I love numbers, budgeting and pulling apart reports with a calculator at my side. Because of this, I thoroughly enjoyed Aberdeen retailer Leanne McGowan’s number crunching on the PayPoint Pay Fair Facebook page over the weekend.

Sceptical of the service provider’s much-vaunted “20% more footfall, 20% higher spend” claim, she picked a random day and analysed transactions and average spend for PayPoint users versus everyone else.

Three interesting stats jumped out: first, 42% of her PayPoint users didn’t buy anything else that day. Second, the average basket spend of a PayPoint user was £4.84, 22% lower than the £6.24 spent by non-users. And third, however, if you remove the 42% of PayPoint users who didn’t buy anything else, the average spend was £8.34, 33% higher than the store average.

So the claim that PayPoint users spend 20% more than average shoppers only rings true if you count the users who actually buy something.

She also quite fairly asks who’s to say that the 75 PayPoint users that day were new footfall and not existing customers who love her great prices and excellent service and paid their bills there because it was convenient?

The thing about market research is you can spin a compelling sales story out of any set of answers if you ask the right questions. And while some numbers look good sat in an air conditioned office, they don’t ring true with retailers on the ground.

The claim that PayPoint users spend 20% more than average shoppers only rings true if you count the users who actually buy something

Research is normally commissioned to justify, reinforce or change behaviour. But if those you’re trying to influence have no confidence in what you’re telling them, no appetite to believe it and have hard evidence to the contrary, you’re just flogging a dead horse.