Editor’s Note: On November 14th Research For Good held a webinar on “Predictions for 2013” with Simon Chadwick of Cambiar, Reineke Reitsma of Forrester, Leslie Townsend of Kinesis Survey Technologies, and I to discuss our thoughts on what the next year may hold for the insights industry. It was moderated by Kristin Luck of Decipher and in addition to her own questions, listeners were invited to submit their own questions for us. we did our best to get to all of them, but over 50 questions were left hanging. We all agreed to take a stab at answering these questions and post our thoughts in blog form. Today we have Part 1 of 2 of that effort, with Reineke Reitsma of Forrester sharing her thinking on those questions related to social media research, mobile research, behavioral research, and ROI measurement. Tomorrow I will post the responses of Simon, Leslie, and I to the specific questions.
We all know playing prognosticator has it’s challenges, but when a crew like this all basically agree on what is coming down the pike it certainly is at least paying attention to. I hope that you’ll read these thoughts and give them at least due diligence in your own strategic planning efforts for the coming year. Of course they should be taken with a grain of salt, but consider them the expert opinions of folks who make their living by following trends and thinking about the implications of those observations for the insights industry.
For those who want to listen to the original webinar, there is an embed of the recording below. It’s good stuff and well worth the time to take a gander at.
Here is Reineke’s take. Check tomorrow for the rest. Enjoy!
By Reineke Reitsma
Social Media research.
The questions focused on how social media can be used for market research, as well as if and how social listening can replace more traditional forms of market research. Just to make sure we all talk about the same thing, Forrester defines social market research as:
The use of social media and tools to gain increased access to and insights from a company’s target segment in a way that adds value and depth to the researcher’s overall responsibility as an expert on the voice of the customer.
And we’ve identified three main trends in how market researchers are using social technologies right now:
- Accessing consumers through social sample
- Embracing customers via social tools
- Listening to audiences by mining the social Web
We have been publishing about this topic for years, and there have been many conferences organized around how social media can be used for market research, but there isn’t enough room here to cover all the pros and cons. However, it’s not an easy process. At the end of the day, social technologies introduce more uncertainty into the practice of market research and it requires ceding some control of the research process, not only in how the research is carried out but also in how researchers must potentially collaborate with other departments. And it also takes quite some effort to analyze the data and gather real insights. I really like this blog post from Jon Puleston, in which he summarizes some speeches at the latest Esomar 3D conference about this topic: The 4 killer stats from the ESOMAR 3D conference (http://question-science.blogspot.nl/2012/11/the-4-killer-stats-from-esomar-3d.html)
Forrester is a firm believer in mobile research as methodology. But instead of seeing it as a standalone new methodology, we actually believe that research should be device agnostic, and that the real synergy comes from merging methodologies.
The rapid technological developments of smartphones and tablets will blur the line between mobile and online research. In fact, my colleague Roxie Strohmenger recently published a report called “How To Plan For Mobile Online Survey Takers” that addresses a growing issue not often discussed among MI Professionals – the increase of what we call mobile online survey takers. We define this group as follows:
Survey respondents who use their mobile device (whether a mobile phone or tablet) to open, and possibly complete, online surveys that are designed and optimized for the traditional PC (whether a desktop or laptop).
How big is this problem? A recent study showed that the rate of online surveys completed via a mobile device in the US grew 21% quarter over quarter during the course of the year. And at this rate, the study concluded that approximately 18% of surveys taken in the US will be from a mobile device by the beginning of 2013.
Although only a fraction of MI professionals are currently leveraging mobile, there are plenty of reasons why mobile is here to stay. The advantages of leveraging this approach are huge, such as the ability to capture real-time insights, gain access to hard-to-reach sample, or to get more personal with respondents. In addition, mobile research offers the opportunity to collect different types of data including quantitative, qualitative, and behavioral. But it’s not plug_and_play yet, there are still quite some challenges to overcome such as security and privacy. However, it’s not a question of if you add mobile to your research mix, but when.
One of the challenges of matching behavioral data and market research results is that consumers aren’t always rational and don’t always know why they do what they do. This is troubling for market researchers, since it’s our job to understand what drives consumers so that companies can effectively optimize what works and what doesn’t. My colleague Gina Sverdlov recently has been looking into what this means. Her starting point was a conference she attended and how market research can learn from best practices in behavioral science (blog post can be found here: http://blogs.forrester.com/gina_sverdlov/12-05-30-market_research_lessons_learned_from_behavioral_economics
By combining survey and behavioral data, marketers get the best of both worlds: They get consumer profiles and brand health metrics as well as a detailed record of the actions that those consumers actually do online. Forrester piloted a research study at the end of 2011 that combines survey and behavioral data about consumers’ social media habits to better understand how survey research and behavioral tracking can work together. The study gave a lot of additional insight, not only about what consumers are doing online but also who these very active users are. It gave us a deeper understanding of consumers’ social media behaviors. However, we also learned a few lessons about merging survey research and behavioral tracking in the process, like that behavioral tracking can underreport broad Internet activities, that you may run into unexpected results between survey and behavioral data, and most importantly that traditional market research rules still apply.
Survey research isn’t going away. Survey research will continue to be a vehicle for marketers to glean insights about consumer behaviors and preferences. But with the magnitude of brand and product options available to consumers today, market insights professionals need to expand their survey toolkits to include behavioral information to better understand consumers’ preferences and needs.
Measuring the ROI of market research
This is another interesting topic that my team has spent a lot of time on. First, we do believe it’s possible to measure the ROI of market research. Second, you should start measuring your contribution sooner rather than later. My colleague Richard Evensen already blogged about this a year ago (http://blogs.forrester.com/richard_evensen/11-07-29-are_you_on_the_insights_value_path) where he shares his views, and gives some best practices:
- Run market insights like a business. Be accountable to your funders, be focused on being a value-driver (versus a cost center), and show the value you bring to the company.
- Use ROI to optimize the business. Use ROI to show value-add but also to optimize efforts and insights (which avoids waste and creates a competitive advantage).
- Focus on relationships as well as formulas. Build perceived value of research (through relationship-building and delivering insights aligned to stakeholder needs) while capturing tangible value through ROI calculations.
- Focus on the return on insights. Show how you optimize the amount, quality, and value of insights you provide to the company through a focus on high-return research as well as insights optimization.
- Maximize both short- and long-term ROI. Don’t just invest in short-term gains, but also ensure that you have some longer-term, strategic, and even experimental projects that can provide exponential ROI across your company.
- Partner, partner, partner. Partner with your clients, with execs, and especially with the finance department to get the support and insights you need to create ROI-aligned research and high value.
- Push for action. Push to ensure clients can/will act on insights, and do act on insights, since they have no value unless they drive action (and change).
Putting KPIs in place, and measure your performance against them, is crucial for any market research team. If you don’t need to show your added value now, you will in a few years from now. Need more proof? Below are some real-life examples of how market insights has provided tangible and measureable improvements to the business:
- 5,000x 1-year ROI.One company conducted a study on competitive channel partner payment programs that showed how it could substantially cut payments (without giving business away to competitors) and save around $250 million per year.
- 10% price (margin) increase.A study on competitive pricing at another organization identified the potential to increase price by 10% and still maintain a competitive pricing advantage on multi-year deals worth typically between $50 million and $500 million.
What are we missing?
One of the questions was about the trends we are missing: ‘What do you see as the biggest blind spot for 2013…what are we not watching that we should’? That’s a very interesting, and intriguing question, because it’s very difficult to see your own blind spots. But two things came to mind.
First, during the webinar I think we missed the ‘economy’. I did see it pop up in the questions later, so it’s not a blind spot for the industry. However, what will happen with the economy, and in my case specifically the Eurozone, will have an impact on all of us. Not just on how much will be spend on research, but also on the type of research we will be doing, or the need for research. The need will probably go up in the short term – as companies want to be better informed before taking decisions and make huge investments. However, if the recession will stick, the market research industry will certainly get hit.
The other trend is text analytics. The lack of good text analytics software is a big hurdle in the adoption and usability of social market research. It takes still a lot of manual labor to really get valuable insights out of all this information shared on social media (or in online research communities). When this code gets cracked it can be both a blessing and a curse for our industry. Large companies are trying to solve this challenge, like for example Microsoft who recently gave a presentation that was translated real-time from English to Mandarin (in the speaker’s own voice!): http://blogs.technet.com/b/next/archive/2012/11/08/microsoft-research-shows-a-promising-new-breakthrough-in-speech-translation-technology.aspx#.UKobHBXAeBI.