2009 PopStats Research Conference Summary
Attendees Enjoy In-Depth and Innovative Market Research Insights
Expected Value Index. Sparklines. LandScape's lifestyle indices. These are just a few of the many essential take-aways cited by attendees during the 4th Annual STI: PopStats Research Conference and User Forum held in Austin at the Stephen B. Austin hotel on March 25th - 27th.
Attendees' said they especially appreciated the knowledge-sharing and innovative insights offered at this year's Conference including:
As a follow up to the event, we've prepared a User Conference Brief with synopses of all the sessions. This is both a review of the highlights for those who attended and an overview for those who could not attend. For additional information on the 2009 User Conference sessions, download the available session presentations.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Wed. March 25, 2009
SESSION 1 - What's New and Major Initiatives Taking Place, Robert Welch, STI
Thr. March 26, 2009
SESSION 1 - How to Squeeze 800K Numbers on a Piece of Paper, Robert Welch
Fri. March 27, 2009
SESSION 1 - STI PopStats Methodology, Robert Welch
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
SESSION 1 - What's New and Major Initiatives Taking Place
Presenter - Robert Welch, Synergos Technologies
Robert kicked off the 2009 Conference with an overview of STI developments and news since the last User Conference in 2008. Highlights of his presentation included the following points:
SESSION 2 - Segmentation: It's All About Potential!
Presenter - Larry Maves, Mapping Analytics
Larry discussed how complex market analysis can become in today's business world, yet how much easier it can be to conduct research by using powerful analytic tools. Thanks to more robust software and data, today researchers can conduct research they could not do before. Larry overviewed an example of the research possibilities for competitive market analysis using a consumer segmentation system. He mentioned that PopStats is much better than other data products at "finding the truth of what's on the ground. Plus, for some market studies, such as our Retail Signatures program, quarterly population data is essential."
SESSION 3 - Quantifying the Importance of Site Selection
Presenter - Brian Strickland, Family Dollar
Brian discussed how revamping Family Dollar's market research techniques made it a much more viable tool in the company's real estate decision making. In fact, the retailer achieved improvements in the 3-5% range. The impetus for this move, says Brian, is that the company faced challenges with researching 800 to 1,000 sites a year, including expansions, relocations, remodels, and 200 new locations.
Brian mentioned that researchers dramatically improved research results in estimating market potential when they started using PopStats. Prior data underestimated household counts: as a result, the research underperformed. After updating all market models with PopStats, Family Dollar found that site quality was the leading factor in a store's success. Site quality includes population density, road networks, patterns of development, co-tenants, visibility, and access.
The new site analysis tool revealed how much better or worse each site would perform based on its site characteristics. In addition to new locations, Family Dollar scored all of its existing stores to see if they were worth keeping. Brian stated that "what we expected and what we found out was very different. The benefit was being able to confidently advise the company on site potential and what factors are necessary for a successful location."
SESSION 4 - Capturing the Hispanic Market
Presenter - Dave Huntoon, Intalytics
Understanding performance potential in individual stores is an ongoing challenge for many QSRs. Dave explained how one regional fast food chain better identified its store performance through a combination of demographic research and consumer surveys. Research for this project started with two primary questions: what drives individual store performance? And how can customer information translate into actionable insight?
"We found that dependable population estimates and neighborhood segmentation insight are critical components of store performance," said Dave. "Knowing how many bodies are in the trade are has a major impact on results, because retain and service demand is directly impacted by the number of potential customers. In our case, it involves 40% of the equation."
To better understand its largely Hispanic consumers, the fast food chain incorporated data from STI: LandScape's Espaniola category. Among the insights it gained are that higher versus lower income segments performed better and showed a little better results with older versus younger residents.
SESSION 5 - The Top 50 U.S. Markets
Presenter - Robert Welch, STI
Using the same methodology as previous years "to provide accurate year-to-year comparisons," Robert revealed this year's top high-growth markets to Conference attendees. This valued document is exclusively available only to Conference attendees. The report revealed several notable changes from last year including:
Robert explained the methodology used to create the high-growth market list including how he segmented the markets and the fact that each market had to meet the following three criteria:
SESSION 6 - Finding the Silver Lining
Presenter - Robert Welch, STI
Today many companies want to know: In which markets are we vulnerable to economic calamity? Robert demonstrated a data value metric found with the PopStats data set to discover the economic health of a trade area - in particular areas poised for downswings or upupswings. This metric is called the Expected Value Index (EVI).
Robert demonstrated EVI using thematically shaded maps. In his examples, he showed how EVI can reveal not just growth, but growth type, including exponential, linear, and declining. He illustrated how researchers can determine at-a-glance exactly which areas are growing or declining as expected, faster than expected, or slower than expected. He noted that one of the benefits of EVI is that companies can "be on the bleeding edge and the first to enter into a fairly established market."
Robert also explained how to create these econometric analytic tools using PopStats data:
Thursday, March 26, 2009
SESSION 1 - How to Squeeze 800,000 Numbers on a Single Piece of Paper
Presenter - Robert Welch, STI
Robert introduced a high-density graphic method called "Sparklines," and discussed its potential uses by researchers to communicate a large quantity of data in a small space, especially to executives. Sparklines are defined as a type of information graphics characterized by its small size and data density. Sparklines present trends and variations associated with some measurement, such as average type or stock market activity, in a simple and concise way. More information on Sparklines can be accessed on several websites including:
SESSION 2 - Love at First Site
Presenter - Paul Sill, Ace Hardware, and Forum Analytics
Every month, Ace Hardware receives about 6,000 site opportunities from brokers, developers, and landlords. Out of that number, Ace opened 88 stores in 2008 and plans to open 105 stores in 2009. To reign in this unmanageable number, the research department and Forum Analytics created a way to quickly analyze this input to proactively filter the list. The primary goal was to find the best opportunities among all the options presented.
The new site analysis tool sets different risk levels for all variables that were identified as critical to success. "Our goal is to only pursue pre-qualified sites that are in optimal, high-interest areas," said Paul. "Our ultimate goal is to maximize the ROI of every dollar invested in real estate research."
Results of the analytic process show that units selected through this process do 5.2% better than others. "This tangibly validates the impact of analytics to the site selection process," added Paul. "This process also showed the company how our department can build models for strategic decision making as well as site selection."
SESSION 3 - Bringing it All Together
Presenter - Wayne Geary, Jones Lang LaSalle
To select ideal locations, Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial real estate firm, found that it was critical to analyze the availability of labor, along with traditional site location factors. In particular the company wanted a process for easily predicting how much labor is available now and will be available in 10 years in a market. "For us, labor has become a very big concern," said Wayne. "Companies can save millions by analyzing this carefully."
Wayne said that the company was able to create a rapid-response analytic method using PopStats data and SRC technology. "Our old school system used spreadsheets and took three days per model to create. With our new online tools, we built a custom model with location factors important to our company and made it available for everyone to access. We call it Orion, which means location hunter." Among Orion's benefits are that "the entire company is using our system to assess market viability, and any department can research any market whenever they need to gather sight-specific information."
SESSION 4 - The Secret is in the Gaps
Presenter - John LeTourneux, The Kroger Company
Kroger has identified a $120,000 sales opportunity in each of its 113 product categories, which it hopes to access by closing the gaps in lost sales. Kroger currently has $76 billion in sales. "If we could close all of the gaps, we could add another $32 billion," noted John. The national grocery store chain has created an analysis process with the hope of doing just that.
"We have limited resources to invest in remodeling and remerchandising, so we need to strategically plan our spending. We believe this is one key area. John explained this is a massive project and is on the ground floor stages. He said that Kroger is experimenting in one division in Southern California by identifying stores, applying the research, and reviewing results. The steps include:
Kroger will report on the results of this analysis in a future STI conference.
SESSION 5 - Extending the Market Research Department's Insights
Presenter - David Hanssen, CVS
David presented an overview of how CVS's GIS department extends demographic data across its 7,000+store enterprise via a web-based system. He said that the company's data is currently used 78% for site selection. But added that there is an effort to make it useful and accessible to other departments, such as marketing, merchandising, and pricing.
Among the motivations, "We want to help provide better data across the company so that all departments can make better decisions," noted David. Also, with a lean five-member GIS team researching 700 sites in 2008, extending demographic data direct access to other departments is "more efficient and takes up less of our time."
To make it acceptable to every department, the data is stored in a secret service warehouse. The system is supported by a vendor that provides data handling tasks, including storing and managing the data, and overseeing web access. Departments are starting to access the data in the following ways:
SESSION 6 - You Buy What You Think
Presenter - Cindy Reid, Mapping Analytics
Cindy explained that companies can maximize the power of their data investments by extending use to departments outside of GIS, such as marketing. Data sharing also prevents common problems such as "marketing talking to different customers than the stores are actually serving."
Cindy said that data sharing is particularly relevant with STI: LandScape's consumer segmentation data, including its latest addition: Mediamark's consumer panel data.
"If you don't use consumer data, you are stuck with only identifying by trade area data," noted Cindy. While entering the arena of consumer segmentation is highly valuable in a variety of ways, she stressed the importance of understanding what you are doing with the data and how you are using it to gain the maximum value.
Highlights of Cindy's talk included:
SESSION 7 - Request for Enhancements
Presenter - Robert Welch, STI
Robert told conference attendees about the opportunity to request specific data they would like to see added to PopStats. "Our approach to product development is to add variables our clients actually need," he noted. "Our philosophy adding new content to our existing products, not just add more new products to our suite."
Allowing customer input that guides product development also "allows us to extend our products in new directions we would not have otherwise thought of." Robert encouraged this year's attendees to "be creative in their data requests," Then he cited two examples of product extensions based on client feedback at past conferences:
Friday, March 27, 2009
SESSIONS 1 & 2 - STI: PopStats Methodology
Presenter - Robert Welch, STI
Last, but definitely not least, Robert rounded about the two-and-a-half day conference with a half-day explanation of the PopStats's methodology. This is always the highest-scoring session of the event. Robert said that the PopStats estimates are calculated on four computers working together in a pseudo-parallel processing manner. "We have created a self-correcting artificial intelligence modeling system that learns from itself." Here is a brief description of the methodology.
Four models comprise the PopStats's model:
The PopStats methodology includes automated processes for overcoming any and all anomalies present in the data, including zip+4 inaccuracies, data smoothing issues, conversions (lofts), and overrides.
If a client has a question about PopStats's estimates, Robert will research the issue. The client should first gather as much detail as possible, include any third-party evidence that supports his or her position, and be patient during the evaluation process. Robert will verify the issue, check the underlying data, check soft sources, and report back to the client in a timely manner.
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