”
“When I worked in retail, we did focus groups and a lot of survey research, but it took months and the recruiting methods and incentives inherently introduced bias. Then I went to the online world where you can do an A/B test on an email or online ad and get back data right away,” Ng recalled. “Now, working in a more traditional industry like CPG, it’s great to be able to do the same type of testing I’m used to from my online days and apply it to my offline products.”
Using Google Consumer Surveys, Ng was able to target a custom audience of people who shop at speciality food stores and have them evaluate different versions of Reorient’s labels. With the print deadline for new labels a mere week away, she started on her questions: “The whole process was painless and efficient. I wrote the questions and had them up and running right away. The fielding period was so short that I had data back within a matter of days, fully analyzed with demographic filters available.”
Because Reorient’s product was the first of its type -- a more gourmet, modern version of the traditional herbal decoction -- Ng’s main challenge had been how to clearly convey this new product category to her customers. Her goal with Google Consumer Surveys was to validate that the new package design would outperform the previous design on a number of brand dimensions (e.g. “Which label best represents an artisanal, handcrafted health drink?” and “Which label best represents a health beverage rooted in traditional Chinese medicine?”). Ng also ran questions to help determine which name would best describe her products, which had no direct English translation. “In our first iteration, the product was called ‘Herbal Bru,’ but people weren’t really getting it. We were originally leaning towards renaming it as an ‘Herbal Health Tonic,’ but using Google Consumer Surveys we were able to collect data as to which name actually resonated with our target market.” She tested a number of options and found that respondents seemed to dislike “Tonic” and preferred “Herbal Health Blend,” the name Reorient has now started using. “As a small business owner, I love this tool. It had a direct impact, not just on the label, but on the way we’ll be referring to our product going forward, whether on our website or directly to our customers.”
“When I worked in retail, we did focus groups and a lot of survey research, but it took months and the recruiting methods and incentives inherently introduced bias. Then I went to the online world where you can do an A/B test on an email or online ad and get back data right away,” Ng recalled. “Now, working in a more traditional industry like CPG, it’s great to be able to do the same type of testing I’m used to from my online days and apply it to my offline products. Google Consumer Surveys is definitely faster, easier, and cheaper than any of the research methods I’ve used before.”
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