market research

Hands holding tablet and watching Youtube

The Visual Communications Age

The past few years has seen a boom in visual communications across social media.  An estimated 2.3 billion people now use YouTube every month.  Instagram and TikTok have around 1 billion monthly users each.

Visual social media of this kind – be it in the form of still images or video clips – are transforming the way in which we communicate.  Part of this change is simply a function of accessibility.  Technology has made it far easier for people to create visual images and make short video clips and mini films than ever was the case, even ten years ago.  And now there are more social media outlets than ever before where it is possible to publish such material.

It is incredible to think that twenty years ago Facebook, YouTube and Twitter did not even exist.  How much the world has changed!

However, we should not be tempted to think that social media platforms will continue to grow forever.  There is a finite limit to the number of users any platform can attract, after all.  Like in any other market, market growth will inevitably give way to market maturity at some point.

Platform maturity

Facebook’s owner Meta Platforms recently recorded a record daily loss on the stock market.  This came in the wake of the news that Facebook’s Daily Active Users fell to 1.929bn in the three months to the end of December. This compares to 1.930bn in the previous quarter.

This is the first time Facebook has experienced such a fall; a clear sign that this particular platform is reaching its mature phase.  Of course, it was bound to happen eventually.  After all, there are only so many active daily users you can have from a global population of 7.7 billion (some of whom do not have good internet access).

Rising Platforms

TikTok’s owner ByteDance, by contrast, saw revenues grow by 70% in 2021 (although even this is slower than the spectacular growth seen previously).

Facebook is primarily about written communication, albeit pictures, images and gifs are often shared on the platform.  TikTok is, of course, mainly about the short form video clip.  The BBC recently reported that Facebook’s owner has warned of pressures on revenues precisely because of stiffer competition from TikTok and YouTube.

Are these signs, therefore, of a wider trend?  Are we seeing a real sea-change in the way in which we communicate?  A transition from a culture of communication based on the written word to one where visual images and video become the dominant mode of interaction?

A visual future?

Are these portents of things to come?  Of a world where communication is primary achieved with the video clip and the streamed podcast?  Some would argue it is already happening, after all it is now quite easy for anyone to broadcast their own content on YouTube, TikTok or Twitch and it will only become easier with each passing year.  Now everyone is a content publisher.

There are also signs of generational differences.  Anecdotally we are hearing that younger people are more likely to engage with social media like TikTok and YouTube.  Social media such as Facebook, with its higher reliance on written content, still has an appeal for older generations but is, perhaps, less suited for a generation addicted to the video clip. 

But can we put any hard numbers to these claims?

Generational differences

A Synchronix survey from last year looked at social media use amongst gamers.  We wanted to understand the extent to which people of different ages engaged with social media to discuss or exchange information about gaming.  The results showed some clear generational differences in terms of preference.

Graph of gamer social media preferences by age

Platforms

YouTube: Emerges as the most popular social media platform for gamers under the age of 45.  Older gamers also engage with it extensively but, for the over 45s, is relegated to the number two spot. 

Instagram: is the second most popular media with the under 25s.  It is less popular with the 24-35 age group but still ranks 3rd overall.  Its popularity clearly diminishes with age, especially amongst the over 45s.

TikTok:  If anything, TikTok illustrates the most significant generational differences of all.  It is used by nearly 40% of the under 25s, placing it neck and neck with Instagram within this age group.  This drops to 26% amongst the 25-34’s (still significant).  However, its popularity wanes markedly in older age groups.

All three brands of visual based social media reflect the same overall pattern.  Their popularity is greatest in the youngest age groups and lowest amongst the over 45s.

Facebook:  Despite the recent slight dip in use, Facebook is popular with all ages.  However, it is not even one of the three most popular platforms for the under 25s, although this soon changes when we start to consider older age groups.  It is the second most popular platform for the 25-44 age group and the most popular with the over 45s.  Its higher reliance on written content lends it greater appeal for older audiences.

Twitter: Twitter is fourth most popular in the under 25s but drops in popularity with older age groups (especially the over 45s).  This is interesting as it shows that Twitter, which is primarily text based, demonstrates that written communications retain a certain degree of popularity with the younger generation.  The short form tweet, with its soundbite feel, is still able to resonate with generation Z in a way that other forms of written communication appear to struggle to do.

The future

One thing is now clear. Visual media has become critical for effectively communicating with Gen Z.  However, they are not entirely abandoning the written word.  Their preference for Twitter above Facebook is likely influenced by a texting culture in which short soundbites are strongly preferred to longer written posts.

The recent dip in Facebook usage likely reflects this generational behaviour shift.  However, the downtick in Facebook engagement should not be exaggerated.  The fact is that Facebook remains very popular amongst the over 25s and the most important social media for engaging with the over 45s.

As newer generations of internet users reach adulthood, it is likely that different generational preferences will become increasingly marked.  Marketeers will increasingly need to adapt strategies to employ a different mix of social media channels depending on the generation of customers they are aiming to communicate with.

So, a campaign aimed at the over 45s may need to focus more on Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp.  However, a campaign aimed at a Gen Z audience would need to take very different approach, and would do better to focus mainly on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

Given the rapid pace of change we have experienced in the world of social media over the past decade, we can expect further significant changes over the next few years.  The next TikTok is likely to be a platform that facilitates video and/or audio interaction rather than something more reliant on the written word.   

As Gen Z comes of age and as younger generations follow, we will move to a culture highly dependent on streaming, video communication and visual interaction.  Perhaps we will eventually see this evolve into virtual reality driven experiences.  In fact, I’m sure this will happen at some point.  And although I suspect it is still a good way off, I would not be surprised if we found ourselves living in such a world twenty years from now.

About Us

Synchronix Research offers a full range market research services and market research training.  We can also provide technical content writing services.

You can read more about us on our website.  

You can catch up with our past blog articles here.

If you like to get in touch, please email us.

Sources

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60255088#

Playbook – UK Gaming Market Report 2021, Synchronix Research

https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/population

https://backlinko.com/instagram-users

https://backlinko.com/tiktok-users

https://www.globalmediainsight.com/blog/youtube-users-statistics/

https://www.reuters.com/markets/funds/exclusive-tiktok-owner-bytedances-revenue-growth-slowed-70-2021-sources-2022-01-20/


Building brand is key but is the brand funnel still relevant?

Building a strong brand

Every marketeer knows that building a strong and distinctive brand image plays a critical role in business success.  You only need to look at brands like Apple, BMW and Coca Cola to see the power of brand image in action. 

No one doubts that brand building is as important today as it always was.  But what about the brand funnel?

The classic brand funnel

The classic brand funnel has been used to describe how potential customers progress along an emotional journey that has several distinct stages.

First, they become aware of a brand, then familiar, then they desire it enough to consider buying it and then, finally, they buy (if all goes well). 

Not everyone completes this journey.  Some may not even make it before the first one or two steps.  This being the case the role of marketing is to find ways to move as many people as possible through the funnel as quickly as possible.

The old model

Back in the days before digital marketing and the internet, the process of moving potential customers through different stages of the brand funnel was a slow one.  It you are relying on such things as TV advertising, magazine advertising and billboards you have no direct connection between the advert and the sale. 

Sure, a person can see your ad as they walk past a billboard, but they had no way to engage with it or to buy your product.  All they could do was look at the ad and (hopefully) remember it. 

In such a world memory is very important.  The gap between someone seeing an advert and actually visiting a shop where your products are sold could be days, maybe even weeks. 

Times have changed

These days someone can see an ad and instantly go to the online shop to buy your product, all within a matter of a few minutes.  There is a direct connection between advertising and sales that rarely existed in the old pre-digital world. 

Previously there was no direct way to measure how many people had seen a billboard ad or what impact it had had on them.  Now we can see how many people engage with ads and how many of these click through to buy a product.

So, do we even need to worry about the brand funnel anymore? 

Some people have even claimed that the brand funnel has now been ripped apart by the digital environment.  That it is an old, irrelevant model for a non-digital age.  But they would be wrong.

How the funnel works in a digital age

Think about what happens when someone encounters a digital ad for a brand they have never seen before.

The first thing that happens is they see the ad.  That’s the first stage of the brand funnel – awareness.  No one ever bought anything they weren’t aware of.

Next, they absorb the messaging in that ad.  Assuming it hits the mark, they are now more familiar with the offer.  That is the second stage of the funnel. 

Thirdly, let’s say our imaginary customer’s interest is engaged.  If all goes well, they will click through to the online shop – they are now considering a purchase.  Then they make the purchase (we hope).

They have still gone through the exact same process – the only difference is that it has taken minutes, not weeks.

Understanding longer term impacts matter

But digital advertising does not just have a measurable immediate impact. 

Many people see a digital ad and simply don’t engage with it.  Or perhaps they visit your website and buy nothing.  So digital marketing can have a minimal impact in the initial instance.  This might be regarded as a failure, but is it?

As in the pre-digital age, many people might see a digital ad and pretty much walk on by.  However, over time a combination of marketing initiatives may make them more familiar with what you do until, perhaps months later, they buy.

In such instances the classic brand funnel still applies.  That is because digital advertising can have a longer-term intangible influence on brand perceptions as well as delivering immediate sales results.

The role of advocacy

One thing which we know is a lot more important these days is brand advocacy.  This is especially the case when it comes to customers willing to give positive reviews and ratings for your products online.  It can play a critical role in converting interest into sales and many customers will actively seek out such reviews online to help them make their decision.

This is a new phenomenon of the internet age – and an especially important one.  Promoting advocacy is therefore a key goal for marketeers.

However, as it turns out this isn’t new – it is just more.  In the days before the internet we had a name for this phenomenon – it was called “word of mouth”.  Everyone knew it was important but of course it was incredibly difficult to measure, let alone influence. 

Advocacy has always a key element in the brand funnel.  All the internet has done is made this a lot more visible and measurable. 

What we now need to be able to do is really understand what makes some people become advocates and others not – and how we can influence this process.

The role of brand tracking surveys

As we can measure many of the immediate results of a digital marketing campaign we don’t need a brand tracker to measure this. 

However, if we want to build our brand over time, we still need to consider the cumulative impact of our marketing on brand perceptions (beyond the short term measurable impacts). 

That said, we need to carefully design any brand tracking survey to ensure it can deliver something of value.  And that means looking at how we can use such tools to deliver some of the things that the more immediate and direct measures we can get from the internet might not be able to tell us. That means using trackers more to:

  • Explore why people fail to engage.
  • Investigate why people fail to move all the way through the funnel.
  • Understand what we might try in future that can engage such people.
  • Look at what aspects of our brand image we should focus on in future campaigns.
  • Understand negative and positive aspects of our brand image we need to address.

Where brand trackers can become bogged down and stale is when they are used solely for tracking what has happened and never for testing any forward-thinking ideas.  Ultimately brand tracking surveys can only remain relevant if they are able to elevate what they deliver from simple metrics monitoring to providing insight for actionable change.

If you’d like to learn more about using market research to manage your brand image please feel free to contact us or have a look on our website for more information.

The Art of Understanding Customer Satisfaction

Today we live in a world where customer expectations are higher than ever.  Next day deliveries or even same day deliveries are becoming the norm rather than the exception.  Stories of bad experiences can go viral on social media in a matter of minutes.  Multiple social media channels, email, chat rooms and call centres provide customers with many ways to communication with a brand and the immediate nature of communications in the modern world creates the expectation that queries can be swiftly dealt with.

For many years now customer experience professionals have made use of customer satisfaction and experience surveys to help them understand their customers.  When tracked over time, they can provide useful insight into what is going well and what could be done better.  But with things changing so fast, how can we ensure these surveys remain relevant and continue to provide useful feedback?

Here are some of my observations and tips for managing customer satisfaction surveys:

Be aware of customer feedback from all sources

Customer needs can change fast.  New technology can create new expectations that rapidly alter customer perceptions of how well or badly a brand is doing.

It is important to ensure that your customer satisfaction survey measures what is important to customers today – not what was important yesterday.  If the market changes, that might mean we ought to be measuring something new or measuring something in a different way.

We can pick up early signs that change might be necessary from a variety of different sources both internal and external to the brand.  Internally, anecdotal feedback from salespeople, accounts people or service engineers are all potentially important.  So too are customer comments on social media – even in the unfortunate event when they present a significant PR problem in the short run, they also provide an opportunity for the business to learn something useful. 

Finally, many customer surveys include open comments questions, and it is always useful to keep an eye on these for anything important that the business might not be aware of. 

The challenge is to gather all this disparate, unstructured, and sometimes entirely anecdotal information together and pick out what’s important.  It is a good idea to set aside some time for a more comprehensive review, where all these different inputs can be collated together and considered, at regular pre-planned times.

Understanding what customer feedback is really telling us

Imagine if a service engineer was late for an appointment and the customer articulates their frustration on Facebook by saying “The engineer was three hours late!”  Or perhaps in another case we hear that “the engineer missed the appointment.”

On the surface of it the problem seems obvious.  The engineer was late, or the appointment was missed.  You review your customer experience questionnaire and sure enough there are questions that appear to cover such things as late or missed appointments.  So, the survey can monitor any issues in these areas as things stand.  That seems clear enough – but is it the full story?

Would these comments have been different if the engineer had called in advance to say they were running late?  And did anyone contact the other customer in advance to let them know the appointment was cancelled?  Keeping people well informed about delays and cancellations might also be an issue here in so far as it may help alleviate the feeling of dissatisfaction.  Is this adequately covered in our survey?

Sometimes it helps not only to focus on the specific problems mentioned in a customer satisfaction survey but also to think about what other factor might be at play that may have made that negative experience worse or better.  Taking time to think about such issues can help to ensure that we are measuring everything we need, providing us with useful ideas as to how we might improve our survey.

Consistency vs. Evolution

When managing any tracking survey over time we are faced with two opposing practical considerations:

  • The need for consistency:  often the most powerful insights from a tracking survey come from the ability to compare like-for-like measures month on month.
  • The need for evolution: but markets and customer needs are ever changing.  The flip side of maintaining consistency for consistency’s sake is potentially that we end up missing emerging key issues.

This is a difficult balancing act but taking the time to step back and formally review the program at pre-planned intervals is the best way to ensure that nothing important is missed. 

However, just as we may need to add to our survey, it is also important to ensure that unused questions are not being retained unnecessarily.  Long surveys lead to poor response rates and, after all, you do not want to annoy your customers by taking up too much of their time!

When pop-up surveys fail

How many times have you been onto a website and immediately been confronted with a pop-up survey asking you for your opinion of the website? 

What a waste of time and effort some of these surveys are – and what a wasted opportunity!

How can anyone meaningfully answer questions about a website that they have only just clicked through to for the first time and have not yet had the chance to look at?

The answer is that they cannot.  Either they will just close the pop-up, or they will fill it out with meaningless information.

Unless people have the option to complete the pop-up survey after they have finished navigating their way around the site, it is a pointless exercise.  This might generate a lower response but at least the response will be meaningful.

Is NPS always useful?

NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a widely used tool in customer satisfaction and loyalty research.  There is a good reason for that.  It has been widely used by many different people for a long time, which means there are some good benchmarks around that you can compare your brand to.  It has also often been shown to translate directly to trends in revenue for many businesses.

But what holds true for a great number of brands is not always true for a particular industry or a particular brand.  If you are using NPS, track it over time and compare it with internal data on sales revenues and repeat business levels, etc.  Is there a relationship?  If so, then NPS can be said to be a key metric for the business to use.  But if not, you may need to look at more appropriate alternatives or perhaps find a modified way to look at it that is more relevant for the situation in hand.

The elephant in the room

GDPR, CAN-SPAM, data privacy. 

Marketeers and market researchers generally do not like spend too much time focusing on such things.  But corporate data compliance officers do.  Corporate compliance and marketing might be cat and dog, but these days we cannot afford to leave the compliance side of customer satisfaction research to the last minute when designing a survey.

How will the customers be contacted, who will contact them and what information will need to be used by whom?  The earlier compliance is involved in these questions the better.  After all, we don’t want to end up designing something only for a compliance officer to turn around at the eleventh hour and say, “Oh no, you can’t do that.”

These days devising a solid strategy for handling customer data in a way that safeguards privacy and complies with regulations should always form a critical part of the briefing and proposal process for any customer satisfaction survey.

Scroll to Top