By Adriana Rocha
I’ve been a hybrid technologist, marketer and market researcher since the early days of the Web and, for the past 13 years, I’ve been working with MR agencies, end clients, panel companies and technology companies. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the evolution of market research technologies from several perspectives – and how technology is changing the practice of market research. I can say these are exciting times for this industry.
Let me start with a thought on digital. I think we can accept this truth: digital has won. It’s not new that discussions around digital and market research have been fertile and multiplied in the industry. In fact, MR agencies will have to quickly adapt their digital strategies. The digital MR specialists will have to evolve from “online research experts” to encompass digitally-savvy specialists for social media, online communities, mobile, text analytics, “big data”, gamification, DIY tools and more. It almost goes without saying: a digital market researcher must be fluent in using technology. Actually, we could even say more broadly: pretty much every modern market researcher needs to be fluent in using technology.
But not necessarily building it; many tech companies are vying for that role and MR agencies will be hard pressed to compete with them, and some should argue they should not all.
I could imagine some market researchers thinking “Oh! I can’t recognize this industry anymore. Are we technologists or researchers? I have data collection automation, social media listening platforms, facial coding technologies, panel platforms, routers, online communities, text analytics and sentiment analysis technologies, big data, dynamic dashboards, mobile research platforms, and the list doesn’t end – I can’t afford all of these technologies!” Yes, it’s a complex world, my friend!
However, I believe we are in the beginning of the Golden Age of Market Research Technologies. Let’s look into five recent effects of technology on the relationship of consumers and brands
- The experience consumer-brand has become almost entirely digital-ish — even real world events, coupons from the store, calls to call centers, visits with a sales rep, discussions with friends sent via email or remarked on Facebook, etc., have a tendency to end up echoing somewhere in the digital space.
- The purchasing decision is not taken in a single instant anymore—shoppers more and more acquire information from different digital sources before considering a purchase (query search engines, visit brand’s web site, read educational content, follow related accounts on Twitter, visitor competitors’ sites, read reviews, discuss with friends, check online communities, comparison shop, etc.)
- The decision is shaped by real-time dynamics – a consumer’s perspective and interest evolves over a time period, and there’s a tremendous opportunity for marketing to adapt with them.
- The boundaries between prospects and customers are blurring – Consumers don’t proceed precisely, lockstep through a funnel — they zoom in and out, up and down. The cycle goes through — discover, search, research, compare, decide — leveraging the web, mobile, physical stores, call centers, and social media.
- The entire experience now defines the brand. What used to be separate —marketing/advertising, product/service, prospects, and existing customers — is now being mashed together, and from the first touch point onward, this whole mix is the new customer experience. And its loop defines the brand.
With that in mind, can we imagine that market research will continue applying the same methods and tools for understanding consumers, measuring brand awareness, purchase intention, ad recall, shopper behavior, etc? Of course it won’t work!
But let’s not panic! Digital can be the root of the problem, but can also be the answer. And thanks to cloud computing, SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) models, open source, expert communities, and a plenty of new languages and frameworks, it’s never been easier or faster to build great software. This means a huge opportunity for disruptive innovation in market research.
New technologies will continue to be developed and opening doors – almost every single day we hear about a new technology, a new startup or a new entrant in this industry. But these new creations will increasingly need to integrate with the client needs more deeply as well. Agencies that have the right teams and quickly adapt will be in high demand. With the advantage of many clients demanding for such transformation, MR agencies have the potential to become curators of knowledge and best practices for the future of market research. This too can be a high value service.
Something to think about…