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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

'Wants' and needs: Researchers debate Facebook's new button

Facebook is reported to be testing a new Want button plugin along the lines of its Like button. The button would theoretically enable Facebook to gather more information about the buying intentions of millions of users. Research asked a panel of industry experts how a Want button might shake up market research and marketing.

Helen Walker, associate, Incite

The real value of a Like has been under question for some time now with few people really certain of what Liking something really means. Introducing a more purposeful button Want is a move towards a more tangible measure that brands can begin to extract some value from. But as we in research very well know, claimed interest in a brand or service is not a concrete indicator of actual purchase intent and even less so of actual purchase behaviour. So while this is certainly a step towards a more helpful directive for brands and should help them to get a more refined view of who their target audience is – in the online space at least, it’s difficult to say how much incremental value it will deliver to brands on top of a Like.

Mark Simon, managing director - global technology practice, Toluna

From a market research perspective, if you know what people want without having to ask the question, then you have one less question that you need to ask. Survey respondents will surely appreciate this. You can also target or otherwise select people for future research projects based on your knowledge of what they want. There are also all kinds of big data modeling opportunities if you can link Wants to online purchases, online recommendations, online footprints, and the like. Put together, this is a huge research opportunity that brands and end clients are crying out for.

This is also a hugely significant development from a macro-marketing perspective. The expressed intention to purchase is the Holy Grail for marketers, particularly when linking this to the action of actually buying a product or service. This development at Facebook removes much of the uncertainty of targeting.

Joe Goyder, senior consultant, The Value Engineers

I don’t think a Want button will tell us a great deal more than the Like button does already. It sounds like it will be applied to products seen within Facebook, presumably in the context of their shopping app. It would be tempting to see it as a giant, freeform concept test, where you can understand the potential of a new product.

Unlike a concept test, however, Facebook is a social environment, and this will have a distorting effect – I’d be happy to Want a Ferrari 458, but am unlikely ever to buy one. Similarly, I doubt Anusol would receive a lot of Wants but that shouldn’t give McNeil cause for concern. The other factors that are important in concept testing – such as control of concept format and control of sample – are likely to be problematic in the social media environment.

Ultimately clicking Want next to a product would just be way for consumers to express whether they are happy to be associated with products, which is pretty much what the Like button does at the moment. It could, however, signal some interesting commercial developments for Facebook, whose strategy seems to be to own the user experience of the internet, including retail. If the Facebook shopping app had a range and service capability to match Amazon, being able to see what your friends and family Want could transform Christmas and birthday shopping.

Paul Hudson, CEO, Intersperience

My first niggling doubts over this concern semantics – the difference between intent and action is a critical one. A deeper examination of a raft of factors is warranted in order to assess the value, particularly the predictive value of a Want button. These could include: motivation, discretionary spending habits, credit-worthiness, socio-economic status, and even brand loyalty and preferences. This potentially creates a good opportunity for the research community to deliver what we are best at – actionable intelligent insight which brands can then use to inform strategic action. There are of course crude ways of monetising such things as Wants – e.g. there is already a school of thought that says a Like is worth $8 and a Tweet worth $5. How scientifically these values are arrived at is open to question.

We could potentially leverage a Want button as a way of recruiting people into research. That could foster a productive relationship from which big brands could glean intelligence on where and how to focus ad spend or when to tweak products and messages to suit culturally-different preferences. But my words of warning are that identifying those who ‘want’ is one matter, knowing how best to engage with them and to sell to them is quite another and that is where smart research should come in.

Annie Pettit, VP research standards, Research Now

Likes are nice but Wants make the world go round. No matter how companies want to interpret it, the Like button often means that a consumer is curious to see what has been hidden behind the Like button or, like it or hate it, that they simply want to be in the know. On the other hand, the addition of a Want button lets consumers raise a hand holding dollar bills. Market researchers will be able to build brand new measures, such as a Like to Want ratio, and be one step closer to predicting stock market prices and product sales.

John Griffiths, creative director, Spring Research

The killer argument for search is that people want something. So you might think that giving them a Want button just takes it further. But wanting isn’t the same as searching. Want is a grenade; it’s not focused like a search, and unless there is a clearly expected outcome – someone giving you what you want or an answer or a price – I can’t see that it would be useful.

However, if you asked me as a marketing person to press a wish button then I would be after techniques that rouse people from numbness and apathy. We don’t want more ways to distract and over-sstimulate people but ways to get them to engage. A Want button sounds a step too far.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Wants are definitely more tangible, and Mark's point on linking wants to online purchases presents a huge opportunity for big data modeling.

    However, adding the Want button in Facebook doesn't address one important issue with Facebook data from a research perspective...and that is the extent to which it remains up to date. If a consumer wants a product, they click the 'want' button a month later, and then 2 months later they buy the actual product, how many of those consumers will remove the want from their profile? If the proportion of people removing Wants is similar to the proportion who currently remove Likes, then we will have a stale data problem.

    Also, I wonder if the use of the Want button will naturally skew to aspirational & lifestyle products...leaving every day purchases out of the mix. That will impair the utility of the Want button for many marketers.

    Notwithstanding all this, it is an interesting addition and it's worth exploration!

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  • There is a difference between claimed and 'done'. In the M.R. industry we are familiar with the concept of likeability. A 'Like' button on Facebook has suggested how people can click 'Like' for something that they 'just like' or 'really like'....does that convert into an intent or even and 'inclination' to shell money out of wallet? No! In the same way unless we link any expression of interest with something that ensures commitment, may be by linking the want button so that the consumer gets a call from the products' companies, it will not lead to a concrete measure.

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