Mobile Research Overcomes Fading Affect Bias

Mobile research at Dunkin' Donuts

At the annual one-day conference of the New England chapter of the Marketing Research Association Wednesday, Amit Ghosh of the Forbes Consulting Group discussed the need for “in the moment” mobile market research.

A key imperative driving mobile research is Fading Affect Bias, Amit said. “Time heals all wounds, and that’s a problem. The Fading Affect Bias, which has been documented widely in academic research, tells us that memories of negative experiences tend to fade over time, while memories of positive experiences do not. This means that a consumer’s ability to remember and report a negative emotional experience in customer experience research diminishes with time.”

If you’ve ever observed high, steady ratings of customer experience in annual trackers, Amit said, those rates have probably been inflated due to Fading Affect Bias. “This means it is critical to conduct research as close to the actual customer experience as possible. The result is the need for more customer experience assessment in the moment. You learn more from the negative feedback than the positive feedback.”

Given that emotional nuances can be transient, it is no surprise that traditional measures often fall short. Amit shared a case study of work done for a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee, who wanted to contrast an underperforming store against other locations. The underperforming store had similar customer satisfaction levels, and rational dimensions of performance such as order accuracy and wait time were similar.

Visitors to the stores were asked to take a quick survey on their smartphones, while in the store. They were shown 60 images in rapid succession, and were told to click on those images that reflected their experience. Forbes Consulting has compiled a library of thousands of images, each quantified to 9 different emotional dimensions. This rapid-fire visual approach “uncovers consumers’ emotional frustrations and fulfillment in the moment, by directly accessing the emotional mind.”

Based on this research, it turned out the underperforming store produced a lot more negative emotional energy. Where the benchmark store produced feelings of social connection, the underperforming store made customers feel “anonymous” and lacking “a sense of respect.” Where the benchmark store gave customers a feeling of mastery, the underperforming store made customers feel incompetent for having chosen it.

Capturing these emotions at the point of sale made all the difference between understanding why one store kept customers coming back for more, and why the next store pushed them away.

Jeffrey Henning, PRC is president of Researchscape International, a market research firm providing custom surveys to small businesses. He is a Director at Large on the MRA Board of Directors; in 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award. 

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  1. […] Mobile Research Overcomes Fading Affect Bias – At the annual one-day conference of the New England chapter of the Marketing Research Association Wednesday, Amit Ghosh of the Forbes Consulting Group discussed the need for “in the moment” mobile market research. A key imperative driving mobile research is Fading Affect Bias, which tells us that memories of negative experiences fade over time, while memories of positive experiences do not. […]

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