We have a new toy for you to play with.

Also, we need a favor. 

Unless you’re one of those many people with infuriating, episodic email deliverability issues, you may remember when I wrote about our AI Chatbot, Sage, on the first Saturday of summer. We were sticking our toes in the water, using ChatGPT to answer questions about our data in plain, conversational text. 

To be honest, I was skeptical it would ever be more than a gimmick – mostly because Sage was really clunky and error-ridden in those early days, but also because the most important questions we answer for our clients are the ones they never think to ask. Discovery is our superpower. But it requires context, the ability to discern a surprising insight from an obvious one. Machines aren’t there…yet.  

Whenever I ask a corporate research person about their job, namely what percentage of their work is reactive – fielding a barrage of questions from their leadership – versus proactive – driving strategy at their company, I always get a variation of the same answer: The reactive part takes up the balance of their time, but they all aspire to be more proactive. Being a short-order cook sucks. Surprising someone with a nine-course juggernaut is way cooler. 

But here’s the problem. Those rapid-fire orders never stop. The only way to become more proactive – to make the time – is to get super-fast and efficient at being reactive. 

Enter artificial intelligence. 

Sage crawls our database of 4 billion answers to over 500,000 survey questions to provide natural language analysis on nearly every topic you can think of in seconds. And, while she’s far from perfect, she’s orders of magnitude more advanced than she was two months ago. I’m hoping you can help us make her better. 

We’re launching a free beta program for all of our friends – my favorite Saturday email readers included. Whether you’re a consumer insights person looking to make your life easier, a C-suite exec looking to spare your team from chasing down a fleeting request, a journalist looking for quick stats for an ongoing article, or simply a curious data nerd, we’d love to have you sign up. Just click here.  

There are two catches: First, you have to promise to give us feedback. Second – at least for now – it only works in Slack. We’ll have Microsoft Teams and open web applications soon. 

Give it a whirl. And thanks.

Here’s what we’re seeing:  

Consumer confidence is in an August malaise. Our Economic Sentiment Index has been sliding since the “Sunday of Months” began. Not that anyone has known definitively how to explain (or predict) our head-scratching economy over the past few years, but this current phase could be attributable to any of a number of factors. Gas prices are up at the worst possible time for summer vacationers. Credit card defaults and “hardship” 401k withdrawals have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Home prices and mortgage rates keep climbing. Meanwhile, consumer spending and the job market remain strong. Who knows? 

An overwhelming majority of Americans – from both parties – would support a maximum age limit for elected officials. I was super-curious to see the results of this one and the numbers were even more fascinating than I imagined. In our 3 Things to Know this week, we found that nearly 80% of U.S. adults love the idea of capping the age eligibility for politicians, with 57% saying they “strongly support” it. Ironically, older Americans support the notion more than younger ones (oh, those ever-empathetic Gen Zs). We also looked at the prevalence of different natural disasters people have experienced and, entirely unrelated, the growing popularity of e-bikes.    

Browsing websites is still the most popular way people find content online. We published a handful of interesting insights from a much deeper study we ran on the changing habits of digital content audiences and paid content subscribers. Most surprising to me was the one thing that hasn’t changed (at least entirely): seeking out specific websites – not social media or recommendations from friends – is still, by far, the most popular way people find news and other content online. Meanwhile, people who pay for premium online content are an incredibly attractive consumer segment for marketers.

As cord-cutting steadily rises, so too does subscription fatigue. Keeping track of which shows we watch on which platform has become a full-time job in our house. It’s even worse when we spend the summer bouncing back and forth from our cabin because fewer and fewer of the services are portable (thanks a lot, password-moochers). And we’re not alone. A full 50% of U.S. adults say they’ve either canceled one or more streaming services or intend to do so soon, up from 36% in 2020. Millennials are the biggest cutters, along with Disney+ and ESPN+ subscribers. Market consolidation is only a matter of time.  

Walmart is having a day. On Thursday, when the Walton family’s five-and-dime store announced epic earnings, we published our own data about the company’s surging favorability among U.S. shoppers. Between a surge in e-commerce and grocery retail, consumers trading down from higher-cost stores (or migrating away from them for political reasons), and a wave of new Walmart+ sign-ups, everything seems to be going Walmart’s way. And indeed, the company’s brand favorability has reached the highest point we’ve seen since we began tracking it, climbing a full 3 points since May. Even Walmart’s heavily promoted “Wellness Day” (today) has shown impressive levels of shopper intent. 

(Lots) more awesomeness from the InsightStore™ this week:

  • Trust in banks wobbled again after Moody’s unceremoniously downgraded 10 small and midsized institutions;
  • Two-thirds of Americans believe pending criminal charges should disqualify someone from running for President;
  • New home buyers are increasingly worried about being able to get homeowners insurance amid recent natural disasters;
  • A new social media app launched – called WeAre8 – and even my kids haven’t heard of it, which is hard to do;
  • Elon Musk’s popularity among Republicans is not extending to Tesla’s Cybertruck;
  • Concerns over the proliferation of AI have been climbing the past few weeks, which I realize is an ironic study to publish the week we launch our Sage beta.

The most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Elf, hands-down; More competitive than you, that’s for sure; Hot; Depends on the houseguest; Much less than I was in 2019.

Hoping you’re well.


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