All posts by qSample

Deck the Aisles: Marketing vs. Food Waste

The holidays are a time to share memories, thoughts, and food. This time of year represents a celebration that brings nations, culture, and views together while sitting around a dining room table sharing it all with family and friends. Unfortunately, the increase of family feasts lead to food waste. During this season, supermarkets are one of many entities that increase marketing strategies as a way to meet consumers’ demands. Aisles are filled with banners and handouts, tastings and coupons are being distributed, and the consumers’ eye is drawn to specials and their favorite holiday goodies. From turkey to pies and ham, the holiday season is a mecca for marketers. While it may seem overwhelming at times, it is the result of consumers’ demands, supermarkets increase of marketing initiatives, and the constant strides for sales. However, this also means an increase in inventory. This in turn leads to a surplus that inevitably leads to disposal. The end product is increasing amounts of food waste, The Guardian conducted a study which concluded that Americans alone waste up to $160 billion worth of food a year.

The epidemic represented by food waste is nothing new, but it has also become a problem hard to ignore by the public and distributors. According to The US Department of Agriculture, in the US alone 10% of the available food supply is wasted at the retail level. This is fed by the increasing number of grocery stores nationwide, overstocked shelves, as well as the increase in marketing initiatives during the holiday season. From better brand aesthetic to new advertisements and billboards, food companies are in a constant race to meet unrealistic consumers’ expectations. Fruits and vegetables must look pristine at all times, any bruising or spots are deemed not fit for sale. No surprise, this leads to countless amounts of edible food products being thrown away straight from the grocery shelves each year.

The nature of the grocery business stresses the importance of product variety. Food companies and grocery stores want to offer their customers a variety of options, in order to reduce the likelihood of them purchasing products from competitors. In turn by providing more variety, grocery stores induce the psychology of the consumers by creating the illusion of food abundance. However, having a wide range of options constantly contributes to the disposal of unsold food items. Labels like “sell-by” or “best-by” also add to massive amounts of food disposal, these terminologies mislead consumers into believing the food is inedible after a certain date. “Best-by” and “sell-by” labels actually have no basis in science, they are the manufacturer’s best guess for when the product is likely to be the freshest. Furthermore, there are no federal standards for expiration dates, except for baby formula.

It is highly unlikely that the grocery store industry will drastically change the way it operates from one day to another. However, some supermarkets have taken the initiative to reduce food waste and their carbon footprint. Trader Joe’s has implemented a food donation program- where they donate food that is not fit to sell but safe for consumption. These items are given to local food banks and homeless shelters. Earlier this year Whole Foods opened their first “green store”,which will also send leftover food to food banks while other food scraps will be composted to reduce their carbon footprint. The main goal of this store is to produce zero waste, this could set the parameters for how grocery stores operate in the future.

The problem of food waste relies on how grocery stores operate and how consumers sometimes subconsciously buy in surplus as a result of overwhelming advertisements and availability. Marketing strategies in the food industry need to re-iterate to individuals the power of reuse, recycle, and reduce. Which sometimes can be misleading considering the nature of marketing- increase sales. Food companies need to remember the corporate social responsibility they have to communities, it is imperative for them to implement sustainable practices that will reduce food waste. If marketing strategies are executed along with sustainable practices, food waste in America will be reduced and companies will continue to diminish costs and increase efficiency.

 

May the Best Marketer Win: Strategies from the 2016 Election

The next president of America has been declared, but conversations are still circulating regarding the campaign. Donald J. Trump’s unpredictability and lack of “political correctness” drew a lot of attention during the election. While, Hillary Clinton past infractions seem to never diminish. Despite, the question that has been centripetal in these conversations is how did a billionaire businessman with no previous political experience win the presidency? One answer – the best marketing team won.

A successful campaign is a reflection of in-depth market research and strategy. The candidates enact the same business plan as companies use to sell a product, except they are selling hope. Candidates must address the audience’s mindset with the perfect mix of logic, emotion, and empathy for the audience to believe in them. The candidate then must find the perfect strategy to deliver this message to the public. However during the 2016 presidential election, candidates utilized a mixture of traditional and non-traditional marketing strategies.

Both of candidates started their campaign in traditional manner by selecting a campaign slogan, but these slogans struck very different tenures with the American people. Trump slogan, “Make America Great Again,” was controversial but catchy. His slogan set the tone for the rest of his campaign, as he mentioned repealing some historical proceedings such as Roe v. Wade. This appealed to his followers who believe America was better before these preceding. Trump’s slogan also subtly alluded to returning to Republican authority after eight years of a Democratic president.  Whereas as Hilary’s slogan “I’m with Her” represented a historical event were women and men across the country vowed to elect the first female president. Clinton established an emotional appeal through her slogan, that continued through her campaign. She continued to gain her followers through emotionally charged video on her social media channels addressing verbal attacks on women. This video emphasized her goals of gender equality and “breaking the glass ceiling” for women in politics.  

Clinton and Trump both attempted to attract followers through personalized and unique approaches on social media platforms. Nowadays nothing sells without a social media footprint and political campaigns are not exempted. Hillary Clinton used multiple platforms to expand her audience. She used Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest, which were not popular platforms for the Trump campaign camp. The Clinton campaign wanted to build a personal connection with their audience by sharing everyday images such as Clinton’s family photos and videos from Clinton’s campaign headquarters. This tactic was used to increase Clinton’s relatability with the public, which is a traditional approach.  In contrast, Trump was not focused on making an emotional connection with the public, but instead using his business skills to present an improvement plan to the American people. Trump’s marketing strategy was rooted in the “any publicity is good publicity” principle. This is apparent in his perfectly timed controversial Twitter posts, which were  then disseminated on other media outlets. Whether negative or positive, this drew attention back to Trump. Trump harnessed this energy and made both the public and the media focus on these moments more than his political stance.

Another marketing strategy that both candidates used was endorsements. Since Hillary Clinton had political experience, she took a traditional route and enlisted multiple celebrity endorsements. Hillary Clinton brought along pop stars such Katy Perry and Beyonce to perform for her rallies and attract the youth vote. She interviewed multiple times on the infamously candid radio show The Breakfast Club to increase her popularity in the African American community. Clinton even earned an endorsement that aired on prime time Thursday night television from executive television producer Shonda Rhimes. However, Donald Trump’s campaign took a  different route. He needed powerful political figures and business professionals to support him because he lacked political experience. Clinton wanted to appeal through popularity, while Trump needed powerful representatives to ease any concerns about his lack of experience. His endorsements from Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich were pivotal in Trump’s campaign because it illustrated that seasoned political figures would support the non-traditional candidate.

Ultimately, Hillary Clinton’s traditional campaign route did not supersede Trump’s fiery message of “Make America Great Again.” Trump was able to successfully divert the media and public attention to himself through his marketing methods, which encouraged constant conversation about his latest tweet or speech. Trump’s success also illustrated that the American people have grown accustomed to tradition. In order to gather their vote, candidates must find a way to stand out from the crowd. In four more years this campaign will be far behind the American people, but we may see a new era in marketing strategies inspired by it.

 

You Only Live Once: Millennials’ Travel Spending Habits

Millennials are constantly expressing their interests on social media channels, and travel is not excluded from the trending topics identified by “hashtag goals.”  This desire to travel is not only represented by the stream of photos on their Instagram feeds, but also in their approach to life. This can be seen in the array of benefits that millennials are requesting from their employers that deviate from the normal 401K offerings. This is a major shift from the parents and grandparents of millennials who were more attracted to stability. In contrast, millennials came of  age in a time of financial instability due to the recession in 2008. This arguably bred the “you only live once” and “young, wild, and free” mantras that often circulate on millennials’ social media accounts. These mantras are also reflections of their travel habits.

With access to thousands of travel planning platforms through the web and mobile applications, millennials have more resources than ever before to plan their dream vacations. Since the majority of millennials are single, companies have begun to shift some of their marketing tactics to engage with single travelers by creating different pricing packages. These packages are designed for individuals instead of large groups or families. There also has been an emergence of travel groups on platforms such as Contiki. This travel group is created for adults ages 18 -35 to travel to exotic places with a small group. This group travel platform gives millennials the option to travel to a variety of destinations including Los Angeles, London, Bali, and many more without worrying about navigating a new city alone.

Millennials have both an interest in travel and the resources to plan a trip. However, the questions remain how often are they traveling and how are they spending their money on travel? qSample conducted a survey to understand millennials’ travel spending habits. We surveyed over 400 respondents on their travel spending habits and confirmed that the shifting mindset on travel directly affected how they spend and travel frequencies.

The data shows that majority of millennials(61%) are traveling on vacation between five and seven times a year. This is followed by another group of millennials (25%) that are traveling three to fours times a year. In contrast, roughly 65% of Generation X and 70% of both Baby Boomer cohorts are only going on vacation once or twice a year. Despite being at the begin of their careers, millennials are investing time and money in the travel sector. Millennials are not just traveling more but also longer. Approximately 45% of millennials are taking trips that span between eight and ten days and another 39% are take vacations that range from five to seven days. This is longer than the previous generations, with roughly 60% of Generation X and Baby Boomers taking vacations that are less than seven days. Although millennials are traveling frequently, they are actually taking more time to plan their travel. Unlike the Baby Boomers who mostly are planning trips in less than a month, 46% of millennials are planning their travel for two to three months and 36% are taking four to six months to plan. This is a lengthy planning process for a generation that is often characterized as compulsive.

Millennials are also following trends when booking traveling arrangements. The millennial respondents primarily considered three factors when booking travel arrangements: best time of day to travel(26%), flying/lodging with companies they are familiar with(24%), and direct/nonstop flights(23%). This was a contrast between the previous generations who were mostly dedicated  to finding a great deal, only about 9% of millennials selected this category as one of their considerations. This illustrates that millennials place more value on optimizing their time on vacation than finding a cheaper rate. Millennials are also diverting from tradition when it comes to lodging arrangements. About 33% of millennials are using alternative lodging such as Airbnb rentals; in contrast, less than 10% of Generation X  and Baby Boomers are using this platform. Millennials are staying up-to-date with their options when booking travel. Although these generations contrast in several ways, one similarity is staying with a budget. Roughly 70% of millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers are mindful of their budget when traveling.

Millennials’ travel spending habits can be a tool used to engage with this generation by both established and start-up companies. Since one of the primary considerations for millennials is familiarity with the company, established companies can amend their marketing goals to increase brand loyalty. This can be done by providing a unique and memorable customer service experience for millennials. Subsequently, companies can offer incentives to encourage millennials to talk about the brand via social media. This can possibly earn the brand a spot on the “trending topics” list on Twitter among the millennial cohort. Start-up companies can focus on brand awareness initiative, as well as provide products that help millennials find unique and flexible travel arrangements.

Ultimately, millennials’ travel spending habits provide multiple avenues for companies to gain profit from this generational cohort. Marketing tactics that are geared towards lifestyle choices and autonomous travel would peak millennials’ interest. The goal is for travel companies to align themselves with the millennial mindset in order to make themselves relevant with this generation. When this tactic is executed well, travel companies are satisfied with the results.

Mobile Wallets are on the Rise: How do you pay?

 

Mobile wallets are the payment method of the present and the future. Consumers have been navigating toward this payment method since the launch of online shopping. Companies quickly realized that it is cumbersome to make a purchase on-the-go when you have to shuffle through your wallet to find your credit card. This also lowers the likelihood of the transaction being completed. Companies later implemented a feature on their websites to save previously used payment information. However, this method still does not eliminate the use of a physical credit card in many cases.This is where mobile wallets are useful. A March 2015 report showed that 39% of all mobile users in the U.S. used their mobile phone to make payment for goods or services in that year. By 2017, it is expected that more than 70 percent of consumers will use their mobile phones to make payments using a mobile wallet application. The increasing popularity of the mobile wallet allows more opportunities for marketers to engage with a wide arrange of audiences through their mobile devices.

For marketers, the mobile wallet application allows a unique entry point into the consumer’s space by utilizing their phone as a place for product sales. Companies such as Starbucks and Chipotle have used the mobile wallet application to their advantage in the marketplace. Starbucks Rewards, a customer loyalty program, developed a mobile application where customers can pre-order drinks and pay for them on their mobile devices, all while receiving reward points towards a free drink. Starbucks promotes this application through the incentive of a free drink and by emphasizing the short wait time when ordering. Chipotle used their mobile application for purchases, but also for marketing initiatives to promote brand awareness. Chipotle recently released a mobile game titled Guc Hunter which allows customers to participate in a short matching game to receive a coupon for free guacamole. If won, this coupon will appear in their mobile wallet. Marketers can track how many customers receive coupons and also how many customers use the coupon through mobile wallet features.

Mobile wallets not only allow for flexibility in payment options, but also provide new opportunities for mobile marketing. The ideal mobile wallet has personalized credit card, reward card, and coupon information available on the user’s mobile device. Mobile wallets can also be used to remind consumers about coupon expiration. This further encourages consumers to make a purchase, whether than forgetting about a coupon that had been stored in their physical wallet. The ability to reach into the mobile sphere and alert consumers of a product is an invaluable asset. This opportunity was previously limited by jurisdiction such as “do-not-call” lists and the “Promotion” filter on Gmail. The mobile wallet applications offer an alternative to those limitations. It is arguably synonymous to personalized door-to-door sales, but instead through consumers’ mobile phones. The mobile wallet harnesses the power of the push-notification feature, by allowing alerts to appear on mobile phones whenever updates or new deals are made available. These alerts have a much higher chance of being viewed, since people are constantly checking their notifications on their phones.

Ultimately, mobile wallets are on the rise and the opportunity for marketers is on the rise with it. Through the use of the mobile wallets, companies have the possibility to engage with customers through their mobile devices in an impactful way. Mobile wallets provide marketers with new tactics to communicate with customers and drive demand. Mobile wallets also provide real-time insights for marketers that can be immediately used to improve performance or meet specific objectives. As more consumers begin to utilize mobile wallets, we may see an eclipse of the physical wallet along with printable coupons. Marketers focusing on initiatives that utilize the mobile wallet can yield positive results as this application continues to thrive.

 

 

Millennials vs. Insurance: How Millennials are Changing the Insurance Industry

The importance of insurance was emphasized to the older generations, but millennials are entering the workforce and insurance is being considered a luxury.  According to a recent study conducted by pewresearch.org, by 2030 millennials are expected to make up 75% of the workforce. As this generation continuous to evolve, they will continue to influence purchasing decisions as well as how companies conduct business. The insurance industry is worth over $1.2 trillion dollars, making it one of the most profitable industries in the world. Despite this financial success, the industry has faced significant challenges when targeting their services towards millennials. Some insurance companies are still using the same marketing tactics such as telemarketing and direct mail to target potential consumers. However, these tactics have not been very effective with the newer generation. Insurance companies need to jump on the millennial bandwagon and implement marketing tactics geared towards the digital natives.

Millennials have shown that they have the purchasing power to dictate new marketing tactics. We have seen the evolution of several companies that have changed their marketing strategies to reach a larger pool of millennial consumers. These companies are not selling products or services- they are selling lifestyles. The millennial generation values experience over tangible assets. They want to travel, see the world, and have access to products without the burden of ownership. Millennials have come of age during a time of innovation, globalization, and economic hardships.  These factors have given millennials a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents. Millennials are accustomed to inter-connectivity and the immediacy of technological devices. Therefore, millennials do not want the same insurance offerings as their parents. Fewer millennials are purchasing life, auto, travel, and homeowner’s insurance. Insurance companies need to adjust their strategies to enter the millennial mindset. They need to provide personalize products, technology friendly services, and a stellar customer experience.

Insurance companies need to improve on the personalization of their core offerings, since millennials want products that support their lifestyles. For example, when receiving a quote regarding auto insurance, millennials do not want something targeted towards a family of five. They want to feel like an individual and the service offering to be directly targeted towards them. Millennials also expect the pricing to reflect the demands of their lifestyle. Factors such as frequency of driving and mileage could be emphasized more in the pricing than the number of drivers in a household. Insurance companies such as Metromile have built their company on a pay-per-mile pricing system, which allows customers flexibility on pricing depending on how much they drive. This can be a profitable business opportunity for other insurance companies to introduce new services and target a demographic that rewards personalization.

Insurances companies will need to allocate resources to study millennials’ habits and employ effective marketing strategies to sell multiple strands of insurance. According to the Gallup’s panel web study, “Insurance Companies Have a Big Problem With Millennials,” about 69% percent of millennials are either actively disengaged or indifferent with their insurance carriers. Insurance companies will need to increase product awareness to engage this tech-savvy generation. In order to build engagement, insurance companies need to have continuous conversations with millennials on social media platforms. Engagement is key to maintaining loyal customers and attracting new ones. Millennials value companies’ interactions through social media posts asking for feedback on their services. The most successful business are the ones that value customers’ feedback in order to provide a stellar customer experience. However, millennials can be brutally honest on these platforms so companies will have to be prepared to manage criticism as well.

Undoubtedly, millennials have different purchasing behaviors than non-millennials. Consequently, insurance companies have been slow to adapt marketing tactics tailored towards millennial consumers. As the largest generation of Americans enters the workforce, insurance companies have a gold mine in their hands; to succeed, they need to understand how to target their products to the digital natives. Millennials are looking for companies that offer innovation and inter-connectivity within their products. If insurance companies are able to create a story, adapt their online platforms, and keep engaging with the millennial consumers, these companies will continue to succeed in today’s globalized market.

 

E-books: The End Of An Era?

 

It’s been almost a decade since the first e-book reader was introduced to the marketplace, sending publishers into a panic over the future of print. Readers transitioned to new digital devices; e-book sales escalated, and bookstores struggled to stay open. Now, the digital landscape for books has shifted from e-Books back to print. For the first time in history, e-book sales are declining. The Association of American Publishers released a report in June of 2016 that shows e-book sales declining by nearly 25% from January 2015 to January 2016. While the digital landscape continues to evolve, some things are just not catching on. Digital book sales are losing their momentum and the digital trend is not transcending when it comes to how millennials are reading. Unexpectedly, the most technologically savvy generation in the United States is returning to print.

 

Digital reading devices such the Kindle once tried to convert book lovers to digital binge readers. However, digital natives like college students still prefer reading on paper. According to a recent study conducted by American University linguistics professor Noami S. Baron, the study shows that 92% of college students would rather do their reading the old-fashioned way –  with pages and not tablets. The question remains, why have students made such a notorious shift from digital to print? Despite the mobility of the e-book, which would seem appealing to college students, they are still opting to carry around heavy textbooks even with their on-the-go lifestyles. Millennials spend more time in front of screens than previous generations, so e-books would seemingly fit right in; However, numerous studies have shown that when reading digitally, some content is lost due to skimming from screen to screen.  This is where comprehension suffers, since distraction on electronic devices is practically inevitable.

Aside from the increasing distraction on devices, students are relying on paper books because they are less delicate than tablets. Water spills or accidental drops can severely damage devices, or in some cases ruin them forever.The cost of replacing an e-reader like a Kindle or an iPad is much higher than replacing a book.  Print books provide students with the flexibility of having information at hand without constantly worrying about  technological malfunctions. Some students prefer print books because they are able to turn the page in a book; this makes reading more enjoyable for them.

For a moment, e-books provided cost effective alternatives for struggling college students. The minimal discounts on e-book prices in comparison to their print versions have students opting for the paperback version, which can be resold or lent from other students. Another benefit is that students are able to rent textbooks from their campus bookstores that are already highlighted and have notes in the margins. These provide students with additional tools that cannot be found in e-book versions.Unfortunately, technological advances have influenced faculty and publishing houses to push students into digital devices. Around the country, educational institutions are buying millions of digital devices promising lower costs, more textbook updates, and less back pain from heavy backpacks. Despite the versatility and interactivity e-books provide, there has been little considerations for educational consequences.

Nine years later, the technological revolution has decreased in the e-book market. It is interesting to see how e-readers almost changed the publishing landscape and how the introduction of a new device almost vanished the earliest form of mass communication – print. The decline in e-book sales portrays how technological advances follow a product life cycle. A trend can come or go but if there is something substantial it can succeed in the market. It is still early to predict what the future holds for e-books,  but as the digital landscape continues to evolve, the complete end of e-books is not yet to come.

Building Contractors Finding Jobs in Today’s Market [Infographic]

Anything that breaks ground, from roadways to vertical structures, needs a team of construction professionals to get the job done. For a construction project to move forward it starts with a land developer or a land owner. The owner or developer will then bring on various professionals such as project managers, land-use developers, realtors, and engineers to create preliminary plans and determine feasibility from a legal, geographical, and financial standpoint. Once the first step is done, architects create the blueprints which are then rendered by a team of general contractors and subcontractors.

These building contractors that vary in trade type are located all across the United States and occupy both local and national markets, forming an interconnected web of construction professionals. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in January 2016 alone there was an estimated $1.1 billion in construction spending. This makes the construction industry a serious stakeholder in the American economy. With so many major players in the construction industry and a vast need for multiple construction specialties on every project, there are several methods to connect contractors with construction jobs; one of those methods is plan room services.

Plan rooms are platforms provided by construction industry organizations or service providers for building contractors and product vendors to gather information for jobs. Plan rooms offer a variety of services including access to building plans, project status, and most importantly information for bidding. Some plan rooms are managed by municipal outlets, while others are privatized corporations that offer the services through a paid subscription. Despite the availability of plan rooms, the construction industry follows the same motto as most businesses – it is about who you know. Many building contractors find work through referrals as well as invitations to bid on projects. Relationship building and networking is a strong force within the construction industry when it comes to finding work. To find out exactly how building contractors are finding jobs to bid on, qSample conducted a survey with our Building Contractor Panel.

We surveyed over a 150 building contractors from a variety of trades including: general contracting, electrical, carpentry, and roofing just to name a few. Over 75% of the respondent work with small companies that had no more than 10 employees. About 94% of respondents do not subscribed to a plan room service and  50% of those respondents indicated that they would not consider a subscription or have subscribed before and did not like the service. The building contractors also were asked the reason behind not subscribing to a plan room service; majority of contractors felt they find enough work without the plan room services (37%) or considered the cost (20%) as a factor. Another poignant data point that resulted from the survey was  27% of the respondents were unfamiliar with plan room services. This percentage speaks to a lack of brand awareness when it comes to branding efforts for subscription based plan rooms services.

Although there were very few respondents who indicated that they use plan room services, the respondents who do subscribe provided their opinions. The respondents were asked to rank their level of satisfaction with the availability of project information, bidding projects,and cost of service, which was scored a 3.8 out of 5 on the scale.  The building contractors’ overall rating for the services was fairly divided between neutral (34%), satisfied (33%) and very satisfied (29%). The building contractors also indicated that the most attractive features in choosing a plan room service are the direct contact information for the bidding parties, availability of plans and specifications, and bidding privileges within the contractor’s local region.   

Whether the building contractors are plan room subscribers or not they are using networking to find bidding projects. Over 60% of the building contractors who subscribed to plan room services indicated referrals and bid invitations as another source to find projects. For building contractors that are not subscribers but bidding on up to 20 projects per a quarter, invited bids and referrals were where most of their project leads stemmed from. So clearly, building relationships within the network of construction professionals earns contractors a seat at the table when it is time to bid. Construction plan room services need to develop marketing strategies to attract subscribers and ultimately develop loyal relationships with their customer. This could be done by investing in market research on building contractor’s bidding behaviors and implementing the finding within their platforms.

For more information about this survey or to learn more about qSample’s Builder Panel, please contact ellandrea.mckissack@qsample.com

 

Pet Food Trends: Humanizing or Jeopardizing the Health of Your Pets? [Infographic]

Without a doubt, the pet food industry is part of a booming economic market. According to the American Pet Product Association , in 2015, pet food sales reached $23.05 billion. This notable increase in sales is due to a major trend in the industry – pet food humanization. Pet food companies have identified a highly profitable market, by offering products influenced by human food trends such as: organic, natural and non-GMO. These food labels resonate with consumers since they are generally linked to healthier food choices. Millennials are driving the pet food market by acquiring loyal companions and putting an emphasis on their pets’ health, which subsequently makes these labeled pet products top sellers.

The two largest pet food manufacturers – Mars Petcare Inc. and Nestle Purina Petcare, dominate the pet food industry and gross more than $29 billion in pet food revenues worldwide, according to a report from PetFoodIndustry.com. Over the past few years, these two pet food giants have seen several problems in the manufacturing of their products, such as a string of recalls. In  2007, both Mars and Nestle Purina issued a major recall after discovering that wheat and rice ingredients imported from China contained melamine, a highly toxic chemical that caused kidney failure in animals. This chemical was eventually linked to thousands of pet deaths. Since this recall, food companies have focused on offering products that are considered 100% grain free, natural, gluten free, organic and non-GMO. In addition, some non-traditional product offerings have emerged such as: raw, vegan, paleo and holistic.

Due to the wide variety of pet related products on the market, qSample conducted a survey with its veterinarian panel to truly understand if these trending pet foods are providing better quality ingredients or jeopardizing the health of pets. The survey was deployed to more than 130 veterinarian professionals with specialties ranging from: general practitioners to internal medicine. The veterinarians indicated that on average, they see 86 patients weekly with the most frequent species being canines and felines. The increase of pet owners who are trying to find better diet alternatives for their furry friends have influenced veterinarians to offer special diets and premium ingredients for sale in their clinics. About 83% of respondents indicated that they sell food supplies in their clinics. The veterinarians were also asked what factors they considered when choosing a brand to sell in their establishments. Roughly 35% considered  the quality of the ingredients as a decisive factor, while 24% indicated that brand affiliations dictated their product offerings.  The increasing presence of health trends in the pet food industry illustrates that many consumers are interested in adopting better health practices in their pets diets.

Another important factor in veterinarians pet food recommendations is related to where the pet food is being manufactured.  About 95% of respondents indicated that they would only recommend pet food manufactured in the US. The main reason for this is to avoid low quality manufacturing standards since some countries lack regulatory agencies such as the FDA and AFFC. This was problematic before as pet food companies had to recall ingredients manufactured overseas.

Despite emerging pet food trends, veterinarians still recommend pet food with basic nutritional principles. Scientifically formulated foods are regarded as the most beneficial for pets’ health.  However, many consumers have a big misconception of what the scientifically formulated label means. Scientifically formulated does not mean the food is unnatural, it simply means that natural ingredients have been carefully chosen to increase nutritional content. Despite these misconceptions, consumers seem to gravitate towards labels that mirror human food trends. This is evident as more than half of respondents (60%) indicated that the main trend is “all free from: wheat and grains.”  Respondents were also asked the likelihood of recommending pet foods that are branded as vegan, vegetarian, organic, paleo, holistic and raw. More than 45% indicated that it will be extremely unlikely for them to recommend pet foods branded as such.

Marketing pet food through the guides of human food trends has been profitable for the companies but misleading for pet owners. Consumers are purchasing food that aligns more with human dietary trends than with pets’ nutritional needs. Marketing tactics that can link consumers understanding of their pets’ nutritional needs with language that can sell the product would be an optimum opportunity for both companies and consumers.

For more information about our key finding or to learn more about our veterinarian panel  please contact: andrea.sanchez@qsample.com

——————————————————————————————————————————

The Death of the Cable Box and What that Means for the Consumers

In the late 1940s, John Walson bolted an antenna to a utility pole, ran the signal through a booster and strung it all together with coaxial cable; that moment was the birth of cable television. The booster later became known as the cable box. Walson extended this service and began to charge locals $2 a month for this television service. Cable television continued to evolve over the decades with the launch of HBO in 1975. The evolution of cable led to Ted Turner creating the first 24-hour cable super-station now known as CNN. In 1979, Walson was recognized by 96th Congress of the United States and the National Cable Television Association as the founder of cable programming. Throughout the years, there has been one synonymous object with cable television located in many American homes – the cable box.

The cable box itself has evolved throughout its tenure. Its original function was similar to an antenna. It served as a booster box to intercept waves and provide clear television programs. However, more recently the cable box allows the viewers to gain access to thousands of stations, record shows, and request previously aired shows through an “on demand” feature while still telling the time. These features are very appealing, but while something change others things stay the same.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The motto of the customer paying for the cable box has not changed, despite the fact that digital service are rapidly available and the cable box is not necessary in order for the customer to have access to these features. According to the Leichtman Research Group, 82% of homes with a television are subscribing to a pay-tv service. This subscription rate is down from five years ago; however, the monthly description average price has increased by 39% between 2011 and 2015.  With prices varying between providers, the monthly price for the set-top cable box alone can range between $8 – $15 dollars and to add on the digital video recording (DVR) capability can be an additional $20 on top of the fee for the cable box. Platforms such as Netflix and Hulu challenge cable television by offering a new way to watch TV. These apps provide access to hundreds of programs that can be watched on a television as well as mobile devices. The viewer no longer has to set a reminder and all tune in to the favorite program at the same time. These applications allow the users to pay a monthly subscription and can watch programming on any device at anytime without having to pay extra for a transmitter  such as the cable box.

The rising cost of cable subscriptions and development of new technology has caused the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take a deeper look into the purpose of the cable box. Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman, argues that the fees for the set- top box are charging consumers to watch content that they have already paid for when they subscribed to the service. Wheeler proposed a plan to create flexibility for the consumer and a competitive marketplace. Throughout 2016, the FCC has been reviewing proposals centered on the removal of the set-top boxes. In February of 2016, the FCC voted 3-2 for a tentative proposal that would have forced cable companies to provide video and programming information to makers of third-party hardware or applications. Under that plan, makers of other software or devices could have created their own software and user interfaces. This new software would function similarly to a mobile application. This concept is partially generated due to programming applications such as Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV and Roku TV.

Many cable providers argued that the FCC plan was too difficult to comply with and pitched and alternative – to create their own applications. However, the cable company’s proposals would strip consumers of the ability to record programming which is accessible through the DVR feature on the cable box. There was also a debate between the FCC and cable companies regarding the type of platform the application would be built upon and its ability to transfer to operating systems like Windows, iOS, Android, and MacOS. It is apparent that cable companies are trying to maintain their grip on the market and continue their economic flow through the fee insured by the cable box, while the FCC is pressing for a change that will push new innovation and definitely challenge cable companies’ traditional mottoes.

On September 29, 2016, the FCC decided to delay the vote to rid consumers of the cable box. The FCC will continue to review proposals and plans that will decide the fate of the set- top boxes that have been around since the inception of cable. The change will push cable programming further into a competitive bracket with mobile television applications. Will cable companies survive in this market if the cable box becomes a relic of the past?

The Right Place and Right Time: The Google Pixel Launches

 

Since the first release in 2007, the iPhone has become the world’s most popular smart phones – selling more than 800 million devices worldwide. Nine years later, Apple has kept the innovative trend, by introducing a series of new models of the iPhone, each with new cutting-edge features. Apple’s latest edition, the iPhone 7, boasts new specs such as its waterproof capability and a 12 megapixel camera. Of course Apple’s competition is not far behind. Apple has been competing against major players such as Samsung, which has sold more than 200 million Galaxy models, since their first release in 2010. However, with Samsung experiencing a series of glitches with their Galaxy Note 7 release, the company is losing market share and possibly loyal customers. This could result in a serious momentum shift for Apple, but there is another competitor entering the market. On October 4th, 2016, one of the world’s leading technology powerhouses launched the Google Pixel. To Google, it is not just any smart phone, it is a Google phone.

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL have been positioned in the market as premium devices with the capabilities to compete against major players such as Apple and Samsung.  Ana Corrales, Vice President of Global Operations and Google Store, claims that the Pixel is a device that will give users choice. “We’re not necessarily trying to compete against Apple. We’re just trying to provide choice at every level and continue our Android strategy.”   Google might want to claim that they are not trying to directly compete against major players, but their latest device suggest otherwise. The Google Pixel comes with a dedicated switch capability that allows users to transfer photos, videos, contacts, messages and more from one device to the other. The Pixel also hosts a feature called Google Allo, which allows users to video call their contacts. These features are coincidentally quite similar to the iCloud and Facetime function available on the iPhone. With this new capability, Google is able to target a wide range of customers, beyond just iPhone and Samsung users. The Google Pixel is targeting anyone with a Gmail account.

There are millions of individuals utilizing Gmail and Google services for either personal or work related purposes. Subsequently, there are also thousands of corporations and institutions that use the Gmail platforms as their internal business communication tool.  The Google Pixel phone will allow users to seamlessly integrate their work and personal documents in one space without compromising storage – a feature that could be attractive to millions of Google users. Although Apple provides its users with 5GB of free iCloud storage and Samsung offers 15GB free storage, the Google Pixel provides users with free unlimited cloud storage – something the competition simply can’t match at this time.

Google is finding its own voice in a market that Apple and Samsung have dominated for almost a decade. The introduction of the Pixel gives Google another opportunity to showcase their capabilities as another telecom tech giant. According to Digitimes, approximately 3-4 million Google Pixel units are expected to be sold by the end of 2016. The Google Pixel might not set record numbers, in terms of worldwide sales, but it has the opportunity to show consumers what the first generation of Google phones are capable of doing. The Google brand’s prestige will attract a myriad of customers trying to find the next generation of smart phones. This is an opportunity for the Pixel to become a huge success. It is still uncertain what the main impact of the Pixel will be against major players like Apple and Samsung. Regardless, the Google Pixel is raising the bar for new parameters in the smart phone industry. We are standing by to see what happens when the Pixel hits the market this October.