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Medill and Performics create Intent Lab and new Digital Satisfaction Index

Medill Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) and Performics, the original performance marketing agency, have formed a research partnership called Intent Lab. Through the partnership, Medill and Performics will conduct original research studies tied to major brands to help those brands better understand their consumers’ online behavior.

Among the first research to be released from the Intent Lab is a new Digital Satisfaction Index, an innovative global tool to understand how consumers make connections with a brand leading up to their final decision to either engage and purchase something or go elsewhere.   

To construct the DSI, Medill and Performics conducted in-person consumer interviews, surveys with probabilistic and non-probabilistic samples of more than 3,000 participants in the U.S. and the U.K. throughout spring of 2016, and identified the four key factors of consumer satisfaction: trust, utility, social and privacy.

Among the findings of the Digital Satisfaction Index: 

  • Privacy is a significant concern for Americans, but less so for online consumers in the U.K.
  • Digital satisfaction is highest among baby boomers; lowest among youngest and oldest demographics
  • The financial services industry scored the highest in digital satisfaction; household goods scored the lowest

An in-depth overview of the results is below and the full Digital Satisfaction Index results are available here.

“Technology empowers both consumers and brands to make digital brand connections, but consumers are flooded with messages and interactions that can be simultaneously intrusive, annoying, enabling and empowering,” said Frank Mulhern, associate dean, department chair and professor of Medill IMC. “Through this partnership, we aim to uncover how those connections are perceived, and the thought patterns that take place leading up to that final decision to engage with or abandon a brand.”

“We built the Intent Lab because we firmly believe intent is the single-most important marketing variable, shaping the way we deliver results for our clients,” said Michael Kahn, CEO of Performics Worldwide. “The Intent Lab’s Digital Satisfaction Index is a new industry standard, illuminating game-changing insight into online user perceptions. This knowledge will arm brands with the ability to harness the power of marketing in a post-digital world.”

Going forward, through Intent Lab, Medill and Performics plan to conduct original research studies tied to major brands to understand, for example, how consumers construct a digital media experience built around purchase intent, whether consumers can be categorized into segments based on digital content use patterns, primary drivers of positive purchase outcomes compared to non-purchase outcomes, and how pathways for purchase vary for different product categories.

“The goal of Intent Lab is to produce research that is both academically rigorous and of professional use. Helping companies understand how to reallocate resources where it really matters is a real-life application we are eager to see stem from our work,” said Ashlee Humphreys, principal researcher for Intent Lab and associate professor at Northwestern Medill School.

To learn more, visit the Performics' website. 

Overview of Results from Inaugural Digital Satisfaction Index

U.S. and U.K. consumer digital perceptions across multiple industries:

The research revealed the most salient four factors driving consumer digital satisfaction were Trust, Utility, Social and Privacy (more so than other factors like Personalization and Recommendations).

  • Trust measures attitudes about the credibility of information presented online.
  • Utility is the usefulness of the website or app to users. This includes assessments of how efficient it is to get things done online versus offline, and how easily information can be accessed.
  • Social represents the extent to which users value their social interactions online -- both their enjoyment engaging with others and with getting glimpses into the lives of others online.
  • Privacy is the level of comfort that users have with information being collected about them online.


Privacy a significant concern for Americans, less so for U.K.

The overall DSI score (on a 100-point scale) is a combined measure of the level of satisfaction and importance of key factors, such as those listed above. The U.S. DSI score was 58.4 overall, and though online users gave utility a score of 77 -- indicating relative satisfaction with the usefulness of websites and apps -- and social a score of 61.3 -- indicating consumers enjoy engaging with others online, dissatisfaction with privacy and collection of personal information, as well as trust -- or the perception of how credible information is online -- drove the overall DSI lower, with scores of 34.2 and 52.6, respectively. 

Comparatively, U.K. consumers are more satisfied with their digital experiences than U.S. consumers, given the U.K.’s overall DSI score of 65.6.  This is primarily because U.K. consumers skewed higher in privacy (42.2) and place 43 percent less importance on privacy than American counterparts. Also, while the utility score was very close to the U.S. at 77.4, they weighted that factor as 36 percent more influential than in the U.S.

“American consumers are clear about the importance of efficiency and convenience online, and those brands, platforms, apps and websites that prioritize ease of access to information as part of the user experience will drive positive consumer digital satisfaction,” Kahn said. “However, compared to the U.K. where there is a stronger expectation of online privacy driven by government legislation, U.S. brands are lagging when it comes to making consumers feel comfortable with their information-gathering practices.  It will be interesting to see how the U.K. DSI changes, once Brexit moves forward, since some regulations protecting U.K. consumer privacy online is tied to the European Union.”

Digital satisfaction highest among baby boomers; lowest among youngest and oldest demographics

In both the U.S. and U.K., digital satisfaction is the lowest among the youngest age group (18-24), scoring 57.1, as well as 64-75 year olds and those over 75 years old, the oldest age group. With a score of 61, baby boomers, ages 55-64 years old, are the most satisfied. 

“Younger digital natives don’t remember a world without Twitter or Instagram, are comfortable sharing their lives online and are aware brands are collecting their data, so it’s not surprising they skewed higher in privacy,” said Esteban Ribero, senior vice president for Planning and Insights at Performics.  “At the same time, 18-24 year olds had lower satisfaction with utility because their expectations in terms of online usefulness are higher, making them much harder to please. Brands need to increase the effectiveness of their websites and apps if they are to continue to engage younger consumers like millennials. They are now the largest generation and are more likely to make online purchases compared to the general population.”

Financial services industry scored highest digital satisfaction; household goods scored lowest

The Intent Lab DSI also analyzed retail, financial services, travel and household goods industry products and services in the U.S. and the U.K.  Overall, DSI is highest for financial services at 63.6, and lowest for household goods at 60.3.  As with the overall DSI findings, for U.S. retail and financial services brands, privacy scored low, while the U.K. scored higher than the U.S. across all industries. 

“To boost overall DSI scores, U.S. brands should consider policies to increase user comfort around personal data collections, especially in industries like financial services, which must be perceived as trustworthy in order to drive performance,” Ribero said.

Research methodology for the DSI

The overall DSI score, based on a 100-point scale, indicates how satisfied users are with the four factors weighted by the importance of each factor.  Factor importance is determined by averaging the survey respondent’s self-reported importance rating and a regression-derived importance rating. 

The next round of DSI results will be released in the fourth quarter of 2016 and will cover additional industries and new global markets. 

Forthcoming brand research focused on consumer intent

Through Intent Lab, Northwestern and Performics plan to conduct original research studies tied to major brands to understand, for example, how consumers construct a digital media experience built around purchase intent, whether consumers can be categorized into segments based on digital content use patterns, primary drivers of positive purchase outcomes compared to non-purchase outcomes, and how pathways for purchase vary for different product categories. Study participants may be monitored via behavioral and sensorimotor methods, and statistical analysis could quantify the impact of the different digital content combinations on purchase intent and other dependent measures. Segmentation analyses may also be conducted to identify commonalities in the patterns of the digital footprint among participants.

Intent Lab research results will also be submitted to peer-reviewed conferences and journals. 

Key Findings

Country Overall US DSI Score: 58.4
UK Score: 65.6
Greater satisfaction around privacy and trust in UK.
Generational Digital satisfaction is lowest among the youngest (18-24) and oldest (64-75+) age groups. Baby Boomers are the most satisfied. 
Gender Women (60.2) have a slightly higher overall DSI than Men (59.5), and a more significant increase specifically within the Retail industry.
Income Overall DSI is greater for the upper income ($85k-$200k) bracket. 
Race/Ethnicity White users are the most satisfied overall. Hispanic users skewed lowest in digital satisfaction, driven by a lack of Trust in online information. 
Industry Segment Overall DSI is highest for the Financial Services vertical. It is lowest for the Household goods industry. UK scores are higher than US scores across every segment.