Author Archives: Albert Hamilton

  1. How good market research can improve budgetary effectiveness

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    Good market research can improve your marketing strategy.  Effective marketing is rarely accomplished through a one-shot campaign.  It’s essential to engage the audience through a conversation, a sequence of messages, and here’s why.

    Every individual who encounters the campaign will have a different level of connection with the location, product or the service.  They will however fall into one of four categories.

    Uninformed.  This group have not yet heard of the location, product or service.  Therefore the marketing messages need to raise awareness of its existence.  Good market research can tell you how many people in your audience or consumer catchment are uninformed.

    Apathetic.  This group are aware but not enough to care.  The marketing intervention here needs to demonstrate how relevant the offer is to the consumer’s needs.  Consumer insight is an essential skill in good market research.

    Sympathetic.  This group will see benefits to engaging with the offer.  But they will also see the barriers, which for them are winning the argument.  Marketing here needs to give potential customers a path around the barriers they may feel are there.  This needs good market research to identify the barriers to engagement.

    Empathetic.  The only thing preventing this group from engaging an invitation – some reason to get involved.  An initiative, promotion or event to tip the balance and encourage that initial trial.  This is often the area where most marketing spend is concentrated.

    Using CARD Group’s Engagement Path © makes it easy to see how some marketing strategies may only be targeting a portion of the audience, limiting the impact of the available budget.

    Contact us to find out how your marketing spend could be more effective.  We work with clients throughout Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, the UK and beyond.

  2. Market Research – 7 steps to developing an excellent quantitative study

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    Market research is one of those things everyone thinks they should be able to do.  I mean, how hard is it to draw up a couple of questions, right?  In truth, producing reliable research is straightforward enough, provided you know the rules.

    At CARD Group, we’ve devised the mnemonic PHOBIAS to guide our thinking when developing a quantitative market research study.

    P is for Priming.  Priming happens when the person you want to talk to has been given information on the topic on which you want to seek their opinion.  Priming can take place before or even during the questionnaire application.  Priming can be useful or leading.  Good judgement on when and how to use it is essential.

    H is for Halo.  This can describe how the respondent’s prevailing mood can influence their opinion at that time.  If you have just had a fantastic experience or a terrible one, it’s likely that it will influence all of your answers to a questionnaire.  Designing a questionnaire that removes the halo influence is important to get an accurate set of responses.

    O is for Objective.  It sounds obvious but each and every question on the questionnaire needs to provide information towards achieving the objective.  If it doesn’t directly help you achieve your information objective, it will hinder it.  Ensuring you have clearly defined market research objectives takes practise.

    B is for Bias.  There are many biases that can influence a questionnaire.  For example, Loading bias is where the question or answer is biased towards a more positive or negative response – “How well did we do?”.  Other biases such as confirmation bias, acquiescence response bias, or psychological principles such as the representativeness heuristic can all unintentionally lead the respondent to agree to a certain way of thinking.  It’s important to know the range of biases to look for.

    I is for Integration. Integration describes what you are going to do with the information you have collected.  It concerns designing the questionnaire with a view to how the analysis and reporting will be performed.  This will ensure the information can be quickly and accurately used for its intended purpose.

    A is for Artefact.  A statistical artefact is a problem that has been designed into the market research methodology that cannot be analysed out.  It in effect renders the project useless and must be carefully avoided.  Lack of control questions or a control sample to provide a baseline against which to measure the results is a commonly encountered artefact.  There are many others!

    S is for Sampling.  The cornerstone of any quantitative research project is ensuring there is a sufficient number of the intended participants.  Sampling can very often go wrong if the sampling strategy has not been devised correctly.  Seeking the opinions of people who will not have access to a product or service, simply because they are easy to reach is a common sampling problem and one that can decimate the accuracy of any research study.

    At CARD Group, we have been using our PHOBIAS mnemonic to ensure our projects are as accurate as they can be.  If you need a sounding board to ensure your study has been designed correctly – talk to us.  Many Northern Ireland, UK and Ireland companies already have.

  3. How accurate customer insight can improve marketing

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    Without accurate customer insight, you could be marketing to the wrong stage of the AIDA model.

    To develop effective advertising campaigns, marketers have been using variations of the AIDA marketing model for more than 100 years.  Channelling potential customers through developing Awareness, generating Interest, then creating Desire through to prompting Action can been seen underpinning advertising across every media channel in use today.  It has been a hugely successful model based on implicit customer insight.

    However we are still not using AIDA to its full extent.  If we rewrite the AIDA model from a customer insight perspective, we can access a range of new marketing opportunities to improve marketing effectiveness.


    Why is a customer insight model important?

    In order to reach any destination, it is essential to understand both where you are starting from and where you are going.  AIDA on its own only provides the destinations i.e. customers become aware, interested, desiring then taking action.  However, the CARD Group Customer Insight model provides the start points from which to influence customer behaviour in order to progress to each of the AIDA stages.

    We look at the buying process from the customer’s perspective.  Customers start from a position of Ignorance in relation to the product or service.  Once aware, customers are likely to be Apathetic until we cultivate interest.  If we do this successfully the customer will be Affected by what we have to say, and from there we can present an opportunity to Enable the customer to take action.

    The CARD Group customer insight model profiles potential consumers across four stages: Ignorant –> Apathetic –> Affected -> Enabled.

    So how do we know at what stage customers are in the model?  This is where CARD Group customer research can help marketers to understand at what stage potential customers are on the customer insight model.

    Our research can identify common attributes characterising each customer insight stage for your product or service.

    These attributes can then be incorporated into your marketing planning to create the most effective strategy for moving potential customers from their current customer insight stage to the corresponding stage in the AIDA model from Ignorance to Awareness, from Apathy to Interest, from Affected to Desire and from Enabled to Action.

    Customer Insight Model v. AIDA model

    There is one major benefit, in particular, of using customer research to find out at what stage potential customers are in the model and the corresponding attributes.  As marketing planning can be accurately focused on addressing the precise needs of potential customers as they move through each stage, customer journey time can be reduced leading to faster achievement of marketing objectives.

    Contact CARD Group to discuss how we can provide you with the underlying components of customer insight in our research.  We partner with clients across Ireland, the UK and Europe.

  4. Community Consultation: Six key points for a successful consultation

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    Six key points for a successful community consultation


    A successful community consultation requires:

    1) Clear and unambiguous objectives for the community consultation

    2) Appropriate and actively-inclusive community consultation methods

    3) A community consultation plan detailing opportunities to participate and deadlines

    4) Effective publicity to ensure all groups, including hard-to- reach, have the information needed to enable participation

    5) Effective communication of the outcomes of the community consultation

    6) An evaluation of the success of each mechanism used, to invest in future community consultations.

    Each of the above aspects are littered with pitfalls, any one of which can distract from the core purpose of the community consultation. An independent and experienced perspective can make all the difference between indisputable evidence and subjective interpretation.

    Stakeholder engagement enables a better-informed plan, which garners greater community support as the plan moves towards adoption.

    Read more about our public sector, town centre, Business Improvement District and not-for-profit services.

    Alternatively, for information on how CARD Group can assist with facilitating community consultation and research for town planning please contact Albert Hamilton at We operate throughout the UK, Ireland and Europe.

  5. Customer Research

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    How good customer research drives better sales

    I was recently in a meeting with a prospective client and I asked who their target market was.  I was told it was “everyone”.  That was all I needed to hear to know that they did not have a sufficient customer research strategy in place.

    Given that good customer research drives better sales, it didn’t take long to demonstrate how a small investment in specialist customer research would lead to substantially bigger profits.  True enough, we were engaged and that’s what happened.

    It is wrong assume that everyone has an equal likelihood of purchasing your product.  Some will want it more than others.  There are affordability implications, getting time to visit the shop, distance to the shop, online competition, awareness …  What it all boils down to is that some customers are much more likely to buy than others.  Doesn’t it make sense then to find those customers first?  That’s what good customer research does.

    Here’s an example, a retailer who sells televisions.  Obviously they want to sell to people who watch TV.  Does that make ‘everybody’ their target market?  No, of course not.  Different people want different things.  What type of consumer will want the latest 8k pixel model with smart internet capability?  What about the number of HDMI and USB ports?  Does size matter? Yes, of course it does – someone shopping for a 50” screen won’t settle for a 32”.  Effective customer research removes the assumption from marketing, leading to better results.

    Research starts with a detailed analysis of current customers – and this is where it is essential to engage a strong customer research company.  Even the multiples with their substantial marketing teams need to contract this out.  Don’t be fooled into thinking you can do this yourself – that’s a bit like watching Grey’s Anatomy and believing you can take out your own appendix.

    A reputable retail customer research company can independently uncover essential insights about consumers; who they are, why they buy from you, and importantly, why they don’t.  They can pinpoint where – exactly – marketing investment should be made to prioritise the relevant customer profiles and release the highest return on investment.  Even at that stage financial savings are being made in stemming investment from unprofitable segments.

    For further information on how CARD Group, one of the leading customer research companies in the UK, can help you understand your customers better, please contact Albert Hamilton at or visit   We operate throughout the UK, Ireland, the EU and globally.

  6. Why it’s risky to market to your ‘average’ customer

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    Why is some market research so fixated on averages?

    Say we add up the exam scores of ten students and we divide that number by ten.  That gives us their average score – right?  The strange thing is – it is highly unlikely that most, or possibly even any of the students got that exact score.  In other words the average does not describe most or even any of the students!

    One argument is that an average is meant to provide information on the customer group – as a group, rather than any individual customer.  This is of course true, but we also need to recognise the limitations.

    For example, this average figure can hide polar peaks, polar troughs, an ascending, descending or static population.  A small number of female shoppers visiting frequently, can give the exact same average gender proportions as a large number of females shoppers visiting rarely.


    When you think about it, an average tells us very little at all.

    When it comes to marketing then, pitching to the average consumer runs the risk of minimising your return on investment.  People are not average.  We are the opposite and in a social world of infinite media connections – we want to be treated as individuals.

    In our reports CARD Group works hard to show the figures behind averages.  We provide a matrix of the numerous types of consumer and their varied circumstances to help you to evaluate your marketing plans, to further develop your customer segments and improve your marketing strategy.

    Talk to us for some true customer insight.  We are not an average market research agency.

  7. Big Data limitations and how to overcome them with Big Qual

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    In the struggle to increase market share and share of wallet, having hard numbers from quantitative research to refer to can be reassuring.

    Quantitative market research provides answers to questions such as where exactly is our secondary catchment? How much is it worth? What is our share of that market? In which postcode zones are we strong? Where are we weak?  Specifically, which postcode zones will give us the biggest return on marketing investment. And this is all information crucial to our client’s marketing strategies. But quantitative research is only part of what we do day and daily for our clients.

    Big data does not have all the answers

    Hard data – quantitative research – can only take you so far.  Big data does not have all the answers. It can tell you who is and who isn’t coming.  However, it can’t tell you why they are missing from your visitor base and what marketing approach will get the best response.  While quantitative research can take you to the river, it can’t build the bridge.

    We have seen some reports that describe the best approach to take based on ‘industry insight’, or ‘extensive sector experience’.  Without hard evidence though, isn’t this really just subjective guesswork?  We have seen correlation confused with causation too many times.

    The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way and consumers already have the answer.  The important thing is to connect with them directly.

    We produce Big Qual

    CARD Group offers a range of ways to connect with your potential consumers to understand their desires, interests, circumstances and problems.  We understand what works for them and what doesn’t.  We connect with them in ways that work – for them.  This means we hear from everyone – including the hard to reach.  We produce Big Qual.

    Without qualitative research, you are really only dealing with assumptions.  Can you afford to do that?

    Talk to us about our sector innovations in big qualitative research.  As a full service market research company, we work across the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe.

  8. Why ‘Off-the-shelf’ doesn’t work in market research

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    Less is more.  We’ve all heard it, but how can it ever make any sense that less can be more?

    Here’s an experiment.  Take a blank sheet of paper and draw 10 dots on it.  Take 5 seconds to look at your handiwork.

    Ok, can you circle which dot got most of your attention?  Are you sure?

    Now turn the page over.  Draw one dot.  Look at the page for 5 seconds and try not to look at the dot.

    The strange thing is, for most of us even in trying to ignore it, that one dot still got all our attention.

    Less is more.

    Statistics can be equally counter-intuitive.  It is sometimes thought that the more participants in a study, the more accurate the report will be.

    It’s true to a point. But beyond that point, it can take large amounts of additional resource to achieve even a small increase in accuracy.  In other words here, more is less.  More money and more time, gives less value and less efficiency.

    It is for this reason that CARD Group examines and plans each research project individually.  ‘Off-the-shelf’ doesn’t work in research.  Each study has its own ideal point where accuracy and budget balance.  CARD Group finds the necessary information to the ideal level of confidence.

    Is less more?  Perhaps sometimes.  But just enough is always perfect.

  9. Shopping Centre Market Research

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    The rationale for accurate shopping centre market research

    Over the years we have received requests from clients to provide rationales for undertaking research.  Marketing budgets tend to be limited and clients can be under pressure to clarify the benefits of market research with regard to return on investment.

    These are a few of the questions our shopping centre clients sometimes need to answer.

    1. Why do research at all?  Our marketing budgets are tight enough.

    Marketing is of course about communicating the right message to the right people in the right way.

    • Good shopping centre market research can accurately show which customer types spend the most money in the centre across the year. This lets you market for spenders, rather than footfall, meaning that the retailers and caterers perform better and are more sustainable.
    • Good shopping centre market research can show where the most valuable customer types live.  Location can be surprising as these valuable customers don’t often live in the best housing estates.

    There is a misconception that the most affluent people spend the most.  They don’t.  The people who spend the most are those who have the greatest affinity with the shopping centre’s retail offer.  Finding out who they are is very important as it influences the messages that these customer types need to see to be convinced to come to the centre. It’s NOT just about fresh Creative.  That’s not enough any more.

    1. Shopping centre market research is for bigger centres with bigger budgets

    • Some shopping centre managers believe that they have insufficient budgets for research as they need to spend it on marketing, advertising and promotions.
    • Marketing is of course not just about events and appraising creative advertising options.  Unfortunately without actual data representing the shopping centre customer base and the potential customer base, marketing usually defaults to just that.  It’s a shame because while marketing without up to date customer information can be effective –it is rarely, if ever, the most effective.  A shopping centre that is not achieving its potential is costing itself money.  Weigh-up a 1% gain in shopping centre turnover against the cost of a market research study.


    1. Shopping centre market research just tells me what I already know

    Poor research does, yes.  Poor research is just a costly distraction and not worth doing.  In some cases, shopping centre managers believe that they know their local market and centre so well that research is not necessary.

    However, good shopping centre market research provides a tangible benefit to the bottom line.  Excellent market research brings success, faster.   Excellent research depends on finding an accurate statistical sampling strategy.  Using a questionnaire that avoids all the pitfalls including confounded variables and statistical and psychological biases.  Using properly trained interviewers who record without influence. And producing a report that correctly analyses the data ensuring outcomes clearly distinguish between correlation and causation.

    Unfortunately we have seen very few of our client’s previous questionnaires that are suitable for use in shopping centre market research – and there are still shopping centres that believe longer a dwell time leads to greater spend.  All part of the legacy of poor past market research.

    In summary, good market research provides information on which customer types are the most valuable to the centre over the year, and how much these customers are likely to spend. This helps to focus marketing spend on the small areas that will deliver the greatest gain, using the messages that will have the biggest impact on the most valuable consumer.

    CARD Group is retained by many of the most influential centres in their regions (whether large or small).  Talk to us about how you could access essential visitor and catchment insight to increase sales or visit our shopping centre page.

  10. Selecting the right research tools

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    Using the wrong research tools can damage a shopping centre’s value

    Is there any other profession where we would tolerate someone deciding which tool to use before they knew what the job was? What would you say to someone trying to use a saw to hang a picture on a wall? Would you be confident in a doctor who brought only a stethoscope to diagnose an unknown illness?

    Surprisingly this back-to-front process happens in consumer research, and despite its prevalence, it is equally wrong. It is not uncommon to hear that a quantitative study is required, prices are agreed and following that questionnaires are to be developed to find the missing information.

    What is wrong with this?

    Let’s look at the issue another way. Research is just like every other profession in that there is always a range of possible tools to achieve a defined objective. While several research tools may work, some will be more efficient and effective, and others will make the job more difficult.

    To ensure that we are using the right research tool at the right time, it is crucial to fully define the objective first. This step can seem so obvious that it is often skipped but in consumer research, a clear objective maximises the usefulness of the project and the efficiency of the budget.

    Some research objectives we have achieved for clients have included:

    • Which postcode sectors in my secondary catchment are secure and which are vulnerable to competitor activity on a month by month basis?
    • How much does this vulnerable group spend each month in my centre and how much with competitors?
    • What are their main reasons for spending elsewhere?
    • Which consumer types are under-represented in my centre currently and offer the greatest opportunity for increased footfall and sales?
    • Which consumer types represent our greatest spend, and where should we market to encourage more of them to visit the centre?

    Only when we have a clear set of research objectives, is it appropriate to determine the best course of action to achieve those objectives. It should always be objective, then strategy.

    What’s the alternative? If using the wrong research tool can lead to misdiagnosis and damaging consequences – there is no alternative. For help with clarifying research objectives and reaching the right research strategy, talk to CARD Group.