By Paul Pannone
An eWedNewz article that asked are you getting the right data released on May 7th got a lot of play and opened discussions with wedding industry sources that we usually didn’t collaborate with. Ongoing discussions with new sources say they’ve had their opinion of being data-driven versus data-guided and how methodology limits the true outlook into a market, no matter how much the person conducting the survey believes they are on the right track. Some will say national statistics are merely a guide while others say they’re trash.
In an article posted by Andy Ebon days after the eWedNewz story, our buddy from the Bronx gives his view claiming “national statistics are useless” and finds them “annoying”. Ebon writes,” This is true of weddings, real estate and many other industries. Different states and localities have vastly different competitive circumstances, traditions, and pricing. So, whether your source is The Wedding Report or The Knot Market Intelligence, unless you are a national company, you can ignore dollar-spending statistics on the national level. Even a national company needs to account for variances in individual markets.”
The effects of using national numbers or organizations unfamiliar with local markets can sometimes be devastating. One instance involves the decision of a formal wear owner to expand based on numbers provided to him. Tony Commisso, owner of Tuxego in Latham, New York, tells of his dubious decision to expand, based on statistics.
“Without casting stones at anyone in particular, I made a very bad decision to open another location based on data I had received from a source purported to know all the wedding demographics. I saw an area as fertile ground, Targets, Wal-Mart’s and other place had been springing up for 10 years and I referenced the stats and population from this Wedding source to see if it would support a formalwear store. I decided to do it based this source’s data, understanding him to be the “Rain man” of sorts as a wedding source. It turned out to be very costly which prompted me to do further investigation and realized the guy was falsely reporting it as data from just duplicating data by flipping similar cities and towns. Basically it was as scam, though I’m culpable for the decision, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a hole somewhere in the Arizona desert,” responded Commisso to the eWN story.
Commisso correctly brings up the point it was his decision to expand when the rest of the world was downsizing during the recession and worst economic environment since the Great Depression. However, if the data showed a less-postive, or, arguably, truer analysis of the market, his troubles may not have happened.
In response to the eBon article, Shane McMurray replied,” Most statistics “are” annoying because they fail to provide information that could actually help someone. Media companies that create and publish statistics do it for two (2) reasons. One (1) because they are great talking points and they use them to create buzz and content for their brand. Two (2) because it helps them sell advertising. That’s why you will never hear a “bad” number come from a media company. Even if they track data on an annual basis… and the newest numbers are lower, they will skirt over the lower numbers focusing only on anything that paints a more positive picture.
In all the years that the big media companies have been telling you the number of couples getting married would reach 2.5 million or 3 million, has it happened? No, and have they put out a correction for it? No, they just don’t mention it any more or some may even say it’s still coming. Despite the increased population or the “Echo Boom” generation, I don’t think we will see the great increases. Please don’t take my word for it… I highly recommend that you read “The State of Our Unions” by the University of Virginia and the Institute for American Values at: http://stateofourunions.org/
Let me be clear, and I create information… No statistic or data is the absolute end all be all, they are merely a guide. If you rely on one (1) report or piece of data alone, you are making a mistake. You should always use multiple pieces of information to help you in your decisions. Even then the result of your success or failure is not because of the data or information its self, it is a guide only, you are ultimately responsible for the results.
In any case, to the points of “what should you ask yourself, “ here are my thoughts.
1. Is the methodology sound?
This is extremely important; however, unless you are a market research person, you may not know what this means. Really it is a set of principles that one follows, good or bad, that is what it is. And everyone has a different set of principles. That being said, when it comes to collecting wedding cost data The Wedding Report follows these principles. Collection of samples must come from brides, grooms, and wedding professionals, not just brides and grooms. Collection of samples should be done while they are in the process of spending money, not after the wedding. Collection of samples has to be balanced across the entire US, small markets, big markets, all ages, ethnicities, income levels, times married, education levels, etc. Couples that marry in their back yard, at the court house, in the church, at the high end resort, at a destination wedding… you name it; we make sure we are collecting the most diverse samples possible.
2. Is the sample size sufficient to yield a reasonable result?
It depends on what level of error you are willing to live with. For the wedding market population of 2.1 million a sample of 388 gives you a 5% margin of error. More samples, less error; however, I have learned that after 500 samples the results do not change much and larger samples are only good for sub segmenting the results. Most media companies will not use data of less than 750 samples; because they feel the larger sample size gives it more validity and lower samples sizes seem less accurate. A 5% margin of error is okay, even 10% or 15% in some cases. The goal is to get enough diverse samples to get a good read on a topic.
3 and 4 – Is the result important or just impressive? Will it or should it cause you to take specific action?
This is more important than either of the two above. Most of us live inside the box that is our world, our business and many times we cannot see outside that box. It’s ok, I do it too sometimes. If you service a market that has 5,000 weddings annually and you service only 25 of them, do you know the entire market? Good market research should help you understanding the dynamics and variables outside your business or box.
There are other questions… but I would say there are two (2) more important questions you should ask first… One (1) what is the source and two (2) what is the goal for providing this statistic or data? Then ask the other questions.
Finally, I would like to say that The Wedding Report is not perfect, no way; it is a work in progress. But I can tell you that the ultimate goals are; how will the data and information I’m collecting or creating help a business become more successful? And how will it help them better understand the dynamics and variables outside their business?”
It’s evident that the boxing gloves have come off, as a growing discussion that was never possible– suddenly is.
All Rights Reserved