Thursday, 28 June 2012

Holidays - time to think about mums and dads

We’re now in a world where information is available at the click of a button, just a quick surf to a web page on our laptop or smartphone. It’s something that’s particularly useful when you are planning a holiday, or so you’d think. In our experience planning and enjoying a holiday can still be very hit and miss and that often comes down to a lack of vital information that mums (and dads) need when planning a break.

I’ve just returned from Menorca and on reflection I can see it’s the little things that made the difference – knowing what food my daughter would have access to, what hours the kids club would be open. I’d done my homework, visited travel agents, and scoured the internet forums and Trip Advisor for insight. It should have been enough but the stuff I really wanted to know was missing. I could pick out some bits from the varied reviews online but the problem with reviews is that we don’t know the reviewers and what makes one person happy can be a nightmare for someone else.

As a mum and marketer I’d like to see holiday companies (and that includes airlines) think about the small stuff that makes a difference to parents so I don’t have to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Here are just a few things that matter to mums and dads and could well influence their buying decisions:

Pool depths. I have a five year old who is way too cool for the baby pool. She wants to be in the big pool but I’m only happy to for her to be in there if there is a graduated depth. That way I can watch her, she gets to have fun with newly made friends and I get an extra few minutes on the sun lounger. 

Food. With kids you need specifics – what times can they eat, what will be on offer (especially important for babies and those weaning) and what is on the kids menu? If you offer self catering then where are the nearest child friendly restaurants. 
Kids Club. We need to know if it will be open and when. Otherwise you can end up with very disappointed kids and angry parents. What activities will be on offer – how about showing us a typical week’s itinerary? 

Flights. Make it clear what the situation is with pre-booking (or not) seats. Is there any chance we could be separated from our children/partners? A policy that keeps families together (and occupied!) is a great idea. Make information on car seats and prams (additional costs) clear. 

Mums and dads. Make it clear before we get there what trips and activities are on offer to the adults. At our hotel there were archery and table tennis competitions, I didn’t know this beforehand but for some of our party it definitely enhanced their holiday experience. 

Size and beds. Make it clear how big the apartment is (truthfully!) and whether the beds are doubles or singles squashed together. If you have family options (adjoining rooms etc) then make this information easy for families to find. Remember that if you offer one-room apartments to families and their children go to bed early then mum and dad could be sat in the dark staring at their sleeping children.

Hygiene. How often is the apartment cleaned? How often are the towels changed? Should we take beach towels?

Since I had children my criteria for holidays has changed, I now look at things like transfer times from the airport (two hours in a hot coach with a child is a nightmare) or closeness to the beach (small legs can’t walk very far). This information can often be hard to track down without trolling through but it would be easy to make it more visitor centric. 

The holiday experience should start at the searching stage and we shouldn't be left hoping for the best on arrival. I think holiday firms have to ask us the tourists about what we want to know and realise the some of the little holiday nuances make a big difference.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Is in house research enough?

We approach companies to talk to them about research, innovation and product development. One regular reply we hear is ‘we do all our research and development work in house’. It’s a reasonable response, after all who knows your products, processes and customers better than your company? You probably think in house R&D is easier to control, cheaper and gives you the insight you need. 

Of course we’re going to disagree with that because we’d like to work with the companies we’re approaching. But there is a very important discussion that should take place around whether in house research is giving you what you need to push your company forward. 

We see lots of brands setting up their own research panels and groups to work with mums and we think that’s a flawed way of doing research. Why? 

If you’ve asked mums to sign up to test your products (especially if that’s done using social media where they might already follow or like you) then you are testing people who already like your product. To gain real insight and get a more balanced viewpoint you need to ask consumers who might not even know or yet have an opinion on your product.  We also know that certain brands might attract a certain demographic and provide you with skewed results that will only appeal to a narrow audience. MumPanel consists of all kinds of mums, from all kinds of backgrounds (and was grown organically) which means our research takes into account the views of lots of different kinds of mums. We’re also impartial, no one wants to please us but we know mums might want to ‘please’ a brand because they like them (or hope they might get something out of it). 

One of the great things about internal research is that you are totally immersed in your product and probably know a fair bit about your competitors.  You can add to this by using an external agency that is completely immersed in the world you want to speak to (for example mums) because they can reference not only your industry but also other things that affect consumer decision-making and buying decisions.  We have been working with mums for over three years and as professional researchers and mums we know how to connect and ask the right questions to get the most rich and rewarding replies. 

Often it’s the little nuggets on information gathered during insight that can be the most significant and make the most difference. Sometime in-house research is so focussed on a specific answer that they miss the ‘background chatter' or key decision making points. In our experience innovation often comes as a result of an offhand comment by one mum. Because we have an overview of the mum world and an objective perspective we can spot these comments and then go and sense check them with other mums. 

And our final piece of advice if you are going to do in house research is to make sure you understand the ins and outs of research. It’s vital you know what influences respondents, how to ask the right questions to get the information you want and to know which answers have meaning. 

If you’d like to know more about mum focussed market research will MumPanel then email