Think about a good conversation you’ve had recently. Chances are the full range of topics were sporadic and not planned in advance, and it likely flowed organically from one topic to the next. Since the conversation flow was natural, you might have even found yourself letting your guard down – being more open and honest.
How would that good experience have changed if the topics were pre-set in advance, even if they were just roughly outlined as if led by a discussion guide? Your responses would likely become a bit more considered and you might not feel as free to jump from one topic to the next.
As researchers, we’re already going deeper through tools like ethnography, emotional measurement, and System 1 methods. We’re also leveraging technology to listen to — and have conversations with — consumers in new ways by harnessing the power of AI, machine learning, social listening, and sentiment analysis. But the dialog is still at least somewhat rigid and mostly unidirectional.
So what’s the next iteration? How do we make the make the leap to “organic conversations” versus “interviews” and get consumers to be more honest, and why does that matter for the future of market research? Below we outline our vision for two shifts we hope to see.
Our Toolkit Must be Experience Focused
The benefits of many of the new technologies buzzing in the research industry today ladder up to shifting the burden away from respondents. In the context of market research, technologies like AI and blockchain, for example, are all about streamlining the experience and reducing physical or cognitive burden.
In expanding our toolkit at MMR Research Associates, we have actively sought out technology partners that are building a better respondent experience. This is so important to us and to our industry that we recently launched a new division, MMR LIVE, with a focus on advancing the respondent experience in consumer insights. Respondent experience goes beyond being mobile optimized (today that’s a given). We’re looking for partners who understand that a frictionless end-to-end experience is the key to retaining our industry’s most precious assets – consumer attention and truth.
We’re particularly excited about a new approach to consumer insights put forward by our strategic partner STAANCE. Their social platform enables highly active, engaged, ongoing communities built around organic conversation. For companies that want to insert themselves naturally into a conversation with their consumers, this platform is a place where they can listen, learn, and interject in ways that are non-obtrusive.
Answers Don’t Have to be Constrained by Questions
Knowledge management systems in market research have come a long way in just the past few years and they have enabled organizations to “know what they already know” across departments or staff. One of the main limiting factors is that they are dependent upon research results as inputs – we can query the system to inform a business decision, but if the question we need an answer to was never asked we might be out of luck. In some ways we’re settling for only having the knowledge at hand we’ve had the foresight to ask for.
However, with a platform like STAANCE, the conversation is limitless, much like what we see in social media. The data that can be queried is being created 24/7 through organic conversation, allowing for true “Google-like” searches of your consumer’s attitudes, beliefs, and reactions. In today’s world, there is no shortage of data to be mined, but we believe that the ability to mine data created through opinion sharing in an experience-rich, safe environment will allow for more impactful business actions to be taken.