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Connecting with Customers in APAC: How Much is the World Changing?

As IIeX Asia Pacific approaches, we catch up with Siddhartha Dutta, to discuss the changes coming for market research. Learn about the outlook from the Asian Pacific market, and how technology is changing the consumer landscape.

Editor’s Note: One of the most popular series of posts we publish on the Blog has been interviews we’ve done with different industry leaders. We have several more exciting interviews that we’ll be running in the coming weeks. Today, since IIeX Asia Pacific is coming around soon (Dec.4-5 in Bangkok), we have an interview that our own Jason Buchanan did recently with Siddartha Dutta of Kantar in the region.


As part of our APAC spotlight series, Jason Buchanan caught up with Siddhartha Dutta from the Kantar Profiles Division to discuss exactly how the world of Market Research and Data-driven Marketing is changing before our eyes. Here is a summary of what was discovered.

Interview with Siddhartha

Jason: Many people I speak with are suggesting the market research landscape has changed considerably in recent years. What do you see as the key factors driving this?

Siddhartha: Very true. And multiple factors are influencing this. Fundamentally, as the consumer landscape changes, new technology is offering new ways to enhance how customers can find, interact with and purchase the products and services they desire. Brands need to connect with their audience meaningfully to better understand and better engage with them. 

Of course, this is not just applicable to research, the marketing function is rapidly evolving too, challenging brand owners and marketing teams to implement fresh strategies for integrated and programmatic campaigns. In our customer-driven world, there are new expectations and opportunities to be seized by market research, for providing metrics and insights to drive marketing strategy. This shakeup is stimulating exciting innovation leveraging data to propel successful transition into new marketing strategies and new marketing technologies.

Specifically, for the Kantar Profiles division, we are more and more building passive sources, actively listening to consumer-generated data rather than just creating data through surveys. We see ourselves being data miners or architects rather than data collectors or creators. 

The core expertise of making sense of data and giving actionable business recommendations for our clients to grow is still true but the equation has changed from multiple angles: 

  • The data we get passively is not shaped the same way as the one we use to collect. For better or for worse, asking questions contains a level of bias. But free-flow data is also biased. Social media is a good example of where consumers are either showing only their brighter side (lovely Instagram pictures) or their darker side (dissatisfied consumers complaining through social channels). 
  • Speed is another important component in re-shaping the industry considerably. First, because consumer trends are coming and going faster than ever before: take the mobile phone = 10 years to mass adoption while TV took more than 25 years. Secondly, because the information is available instantly. So, as an industry, keeping up with this pace is key. Coming up with powerful insights in an ocean of data is not necessarily faster or easier than when you create your own data. It’s a paradigm that remains to be solved. 

Jason: So, a lot is happening then! You mention connecting with audiences, could you share a little more about the role of market research in effectively connecting with today’s consumers?

Siddhartha: Our main goal is to better understand audiences in the most representative way. The connected consumer can help make this easier because they are more readily accessible. With almost 9 out of 10 being online via a smartphone the need to design for mobile is critical. So respondents can share their opinions when and where they want. This means being compatible of course, but also relevant to the device. From short surveys to match the time available on the morning commute to framing a question the right way to encourage engagement, there are many ways we can assist brands in gaining the most value from their data. 

Likewise, Social media apps are used by 3 out of 4 people. And it keeps growing. So, that feels like a great way to leverage these already hyper-active consumers. 

But there’s a lot of different online channels and the way we get data through these different channels is not homogeneous, just as the way consumers use these channels is not homogeneous either. There is a multiplicity of online environments that provide rich data but needs to be looked at with different lenses to gain truly powerful, reliable insights. 

Jason: You mentioned Technology as a key part of this. Can you share a few of the latest developments the industry is seeing from your perspective?

Siddhartha: Absolutely, technology is the key driver of change in the consumer landscape. As consumers start to adopt new tools, so should marketers and researchers. I will break it down into three main areas… AI, connecting first and third-party data, and activating data.

  1. Artificial Intelligence has been a bit of bucket-word. At Kantar we’ve been focusing on two areas:
      • Conversational AI is a bridge between qualitative and quantitative methodologies. We have been developing Chatbots to create a more conversational environment with respondents, enabling more in-depth feedback at scale and greater engagement.
      • Machine Learning assists in the authentication process. By applying machine learning as part of the panelist registration process, any fraudulent people are detected as they register and not permitted into the survey environment. Not only does this allow greater confidence in the quality of the data but it also allows a faster turnaround time so this can be actioned more rapidly into the marketing activity itself.
  2. Connecting first and third-party data is another key development for market research. As technology evolves and CRM systems become more integrated marketers can now connect survey data with a wide variety of third-party consumer attributes, permission-based first-party data, and CRM data. Linking opinions, demographics and consumption behaviors brings the ability to build deeper, additional insight into the audiences and makes research a far more valuable asset.
  3. Activating research data for media placement. Building an audience profile is a huge asset, but the benefits of this can be realized further by putting it into direct action. And that can bridge the gap between marketing and market research. You can now provide this data to your media buying agency for targeting your online video advertisement that was specifically created for this audience based on your initial survey research.

Jason: Interesting.  And as increasing privacy laws and regulations appear, with GDPR soon to be followed by the introduction of the California Consumer Privacy Act, how do you see this playing out for market research.

Siddhartha: Permission is imperative in making the data we provide both trusted and actionable for brands. Of course, having a permission-based network that adheres to industry and consumer law is the first part of this compliancy. But what is also true for brand databases as well as online market research is respecting the relationship. Ensuring respondents feel like a valued part of the research process, whether that’s by using their preferred touchpoints and tools, in a language and environment that they are familiar with or from the following legislation and keeping their data safe and secure. Privacy and data protection acts can be seen as a threat but in fact, they play a positive role in helping to build the desire for consumers to share their opinions and help build the brands and the products they want for the future, in turn delivering added value for the buyers of research.

Jason: Where do you see the role of Market Research in the wider Marketing function moving towards in 2020?

Siddhartha: This is a good question. Firstly, I would say that the trend for businesses to work more closely with research partners and value the role of data-driven marketing will continue. In line with the GRIT Report 2019, buyers of research reported having grown their research function by 28% in the last year. However, with budgets getting tighter there will be more scrutiny and a growing need to deliver ROI on research projects. Whilst this might seem daunting for those selling in Market research, we see this as an important next step in challenging our businesses to do more. 

Technology and Automation will play an important role here, simplifying and making the process to gain data more accessible to both brand owners and insights professionals with DIY tools and reporting dashboards, at speed and at scale. Also, market research and marketing implementation, such as media targeting which we already discussed, will get more and more integrated. Being able to direct action research data in advertising placement will offer a more joint up approach that maximizes the investment of the research and the marketing output across a range of channels. 

But to realize the opportunity this presents we need to keep pace with technological development. Be it AI or Machine Learning, we need to be translating new tech into tools that businesses can use to improve their own data efficiencies and to build richer profiles of our clients’ audiences. But the landscape is evolving at an exponential rate, so it is up to us as an industry to stay at the technology forefront and truly represent the role of data-driven marketing.

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Jason Buchanan

Jason Buchanan

Asia Pacific Representative , GreenBook