Category Archives: Blog

What’s new in… Retail & Ecommerce. 5 Reads & 5 Opportunities

If you follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn you’ll know that we are always on the hunt for the best content – futures, retail innovation, consumer behaviour, FMCG, mobile devices, and of course the latest in market research.

We’d now like to introduce our new blog series, which brings together our top reads from different industry verticals every week. We’ve done the reading: here’s the distilled summary of what’s going on and why it matters for your business.

This week, retail and ecommerce. Technological advances are dramatically changing consumer behaviour and the retail landscape, from using phones to pay for goods in-store, to “showrooming” and third-spaces. The retail experience is evolving and the challenge of making in-store and online work effectively together is considerable.

Here we’ve chosen the top 5 articles we’ve read recently that are an essential for those who want to understand this current exciting time for retail.

1. Retailers must reinvent stores, says report
Business of Fashion, 27th January 2015

Retailers need to reinvent the store

“Nonetheless, to remain competitive, legacy brands and retailers must do more to reinvent their stores to better suit the behaviours and expectations of today’s hyper-connected consumers, while leveraging their traditional advantages, argues a recent report by PSFK”

Opportunity: Up the personal interaction of the in-store experience. It’s not just about payment, but personalised recommendations too. The iPad becomes a crucial surface to give sales associates access to the same algorithmic recommendation engines that make the website feel so ‘relevant’ to the customer.

2. The ‘Alone Together’ Customer Experience Trend: From Starbucks To Hotel Design To Retail Banking
Micah Soloman, Forbes, 31st January 2015

"Latte and Laptop" - changing the way we use public spaces

“The Futures Company has dubbed this the “Latte and Laptop” customer: the guest, customer or traveler who craves a communal setting where, paradoxically, she can do private work.”

The previous article talked about personalising the store. This is the next stage evolution: turning it into a public space. The rise in flexible and freelance working means people are looking for ways to work outside the office, but still among other people. (Starbucks has embedded this into their brand with the idea of the ‘Third Place’.) The opportunity? Make your store a nice place to hang out, with tables and free wifi. This will drive footfall, opportunistic sales, and brand loyalty.

3. Watch your online spending – How a handful of purchases can reveal anonymous shopping habits
Adi Robertson, The Verge, 29th January 2015

Online spending habits are 1 in a million

“When the authors mapped locations, dates, and prices of someone’s non-anonymous purchases against the whole database, it was usually easy to find a single, unique pattern. With three points or more, it was virtually a certainty.”

Data matching certainly offers an opportunity to give customers targeted discounts and better recommendations, and drive sales. But retailers need to weigh this up against the risk of creeping their customers out. (How did you know I was pregnant?) User experience research is essential to identify which data-matching opportunities are worth pursuing – and we might find some retailers forgoing opportunities here in order to consolidate a position as solid, trustworthy, don’t-scare-the-horses brands.

4. The sharing economy goes next level. Introducing the “Airbnb sub-economy”
Jenny Miller, Fast Company, January 2015

The sharing economy goes next level with Airbnb sub-economy

“A new crop of businesses are here to handle everything from key handoff to guest laundry. Call them the “Airbnb sub-economy.”

Companies such as Airbnb and Uber are sometimes described as a ‘rentier’ or ‘parasite’ economic model: the hosts own the assets (houses, cars) and provide the actual service, whereas these companies profit simply from connecting buyers and sellers. We now have subsidiary service businesses built on top of parasites… Not sure we can see an opportunity in that, except it’s all getting very derivative and the clock’s just ticked a minute closer to the next economic crisis.

Opportunity? Don’t build a service business that’s totally dependent on a sharing economy start-up with dubious regulatory compliance! It’s low margin and high risk.

5. How to get Abercrombie & Fitch back on track
Katie Smith, Editd, January 2015.

How to fix Abercrombie & Fitch

“It has been argued that the brand’s consumer profile of collegiate, wealthy American is passé: some say this consumer is now too well informed and more diverse.”

Abercrombie and Fitch’s business model no longer fits the direction of the industry. Changing consumer attitudes have meant A&F now has major issues with its product, pricing and positioning. Katie Smith takes examples from parallel UK premium high street stores Jack Wills and Superdry to showcase that with the right strategy and positioning premium brands can still win big on the high street.

Opportunity: Think bigger – it’s not just about brand identiy, but culture and demographics. Brand identities cannot stay static: they have to update as consumer trends and demographics evolve. In Abercrombie’s case,  key demographic trends would include the increasing ethnic diversity of young Americans and the changing college experience (the 4-year liberal arts degree is a tiny part of the whole). What cultural shifts in demographics, housing, transport, or employment might change your brand?


So that’s the lastest in retail and ecommerce, from Ed Hawes and Jess Owens.  Join us next week for another five reads from another sector – suggestions welcome at @FaceResearch!

Or check out our case study on Retail, where we used our Social Panels to explore the possibilities in data matching for a major UK store.

FACE is Hiring! Qual Senior Research Manager in the Consultancy team

We are happy to announce that FACE is hiring! We are looking to add an experienced Senior Research Manager to our team in London.

To find out more about FACE, watch our ‘Manifesto’ video, come meet the team, or of course read our blog (some great pieces recently on ‘social intelligence‘, the ‘business of products‘, and copycat brands in China). That should give you a flavour of what we’re about!

Then send your application (or any questions you may have) to our Head of Research,

Outline of Role:

The role of qualitative Senior Research Manager is key within the team, and to the FACE business as a whole.  Senior RMs are expected to contribute significantly to building relationships both internally and externally.  They should inspire clients with their attitude and professional application, and the quality of their thinking and work.  They are expected to provide advice, guidance and inspiration to junior members of the team, whilst supporting and giving peace of mind to RDs and the management team.

You are a forward-thinking qualitative consultant with at least 4-5 years’ experience, keen to play a key role in the winning, leading, and execution of research and innovation projects. This entails working on the full project lifecycle, from designing and setting up projects and conducting fieldwork, through to analysis, report writing, and presenting. You must have extensive experience of working successfully in teams and be able to manage projects, and help build successful client relationships where necessary – both in the UK and internationally.

Job Description:

  • Manage research projects on a day to day basis, using a variety of qualitative methods including face-to-face, online communities, and mobile ethno – and a desire to work with social media (experience not a pre-requisite here).
  • Be involved in project costings, including opening and maintaining communication channels with production, and building the costing sheet
  • Create task plans for and oversee delivery on online community research
  • Help facilitate creative workshops and co-creation
  • Run traditional qualitative approaches e.g. focus groups, in depth interviews, immersions
  • Proactively look to incorporate social media insight into qualitative approaches. When appropriate, work closely with social media specialists to produce social media reports
  • Co-write and present strategic proposals and pitches
  • Co-write and present strategic debriefs, client presentations and content for workshops
  • Contribute to the agency blog and thought leadership
  • Work tirelessly to deliver the quality standards set by the RDs and Head of Research

Skills and experience sought:

A desire to push the insight innovation agenda forward
Our agency leads the way in rethinking how innovation, strategy and insight is generated and utilised in the age of the networked consumer, so a desire to be involved with helping to push the insight innovation agenda forward will be expected.

Teamwork and a solution-driven attitude
In the UK we are a team of 20 all working across multiple projects at any given time. We have a democratic way of working that ensures everyone’s opinion – regardless of level or experience – is listened to and valued. Teamwork and a desire to assist others in the pursuit of value and quality very much lies at the heart of our culture. A positive mindset, an ability to work with and value others, and a solution-driven attitude, are prerequisites for this role.

Commercial savvy and client relationships
You must be able to think and act commercially, and assist in the building of strong client relationships, working with clients at a marketing and management level (beyond client research teams).
We operate a flexible account structure at FACE and the Senior RM will play a key support role on at least two accounts. You will work closely with the relevant RDs and / or Head of Research to devise an on-going account strategy. #

Smart project management
As a Senior RM, you will be able to think quickly and handle multiple projects and work streams simultaneously – being efficient in terms of personal time management, and the management of others.


Salary TBC – competitive
Bonus Entry into FACE account bonus initiative
Private health care Yes
Pension Automatic enrolment into FACE company pension scheme

If you’re interested in applying for this role and you’d love to join FACE, please send your application (or any questions) to  We look forward to hearing from you!

If this is not you but you know someone it might fit, please share on email, mailing lists, Twitter (we’re @FaceResearch) and LinkedIn. 


Social Intelligence: Not Just for Social Strategy

At FACE, we’re a hybrid group of “qualies” and data analysts who keep an open mind about what it means to be a researcher in 2014 – how research should happen and where the most valuable information comes from. We’re increasingly incorporating social media intelligence in our work, used either as a primary methodology or a layer of context in qualitative studies. However, we’re aware that some of our colleagues and clients are hesitant to consider social research methodologies.

I’ll get this out of the way upfront: social analysis is not the right fit for every research objective. Yet social is often dismissed simply because clients assume that anything social is not in their jurisdiction. That’s what I want to argue against in this blog post – instead, let’s start thinking of how social media can inform every dimension of brand planning.

Here are some familiar examples of the reasoning behind why social gets cut from budgets or even passed over in favor in of much more expensive approaches:

  • “This data may be interesting, but our brand doesn’t tweet, so social media stuff is not for us”
  • “Looks like you have strong social capabilities, but that’s not really relevant to my team; maybe I’ll put you in touch with our PR department.”
  • “We’ve got a dedicated team working on social marketing. They’re not set up for research, exactly, but I can have them pull any reports I need”

It seems there is a not uncommon perception that social data is exclusively for social strategy: analyze social conversation and sharing to become a better social conversationalist and sharer.

I disagree. In fact, the value of social understanding is far more expansive than that. Incorporating social insight is an exercise in lateral thinking that can make research more potent across the spectrum of strategic planning.

Stanley Pollitt's book 'Pollitt on Planning'

Stanley Pollitt, co-credited with starting the ad agency practice of account planning, had an important take on this theme long before digital social networks were in play:

“The account planner is that member of the agency’s team who is the expert, through background, training, experience, and attitudes, at working with information and getting it used – not just marketing research but all the information available to help solve a client’s advertising problems.”

This perspective is relevant beyond advertising problems. Research must be focused, but focus shouldn’t mean “same old” or one-dimensional, whether that’s traditional focus groups or brand trackers. If your strategic goals are ambitious, your research goals – and methodology – should be too. “…all the information available to help solve a client’s problems.

We’re now living in a world where the subjective emotion we share and the measurable data trail we leave behind are both signs of our humanity. So as a researcher you’ve got to love talking face-to-face with a consumer as well as studying how that person comes to life in a spreadsheet.

Social is a unique stream of information and is there, as Pollitt would suggest, “to get used.” Social data is exciting in that it’s vast, readily available, and relatively cost effective to access. Moreover, social conversation is generally unprompted – a chance to throw away the discussion guide and purely listen. What you’ll hear will inform far more than how to write your next tweet.

Beyond social marketing strategy, here are several thought-starters for how to get smart from social insight and use it across your brand or business, not just for social media strategy.

1. Audience Profiling

  • Segment social users talking about a brand  or topic to learn more about existing customers – or discover potential new target audiences
  • Improve recruitment for subsequent research, e.g. build a smarter screener based on fresh insight into demographic and lifestyle parameters

2. Advertising effectiveness measurement

  • Optimize media spend by detecting regions of brand interest before messaging is in-market
  • Track impact of online or offline advertising by region, based on social reaction (either organic reactions or in response to a call to action, such as a promoted hashtag)
  • Gauge performance of local activations, e.g. in-store events or franchise promotions
  • Assess PR activity such as news editorial coverage and native advertising
Pulsar location map - US by state

Pulsar location maps can show where people are talking about your brand, stores or advertising

3. Understand your online sales funnel

  • Measure links shared to Ecommerce properties to understand where consumers are talking about buying your products or competitors and the category at large
Pulsar most shared Media visualisation  by domain

Pulsar’s Media visualisations analyse the links being shared within a topic of discussion

4. Design Inspiration for products & services

  • Identify consumer-generated content and use it as stimulus for brainstorming for new product development, creative production, packaging design and more
  • Gather unmoderated feedback on a purchase journey or product experience to inform future UX design

Social media allows real-time customer journey feedback

These four options are just a start: there are many other ways to get more creative and more analytical with social data. Studying social conversation provides a window in to consumer mindset and behavior, not just a view of popular chatter. It’s helpful to think about social media by breaking it down to its basics: networks of people sharing opinions, speculating about the future, and reviewing experiences. In that lies true insight for business problems, so there’s no use in being anti-social!

For more ideas for leveraging social data, see Fran D’Orazio’s Future of Social Media research blog post.

Marc Geffen is based in our US office. If you want to discuss how he can help your business in the New Year then send him an email:


How’d you sell New York to New Yorkers? The NYC & Co ‘See Your City’ campaign?

Kate Davids of FACE’s New York office analyses the city tourism board’s latest campaign

Right now, New York City is encouraging New Yorkers to play tourist in their own city. The NYC & Company ‘See Your City’ campaign is positioning a selection of neighborhoods in each borough as a tourism destination for locals in an effort to get local New Yorkers to explore more (and spend more) in different parts of the city.

While I do think there is no city better to play tourist in, I don’t think it is quite that easy.

Of course, New Yorkers do love to explore their city. Anyone who lives in New York will tell you there is a constant search for a new bar, restaurant, shop or show. Everyone likes to discover something new. But is this tourism? I don’t think so, and I think that positioning this push for locals to explore New York as tourism is not the best way to encourage local New Yorkers to travel to Staten Island.

In this blog post I’ll explore why – and try to imagine what the NYC & Co. ‘See Your City’ campaign could have done differently.

What’s the motivation to do ‘tourist’ things, anyway?

Whether it is standing on line, paying higher prices, or just taking time out to go gawk at the sites, playing tourist requires effort and it’s something we have to decide to do.

Being a tourist, of course, means more than just going to look at a monument. Being a tourist usually means traveling, which has a whole host of benefits for the traveler. This Quora thread lists off quite a few of them, but a few themes seem to emerge from the user responses:

  • It is an escape: A tourist has the opportunity to distance herself from her everyday life. This provides an opportunity for the traveler to re-center herself, figure out what’s important, who she is. It’s almost existential, in a way.
  • It displays other ways of life: Whether that is seeing how New Yorkers bustle everywhere or how residents of Phoenix, AZ enjoy a good saunter through a mall, , travel helps tourists broaden their outlooks and see the world from another point of view. Some say it is about feeling more connected to the rest of humanity, seeing what we have in common. To others it’s about seeing our differences within the rich patchwork of sensorial experiences the world has to offer.
  • It is exciting: Who can deny that travel keeps you on your toes? A tourist becomes more aware of what is going on around her. She can’t just float along when in a strange place, she has to keep her eyes and ears open. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush!

Why do locals not do the things tourists do?

The NYC & Co. ‘See Your City’ campaign, of course, is not asking tourists to visit these neighborhoods. It’s asking New York locals to be tourists in their own city. Which makes me wonder, why aren’t locals already doing touristy things in their cities?

I turned my Facebook friends into a bit of a focus group, asking them, “Why do locals not do the things tourists do – even when they are cool? Sometimes it seems that tourists see more of our cities than the locals do! Why is that?” My friends live in a variety of places, from Phoenix to New York. Here’s what they had to say:

“Because you can do it at any time, why make a special trip out of it? Also, many of things that we think of tourists doing become so familiar that we feel we do them anyway (like passing the ruins in downtown phoenix), we live with them everyday anyway.” – Joe D.

“I definitely think that tourists do things that are cool, but, frankly, when will we do them? In addition, a lot of “attractions” are overpriced, I would rather not do it here, and do it another location.” – Stephanie R.

“Tourists plan everything around seeing these things, but when you live somewhere it’s easy to say “I’ll get around to it” and then you find yourself moving and realize all the things you missed. But how important are those things really?” – Michelle W.

So, from time limitations to over-familiarity, locals seem to have a different point of view of their cities’ attractions. Granted, the NYC & Company campaign is promoting destinations not typically associated with tourists – most tourists don’t even make it to Staten Island – but these two themes are still relevant. Locals are busy living their lives, which means they have less time to explore out of the way neighborhoods, often putting such places on the back burner until some “later time.” That, surely, is the barrier that a ‘locals’ travel campaign would need to tackle.

“See Your City” doesn’t address why locals aren’t doing these things already

Take a look at the campaign microsite. Sure, they call Van Cortlandt Park “where savvy New Yorkers escape,” but for the most part, it reads like what it is – a travel guide. It makes the destinations feel exciting, interesting, and like an escape, hitting all those high notes that tourists love about travel. I don’t know if this type of presentation will make these destinations feel like an exciting escape to a local New Yorker, but it is clear that the campaign is trying.

NYCgo pic 2

It’s not hard to see why a foodie like me really wants to go to Arthur Avenue, but finding the time to do so is another matter. (

But, it doesn’t respond to why New Yorkers aren’t doing these things already. I’ve known about Arthur Avenue (the Bronx’s Little Italy) and the Staten Island Greenbelt for years, but I still haven’t gone, and while this campaign is reminding me of why I do want to go to these locations, I don’t know if it is motivating me to finally get on a train and go. Procrastination and an already busy life are still barriers to exploration, and the campaign isn’t dealing with them.

I’ve also been through Dumbo and Hell’s Kitchen before, though I haven’t explored them in the way this campaign suggests I do. As my Facebook friend Joe D. said, I am familiar enough with the areas that I feel I’ve done the exploration already, even though I haven’t gone into the churches or visited the bakeries. Those neighborhoods are part of the backdrop of my life. I don’t know if they are worth a special trip for me.

But New Yorkers do love to explore their city…

….The campaign just needs to give us the tools and some incentive to go.

Whether it’s checking out a list of cool restaurants in Time Out or signing up for a walking tour (which local New Yorkers love to do, by the way), New Yorkers love to explore, try new things, and generally get out. Our city is always changing around us, and, frankly, our apartments tend to be tiny and cramped, adding extra incentive to get out of the house.

NYCgo pic 3

Like this Urban Oyster Tour group on a Brownstone Brooklyn tour. Their tours are designed specifically for locals. (

So this campaign has great potential. Tapping into the audience of local New Yorkers is a great move, but rather than focusing on how “For the world, it’s the trip of a lifetime. For you, it’s a subway ride away”, focus instead on helping New Yorkers overcome the barriers to being a “local tourist.”

We know we live in a great city, and the desire to see it is there. We just need some tools to get us started. Here are a few ideas for how this campaign can address the barriers of local tourism:

  1. Partner with some local walking tour companies to make exploring a neighborhood feel more manageable, less like an all-day activity and more like a fun weekend afternoon?
  2. Help New Yorkers see familiar neighborhoods as more interesting by talking about the hidden secrets and histories of the areas. We love finding hidden things!
  3. Highlight local events and festivals to help us find a reason to go out to those neighborhoods now rather than later. We hate missing a party, and once you get us to go once, you can probably get us to come back to try that cute restaurant on the corner we saw but didn’t have a chance to try.
  4. Suggest itineraries and other tools to help make “playing tourist” feel less daunting and time consuming. The easier it is, the more likely people will do it, after all.
  5. Focus on the new and the changing. Perhaps give each neighborhood a specific page with updates on new restaurants or galleries. This could work particularly well for trendy locales like Long Island City or neighborhoods that are changing quickly, like Harlem.
  6. Suggest occasions, helping get around that procrastination barrier. Rather than listing off all the bars in Hell’s Kitchen, how about give us a list of top Happy Hours for the after work crowd?

At the moment the campaign suggests locations and makes them sound interesting and fun, but to really be the success I think it could be, it needs to give New Yorkers tools like these to make being a tourist in our own city easier and more interesting, overcoming the barriers we currently face.

If you would like to find out how Kate can help you achieve a great campaign, or you’d just like more insightful tips on exploring New York City, send her an email:

Why Big Data is a human problem, not a technology one

At the beginning of October our VP of Products Francesco D’Orazio hosted a talk at the Internet & Mobile World conference in Romania. This event was focused highly on the digital transformation of businesses, aiming to highlight the online and mobile challenges they are faced with. Leading experts from the technology world gathered to share their thoughts on what’s driving forward the industry and how this translates to business.

“Big data” has been around for a few years now but for every hundred people talking about it there’s probably only one actually doing it. As a result Big Data has become the preferred vehicle for inflated expectations and misguided strategy.

As always, the seed of the issue is in the expression itself. Big Data is not so much about a quality of the data or the tools to mine it, it’s about a new approach to product, policy or business strategy design. And that’s way harder and trickier to implement than any new technology stack.

In Fran’s talk from the Internet & Mobile World, he looks at where Big Data is going, what are the real opportunities, limitations and dangers and what we can do to stop talking about it and start doing it today.

Please see below if you want to have a closer look at the slides Fran used in his presentation:

If you want to learn more about how social data can positively impact your company, get in touch by emailing: