SIVO Insights SMARTSuite

By: Cindy Blackstock, Co-Founder and CEO

Introducing SIVO Insights SMARTSuite!  A customizable research toolkit with qualitative and quantitative methods to meet your immediate learning needs.  These agile solutions will help you quickly and efficiently gather the insights needed to intelligently inform your business decisions.  Please contact me at so we can help design the right smart solution for you.

Virtual Research: Accelerating the Inevitable

By: Cindy Blackstock, Co-Founder & CEO

I just recently heard the phrase “accelerating the inevitable” and it stuck with me so much that I have it written on a Post-It note on my computer.  It struck a chord because it so succinctly defines the marketing research environment we are living in right now. 

At a qualitative research industry conference in January, a colleague told me that “research tech tools” were a big topic of discussion, yet the sentiment around using these tools was lukewarm.  We were not really surprised by this as we were seeing this sentiment play out with some of our clients when we would recommend virtual methods as a part of research plans.  

I get it.  As humans, we are hard-wired to resist change. It can be uncomfortable, unnerving and honestly, a lot of work.  As insights professionals, we have spent years experiencing, harnessing, and perfecting the craft of being human storytellers.  For years, we have done this by being in-person, in-context and sharing physical space with people to make connections and better understand how they think and act.  

Virtual research offers a different way to interact with people so they can share their thoughts, opinions, and stories.  It is not the end-all, be-all but it can be the right solution depending on your learning objectives, budget and timeline needs.  These tools, when used by experienced moderators who know how to replicate the beauty of in-person nuances, meets your customers where they are at.  For the environment we all find ourselves in today, where in-person is more challenging to achieve, virtual research can be the best option.

Virtual research is helping our clients continue their research initiatives, learn what is important to their customers now, in this moment, how their actual behaviors are showing up, and to the extent possible, how they project their behaviors to be in the short term.  It is critical and many of our clients understand that and are embracing these methods in our new now.

We are helping clients understand current behaviors and sentiments around loyalty, shopping, and buying, as well as reactions to new products and packaging and co-creating pipeline innovation ideas.  Almost all that was achieved in-person can be done virtually; the connection is just different, but different does not have to mean ‘less than’. Some virtual methods we are using to help keep that connection strong include:

  • Webcam one-on-one interviews
  • Online Focus Groups
  • Mock In-Store Shelf Set Evaluations
  • IHUT’s (In-Home Use Test)
  • Mobile Diaries
  • Online Innovation

Simply said, these methods are getting clients the human intelligence they need to inform their business decisions.  Now is the time for clients to be on the pulse of their customer’s needs and act ‘consumer-first’. Please so we can support you in “accelerating the inevitable”….using virtual tools to maintain a vital connection with your customers, meeting them where they are at right now. 

SIVO Insights Consumer Impact of COVID-19: Mindset, Financial Impact and Loyalty

By: Cindy Blackstock, Co-Founder and CEO

Last month, SIVO Insights launched a national, quantitative study around attitudes, shopping behaviors and loyalty in response to COVID-19.  As a result, our clients’ curiosities were piqued and questions arose around future spending and messaging.  This study illustrates how people are still uncertain about the future, using this time to strengthen relationships and counting on brands to fulfill their basic needs and do the right thing.  Click here for the full report. – We would love to know your thoughts and what questions YOU have!

SIVO Quantitative Study on Customer Behavior Related to COVID-19

By: Cindy Blackstock, Co-Founder and CEO

Our SIVO team rallied quickly to lead a national, quantitative study around attitudes, shopping behaviors and loyalty in response to COVID-19.  I am proud of our team’s fortitude in quickly turning around tangible value for our clients and the insight community at large.  This study illustrates how people are shifting behaviors in everyday life and which are likely to stick during this “new now”.  Click here for access to our full report SIVO Consumer Impact from COVID19 Study  featuring insights and intuition around what opportunities lie ahead for companies to better connect with customers in this critical time. – let us know your thoughts and what questions YOU have!

Inspiring the Next Gen of Insight Leaders

By: Cindy Blackstock, Co-Founder and CEO

The author, Cindy Blackstock, and Ruthie Feinstein, both of SIVO Insights

I, along with a few lucky colleagues of mine, recently had the opportunity to be guest lecturers at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and the University of Wisconsin’s Business School’s A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Analytics and Insights.  

In both instances, we were impressed with the curiosity, drive and passion these students showed for the careers we all love. 

Looking back on these opportunities, we realized a few benefits as well:

Keeps it fresh.  Inserting guest lecturers into the curriculum helps to keep the content fresh and interactive.  We could tell the students were engaged, taking notes, straightening up in the chairs, leaning forward, asking questions and listening with authentic interest and curiosity.  Afterall, the pressure was off – we weren’t there to test their knowledge, only to inspire it.  Our presence provided a different and unique perspective that helped to amplify their learning in a practical way, and their excitement for it showed.  

Connects the dots.   Guest lecturing helps to connect the dots between classroom content and real-world application.  We provided A LOT of anecdotal case studies to bridge the gap between theory and reality.  Doing so, made it less of a ‘lecture’ and more of a ‘step into my professional life for the next hour’ so I can show you what to expect. Personally, we found it really fun to relive all of these experiences again and seeing how it made the students come alive was the best part.

Connecting the dots in the classroom as Ruthie Feinstein (in the black & white stripe top) leads the discussion

Models the behavior.  By guest lecturing, we were able to model the behavior that we hope to see in the next generation of insight professionals.  Giving them a sense of the required skill sets (hard and soft), modeling the art and science of writing discussion guides to draw out what people want to say but often can’t articulate and the all-important aspect of storytelling.  Hearing from experts in the field helped to give these learners a practical sense of what it takes to be successful in an insights career. 

Our love stems from our collective years of experience, while we know they have a whole world of brands, people, opportunities, challenges, and skills yet to be explored and refined.  Their enthusiasm was real and pure and made us proud of the small part we played in helping to influence and shape this next generation of insights leaders.  

If you are interested in having SIVO Insights professionals come share their expertise with your next generation of insights professionals OR have a need to train newly appointed insights associates at your company, please email us at  We’d love to work with you to craft the content you need!

Transforming Insights Into Business Solutions

Written by:  Cindy Blackstock, Managing Partner

At the recent Corporate Researchers Conference I attended in Orlando, this one, simple and elegant idea resonated most with me:  An insight is meaningless if there is no action prompted by it.  This approach to consumer insights is a point of pride here at SIVO.  Yes, our core competency is to discover, distill and synthesize human insights, but we don’t stop there.  Our mission is to help guide our clients in how to best apply those insights to meet their business objectives.

We’ve developed a three-step process that drives us from insight to action.  First, we collect consumer input: the “What.”  Next, when we translate that data into meaningful insights; those ideas are the “So What.”  And the third, most critical piece is the action, or something we define as the “Now What.”

The “Now What” is highly energizing for everyone on the learning journey – both the SIVO team and the client team  – because it takes insights to the next level; it is tangible proof that the insights we uncover add intrinsic value to our clients.  They may solve a problem.  Or they uncover white space for growth.  Or perhaps they can make the team smarter, more empathetic, and more effective consumer-first marketers.

Here are three recent SIVO examples of the “Now What” that have impacted our clients’ businesses:

  1. Short-term business problem

SIVO partnered with a major grocery retailer to fix a rapid sales decline in key markets.  Quantitative data alone wasn’t helping the team better understand specific shopper pain points.  We overlaid qualitative, contextual inquiry methods to get at the insights behind shopper behaviors.

SIVO Now What:  Our team facilitated a post-fielding activation session guiding the clients to use the insights to pinpoint issues and create specific, realistic, tactical solutions, region by region.  Regional teams were energized, felt listened to and had practical solutions to implement immediately.

  1. Maintaining consumer and marketplace relevance

A national department store retailer tapped SIVO to discover and use insights to build out an entirely new department.  The retailer had a loyal audience whose needs weren’t being met for a particular clothing category.

SIVO Now What:  We partnered with client’s cross-functional teams, including Customer Insights, R+D, Purchasing, Marketing and Product Designers, to map out the consumer need states and identify must-haves to make the total consumer experience a unique and successful one.

  1. Global communication strategy

To augment U.S. learning for an international CPG company, we conducted foundational and shopper insights in key growth markets in Europe and Australia.

SIVO Now What:  We developed a shopper journey map for the client’s internal organization, so they could better empathize with the customer’s true experience.  Our map highlighted pain points and uncovered moments of opportunity to influence behavior. This work helped to align the international team around core insights to influence a global brand communications strategy.

I am so proud of these examples and the fantastic work our talented team does in this space.  Like any good business, we never stray from our roots and we always start with a deep understanding of the consumer.  When we identify the “So What” and use that to impact the “Now What,” our partnership with clients and the work we do together has a bigger purpose. We provide meaning and value to the relationships that customers have with our clients’ brands…our true north of insight leading to action.


Customer Experience (CX) in Context

Written by: Cindy Blackstock, Managing Partner

Customer experience—say it and everyone’s ears perk up.  It’s the hot topic in our industry.  While attending the recent CX Next conference in Boston with the SIVO team, we saw how CX is influencing and intersecting with consumer insights.


The X Factor

Despite being a shiny and buzzworthy idea, it seems as though there is not yet a singular, agreed-upon, industry-wide definition for the term customer experience – affectionately referred to as CX.  We spoke with presenters and attendees at the conference and asked, “Tell us what customer experience is about.”  We never got the same answer.  It became apparent that everyone is exploring what that “X” factor means for categories, brand and products.

Here at SIVO, we have our own perspective:

Customer experience is the customer’s perceptions, thoughts and feelings about their interactions related to an organization or brand.

In truth, we have been working to reveal the customer experience all along.  For us, it’s not an intimidating or nebulous concept, because we are qualitative experts who can uncover these customer perceptions.  We get to the “why” behind the customer experience data and translate it into actionable ideas that businesses can use. Our work goes hand in hand with the emerging discipline of CX.

Data + Stories = A Winning Formula

At the conference, we learned that for typical customer experience research, the information is primarily quantitative.  Quantitative research is essential for validation, since data, surveys and results play a role in helping to measure change over time.  But the process can’t stop there, since survey data is not a comprehensive measure of the consumer’s voice.

I believe clients need a better blend of data and stories—companies need to have the human component, the truly “experiential” piece to bring the data to life.  And to make a business impact, organizations need that qualitative, intimate understanding to find out what is behind the data.  I think the quantitative helps identify whatto fix, and qualitative helps identify howto fix it.

The Brand Voyage

Customers are also on a journey with a brand.  And it’s the whole trip, not the individual stops on the route that predict success.  For example, the customer service may be acceptable, but the whole brand experience is negative for the user.  So a brand might get a high rating in a survey about customer service, but that one interaction will not reveal the whole story. Brands need to talk to customers and ask, “How are you doing?” instead of, “How are we (the company) doing?” These questions reveal the crucial and impactful, human element of CX.

The brand journey is also structured differently for customers.  Most organizations are vertical, while experience for customers is horizontal.  SIVO stiches together a map, an outline of the horizontal journey of the customer experience.  From there, we decide where to go deeper:

  • Start with customer voices
  • Create a customer journey map
  • Identify the touch points
  • Dive deep into processes, tools and people

With key consumer insights to illuminate the quantitative data, customer experience can be a true relationship.  Customers can interact with the brand across each and every touchpoint, instead of a one-time “event.”

Making CX Count

When customers have many stops along the total journey with a brand, there are many opportunities to engage and enhance the relationship.  And SIVO believes in leveraging those touchpoints to make a real impact:

  • Exceed expectations where they count
  • Make a positive impact at critical moments and earn loyalty
  • Make the customer experience have real meaning

Carry these thoughts in your “suitcase” as you embark your own journey.




At SIVO Insights, we are passionate about what we do and eager to put our collective skills to work for you.

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