By Eli Portnoy
The best companies in the world are investing heavily in their consumer insights team. Industry leaders have come to realize that great market research helps companies make better and more strategic decisions on everything from product strategy, to pricing, to marketing and everything in between. With bigger teams and more influence, market research professionals are getting more sophisticated in how they apply data. However for all the advancements the industry has made, one area that has lagged behind is how the data is collected.
The Current State Of Affairs
Market research professionals heavily rely on surveys. In fact, ESOMAR estimates that 80% of global research budgets are spent on surveys. While surveys have benefited from a dramatic move towards online, and now a slow crawl towards mobile, the reality is that surveys have not changed in dozens of years. Market Research data is still fundamentally about asking consumers questions and hoping they remember and provide good answers.
While surveys are terrific way to collect data, they do have some limitations. Specifically, they are expensive to administer leading to a fairly small number of responses. They are prone to people forgetting or including bias in their responses. And finally, they take a long time to collect, process, and analyze. In a world where new data sources are sprouting daily, shouldn’t we expect more?
A New Source Of Data
We live in a world where almost every interaction we have can create a little digital data crumb. Not only is this true in online web browsing, but even our offline activity can be recorded thanks to the massive proliferation of smartphones and the large number of sensors packed into each of these. Imagine a market research world where instead of asking someone when they had last been to the gym, you could ask them to passively share their location data from their phone and see every time they went to the gym.
This passively collected information is a new type of behavioural data and it is going to play a very large role in the future of market research.
The Benefits of Behavioural Data
The first benefit of real-world behavioural data is that it does not rely on human memory or the inevitable bias. Instead, this data essentially allows a market researcher to observe how, when, and what panel participants do, providing significantly richer, more complete, and more accurate data.
A second major benefit is that because it is much easier for panelists to install an app and share data than it is to painstakingly answer 80 questions, it is possible to build massively larger panels of behavioural data. Instead of being limited by studies that have thousands or tens of thousands of respondents, a market researcher can work with data from literally millions of people. This allows for greater insights, deeper cutting of the data, and more granularity.
Finally, behavioural data can be collected in real-time, and thanks to advances in cloud computing, can also be processed programmatically. This allows researchers to analyze data in hours, rather than the weeks, if not months it would have taken to collect, process, and analyze surveys. In a fast changing world, the speed of insights can be the difference between growth and decline, and with behavioral panels researchers can have it nearly instantly.
The Ultimate Solution
The most progressive consumer insights professionals will find ways to blend and combine survey and behavioural data sets to find the growth levers that will propel their business forward. The future of market research has never been brighter and the data available to consumer insights professionals is about to expand from purely survey driven, to data sets that combine behavioral and observed data. This is a terrific opportunity that will enable companies to generate richer, deeper, and more actionable insights than were ever possible before.