Marketing research and insights news and information. This issue's keywords: customer experience; video gaming; consumer rewards; staff increases; financial services

True Value, and O'Reilly Auto Parts deliver the best customer experience in the retail industry, according to the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings, an annual ranking of companies based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers by Waban, Mass., customer experience research and consulting firm Temkin Group. True Value took the top spot with a rating of 78 percent, placing it third overall out of 294 companies across 20 industries. Additionally, out of the 46 retailers included in the Ratings, it was the only one to improve its score from last year. and O'Reilly Auto Parts tied for the second spot, each earning a rating of 76 percent and an overall rank of ninth. QVC and Dollar Tree also made it into the top 20 overall with each receiving a rating of 75 percent, which put them both in 12th place. RadioShack was at the bottom of the list for the sixth straight year, earning a rating of 55 percent and an overall rank of 199th. To generate these ratings, Temkin Group asked consumers to evaluate their recent experiences with a company across three dimensions: success (Can you do what you want to do?), effort (How easy is it to work with the company?) and emotion (How do you feel about the interactions?). Temkin Group then averaged these three scores to produce each company's rating. In these ratings, a score of 70 percent or above is considered good and a score of 80 percent or above is considered excellent. In this year's ratings, 20 percent of companies earned a good or excellent score, while 44 percent received a poor or very poor score.

Forty-one million Americans age 50 and older play video games on a regular basis, according to a new survey by AARP and the Entertainment Software Association in Washington, D.C. The survey, conducted by GfK, found that three-quarters of gamers age 50-plus play weekly, with four in 10 playing daily. Among gamers age 60 and above, 43 percent play video games every day. The survey also found that gamers 50 and older play video games for fun, while maintaining mental sharpness was also cited as an important reason for playing. Additionally, gamers age 50-plus most commonly play on laptops or computers (59 percent), followed by phones or mobile devices (57 percent). They prefer video games that mimic traditional forms of play, according to the findings, with card/tile games (46 percent) and puzzle/logic games (44 percent) being the most popular among older gamers. Other findings show that gamers age 50-plus are more likely to be women (40 percent) than men (35 percent) and more women report playing games daily (45 percent) than their male counterparts (35 percent). Fifty-nine percent of older gamers play games online, with women (57 percent) being more likely than men (43 percent) to say they play more online today than they did five years ago. Half of gamers age 50-plus report learning about new games and gaming hardware from sources other than Web sites, with one in six saying their children and grandchildren influence their choice of games.

American shoppers prefer open-loop cards - otherwise known as network branded (Visa, MasterCard, Discover) cards - for post-purchase awards, even over other options with higher value, according to research from customized incentive and engagement solutions firm Blackhawk Engagement Solutions, Lewisville, Texas. The findings show that when receiving a post-purchase incentive, 64 percent of consumers surveyed would pick a $25 open-loop card that could be used everywhere and 36 percent would select a $30 gift card for the store where the purchase was made. Additionally, 61 percent of shoppers surveyed would pick a plastic prepaid card for a $25 post-purchase reward and 39 percent would choose a digital e-code. When considering a $100 reward, 68 percent of those surveyed would pick plastic and 32 percent would pick digital. When speaking generally about prepaid products (not just incentives), 73 percent of consumers surveyed believe prepaid cards help limit identity fraud, while 70 percent believe prepaid cards are safer for online transactions. Sixty-seven percent of consumers surveyed would use exclusive values that require the use of a prepaid card and 64 percent have purchased a prepaid card in the last year. The findings also show that 47 percent of respondents purchase plastic prepaid cards for themselves and 40 percent have purchased e-gifts for themselves.

Thirteen percent of U.S. advertising and marketing executives surveyed plan to expand their teams in the second half of 2016, according to research from Menlo Park, Calif., staffing firm The Creative Group, up from 11 percent in the first half of the year. More than half (59 percent) of respondents said they expect to maintain staff levels and hire primarily to fill vacated roles in the next six months. Additionally, 20 percent of advertising executives and 10 percent of marketing executives anticipate increasing the number of freelance staff during the remainder of the year. When executives were asked in which areas they plan to add staff in the second half of 2016, content marketing, brand/product management, digital marketing and Web design/production topped the list at 18 percent each. This was followed by marketing research, creative/art direction, print design/production and customer experience with 17 percent each. The study also found that 41 percent of advertising and marketing executives said it is difficult to find skilled creative professionals today. Hiring managers at small advertising agencies (20-49 employees) and large advertising agencies (100+ employees) expect the greatest difficulty, with 50 percent of respondents in each group reporting it is somewhat or very challenging to find the talent they seek. When asked which types of roles are most difficult to fill, the top responses were Web design/production, customer experience and brand/product management.

A new survey by GfK, New York, shows that consumers prefer human interaction when it comes to financial services versus automated ("robo") advisors. The findings show that 38 percent of consumers surveyed agree that they would pay more for access to a person for help with financial services and 45 percent say they would not be willing to forego live customer service in return for paying less. Additionally, 10 percent of those surveyed said they would be likely to trust a computer algorithm more than a human to give them financial advice, with 50 percent disagreeing with this statement. The level of trust in robo-advisors was highest among the 25-to-34 age group (17 percent) and lowest among those age 65 and above (6 percent). The survey also found that 9 percent of consumers said they would be likely to use an investment advisory service that offered just digital (text or online chat) contact with human advisors. The 25-to-34 age group was most open to the idea (15 percent), while less than 5 percent of those 50 and above said they would embrace an all-digital service approach from their investment firms. Looking across a range of financial products, the findings show consumers were least open to completely automated customer service for investments and mortgages. They showed slightly more willingness to accept an all-digital service plan for checking and savings accounts. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed agree that it is easy to get the information they need from financial service firm Web sites - essentially equal to the proportion who disagree (26 percent).

These reports were compiled from recent issues of the Daily News Queue, a free e-newsletter digest of marketing research and insights news and information delivered each business morning. Not already in the Queue? Sign up here!