Quirk’s Chicago 2022 Recap

Quirk’s Chicago for many of the attendees was the first in-person event they have been to in over 2 years. As the city of Chicago was gearing up to its pre-pandemic levels of tourism/restaurant openings and activities, Quirk’s Chicago boasted an impressive 900 attendees. While our trip to Chicago started out with a routine nasal swab, it ended in a fantastic conference filled with engaging conversations and thought-provoking presentations lead by industry professionals.  The event started with the WIRe social and there were many fond reunions after a long hiatus from in-person events. The Explorer Team then attended the Research Club event- another great kick-off and chance to reconnect.

On day one of the conference, many familiar faces filled the exhibit hall and as the coffee started to flow, so did the conversations. The following are some of the interesting themes we picked up from the conference.

Inflation, Supply Chain and Labor Issues

We’re all aware of the challenging times with inflation, supply chain and labor issues. So how should we approach this? There were lots of really interesting discussions about the current “crisis” we have all entered. Some of the key nuggets we learned from a Kraft presentation were to enter into any pricing or downsizing decisions carefully. Really understand and test any pricing or sizing decision as each category is different based on purchase frequency and loyalty. The conference themes that centered around how best to manage inflation included:

    1. The importance of showcasing value beyond price to your customers. Really understanding your value drivers is critical to make that happen.
    2. Empathy and the fact that our customers are humans. We need our customers more than they need us and we need to have empathy during these inflationary times.
    3. Offering our support to our customers in really tangible ways with ideas to make their budget stretch further.
    4. Understanding value drivers and what are the must haves for a brand. Some of these may also be a cost saving and that might be a dual win using more sustainable materials.

Balancing Act

Another key theme was the balance between agility and measuring to understand and act with purpose. While the quick turn “TikTok insights” was a theme that came through, a compelling presentation from Ulta also challenged us to question why we are doing research. The Ulta presentation grounded us in the fact that we need our customers more than they need us and that we are measuring to act. This needs to be done with purpose and the intent to truly understand. So the tension is really about the bite-sized data requests and how they fit in with the true understanding required to drive business results that an insights team can provide.

Humanize the Numbers

We also heard in several conversations the need to humanize the numbers that come out of quantitative research. Across many presentations, the need to understand the ‘why’ behind the numbers was proven to deliver more actionable insights. Mieka Puzniak (Edward Jones) underscored this theme, saying “don’t just think about the customer, think like the customer”, while Sarah Zangler (Kraft Heinz) challenged us to “focus on what matters most to the consumer and rationalize the rest”.

Bringing the voice of the consumer to inform and contextualize survey based learnings is a powerful way to understand how your shoppers are thinking, and creates compelling sell stories that resonate with the target market across touchpoints.

A big shoutout to Quirk’s for throwing another amazing event; we thoroughly enjoyed attending and are excited to attend Quirk’s New York in July.

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