Today, Hamilton Place Strategies (HPS) and CivicScience (CS) announced the launch of the HPS-CS Economic Sentiment Index (ESI), the first ever living index developed to assess consumer economic sentiment. The ESI is distinct in that it is available in real-time and capable of cross-referencing virtually any sub-population using demographic, brand, and cultural identifiers. Beginning Tuesday, December 3, the index will be released publicly every two weeks, highlighting the day-to-day results of the previous weeks. Following beta testing, subscriptions for full access will be available in early 2014, giving subscribers the ability to see the data in real-time and design their own cross-tabulations.
“As both a consumer and disseminator of data at the U.S. Treasury Department and here at HPS, it had been frustrating to see that current methods of assessing the American consumer are cumbersome, slow, and expensive,” said Tony Fratto, founder of Hamilton Place Strategies. “We felt there was a market opportunity to deliver a very accurate, real-time assessment of consumers, but also to create a far more useful tool for investors, policymakers, and even researchers or new organizations. We’re really excited about our partnership with Civic Science.”
“The ESI can provide more timely updates on consumer confidence and generate interesting insights on specific population segments,” said John Dick, CEO of CivicScience. “National economic sentiment data is less useful for specific product launches or geographic economic shocks, but, with increased granularity and timeliness, this index will be very useful to policymakers and the private sector.”
The HPS-CS ESI is the first living consumer confidence index, as it is both real-time and can potentially interact with any variable. Cross-tabulations with income, education, age, and geography are just the beginning. Homeownership, employment, type of residential area, and shopping habits can provide more granular insights into the effect of policy interventions and changes in the macroeconomic environment. Concurrently, the index will enable niche analyses. For example, it can gauge consumer sentiment amongst action movie fans prior to summer blockbuster releases, travelers during vacation seasons, and Apple consumers before a new product launch. Rather than a high-level, static index, this is a research tool that can mine data to discover actionable insights for market participants.
Fratto and Dick were frustrated with current indices being slow, expensive, and overly broad, so they developed the idea for a living index in the summer of 2011. They saw an opportunity for disruptive innovation in the consumer sentiment market, so they partnered with three universities and spent the past two years testing and fine-tuning the current CSI. Questions were designed and put into the field in the fall and the first model was constructed in the first half of 2012 by Ross McGowan, then-Masters student at Carnegie Mellon University and now Director of Data Science at CS. After additional testing, the model was reconstructed with counsel from the CS Scientific Advisory Board, specifically Dr. J. Lamar Pierce of the Olin Business School at Washington University of St. Louis and Dr. Jason Snyder of the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. Throughout 2013, the refined model proved to perform accurately and reliably relative to other prevailing economic indices, and was especially prescient during the government shutdown.
To create the index, CivicScience uses its network of web-based polling applications to collect approximately 3,000 responses to five separate tracking questions over the course of the month. The distribution of the questions are stratified across gender, age, and region, with results weighting for income on the backend to avoid sampling bias. Further, with polls distributed across hundreds of websites, the ESI is not subject to the extreme biases of telephone and online panel surveys. With this proven method, two years of testing, and collaboration with a number of experts, this survey will be a reliable indicator for policymakers and the private sector.
To view the website, click here.
To download the white paper on the index, click here.
To apply to be a beta tester, click here.