Conversations with corporate researchers

Denise Offutt

Manager, Market Research, Epson

What excites you about coming to work each day?

Whether the job is studying crosstabs or observing interviews, I love watching and listening to people – to understand how they think, what they feel, why they act the way they do. I want to know why!

Describe your first job in MR and how it is different from your current position. 

My first research position was in packaged goods. Among my chief responsibilities were tracking, analyzing and distributing Nielsen data – the audit. This was when people actually went into stores and counted bottles and boxes on the shelf. Purex’s share of bleach and laundry detergent was a key focus!

Today the point-of-sale data is just as critical but everything comes from check stand scanner records. Now I’m responsible for Epson’s relationship with NPD and GfK in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. So the process has changed thanks to UPC and scanners but the information is still critical to managing the brand.

On the proprietary side, mail and telephone were the most popular methodologies. Now the consumer approach has shifted to Internet panels and social media, while B2B still includes telephone. Nevertheless, it always comes down to the same concern: Are we speaking to the right audience? Are we speaking to them in a way they can understand?

Talk about your greatest achievement within marketing research to date. 

Product development – the biggest thrill I ever had was standing in the Heathrow airport in London at Dixons – the largest consumer electronics retailer in the U.K. – looking at Epson PictureMate knowing that the product began in a focus group facility in Chicago in the middle of winter two years earlier! I don’t believe I ever thought something I worked on would be sold around the world.

From a methodology perspective, leading the team that established Epson’s first online ink tracking panel was a very important achievement that opened up new perspectives. I got to work with many people across Seiko Epson.

Do you feel any of your go-to research techniques are overlooked by the industry?

Out-of-box experience – watching someone set up a new piece of hardware is fascinating! Listening to them talk to themselves and problem solve offers so much insight into next-steps needed to make our products even more user-friendly. It’s time-consuming work but always offers new insights and benefits.

What advice would you give a researcher starting out in a tech company like Epson?   

I would advise someone to start at a research vendor or packaged goods to get exposure to more audiences, products, methodologies and objectives. Technology can be highly focused – it would be harder to work a range of projects without that prior experience.