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Technology That May One Day Impact Market Research

Advancements in technology, such as eye tracking, emotional analysis, and virtual reality, have the potential to provide a greater understanding of consumer behavior through accessible, cost-efficient techniques.

We say that technology may one day impact market research, but it’s not just market research, because these technologies will have a lot of practical applications for a variety of industries from healthcare to media to advertising.

While market research can be slow to evolve, it is, or at least should always be, looking for newer, better ways to understand consumers. Technology provides much of the means for doing so and ample opportunity for new innovations. While the following technology and trends may not be ready for wide adoption by the market research industry just yet, there’s little to say that it can’t.

Facial Recognition

While most government and security solutions have adopted facial recognition techniques, market research can use it to its advantage as well. However, it’s less about the identification of particular faces and more about the ability to use it to track eye movements and recognize emotion on consumers’ faces.

How would it work? Essentially, a video would be used to capture consumers’ faces during an experience and collect different images. Similar to using a natural language processing system, as in the case of qualitative responses, the images then get categorized and placed in a database. This database can later be used to determine the emotions that correlate to the images. Respectively, machine learning can be used to learn more about different facial images to improve the accuracy and identification of emotions.

The results of such a technology solution could provide ample benefits to market research. For example, current market research methodologies that provide a more emotional understanding of consumers include things such as video response. While this solution is similar, it’s more difficult to tie in with an actual experience as it’s happening. As a result, facial recognition in research could

  • Reveal perceptions and attitudes towards brands and products as consumers encounter them to help understand their propensity to buy at a deeper level
  • Create a benchmark for emotional understanding that isn’t currently available—in other words, the closest means for measuring emotion

Virtual Reality

If you haven’t heard enough about virtual reality (VR) in the past year or so, we guarantee you will. With so much hype around this term, it’s really not surprising to find that some are beginning to translate it back to market research. To clarify, VR is defined as a computer-generated environment in which a person is seemingly “placed” within the virtual environment. Sometimes people can even interact with the VR setting. Often VR needs to be used with a headset or other simulation technology.

The most popular uses for virtual reality in market research are more specific to usability testing when it comes to games. However, the possibilities are now expanding outside of gaming. VR can be pivotal to market research since it allows consumers to interact with something that

  1. Doesn’t exist yet
  2. Is difficult to gain access to (whether it be due to convenience, location, or price)

Brands are starting to look towards virtual reality—and augmented reality—to build upon their customers’ current experiences, but it can also be used to understand the experience. Consumers can be placed into a VR simulation where they react to a product or environment—like walking down shopping aisles or checking out a new product.

The main benefit of VR for market researchers will be the ability to see how consumer behavior transpires in a more natural setting (by natural, we mean not in a controlled experiment). This benefit combats one of the more difficult challenges of current methods. And while IHUTs and ethnographic research solutions help, VR could make observing consumer behavior far more accessible and cost-effective.

Lizzie’s rewrite: Looking even further ahead, the possibilities of our ability to understand consumers in a different way could grow exponentially. when you combine facial recognition and virtual reality.

Author’s original: Look even further ahead to the possibilities when you combine facial recognition and virtual reality, and our ability to understand consumers in a different way could grow exponentially.

As you can see, new technology isn’t as far away from market research as we’d think and it’s fairly easy to understand how it might apply. Keep in mind though, methodologies will have to be carefully crafted before any practical long-term application of these technologies can be incorporated into a market research strategy.

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