Correlation vs. Causation Conundrum for Marketing
I read a Wall Street Journal story that made a strong statement — that the internet has “shopping malls clearing out.” More consumers shifted their shipping online and has caused mall vacancy rates to increase from 8.4% to 8.6%.
The article then admits that this could be caused by the glut of shopping centers that are being built and the fact that malls that cater to more affluent consumers are still seeing strong tenant demand. And the fact that Amazon.com has begun to open stores.
Our haste to attach nonresearched, simple, declarative reasons to shopping, marketing and human behavior may be hurting business and nonprofit strategy.
So, another hypothesis of the Journal story could be that the small drop in vacancy rates could be caused by a change in how we are shopping.
It appears we like to go to stores when we are not sure what we want and we are in browse mode. When we are ready to buy, then we may go to the store or go online. Or the new generation really didn’t like JC Penney, Sears, or K-Mart. (Hmmm, those were the stores my parents took me to as a child, but not “my” stores.)
In marketing, you just can’t take a .2 move and know the cause without conducting the research. Understanding behavior is not as easily observable as many believe. Correlation or causation. It is a conundrum research can solve.