Consumers Look for Total Package on Game Day: Retailers Need Wide Selection to Score

Tailgates, beer, and busy television sets – as football season 2014 kicks into full gear, such standbys will again become commonplace on college campuses and in households nationwide. And alongside packed stadiums will inevitably be hectic supermarkets swarmed with game day shoppers stocking up for a weekend of tailgating. 

The excitement of college football season brings along a slew of opportunities for brands to harness the power of consumer perceptions -- and few resources offer richer insights than the ever-changing world of social media conversation. 


Collecting Conversation
To predict the most talked-about goods and trends for the upcoming football season, DataRank analyzed online conversation at two major retailers – Walmart and Target – from August 2013 to January 2014. Key products and preferences were then isolated and examined in their own right to extract deeper insights about consumer experiences with tailgate shopping.


Holistic Shopping
Foremost in consumer minds was holistic shopping – the ability to obtain necessary tailgating supplies in one trip. 43% of Walmart’s tailgating discussion and 38% of Target’s featured mentions of favorable product selections, often with the caveat of busy or crowded stores.



But by far the greatest single share of conversation concerned tailgating equipment – coolers, containers, and especially grills. Commenters across all retailers positively emphasized equipment deals in time for tailgate season, and nearly 5% of total discussion on grills mentioned the value of versatile devices, with tailgate suitability appearing as a common point of positivity.


Takeaways for Tailgate 2014
Analysis of tailgate 2013 conversation reinforces an important trend in consumer attitudes toward purchasing: the value of one-stop-shops for convenient, all-inclusive shopping experiences. The hustle of game day preparations – much like the schedule of everyday life for many consumers – simply cannot accommodate multiple supply trips. Retailers specializing in all-in-one offerings should continue to capitalize on this advantage. Those with a narrow purview might consider partnerships aimed at expanding the range of available products.

In a similar vein, consumer emphasis on tailgating equipment highlights the marketing potential of product combinations. Considering both the desire for holistic shopping experiences and enthusiasm for tailgate-suitable grills, one can envision the possible popularity of bundled packages or deals offering a complete set of tailgate supplies. 

Clearly, the time spent leading up to the big game is of utmost importance to football-minded consumers. Retailers should make game day purchases as convenient as possible if they want to capture this demographic.

Making the Grade: How Back-to-School Shoppers Assess Three Retailers

Fall is fast approaching, and for many American families, that means the school season is back in swing. As supply lists, registration forms, and busy schedules return, parents and children across the U.S. will flock to stores in pursuit of school supplies for the upcoming year.

Collecting Conversation
To gauge consumer attitudes and behavior toward such purchases, DataRank analyzed over 33,000 comments on shopping at Target, Walmart, and Staples during the 2014 back-to-school season. Retailers were compared on the bases of customers’ views on pricing, selection, and convenience.

Back-to-school discussion by retailer, arranged by positive sentiment

Always Low Prices – And Lower Sentiment

Though Walmart customers approved of the retailer’s lower costs and product selection, crowding and the resultant inconvenience constituted a major source of negative sentiment. Some 31% of Walmart back-to-school comments mentioned difficulty navigating aisles – a problem often remedied by switching retailers or by shopping online to beat the rush. 

On Target
Target commenters exhibited similar concerns. 19% of back-to-school comments cited reasonable prices as a key determinant of decisions to shop at Target, while another 24% discussed convenience. Customer service featured prominently in overall conversation – a theme relatively underrepresented in either Walmart or Staples discussion.

Staples Stacks Up
Staples did, however, fare the best among retailers, garnering a positive sentiment of 87% for back-to-school conversation. Commenters emphasized low prices and convenience - especially the retailer’s “one-stop-shop” nature – while pointing out crowding as a significant problem.

2014 Back-to-School Report Card
A few key themes emerge from the data. First – and perhaps most important – is the significance of convenience across all retailers. While commenters clearly expect to encounter crowds and rushed shopping, there still appears to be a critical point at which inconvenience outweighs the perceived benefits of low costs or greater selections. 

 This ties into a second major takeaway: the ascendancy of online shopping as an alternative to brick retailers. With bundled packages, bulk options, and great delivery convenience all offered by online retailers, []

What's in the Tea Leaves? 2014 Beverage Analysis

Graphics by Lauren Hayes 

The long, sweltering days of summer are coming to end, and autumn’s approach promises a welcome respite from the hottest season of the year. But even as the sizzling rays of June and July give way to fall’s cooler forecasts, enthusiasm for one of the most popular summer drinks – iced tea – shows no signs of diminishing. According to the Tea Association of the USA, more than half the U.S. population consumes tea on any given day – the majority of which is iced. And with beverages playing such a prominent role in current packaged goods discussion – witness, for example, the strong performance of packaged beverages in Q2 2014, or the market potential for an emphasis on tea – there has hardly been a better time to observe online discussion of the classic refreshment.

Collecting Conversation
To quantify and analyze this conversation, DataRank collected a sample size of 350,000 comments from May 1 to July 31, 2014, filtering the sample for keywords around flavor, alternate preparation methods and uses, and expressions of consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction. Using its consumer insights dashboard, it then analyzed the results to draw conclusions about preferences and trends in the growing iced tea market.  

No Longer Just Sweet or Unsweet
By far the greatest portion of conversation centered on flavors, which featured in over 20% of total discussion. Peach, lemon, and alcoholic iced tea fared best, together composing some 82% of flavor conversation.

                                                            Volume graph of conversation by flavor.  

Back in the Good ‘Ol Days
Closely linked to both flavor-oriented and overall discussion was iced tea’s nostalgic appeal to commenters, many of whom considered the beverage an irreplaceable seasonal staple or associated it with memories of times past. 61% of all nostalgia comments asserted there was "nothing like" the taste and overall experience of iced tea in the summer. 

Not Just for Drinking
But perhaps the most interesting findings involved tea preparation methods and alternative uses. The use of substitute brewing methods, and in particular Keurig coffeemakers, featured heavily in alternate preparation discussion, appearing in 76% of comments. Iced tea-based shampoos, conditioners, and shower mixtures also surfaced frequently in health/beauty application conversation

A word cloud of total alternate preparation/use case conversation, with word size indicating prominence in discussion. Keurig machines feature prominently in preparation conversation, while iced tea-based shampoo and conditioner recipes account for a large portion of health/beauty application comments.

Takeaways for 2015 and Beyond
Analysis of iced tea conversation confirms what trends already suggest: in the tea-drinking world, variety and innovation are king. As beverage manufacturers seek to diversify their product lines and introduce more innovative products such as the Keurig Cold Brew system, the trends outlined above should serve as beneficial guideposts – for if the 2014 data tells us anything, no leaf-reading is required to divine iced tea’s multifaceted appeal to the modern consumer

Comic-Conversation 2014

Graphics by Lauren Hayes

California has long been recognized as a hub of innovation, collaboration, and entertainment – and this weekend, it once again demonstrated its close association with the creative world by hosting the 2014 Comic-Con convention. Held in San Diego since 1970, the gathering serves as a platform for fans, artists, and other professionals to preview and exhibit upcoming releases across various entertainment genres. Consistently drawing over 100,000 attendees from 2010 onward, Comic-Con represents not only a venue for shared enthusiasm but also an annual reading of the creative world’s pulse. 

In order to gauge this pulse, DataRank used its Live Search function to collect and analyze a sample size of 2,147,000 Twitter comments about the 2014 Comic-Con convention from June 30 to July 29 in an attempt to determine the most frequently anticipated and mentioned films, previews, and costume choices at Comic-Con 2014. 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, the third installment in the immensely popular Hunger Games franchise, garnered the lion’s share of discussion on movies and movie trailers, with nearly 437,000 comments – or 20% of total collected volume – mentioning the film’s preview. 

Mad Max: Fury Road earned almost as much attention, with 320,000 commenters discussing its trailer. 

But neither the garish garb of The Hunger Games nor the frenzied enthusiasm for Mad Max could stand up to Game of Thrones’ sartorial appeal. Fans clad in the attire of Westeros lined the halls of the convention, and more than 231,000 took to Twitter to mention standout getups. And Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams’s incognito appearance in a V for Vendetta mask – as well as a dress made entirely of comic books – also registered heavily on social media, netting well over 700,000 tweets. 

6 or 23?: KingJames Number Theory

In the week since LeBron James’s announcement that he would be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, one question has loomed large among the star’s fans: what number will the two-time NBA champion and Cavaliers’ all-time leading scorer wear on his jersey when he steps back onto the court? 

The issue excited particular interest on July 18, when James himself put the question to his followers via Twitter and Instagram: 

Each number holds particular significance for both James and the basketball world. No. 6, the number James wore in the Olympics and throughout his time with the Miami Heat, represents a powerful tie to the team with which he garnered many of his greatest accolades. No. 23, on the other hand, was the number of Michael Jordan – arguably the most renowned of all players in basketball history. In James’s own words, “I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized in some way – soon… If you see 23, you think about Michael Jordan…. He did so much, it has to be recognized, and not just by putting him in the Hall of Fame.”

The gravity of James’s decision quickly became evident, with the original post stimulating thousands of retweets and sites across the Internet seeking feedback from users through surveys and discussions. One ESPN poll had received over 140,000 responses by midday on the 18th.

Using its proprietary Live Search function, DataRank analyzed a sample size from the 500,000 Tweets about LeBron James posted on July 18, 2014 in an attempt to predict James’s choice based on fan feedback. Querying for natural language based around sentiment toward what the player “should” or “ought” to do, DataRank found that 57% of the comments expressed a preference for the retention of #6. 

Comments also tended to follow a regional pattern, with users in and around Cleveland inclined toward #6.

Either of LeBron’s choices will ultimately represent a tie to the player’s past – either a personal connection to former glories or identification with a revered fellow athlete. And if James does indeed take his fans’ sentiments into consideration, his decision might well corroborate predictions formulated from a close examination of online conversation.

DataRank Lent Tracker

DataRank can help you track regional, seasonal, and preferential trends via interactive maps. DataRank is proud to introduce our Lent Fish Tracker for 2014. This map allows you to pinpoint where consumers are participating in Lenten sacrifices, which fish they prefer, where they are shopping-in real time.


Proposed FDA Rule Changes Build on Consumer Discussion & May Portend Packaged Foods Market Changes

In an ongoing effort to combat obesity and promote public health the Obama administration is promoting proposed Food and Drug Administration changes to food labeling, the first significant changes since 1993.  The agency proposed the update on February 27th as the and among the proposed changes are:

Updated serving sizes to more accurately reflect actual consumption

Larger, bolded calorie count font

New daily values which are displayed first

A new category called “added sugar”

 To see how well these changes resonated with consumer concerns DataRank analyzed consumer conversations around nutrition labels on a sample of consumer-packaged goods to see which ingredients got the most attention.

Given the large concern around calories, serving size, and sugar, the proposed changes play into consumer’s go-to indicators of health.  One area of change which has generated little discussion is “recommended daily values”, or the average amount of any vitamin, chemical, or quantity a person should consume in a day, indicates consumers rely less on these pre-tabulated measures than the raw values provided on the label. The FDA’s proposed updates and more prominent position will likely serve to bring more consumer focus to the daily values while enhancing discussion on already important indicators. Overall, the food label update is hitting consumers’ concerns. Other concerns, such as genetically modified organism labeling, are still relatively far from the FDA’s rulemaking docket regardless of activist pressure.

The nutrition label update could herald changes in both consumer and producer behavior.  Consumers, already sensitive to caloric intake and the role of sugars in their diets, may shy away from products with added sugar or become even stricter calorie-counters as the information becomes more prominent. Companies could also feel the changes as consumer preferences adjust to new information and attention is drawn to parts of the label that previously received little more than a cursory glance. Advocates of the changes argue the more prominently displayed dietary information may have just this effect, driving changes in the packaged foods marketplace. Firms may indeed feel the pressure with some companies considering changes to serving side or accelerating formula changes while well-positioned products may use their formulas as hero claims to gather disaffected consumers.

To read more about the proposed food label changes and the reasoning behind them take a look at this article at Tufts Now in the link below.

*Chart shows ranked discussion of traits by volume

^FDA insignia represent categories with proposed rule changes

Ukraine Generates more Online Curiosity than Arab Spring or Syria

Interest in Ukraine appears to be surging as Americans turn to the internet to learn more about the Maiden and circumstances in Crimea. Not since the American invasion of Iraq have US citizens been so interested in learning more about instability abroad. Depending on actions by the new government in Kiev and Russian personnel station in Crimea, we may be hearing even more about Ukraine and searches may surge further.

Whole Foods Lowers Prices, Results may Surpass Expectations

For some shoppers, Whole Foods is a way of life-like Black Friday everyday except with more vegetable. However for most shoppers high prices place the growing grocer out of reach. In an effort to broaden its appeal and continue rapid growth, Whole Foods has begun to lower its prices to appeal more tovalue motivated shoppers, those consumers that keep an eye on price but never take their gaze off quality. These pressures and have pushed Whole Foods to expand and promote its affordable store brand, 365 Everyday Value. Although this strategy results in decreased margins, Whole Foods believes the increase in average basket size and new customers will more than make up for per item losses with throughput gains at every store. Using DataRank, we analyzed consumer conversations around the Whole Foods brand and from early analysis the strategy may be just what Whole Foods needs to re-anchor consumer perceptions of price. Currently, a typical Whole Foods pricing comment sings the praises of high-quality, healthy foods but grumbles at the thought of paying a lot for it saying something like “I would love to shop at whole foods market but it is so expensive “. Pricing is actually such a negative for Whole Foods that it drags overall sentiment down by 18%.

Simply by looking at the extremely low pricing sentiment it is clear there is enormous potential to win new consumers who view the retailer as out beyond their pay-grade. Whole Foods has built a desirable brand, but if it wishes to continue to expand the retailer will need to appeal to a broader audience.