The New Zealand Story (https://www.nzstory.govt.nz/pages/about) was created with extensive input from over 200 leaders from the primary sector, manufacturing, Māori, export industry, education and wider government services to promote New Zealand. Lots of good on-the-ground research here. One report about exporting to Japan reminds Kiwi's to highlight how we excel by being creative and ingenious in primary markets rather than telling them how good we are at supplying agricultural products.
While I prefer the fee-based analyst databases for their search capability, Smarter Analyst (https://www.smarteranalyst.com/) is a great free substitute. The analyst commentaries focus on listed U.S. companies, so the value of this resource is limited somewhat. The plus is that you can see what is happening in this market and how it could translate to where you are. These analysts often have the contacts and intimate knowledge of a market, which means you get the context to fast-forward your understanding of what's going on.
The old adage that if you build it, they will come is an adage that as marketer researchers we simply don’t use. Identifying a buyers' need or pain point first is crucial and then build your product or service around that by understanding what is happening in the marketplace. One of the best tools I’ve found to identify rising trends and consumer digital behaviours is the Think with Google collections of studies, analysis and reports. For example, this month I found data from Google as to what Gen Xers are watching on YouTube (turns out it is nostalgia related videos and commercials); and, the declining trends in skincare (skin bleaching, seaweed lotion and coconut oil body wraps) are all losing popularity!
Check out our latest issue of Insights, where you will find out how to get hold of case studies that just might help give you some insight on how to solve a problem, using the benefit of others experience. No need to reinvent the wheel - ha ha!
We also feature a great resource which graphically plots where an executive fits in an organisation. That's always interesting to see who their equals are and who they report to, as you can sometimes get a feel about where the company is positioning itself. Don't forget to also see the link to where you can get some great, free market research.
As co-chair of the AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) Local Groups team, I recently had an article published in the Association's magazine about how to set up virtual networking groups. It's a great way for solopreneurs to discuss and motivate others, who get what they do, and face the same ups and downs in their businesses. If you'd like to explore how you can set up a virtual group, here's the PDF of my article.
New Zealand is well known for the quality of the food it produces.
Surveys show that around 70% have a clear preference to buy food such as vegetables, meat, fruit and milk which are produced in New Zealand. Around 14% of Kiwis buy New Zealand food products because they are proud of what their compatriots have gown, but 59% strongly or somewhat agree that they buy local brands because they want to support NZ business. Sounds like identifying NZ made products is an important branding tool that food producers need to include on their packaging to attract consumers.
In 2015, New Zealand consumers were introduced to 13,984 new branded products. Nielsen found that only 64 (0.4%) had sales over $NZ1 million, with only 7 products being truly innovative new offerings. The rest were just line extensions. Manufacturers seem to be sticking to rather boring ways of growing their market share and in turn, reinforcing price sensitivity. However, smart, nimble small innovators have a chance to grab a slice of the market if they can look at changing demographics and target those with growing populations. Think Chinese, South Korean, Indian and Pacific Island peoples, as well as the growth in millennials and the over-50s.
A recent article in Harvard Business Review found that 45% of competitive intelligence (CI) findings weren't used when management was making decisions about strategy. However, those companies who used the power of CI for their decision-making had four common factors:
The CI analyst was assigned a "sign-off" authority over major decisions.
Management was open to perspectives that were different from the internal consensus.
The analyst's report called for proactive action more than reaction.
The analyst was involved in product launches.
The CI analyst having sign-off for major decisions was the most important factor to getting CI used out of the four reasons above. This would indicate that the CI analyst must sit with the decision-makers and be comfortable debating and influencing others about the CI collected. They can't just drop off the slide deck and leave, but must actively champion the value and opportunity that CI brings, and make it a core component of decisions. They've also got to have "skin in the game", by having their name and research seen to be supporting decisions in a very public way that is accountable. That also helps keep the CI honest and reliable. What's not to like about that!
Millie is a new market research tool which gives a lot for free. It brings together market research, news, and reports in one place, with the added bonus of a robust search platform which enables you to filter out the info you don't want. When I tested 'Millie' on a search for avocados and the recent price hike, it directed me to a variety of national and international websites explaining the reasons behind the rising cost of this fruit, as well as analysts reports on large scale growers of avocados, and links to further earlier news reports. The result screen is a bit overwhelming to look at to start with, but once you get to grips with it, the information has been nicely curated, and offers text analytics too. One restriction for me was that it only covers eight sectors at the moment, but they are big ones such as food and beverage, health care, energy etc. Millie is a work-in-progress, so this may change, but even as it stands now, it is a pretty good resource for the desk researcher.
Our latest newsletter (Insights 13) gives some handy tips on pulling country demographic statistics on just about every country in the world. We also feature a great new DIY tool on how to find valuable patent information. A patent search can highlight who is investing in R&D to be more efficient, and where they are focusing their efforts. Finding this sort of valuable competitive intelligence is usually a job for the expert searcher, but with the tips in this slide deck, you can learn more about the information contained in a patent. As mentioned earlier, patent searching can be fraught with danger, so get in touch with me if you need assistance. I can refer you to an experienced patent researcher.
Uber and AirBnB are changing the face of not only holiday travel, but business travel too. With events such as the World Cup in Brazil and the New York Marathon, these 'sharing' companies help fill the gaps of traditional accommodation and transport providers by providing personalised experiences. Now companies such as Experient, which is the world’s largest third-party meeting management company, are offering conference attendees the opportunity to book AirBnB apartments close to convention centres as well as hotels. Families traveling on holiday, while Mum or Dad go to a conference come to mind as a segment that will want this option.
An article in the Harvard Business Review this year explored the idea that companies are spending up large on competitive analysis data and strategies, but they are not being used at the level where it’s needed. The advice is often ignored by senior management, and then companies miss out on opportunities to grow their market, or fail to notice disruptive technology taking business away from them. How can you ensure sure that managers are actually using the competitive information their analysts are producing? One way is to audit decisions made by managers. This is essentially finding out what information they used to make a decision, and why this decision is valid when surrounded by all the other noise swirling around. In turn, managers become better decision makers - they have to use competitive intelligence to plot and defend or champion what happens next. They also get a better sense of what is happening in their market, and the organisation gets ROI from its investment in market research. A win-win for everyone.
The Wayback Machine is a digital archive of older versions of web pages. Business researchers, and competitive intelligence professionals can use older versions of a website for company research. I have used this website to look for deleted products and branding changes, as well as tracking pricing information. It's also been great to find the names and bio’s of past management. Not every web page is included but it’s a fantastic resource for building up a picture about an organisation, their products or employees.
Nielsen’s recent online retail report has driven home the message that the online shopping habits of Kiwis are quickly evolving. No longer a remote set of islands unable to access the latest products, New Zealand can now provide consumers who have access to the internet with a variety of unique and often more cost effective products than found in local stores. But what is driving e-commerce for Kiwis?
The ‘Why Behind The Online Buy’ summarises Nielsen’s report into a 40:40:20 split, finding that convenience, price and range are the main driving forces. Using mobile devices to shop is continuing as a growing trend with 23% of online shoppers buying via smartphones and 19% buying via tablets. Online store owners can help meet the drive for value, thanks to not having to pass on the costs incurred with a bricks and mortar store.
Christopher Adams of the New Zealand Herald last year predicted the growth of the retail trends “show rooming" and "click and collect” for online shoppers; this prediction has proven to be accurate, with a continuation of these trends well into 2015. Nielsen’s report confirms these details with 57% of shoppers having ‘show-roomed’, which is the act of finding a product in store, but then purchasing online for a lower cost.
One downfall to the online shopping trend is the large increase in product returns. Much of this can be attributed to the inability of the customer to see, touch and if applicable, try on the object for themselves, often leading to disappointment. theregister.co.nz urges New Zealand retailers to consider interactive website features such as comprehensive zoom functions and dressing room style features to combat these high product return rates.
I've just completed a really interesting job for a team of New Zealanders who have thought up a great idea for a device and app. The thing was, they needed a quick market scan done by someone who doesn't have that emotional link to whether the idea is worth pursuing. Budget and time frames were tight too.
Here's what I found out:
My clients need to narrow down who their target user is, as the type of device and app is determined by developmental needs, so targetted functionality is key. It also needs to survive the "coolness" test for the users and purchasers.
The overseas market leader is taking steps to dictate what the materials and safety standards of these devices is going to be. This is a really smart move by this competitor - they are helping decide and drive this important concern of purchasers, plus set the standard. This gives them a lead time over others in the market, as well as positioning them as the device of choice.
Crowdfunding for these devices is the primary source of money for product development and marketing overseas, with the funds raised ranging from US$300,000 to US$1.2 million. This gives my clients an indication of what is likely to be needed to get their product off the ground here.
The main competitors are selling the products themselves via their engaging and slick websites, which use entertaining videos to sell. Social media marketing via word of mouth recommendations is absolutely critical for these potential purchasers. My client needs to understand how this type of marketing will need to be employed if they go to market.
The initial shipments of competitor products have sold out, and the companies concerned are taking names for a waiting list for new shipments. This indicates that there is demand for this product and the type of functionality it offers, for a premium price.
This information is the reality that my clients now need to get their head around before they spend any more money and time. Better to know now, rather than later.
Here’s a great report from Euromonitor that picks up on common consumer trends around the world. The free report is packed with supporting data, charts, logical analysis, case studies, and specific examples, all written in an easy to understand way. There's a section on how to market to millennials, the growing importance of connected health technology, the consumer as an influencer, and 'sharing' - the rise of lightweight living, where the benefit of belongings such as cars and homes can be shared by others.
If you want to understand how your business can be affected by these big picture trends, this report covers it all.
Cathy Heath, Director of Heath Research Services was interviewed in 'Bay Buzz' about how she helps businesses get their products or services to market. The article discusses how she finds the answers to:
Will my new product or service be successful, or is someone else already in this market?
Who are they, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
Is this an opportunity - or a danger?
If you know have a need to find out what is happening in your current or new market, or know someone who does, please email Cathy (email@example.com) or phone 06 843 3938 or 027 4393795.
Papers published in academic journals or theses give vigor and breadth to market validation. They do this by providing insight into new ideas, products or markets, particularly if it’s a narrow or obscure field of research or a cutting edge development.
Academic articles also can highlight who are the KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) on a topic. This is useful because it can identify centres of excellence or companies that are researching in that space. Conference presentations are also often covered, which help identify who else is researching your field of interest, what their findings are, what gaps in the research there are, and what their next research strands night be.
Good quality information is primarily available in English language journals, but many foreign language journals can carry vital information not found elsewhere. Crucially, they give insight into local issues, written by local researchers. These articles often have an English abstract, which can be useful. Sometimes it’s helpful to email the authors of these papers to see if they speak English, and are able to supply perhaps a presentation in English, which covers the material you need.
There’s a range of free sources of full-text articles or you can search for fee-based articles published in journals on a multitude of subjects. The most reputable journals will usually charge around $40-$50 each for an article. Here’s some of my favourite haunts:
NZResearch - New Zealand’s largest collection of theses. Here you will find research from students and staff, with most providing the full-text for free.
Google Scholar - A mixture of fee-based and free articles, plus patents and case law.
Microsoft Academic Research - This database can be searched in a variety of ways from discipline, organisation, or conference to name a few. Once you’ve found a citation of interest, you can see where the research has been cited by other researchers, all on one page.
One paper will often lead you onto another piece of relevant research, so remember to keep track of where you’ve been to avoid wasting time later, when you are trying to track down where you read something vital.
In this final episode of my DIY market validation series, I’d like to talk about how to pull all the information you have collected together.
First, read through it all, and then take notes from what you have found. I find it helps to arrange it into sections. Depending on what you are researching, these sections might include market statistics, consumer preferences, regulatory, competitor strategies and substitutes, technology etc.
Filter out all the irrelevant or dated info, but be mindful about any vibes about the context in which your product or service operates in. Big picture stuff often dictates individual consumer preferences.
Don’t forget to include visuals. The size of a competitor factory might be 20,000sqm, but a photo of the factory instantly conveys the size, shape, flexibility of operations and type of environment that your competitor has.
Now you can see what market validation info you have.
What themes or ideas keep repeating themselves? Draw the dots and see what emerges.
Is the information that you have up-to-date and future-oriented?
Do you trust what you are reading? Be honest, especially if it goes against assumptions that you’ve made. It could be the difference between success or failure.
Does the information you have come from a variety of sources? Be aware of bias.
What info gaps do you have? How can you fill them?
The above gives you a taste of how to use information to make a sound decision based on trends, facts, and context. Sometimes numbers won't match up or information won't be conclusive, or you just can't find that magic market size number that you desperately need. If you get stuck, just phone (027 4393795) or email Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll give you a hand.
Alibaba has been in the news a lot lately. It’s founder, Jack Ma, is China’s richest person, has become the first Chinese national to appear on the cover of Forbes magazine, and in 2014, pulled off the biggest IPO the world has ever seen. There are now rumours swirling around that Alibaba will buy eBay.
So what does Alibaba offer to companies looking to do some due diligence on a supplier? It’s a starting point - nothing more. Even Alibaba admits that 23% of their customers were scammed by a Chinese company. Here’s a few tips to avoid that happening to you.
When using the search box and search filters on Alibaba, you can find out who makes the product you want. Just be careful about those entries that are listed as “Gold suppliers”. These suppliers have been authenticated and verified by Alibaba as legitimate traders, but they have also paid a premium to Alibaba to get this certification. Think of it as a bit like Google Adwords. There’s information to suggest that the checking to get ‘Gold Supplier’ certification may be suspect.
Also check to see whether a particular company’s product offering takes up most of the catalogue on Alibaba. This gives an indication that they understand and specialise in the market, and may have more robust quality standards. No guarantees though.
Another thing to do is to check out their company profile. Here’s you’ll find information on how many quotes they have sent out in the last 30 days, lead times, whether English is spoken, business terms etc.
Check out the certification side of things too. You can search for products that have CE standards for example.
When using the search box, change the option from ‘products’ to ‘suppliers’. Here you will see a broad indication of revenue of the supplier, plus their top three markets that they sell to.
Alibaba is a great starting point to locating suppliers in China. You can view a range of products, see certification, find out response rates from a supplier etc. The big caveat with everything is to also get an independent assessment of the supplier. Alibaba have discussion forums where you can look for feedback. However, don’t just trust what is on Alibaba. For starters, consider doing a Google search with the name of the supplier and look for customer feedback or reviews.