On Wednesday, moments before I spoke to a crowded conference audience, I bent down to pick up my slide clicker and this happened:


There was no podium to hide behind. Normally, I’m one of those walk-around-the-stage kind of speakers, but no. I had to stand, flat-footed, shoulders square to the audience, my butt aimed directly at the giant screen behind me.

The only person who knew was my co-presenter, David Yin, the genius from Ancestry (which is a crazy exciting company by the way). I fancy myself a good showman, but David was so smooth and effortless – which I will take some credit for. He didn’t need to imagine the audience in their underwear to feel at ease. I gave him the real thing. And our presentation rocked.

Otherwise, I suck at conferences.

The whole vendor-client ritual is just so uncomfortable. My ego is way too inflated to beg people for meetings or lure them to an exhibit booth with tchotchkes and over-priced décor. I feel awful for the vastly-outnumbered client-side people who get accosted nonstop at those things. But I still sit there thinking they should be begging me for a meeting, if only they knew what we do and who we do it for.

That’s the other problem. Were terrible at elevator pitches.

I’ll bet even after reading this email a bunch of times, most of you don’t really know where all of it comes from. Are we a polling company? Yeah, sort of, but more than that. Are we a “Big Data” company? Sure, but there’s a swear jar in our office for empty buzzwords like that. Want me to spout off terms like machine learning or AI? I can do that too. So what?

We’ve built a magical box to help big companies find big opportunities and solve big problems. Good luck explaining that to a rank-and-file market research person in 30 seconds. They’ll get whiplash from rolling their eyes. So, we try to speak their language, falling into a trap of looking both indistinguishable from everybody else and yet just weird enough to make them suspicious.

Anyway, I’m glad to be back in Pittsburgh, writing to all of you. You seem to get it, even if you don’t exactly know why.

Here’s what were seeing right now.

After a month of stasis, consumer confidence ticked upward the past couple weeks. The big mover in our Economic Sentiment Index was optimism for the job market, which reached an all-time high since we first began tracking it five years ago. Give credit wherever you choose.

One factor that could be hidden in the rosy job numbers is the percentage of middle-class Americans who are staying home because childcare is too expensive. detailed study we published this week found that over a quarter of U.S. parents report that one or the other spouse/partner has been forced to stay home with their kids due to childcare costs. No surprise, this inequitably affects female professionals, sadly. And while Gen Xers are more likely to be in that boat, Millennials are gaining ground.

Meanwhile, were beginning to see the hidden effects of skyrocketing healthcare costs too. Another awesome report from our team found that over 40% of U.S. adults have adjusted their career choices, spending on basic necessities, major purchases, or some combination, due to increased health insurance costs. Millennials have been affected the most – especially those in the 30-34 range, where 19% of respondents said that their career choices have been impacted. There are lots of reasons to celebrate the current economic climate, just don’t get too giddy.

I really wanted to give you a heads up about Netflix’s user growth last quarter but our Wall St. clients would have thrown a fit. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Netflix kicking ass again but it seemed like their numbers in the U.S. were plateauing this year. Then June came along…then July…then August.

And don’t look now, but grocery delivery is picking up steam. 12% of U.S. adults have already tried a grocery delivery service and a sizable 14-15% are intending to try it. As our new tech adoption model has shown us, that’s a healthy ratio and a good sign of continued velocity. Naturally, Gen Xers are doing it the most because were always looking for shortcuts and weretoo damn busy driving our kids all over the place to actually make a concerted grocery run. Notably, our data indicated that the delivery user is a highly brand-centric and price-insensitive shopper. Sounds like a Whole Foods customer to me.

In related news, vegans are a small but smug and narcissistic bunch. Nothing personal – we have the data to prove it. Only 4% of U.S. adults adhere to a strictly vegetarian diet and a minuscule 1% are truly vegan. For some reason, I thought those numbers would be higher given how many people seem to always tell you when they’re vegetarian or vegan. One of the things we found in our database that correlates unusually high with veganism is the likelihood that someone thinks they’re “much more physically attractive” than most people. Don’t yell at me, vegans. It is what it is.

Some of the Most Popular Poll Questions of the Last Two Weeks

The first one is hilarious.

Hoping you’re well.