Storyteller or story interpreter?

The work conversation often goes like this… ‘So, what do you do?’ ‘I work in market research.’ ‘Oh, so you’re the person that rings me up during dinner to ask what I think of John Key?’ ‘No, not exactly…’ It is so much more than this.


Brené Brown studies human connection

Brené Brown, a now celebrity researcher courtesy of Oprah, recalls in a Ted Talk how she repositioned her role as a qualitative researcher, by calling herself a ‘storyteller’. This resonated strongly with me as I thought about all the stories I have heard over the years from so many different types of people and from all walks of life.

It is these human connections that makes our work so special and what many do not get to see. My husband always tells people I come back from an in home interview buzzing. It’s because I have had the privilege to enter a person’s natural environment where they are in control and most relaxed, observe how they live, meet their family, children and pets, explore what makes them tick and sometimes even be invited to stay for dinner!

13102442_1712384732336619_1226563422_nOne of my favourite Instagram feeds at the moment is Humans of NY. The authors collect human stories from everyday New Yorkers and present these vignettes of everyday life in a highly compelling way.

This got me thinking – maybe I’m not a storyteller after all, but a story interpreter. Because I can’t simply tell the stories I hear…I have to retell them with commercial relevance.

That is the difference between an ethnographer or cultural anthropologist. Whilst we as market researchers also observe and listen, we do so through the lens of commercial context. How does this person’s life and experiences impact the brand I am representing? What can I learn that will make a difference to how they might communicate to that person, deliver a product/service or motivate them to purchase?

To learn more about the stories behind your brand, feel free to contact me:



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The role of mobile in the path to purchase and why you need to invest now

The subject of mobile in the path to purchase emerged as a common theme in the conversations Fresh Focus were having whilst presenting the adtech funded report: Behind the Device. Behind the Device is an in-depth study of smartphones in NZ. It covers topics from a day in the life of a NZ smartphone, usage and attitudes of smartphones to a full segmentation of the NZ smartphone population. But where it stopped was digging deeper into the role of smartphones in a category specific customer journey. So we decided to go back to NZ smartphone users and ask them about that.


We asked a nationally representative sample of n=1000 NZ smartphone users to tell us about the role their mobile plays when shopping in two categories: travel and retail. We chose these categories as felt they were broad enough to be applicable to other verticals and are fast growing online segments.

First, we asked mobile users how often they purchased products and/or services on their mobile phone. Four in ten (39%) claimed they always or regularly purchased. This leaves 60% of Kiwis STILL relying on making that final purchase on a computer or in store.

Figure 1: Frequency of purchasing products/services on mobile

Mobile shopping

But if we look at the younger population, 16-24yr olds are 3 x more likely to always/regularly purchase on their smartphone. Now whilst this statistic is probably not that surprising, it is a significant reminder that we cannot be complacent in the hope that we will revert back to traditional broadcast sales and marketing techniques – that horse has bolted. This trend is happening now and will continue as the buying behaviour of older generations is superceded by younger shoppers.

Non-Europeans twice as likely to use their mobile phone to buy than Europeans

But what about other New Zealanders…Non European (Chinese, Indian, Maori and Pacific Island) shoppers are 2 x more likely than NZ Europeans to use the mobile to purchase products and services. So if you are targeting Auckland and these fast growing populations – mobile would seem like the intutive channel to not only connect with them but convert a sale.

Screen shot 2017-04-24 at 4.17.02 PM

“It’s the ability to shop without having to leave the house. I can be in my sweatpants, relaxed and open to shopping without stress. It’s a research tool, but if it’s easy to carry through to a purchase then you feel an instant sense of accomplishment.

Dr. Sommer Kapitan



Digital channels now dictate the travel
customer journey

Screen shot 2017-04-24 at 4.19.15 PM

In the last 6 months, six in ten (63%) New Zealanders booked a flight, rented a car or booked a holiday either through a travel agent or online. Of these, you can clearly see that mobile plays a strong role through the earlier stages of their journey, but drops away when customers start to refine their purchase decision.

So, this begs the question… what happens to your booking when someone switches from mobile to laptop to make their final purchase? Take a moment and think about all the different scenarios that could happen when you break that journey mindset – customers are exposed to different offers, kids come into the room and break their focus, they talk to a friend/family, they get second thoughts or decide to wait. This demonstrates the need to quarantine customers within the more personalised, focused mobile experience to avoid potential loss of sales.

Bricks and mortar still plays a role in the retail customer journey

Screen shot 2017-04-24 at 4.20.15 PMDigital channels play a key role in the earlier stages of the retail customer journey but as customers get further down the purchase funnel – they are just as likely to make the final purchase in a bricks and mortar store as they are online. Anecdotally from other projects we have worked on, we know this is true as customers playback to us time and time again ‘I like to touch, feel, check the quality, play’. It is a highly tactile category and for this reason, mobile plays a slightly different role than in travel. It is more about inspiration and where relevant – guiding and making it as easy as possible for customers to find their closest store with the product they are looking for in that moment – hopefully it is your store!

Non responsive website a key barrier to purchasing 

We asked New Zealand smartphone users why they did not purchase more on their mobile. Over half claim difficulties with navigating the mobile site and finding the payment check out hard to use on phone.

When you review these barriers, it is worth considering how frequency would be influenced if brands simply focused on improving their mobile shopping cart experience.

6 points to remember about mobile

  1. Mobile plays a significant role in the consumer path to purchase even if you can’t always attribute it to a sale.
  2. Our ever-evolving relationship with mobile continues to impact how brands are and should be communicating with customers.
  3. The digital divide is closing… opening up opportunities to engage with hard to reach audiences through mobile.
  4. Make every brand experience significant – make it easy to find your product/services on mobile and purchase in the moment.
  5. Overcome barriers to purchasing on mobile through a fast, responsive design to make it seamless to navigate and buy.
  6. Consumers are always in charge – help solve their problems, offer new services faster, give them every reason to choose you.


To learn more about these recent findings or discuss how Fresh Focus could help your business better understand its customer journey, click here to share your details and we’ll be in touch to book a coffee.


How to succeed in a mobile-first world?

Behind the Device: Decoding the NZ mobile consumer looks beyond the technology to uncover the motivations, attitudes and behaviours of the many people in New Zealand who are now living ‘smart lives’.

At Fresh Focus we immerse ourselves in what global brand strategist Martin Lindstrom famously calls the ‘small data’ of life – clues that can only be found in people’s homes, cars, on their phone, bathroom drawers, pantries and walking alongside people pushing their shopping carts. Ultimately – we are storytellers. The main goal for this report is to share some of the stories we discovered about NZ mobile consumers so you can truly understand the person behind the device.

According to Zenith’s recent mobile advertising forecast, mobile will represent 75% of web use in 2017. That is three in four internet searches being conducted on a mobile.

But whilst smartphone penetration has almost peaked, this does not mean that we all use our phones in the same way. My app filing is very different to my husband’s and I consume mobile content quite differently to my Mum. We are all different… with different values, cultures and motivations.

To unlock these nuances we interviewed industry experts and thought leaders coupled with a broad spectrum of consumers from 16 yr old high school students to 70 yr old retirees. As researchers we try to find common themes…but the challenge of understanding the role of a device that did not exist ten years ago is that there are few frameworks of meaning, no bedrock social theories to reference.It is why research like this is so critical, as it adds another layer of knowledge to understanding how NZ culture and connection is evolving.


I think at the time it was the first thing that I’d really come across that I thought this (mobile) is going to change the way people behave and I want to be there from the beginning.”

Nic Gibbons, CEO of Paperkite App Developer

The final phase of the research was a mobile-led survey with a nationally representative group of 1005 people who have a smartphone from the Pureprofile digital consumer panel. This stage allowed us to put ‘hard numbers’ around our insights, and break down the NZ mobile market into commercially relevant segments that can be targeted and marketed to. We wanted to go beyond the demographics and deliver a more meaningful segmentation of the NZ mobile consumer.

Four key occasions for brands to be there

Imagine having a clearer picture of your customer’s context and mindset when they engage with your content and brand at different points during the day. How would you change your message? What format would you deliver your content in?

For some, the phone never sleeps, and is a constant companion throughout the day and night.


“My alarm which is on my phone, wakes me up. Then I check all my social media. I check Instagram first, then Facebook and finally Snapchat. Snapchat is last because I have to do my streaks. I do it in the morning to get it out of the way.”
Starcia, 16 yr old girl, high school student

For the majority however, there are clear moments and occasions of peak smartphone usage. We know that three in ten smartphone users are highly active in the morning – so what else is going on at that time? Are they a Mum about to launch into getting the kids ready for school and have five minutes before she has to get them breakfast or a high school student that can scroll uninterrupted for 30 minutes before rolling out of bed to catch the bus.


Where are your customers in the mobile purchase funnel?

No surprise here – mobile has forever changed the way we live and how we engage with brands, products and services. It’s fractured the consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments. Each one an opportunity for brands to shape our decisions and preferences.

So where do New Zealanders sit on this journey. What is our mobile path to purchase? In our survey, we asked New Zealand smartphone users when they relied on their mobile in a recent major purchase. One third of the total sample claimed they used their phone for inspiration.

Almost 8 in 10 New Zealanders turn to their phone for research indicating the significant influence of those pre-purchase mobile moments.

But what about the moment of truth – converting to a sale…only 16% claimed they used their phone to buy. So we have a lot of Kiwis using their phone at multiple points in the journey but we lose them.


Yet when you look at the figures for Millennials (16-29yrs), there is a marked difference with 84% using their phone for research, 50% for inspiration and 23% to purchase. This signals a clear shift in how the next generation of New Zealanders shop and how brands need to address this audience.

How to connect with hard to reach consumers

There are five segments of smartphone users in New Zealand. Two segments represent roughly half of the people in the market (Socialites and Kiwi Dads).


Socialites are the largest segment with almost one third of NZ smartphone users falling into this category. The two smallest segments – Content Scouts and Uberconnectors represent less than a third of people but the majority of traffic. They are also the most content hungry and dynamic mobile segments, and present significant opportunity for marketers.

Almost half (46%) of Digital Grandparents are over 60 years old. At the other end of the spectrum, Uberconnectors and Content Scouts skew younger with over six in ten (65%) Content Scouts under 40 yrs.

Whilst Digital Grandparents are most likely to be NZ European, the Uberconnector segment has the highest proportion of Maori/Pacific Islanders and Indian/Asian consumers. For marketers trying to reach these audiences through mobile – these are the segments to target.

To learn more about the NZ mobile consumer and how you can connect with them in a more authentic way, check out or contact Sarah on

Delivering value in a world of hyper-connected consumers

Man on mobile

Written by Ryf Quail

Today’s consumer often has conflicting expectations. They exist in a world with a real FOMO so they desperately want to be hyper-connected, yet at the same time they don’t want to be ‘marketed to’ when they are connected. Given this reality, how do brand marketers achieve cut through to connect with their customers? What strategies should they be adopting, and what technologies do they need to leverage to become top of mind with a consumer who no longer cares what they have to say? In this context, I believe there are three key challenges businesses are facing right now:

  • Understanding customers through data
  • Getting to grips with what a customer perceives as valuable
  • Delivering to customers insatiable quest for even better brand experiences

Understanding customers through data

Challenge number one ‘big data’ does not automatically mean great insight. In fact, any data does not mean great insight. Most businesses have transactional data, advertising data, and customer data yet are struggling to discover what is important to their customers, why their customers are behaving in a certain way and what they want next.

We see many Kiwi businesses have great success but have a limited understanding as to why they are successful. What they really lack is an understanding of who their customer is, what makes them tick and why their customers are doing what they are doing.

In many cases engaging with their customer, speaking with them, observing them or immersing in their world can often provide the answers to these questions but more importantly give a steer on what they want next from you.

Getting to grips with what a customer perceives as valuable

This understanding of why leads us to challenge number two, which is that consumers are hungry for great brand experiences. Consumers are now hyper-connected and expect more of the brands they engage with every day. They want to move seamlessly between digital and real world situations, expecting brands to keep up and know who they are.

This is challenging as digital technologies provide consumers a new lens on brands and new ways to engage every day. There’s the opportunity for brand relationships to evolve because of technology. Consumers crave the utility of digital interfaces yet they love having real world immersive brand and product experiences.

The trick here is to know when they want to speak to a person and when they just want a ‘teflon’ digital experience. The balance is hard to find and varies wildly by category, brand and product.

The insatiable quest for great brand experiences

Driving the balance leads us to challenge number three, the consumer‘s new value equation. This is not necessarily a challenge. In fact it could be an opportunity to bring margin back into a category. Consumers who expect more from brands are also happy to pay more. Who would have thought it!

Just look at what Nadia Lim has done to the preparation of meals. Consumers are paying more, much more for food but she has removed the thought. What a service. I get a great meal, that is easy to prepare and I really don‘t have to think too much about the ingredients I have in the fridge because they are already there. She hasn‘t destroyed grocery but she has bought margin back into a category where there wasn‘t much.

This layering of service experience and digital utility has proven incredibly successful here and in many other areas. Truly understanding the pain point of scrambling ingredients together has led to this higher margin technology led service innovation. The key takeaway here is that people will pay where they see value and that value is no longer simply wrapped up in the product.

To tackle these challenges businesses need to talk to people, talk to each other and talk to their customers. They need to look for the ‘whys?‘ and ‘what nexts?’. They need to continually strive to understand how their customers’ relationship with their brands are constantly evolving with digital technologies so they can innovate and provide better value for their customers and more growth through margin for themselves.

If you want to understand more about your customers – drop us a line and come have a coffee


All I ask is that you care


Photo courtesy of Humans of NY

As a marketer I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’d want from my qualitative researchers. How would I like to work with them? How would I like to feel about the insights they uncover? What’s going to make me feel inspired to make change? And I think it all comes down to empathy.

Firstly, I want the researchers I’ve trusted with my customers to care. Genuinely care about them (and me) and the challenges we face. Empathise with us and do everything you can to help make a difference.

Secondly, go into their world. Get up close to my customers in their everyday lives. See what they do and how they interact with their environment and my brand within that. Put yourself in their shoes, empathise with them and understand what makes them tick. I want you to tell me about their world first hand.

Thirdly, check in with me. There’s a lot riding on this project and I want to be involved. Take me through the initial insights, see how they sit with me. Let me ask questions, make me feel confident in the direction you’re going. By doing this, you’re showing me you care.

Finally, when you come and present to me, again all I ask is for you to care. Be passionate, have enthusiasm, stand up and take me on a journey. Interpret the story and make me feel excited. I want us all in this together. I don’t want to ask a question and be told “the research speaks for itself” (yes this has happened to me). This doesn’t feel like empathy.

I want a story, something I can use to make a difference. I want to be inspired to make change within my organisation. That is all I ask.

Written by Sarah Kenny – Strategy and Brand Expert

The beginning…

April 23, 2016 at 0338PM

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu

Well this is Day 1 of the Fresh Focus blog. I am sitting in a cafe in Anglesea, on the Great Ocean Road, with my headphones on grabbing some quiet time from the kids whilst they are with their grandparents.

I have chosen a theme, blog title, written a purpose and about to craft a conversation guide for the next few weeks. This is part of the over-arching Fresh Focus social media marketing plan. The time has come as our business ‘grows up’ to practice what we preach and develop and position our own brand in the market.

My colleague Sarah and I have spent the last few weeks working ON the business, rather than in it. After re-reading Michael Gerber’s classic – The E-Myth Revisited, it reminded me how important it was to define what our business story was. What are we bringing to the market? How do we stand out? Why do we keep turning up everyday?

We now have a brand wheel, a redesigned sitemap, a creds document and presentation template. Pretty good for 2 weeks work!

When was the last time you looked at your business brand story?