Get Connected to the Future of Research 

  • 01 Jun 2017 6:16 PM | Mark Michelson (Administrator)

    Tom Bassett Founder at mindswarms | Published on June 1, 2017

    A closer look at insights from our interview with Ogilvy NYC’s Leslie Stone 

    Following a recent mindswarms project with Leslie Stone, director of strategic services for Ogilvy NYC, I sat down with her in Brooklyn to talk about her perspective on using mobile video ethnography. You can watch that video here.

    In our conversation, she raised a number of great points about the advantages of mobile video ethnography over in-person ethnography, and I’d like to take a closer look at a couple of them:

    1. Liberating participants to speak freely

    In no other methodology are people so self-directed. —Leslie Stone 

    Moderator bias and group-think are two common factors in live interview sessions. Mobile video surveys invoke the online disinhibition effect, whereby people communicate more openly and honestly without another person present because they feel less afraid of conflict or disappointing the interviewer. You can read more about this in my LinkedIn article, 5 lessons in Mobile Video Study Design for Emotional Results, about our study of Millennials & Home Cleaning.

    In the study we did with Leslie and the Ogilvy team, we were asking people about their homes. Therefore, we had people answer questions from inside their homes and even give us a narrated Show + Tell tour of their favorite room.

    From a study design standpoint, because people are typically very comfortable at home, they’re more relaxed and natural in their responses than they would be in another setting. Additionally, getting people moving and doing something unscripted helps people speak more freely because they’re not the focus of attention.

    2. Saving time and money finding customer truth

    Leslie says she used to travel all the time, conducting in-depth interviews (IDIs) and ethnographic studies. Today, her responsibilities at Ogilvy mean she has less time for field research. Nevertheless, for the world-class, award-winning work that Ogilvy does, she still needs to achieve a deep understanding of consumers—and there’s no substitute for hearing from and observing people directly.

    One huge benefit [of mindswarms] is that I don't have the time or resource to go do this myself. It's amazing to go home, come back in the next day and just watch videos. It saves a gigantic amount of operational time. —Leslie Stone 

    Despite the fast turnarounds made possible by online research tools, you don’t want to sacrifice quality for speed. (People want good sushi, fast; not just fast sushi.) That’s where totally DIY video survey platforms sometimes fall short.

    With mobile video ethnography, it’s especially important to ask the right questions in the right ways. For that reason, at mindswarms we collaborate with researchers to design studies, closely screen participants, and curate the resulting video responses to keep quality high. We view our platform as an effective technology enabler of the fundamentally human-to-human act of ethnography.

    3. Seeing context first-hand

    One of the great strengths of mobile video ethnography is being able to see what’s in the periphery as people answer questions and to peer into people’s lives and environments.

    Some of the richest insights came back from what we saw. And sometimes, that’s the richest and the biggest point. —Leslie Stone 

    That’s why mobile video is a great fit for in-home qualitative research. As Leslie said, “It’s a no-brainer for anything in the home. And ‘anything in the home’ could be any consumer goods or any food or anything in your closet or shopping.”

    4. Hearing first-person accounts

    There’s tremendous power in hearing directly from consumers in their own words. Mobile video ethnography is a great tool for collecting first-person stories rich in detail and emotion. It helps you understand the language actual customers use to talk about a brand, product or experience. It also helps you confirm you’re not making assumptions based on false familiarity.

    Brand decks can be beautifully written and clearly articulated, but seeing and hearing how those ideas, platforms or concepts are manifested in the lives of real consumers helps bring teams closer to the people they are trying to reach.

    5. Getting colleagues up to speed quickly in an engaging way

    I think it’s fair to say a lot of business presentations are...anesthetic. Uninspired and unengaging. Video, however, has become the new language of the world, as you’ve seen in the explosive growth and volume of online video. Bringing that rich, vivid cultural element into the world of business is a highly effective way to get a point across in an compelling way.

    For the ad campaign Ogilvy was developing, Leslie needed to bring a broad array of stakeholders up to speed, quickly. So she selected clips from our mobile video study to share with the client, her creative team, PR and others involved in the ad campaign.

    Even if you had already had your brief but you just wanted to pump it up with extra insight or give people thoughts to react to, [mindswarms] would be great. Or in the middle of a pitch to show clients people talking about your strategy, it helps to engage them. mindswarms can also be helpful when you're stuck. —Leslie Stone 

    The richly visual content and first-person stories were powerful for validating ad campaign strategy and building empathy for the campaign audience. This helped the Ogilvy team develop a unique and compelling ad campaign that connected with people in a genuine way.

    You have to find a human connection to your audience if you want to elicit a human response. —Leslie Stone 

    You can watch watch our video interview with Leslie here.

    On our website, you can also download several case studies showcasing the effective use of mobile video surveys for ad campaign testing and business pitches.



    Special thanks to Leslie Stone for sharing her insights about the experience of using mobile video for qualitative research.



    Tom Bassett is the Founder and CEO of mindswarms. For over 20 years he has traveled the world to interview people in-person, in situ, as part of consumer market research and strategy for some of the world’s most iconic brands: Nike, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sonos and many others.

    A specialist in using mobile video survey technology for ethnographic research, Tom has done mobile qualitative studies on behalf of Fortune 500 global brands in the US, Asia, Latin America and Europe. He also has led mindswarms collaborations with Carnegie Mellon’s Human Computing Interaction Masters program, Wharton’s MBA school, and Stanford Engineering.

    Tom was a panelist on the London Design Festival’s Global Innovation Forum, and he has interviewed leading creative visionaries including Frank Gehry, David Rockwell, John Boiler, Yves Behar, John Jay and Maira Kalman for a documentary film he created and produced called “Briefly.”

  • 01 Jun 2017 12:16 PM | Mark Michelson (Administrator)

    by Laura Forer  |  June 1, 2017 | As published on

    Remember when we surfed the Internet on a computer or laptop while seated at a desk?

    It wasn't that long ago, but times have changed. Now we consume content wherever we are, whether that's at home or at work or en route to a store. And our gadgets have changed from stationary computers to myriad mobile devices that we carry or wear.

    Mobile brings a constantly connected mindset, and it's driving changes in the way we—including our customers—consume content and interact with brands, from voice search to chatbots, and from digital assistants to the Internet of Things (IoT). 

    DNN Software has created an infographic that illustrates stats and figures related to this phenomenon. 

    For instance, the infographic shows that active users of virtual digital assistants are forecast to grow from 390 million (in 2015) to 1.8 billion by the end of 2021. Those digital assistants are driving an increase in voice searches. In 2016, Google announced that 20% of mobile queries are coming from voice searches, according to the infographic.

    To see more details about emerging technologies that are changing the way content reaches consumers, check out the infographic:

    Laura Forer is the manager of MarketingProfs: Made to Order, Original Content Services, which helps clients generate leads, drive site traffic, and build their brands through useful, well-designed content.

    LinkedIn: Laura Forer

  • 31 May 2017 10:51 AM | Mark Michelson (Administrator)

    The Insight Economy 2017 is an in-depth look at the hottest topics in the world of market research and consumer insight.

    Published in The Times on the 24th of May, this 20-page special report is a must have for any decision maker wanting to better understanding the people that matter to their business.

    What's inside?

    • An independent, journalistic take on the current state and future direction of the insight economy
    • A candid look at the polls ahead of the UK General Election
    • An overview of the relationship between digital data and shopper panels
    • A detailed review of digital video's ever-expanding role in understanding consumers, featuring commentary from Voxpopme CEO Dave Carruthers

    We're excited to see video insight form an integral part of the discussion in 2017, and that Voxpopme CEO and MMRA Advisory Board Member Dave Carruthers was asked to contribute his thoughts to 'Seeing things through the eyes of the consumer' by Tim Phillips on page 12.

    But before you rush out to buy your copy, your friends at Voxpopme have a free one just for you. Click the button below to download your copy. 

    Let's go get a copy

    We hope you enjoy!

  • 09 May 2017 8:52 AM | Mark Michelson (Administrator)

    By Maribel LopezLopez Research

    Originally published in TechTarget May 8, 2017

    To harness the power of mobile apps, organizations must get on board with the internet of things and contextual computing.

    It's been 10 years since Apple's iPhone launched what would become the ubiquitous mobility era, but we're still struggling to realize the vision of a mobile-first world.

    Newer consumer apps take advantage of mobile's unique features, such as location awareness and voice control, but enterprise software still has a long way to go. Most companies work within the confines of applications and experiences that were designed in the 1980s.

    The challenges of embracing mobile-first aren't just about technology maturity. A mobile-first strategy requires companies to commit to overhauling business processes and workflows to take advantage of new data and device functionality. And it requires more than just focusing on mobile.

    More than mobile

    The term mobile-first seems out of place today. After all, would anyone today build a new app or service that only runs on a PC? I think not. A company may create a cloud-based service, but that runs on any device with a browser. What of the burgeoning internet of things (IoT) market? Should apps become IoT-first? No.

    In several years, we won't even talk about mobility. Everything that we build will be designed to work across mobile, PCs and a variety of connected devices. The new IT world assumes we'll embrace and expand upon all of the mobile and cloud computing concepts developed over the past decade. In 2017, next-generation computing should deliver apps, services and business workflows that have four qualities:

    They're built to operate and move seamlessly across devices. The best experiences allow a person to start a workflow or transaction on one device and seamlessly transfer it to another device. Apple and Microsoft both offer this type of portability through their Continuity and Windows Continuum features, respectively. 

    They're adaptable to the user and device context. Context in this case could refer to device size or to the availability of input mechanisms such as keyboard, voice, stylus, touch and gesture. Apps also need to sense what functions are available -- such as camera, GPS and biometric sensors -- and provide different options for actions the user can take based on these capabilities. Context-aware apps can also show different information based on location, such as bringing up certain notes or launching Microsoft PowerPoint when the user enters a meeting room in a specific building.

    They're designed to collect and act on new data sources.Smartphones ushered in a new wave of sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes. Wearables and IoT devices add opportunities for gleaning sensor data such as heart rate and humidity. Next-generation computing requires deep integration with a wide range of connected devices. Wearable apps can collect data from sensors, for example, to provide more context for what the user is doing or feeling at a given moment -- and provide in-app options that react to that context. 

    They can learn and make predictions. Mobile brought to IT the concept of personalized services based on an understanding of user behavior. End-user computing in 2017 will take advantage of big data storage, analytics and machine learning to deliver services that provide users with the right information at the right time.

    We're living in a mobile- and cloud-first world that relies on a diverse set of devices and ways to access business data. If you haven't embraced this approach, you're behind. The only question is, will you change your mobile-first strategy to take advantage of these tools? If not, you'll be even further behind when the next wave of change -- IoT, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence -- hits.

  • 28 Apr 2017 2:04 PM | Mark Michelson (Administrator)
    From Delta Sky Magazine

    By Joseph Flaherty, March 2017

    In 1967, Herman Kahn, a nuclear physicist and futurist at the Rand Corporation (who also served as inspiration for the character Dr. Strangelove), wrote a book called The Year 2000 in which he made 100 predictions about what the next 33 years would bring. He was surprisingly prescient in predicting mobile phones, real-time banking systems and a pervasive surveillance apparatus. His predictions that humans would hibernate in homes staffed by robots and powered by personal nuclear reactors haven’t held up so well.

    Still, 50 years after Kahn made his bold predictions, we asked a group of academics, technologists and entrepreneurs to provide a shorter-term perspective on the most impactful technologies and trends that are likely to influence this year and beyond.

    General purpose artificial intelligence that can think and communicate like a human—what computer scientists call “strong AI”—remains a sci-fi fantasy. However, artificial intelligence trained to excel at a narrow focus, or “weak AI,” has turned out to be a versatile technological solution to many vexing problems.

    Using an elegant technique called deep learning, weak AI is what Facebook uses to tag people by name in photographs. It’s what allows Google to complete your searches before you even finish typing. Weak AI can develop new ways to beat video games, write sports stories based on a box score, create a creepily accurate copy of your voice and even write lyrics to a rap song. Weak AI has become powerful enough to best humans in the complex game of Go, decades sooner than experts had expected.

    This progress has led credible technologists, economists and venture capitalists to believe we could soon have a future in which tax preparers, paralegals, insurance underwriters and others find themselves out of jobs. Estimates from the World Economic Forum suggest that AI-based automation could cause 5 million jobs, mostly white collar, to be lost by 2020. Worries about the availability of desk jobs have replaced fears of a destructive robot uprising.

    But not everyone is certain that robots will rob humans of meaningful work. “Humans want to make things and to buy things. So I’m confident we won’t run out of work anytime soon, even as automation increases in some professions,” says Thomas Rid, a professor of security studies at King’s College in London and author of the book Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History. “And let’s not forget how difficult it is to automate jobs that require a high degree of adaptation and improvisation: Anybody who thinks robots should long have taken over from plumbers, dentists or construction workers probably has a fanciful notion of robotics and AI.”

    Rid suggests that predictions should be based on real technologies, not science fiction. “Whenever we approach the machine-as-human—and the term AI does that, pretending that machines could become like us, with artificial brains—we tend to fool ourselves. Let’s not approach AI by looking at science fiction, but by looking at existing technology.”   

    By that measure, AI is an unqualified boon. AI gives artists new tools to create, provides real-time translation to facilitate cross-cultural communication, has made autonomous cars a reality and has given some health care providers the ability to provide more targeted cancer treatment.

    But while AI makes some people wary, the most pressing cybernetic threat we face may be the tiny black box sitting under our TVs. Last October, hundreds of thousands of DVRs, webcams and other seemingly harmless internet-connected doohickeys launched a coordinated cyberattack that temporarily took down websites such as Twitter and Spotify. It was resolved quickly, but it did highlight weaknesses in our online infrastructure.

    “Like an early version of our highway system, the internet was not architected to support the massive volume of content and data that it now supports,” says Kyle York, chief strategy officer at Dyn, a startup that provides critical back-end infrastructure to companies such as Twitter and National Geographic. “The internet is also more volatile and prone to disruption than most people would think.”

    The Internet of Things, the umbrella term for the ecosystem of smart light bulbs, smoke alarms, door locks—most of which house small, though powerful, computers—can wreak havoc. These low-priced gadgets are rarely seen as threats and become ripe for hacking. A computer programmer recently demonstrated that a web camera was infected by a computer virus just 98 seconds after being plugged in. To give a sense of scale, there are 6.8 billion cellphone subscriptions across the globe, and experts forecast there will be 20 billion connected devices in people’s homes by 2020, increasing the risk for future attacks.

    “Network security will continue to evolve as bad actors respond to the solutions that industry experts develop to patch vulnerabilities. It’s a wild game of cat and mouse,” York says. “Increased vigilance and the realization that advanced mitigation tools and techniques need to be employed to provide greater threat detection and security will help. Predictive technologies will become a major defense as companies aim to move from disaster recovery to more of a disaster avoidance posture.”

    Not being able to access Twitter is a pain, but the scarier “cybersecurity” threats are personal. Imagine a scammer who disables the smart lock on your front door until you pay a $5 ransom via Bitcoin. Or a hacker who threatens to disable your smoke alarm unless you give him access to your Facebook account. There may come a time when you’ll need to buy antivirus software for your vacuum cleaner.

    Tech has had a dark side since the days of dial-up, but until recently, it was possible to filter the good from the bad, even if it meant disconnecting. In 2017, tech’s dark side threatens to spill out into the real world, and the way we think about technology is going to have to change—quickly.

    Amazon is Walmart on steroids, and Netflix is the logical extension of the corner video store, but the basic act of shopping isn’t that different from what existed before the internet—it’s just faster and better. But advances in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity promise to reshape our world in ways that are harder to predict. And whether you’re a cybernetic chicken little or an entrepreneur thrilled by emerging technology, one of the preeminent tech historians of our day says it’s mostly guesswork in the end: “History has a clear lesson: Most of today’s predictions are going to be wrong,” says Thomas Rid. “Futurists in the past got far more predictions wrong than they got right.”

    In the words of Terminator’s John Connor, “There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” Regardless, buckle up, because it’s going to be an exciting ride. 

  • 25 Apr 2017 12:39 PM | Mark Michelson (Administrator)

    Full Story

    Nicole NguyenBuzzFeed News Reporter

    When you sign up for a free online service, you’re usually giving up your personal info in return. Here’s how to find out just how egregious that data collection is.

    If there’s only one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

    The New York Times recently reported that, an email management app that promises to de-clutter your inbox, sold its users’ anonymized Lyft receipt data to Uber. claims that it’s “trusted by millions of happy users” — but it’s likely that those users weren’t aware that they were forking over their personal emails to Slice Intelligence, a digital commerce analytics company. Now, some users are pledging to remove their inbox accessfrom and delete their accounts.

    The fury is a good reminder of the ol’ Internet adage, “if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.”

    But some sites are much more egregious than others. So here are some ways you can assess an app’s trustworthiness and find out if your free faves are problematic.

    What does “you’re the product” even mean?

    When you sign up for a free online service, you’re most likely giving up something in return: your data. On sites like Facebook and Google, that means the service uses your personal information (like your interests, location, gender, marital status, or age) to show you advertisements they think you’d be interested in. Last year, Facebook made more than $26 billion from advertising.

    For many people, this sounds like a good trade off: You get to use something legitimately useful, like Gmail, for free, and the most visible consequence is an advertisement. But other companies go much farther., for example, didn’t use user data to target ads — it looked at individual emails and sent them to Uber.

    And if you found that story about Target knowing a teen girl was pregnant before her father did thanks to extensive customer data collection to be pretty creepy, you should know that that same kind of analytics-based-advertising-influence has probably been exercised on you.

    How do I know what companies are doing with my data? Is it safe?

    Be very careful about what kind of access you give apps. To do that, closely at what you’re agreeing to when you sign up.

    For example, when you sign up for, you’re giving the service the ability to read, send, delete, and manage your email. This is a good time to ask yourself: Does the service really need all of these permissions? Do I trust this service?

  • 19 Apr 2017 10:14 AM | Rick West

    Since 2010, mobile solutions firm Field Agent has been on a mission to “change the way the world collects business information and insights.”

    Today marks another milestone in revolutionizing how companies learn about their in-store products, operations, and competition.Jicco Search Engine: Instant Answers to Pressing Retail Questions


    Introducing Jicco, the first on-demand, retail search engine, designed to furnish business professionals with “instant answers to pressing retail questions.” As reported by Supermarket News, the search engine will change how retailers, brands, and agencies obtain real-time answers about store-level promotions, pricing, on-shelf availability, competitive activity, and shopper sentiment.


    Jicco Testimonial by Danni-Lynn Kilgallen, National Retail Account Manager, Energizer Holdings


    “Professionals across the retail and branded goods industry are strapped for time and under considerable pressure to have all the answers," said Rick West, CEO and co-founder of Field Agent. "We’ve merged our efficient mobile crowdsourcing system with a simple search engine interface to create the world’s fastest way to get real answers from the field.”  

    Dan O'Shea, contributing editor at Retail Diveagreed with West about the hurried nature of retail and the need for fast answers:

    "West is right about the challenges facing many retail professionals, and as these folks jump between projects and try to keep all of their plates spinning, having fingertip access to some relevant data certainly will help them. Why shouldn't retailers get a curated portion of the internet all their own, right?"

    Currently in beta testing with plans to roll out nationally in April, Jicco is already being used by hundreds of brands, retailers, and agencies to acquire on-demand answers from stores across the country.


     Jicco Testimonial by Brian Stormes, Field Vice President, Henkel Consumer Goods

    How Jicco Works

    Users will simply visit, type in a basic question about in-store conditions, and, within minutes, watch as photos, information, and shopper feedback begin streaming in from stores across the country. That easy.

    Jicco Search Engine: Instant Answers to Pressing Retail Questions

    Sample questions could include:

    • What’s the price of store-brand toothpaste at Kroger?
    • What does the special Tide detergent display look like at Walmart?
    • What signage stands out most in the baby products aisle at Target?    

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper tested the search engine and reported receiving an answer within 17 minutes: "That rapid response can be critical for companies, that are often in need of data quickly and may not be able to fan out fast enough to get it," the paper stated.

    According to West, Jicco harnesses Field Agent’s retail expertise, proven technology, and all-mobile “crowd” of more than one million shoppers to more quickly connect companies with their widespread products and operations.

    Jicco has been in the making for the last seven years,” he said. “In that time we’ve built an extensive mobile crowdsourcing system, which Jicco will now leverage to answer store-level questions with unprecedented speed and ease.”    

    Read the Official Press Release.

  • 05 Apr 2017 6:31 PM | Mark Michelson (Administrator)

    By Emma Garside, GKA

    April 5, 2017 

    As with many other areas in our lives, technology has had a seismic impact on both the quantity and quality of information we can now access via patient market research. Thanks to personal technology such as smartwatches, fitness trackers and video cameras, researchers now have more options for data collection than ever before. As opposed to traditional methods, today’s researchers can access targeted patients across the globe, instantly. And thanks to new and constantly improving software, all this data can be collected and analysed right away, empowering businesses to stay ahead of the competition and make informed decisions, fast.

    So, if you’ve not considered using personal tech in your patient market research before - or if you’re looking to expand how you use it – read on to discover five important ways technology can revolutionise the information you access.

    1.      Smart Watches

    Tech within smartwatches is becoming more advanced with every new release. So no matter what type or brand your patient has, smartwatches can open the door to unprecedented levels of insightful data. Not only are many of them able to monitor medical data such as heart rate, but they also give patients the option to record audio or video, take photos, communicate directly with researchers and reveal their GPS location. This in turn gives researchers the ability to collect information such as patients’ activities and feelings, remotely and in real time, which can then be used as a basis of a conversation later in the research project.

    2. Fitness trackers

    Fitness trackers were specifically created to give users direct and instant access to their own medical and fitness-related data - and consequently, they also offer the same opportunity for researchers to dive into the patient’s world. So whether you’re monitoring patients’ blood pressure, sleeping patterns or heart rates, fitness trackers enable researchers to easily track and collect medical data as well as related data such as anxiety levels or how strenuous certain activities are and what improvements could be made to help patients cope.

    3. Video cameras

    Ten years ago, an ethnography project would have been impossible without several large, expensive and intrusive cameras positioned within a patient’s home. But with the advances in wearable cameras such as Go Pros, participants themselves can become the researcher, providing just as much (if not more) information as a traditional ethnography project by wearing head or body-mounted units that record live video or audio streams for real time analysis. What’s more, because they’ll be delivering data in a way that doesn’t interrupt their daily routine, it’s likely make your mobile ethnography study even more insightful.

    4. Market research online community platforms

    Private platforms such as market research online communities offer researchers the next best thing to being by a patient’s side. Not only do research communities allow researchers to build relationships with potentially hard to reach patients without any kind of observer influence or bias, but they also act as a support system for the patients, giving them the chance to speak to people dealing with the same challenges as they are – resulting in a thriving, engaged community that delivers unbeatable insights. By asking patients to carry out specific tasks such as blogging about their life and how their condition affects them, recording video diaries explaining how they take their medication or explaining how treatment makes them feel and how their day-to-day lives could be improved, researchers can easily access rich and insightful information. What’s more, all the data is collected in real time, enabling researchers to quickly and simply analyse it to create heat maps and word clouds or export transcripts.

    5. Neuroscience

    Finally, although advances in neuroscience may be less accessible to participants in their day-to-day lives, they offer researchers huge advantages in the scope and accuracy of data they can obtain. By using advances in fields such as eye or heart rate tracking or facial coding, researchers can unlock how people respond to anything from advertising materials and patient information leaflets to products and packaging designs. What’s more, neuroscience can also look beyond any inaccurate or misleading answers given through fear or embarrassment of giving the ‘wrong’ answer, digging deeper to access the facts needed to develop truly insightful research.

    These five points are only just scratching the surface when it comes to technology and patient market research, so if you’d like to know more, download our guide to mobile qual.

  • 29 Mar 2017 6:40 PM | Mark Michelson (Administrator)
    From MediaPost by Ray Schultz , Columnist, March 29, 2017

    The headline for Thom Wheeler’s op-ed piece in The New York Times today says it bluntly: “The G.O.P. Just Sold Your Privacy.” Wheeler is referring to the House vote on Tuesday, blocking FCC privacy rules passed during the Obama administration.

    This rollback would allow cable firms and wireless providers to exploit your “browsing history, shopping habits, your location and other information gleaned from your online activity” any way they want, writes Wheeler, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

    We’re sure he’s right. But consumers won’t be the only victims of this foolish piece of deregulation: The real losers will be brands that market online. They have just lost control of their own data.

    Nobody has analyzed this yet, but here’s one possible scenario, based on historical precedent. There was a roaring controversy years ago about American Express using data from the transactions it processed to send catalogs and other product offerings to cardholders.

    The argument took place behind closed doors, and memory has faded on some points. But American Express was competing with its own clients -- direct marketing companies that accepted the AmEx card.

    If  L.L. Bean was selling jogging shorts, American Express could see that and offer jogging shorts (a hypothetical case). Obviously, it didn’t go over well: Catalogers argued that these consumers were their customers.

    The program went away. But fast-forward to the digital age. The ISPs and telecoms will now be in a position to do the same thing. They can take the behavior prompted by your seven- or eight-figure marketing budget and use it to peddle data.

    In short, they’ll be getting a free ride on your marketing spend — on SEO, email, mobile and display. It will end up in court, and there will be no easy political formula for judging it. And even if the broadband providers cut deals with you, it will be an attribution mess.

    What’s next? Will credit card processors also have the right to sell your sales data?

    The next problem is even bigger. The privacy theory in Europe (and much of the rest of the world) is based on affirmative opt-in, not a dubious opt-out. As Jess Nelson reported in MediaPost on Tuesday, Flybe and Honda and were hit with fines in the UK for sending “spam.” But if we’re reading it correctly, those emails would scarcely cause a ripple in the U.S.

    Martin Abrams, executive director of the Information Accountability Foundation, told MediaPost last fall that “you can think with data and draw insights in the U.S. That’s a competitive advantage because thinking with data is an unregulated activity. Outside the U.S., you have to have a justification even to process data.”

    Clearly, we’re going against the European rules. Is this U.S. marketer’s version of Brexit? 

    So just what rights will U.S. consumers have under this scheme? Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) asserted on TV last night that people can opt out. (He didn’t seem too sure of it). But another article in today’s Times states that broadband providers “today let you 'opt out' of using their data, although figuring out how to do that can be difficult.”

    The article adds that the “digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests you might pay to use a virtual private network, which funnels your internet traffic through a secure connection that your provider can't see into. But good VPNs aren't free, you have to figure out which ones you can trust,” he concluded.

    Meanwhile, you the consumer can forget about the line between anonymous digital data and personally identifiable data. As Abrams has said, “it’s inevitable that the shadow you and the real you will come together.”

    But let’s be fair. The Obama-era FCC rules had not yet taken effect, so Republicans are arguing that nothing has changed. They’re right — it’s a wash. What has been altered is the bipartisan accord that existed on the privacy issue. It wasn’t always good for marketers — even the pro-business GOP took a strong privacy stance. But it was consistent. Well, no more.

  • 07 Mar 2017 4:07 PM | Rick West

    Hey, Alexa.

    Hey, Siri.

    Hey, Google.

    “Intelligent personal assistants” are revolutionizing how we obtain information, manage our households, and entertain ourselves.

    But, will IPAs—and the devices they live in: Amazon Echo, Apple iPhone, Google Home—ever become a go-to method for shopping and transacting purchases?

    Do Echo Owners Make Purchases Through the “Smart Speaker”?


    This weekend, mobile solutions firm Field Agent surveyed 318 certified Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Tap owners. Our ultimate purpose was to determine whether Alexa-users are utilizing the IPA to shop for and make purchases, and the full results are now available in our free, downloadable report: “Shopping with Alexa.”

    Click to download Shopping with Alexa - Survey Reveals Purchase Behavior of Echo Owners


    See Also: Will Drone Delivery Fly with Shoppers? Download the report, “Buy & Fly Retail”!


    Participating agents were required to capture video and photos of their Echo—meaning every participant in the survey was a bona fide Alexa-user, carefully verified through Field Agent's quality control process. 

    Field Agent’s free, downloadable report, “Shopping with Alexa,” includes several additional insights:

    • Attitudes toward shopping with Alexa
    • Top Alexa-based purchases
    • Most popular brand names—Domino's? Uber? Campbell's?—among Alexa “skills”
    • Reasons why some say they're apprehensive to shop with Alexa

    The complete report is now available for free. Download it today!

    And be sure to subscribe to the Field Agent Blog, recently ranked in the top 10 of Feedspot’s best market research blogs on the planet.

    Download Free Shopping With Alexa Report

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