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Market Research and the Innovation space?

It’s no doubt that innovation in the Social Media and Digital space is moving faster than ever. Where does Market Research stand in the midst of all this and is Market Research truly innovating?

market research

By Prashant Hari

A number of these thoughts have been building in my head for sometime and this is a fairly exhaustive piece….you have been warned!

It’s no doubt that innovation in the Social Media and Digital space is moving faster than ever. We’re seeing more and more new concepts, sites, apps and gadgets come out at a much more rapid pace than ever before and I believe the speed of innovation is only going to get faster. Concepts are being formulated, designed, created, and getting funding in a matter of months (GetGlue launching and being acquired by Warner Bros quickly is just one example of this). It would even be fair to say that the speed of innovation is moving quicker at this stage than the speed of business and even consumer adoption in some cases. Social Networks, Location Based Services, Social Entertainment, Social Gaming and Social Shopping sites/apps are being churned out in abundance…where does Market Research stand in the midst of all this and is Market Research truly innovating?. Below is a series of my thoughts in this area:

Communities: The concept of MROC’s have been around for a while now; the idea of getting a group of people together for blog based discussions, polls, surveys, chatrooms amongst other activities for which the members of the group are offered some form of incentive in return for their time in participating. This was in my view certainly a turning point for MR and Research Communities have their advantages as far as generating discussions beyond “1-way question asking”. Also the ability to do a series of activities with a group of members (qual and quant) was interesting, however at the time I did ask “how long until we move towards generic communities”?

Paying people for their answers to some extent still sounds very 1-way to me, and if the aim was to elicit deeper responses and more robust insights utilizing the concept of a community/network; Communities do that nicely to some extent, though the value add for the member at this stage is still monetary, and in some cases, engagement can still be an issue. As Jared Turner recently posted on the Next Gen Market Research Group on LinkedIn ” I have seen some new market research methods which attempt to leverage social media (a form of 2.0) to “extract” information but I have failed to see any which are truly 2.0 where people actively provide information and they receive value add (in forms other than traditional incentives) from those receiving the data”.

One possible way forward (triggered by a post Ray Poynter made here is to be able to do Marketing within a Market Research Community. This approach breaks the rules of most MR organizations (and perhaps some other rules I’m not aware of) however what are the REAL implications of being allowed to do this? I’ve seen comments in the past around “it’s conditioning the members”, “answers given aren’t honest as members will be biased when answering etc”….but in the medium-long term how relevant are these arguments? By fusing both functions of Market Research and Marketing together, are we bridging the gap closer together and allowing for a enhanced model (engagement via Marketing+insights via MR)? Or deviating further away? I personally think this idea has a lot of potential…..

Gaming in MR: There has been a LOT of talk about Gaming and Social Gaming in MR. Gaming as it is is an industry which is growing in huge numbers as it becomes centralized to how a lot of things work online. Whether it”s location based apps like FourSquare and GetGlue who’ve taken the mindset of “gaming” into what is no doubt “data collection” right to designing our surveys with a “gaming” feel. From what I’ve seen no one has truly embraced the real nature of gaming to innovate in Market Research so far. Some companies have expanded their “panel pool” so they’re able to access gamers while they’re in a middle of a game. In return for completing a survey, the gamer is rewarded with their currency within a game (rather than a $$ reward). This has potential in the short-term, however at it’s truest it’s still keeping the old model alive.

The other alternative is to design surveys and questionnaire more like games to the point the user doesn’t even realize that they’re in fact taking part in a “survey”. This area has a lot of potential. The more attractive, engaging and “game-like” we can design questionnaires the more engagement we’d get from members, though at the end of the day they’re still filling in a survey.

The real room for innovation here in my view is designing a game purely for the purposes of Market Research. A Social/smart game (or RPG) where a user creates an Avatar (totally customized in 3D to reflect themselves) then is able to interact, give information about their purchases and shopping behavior and whatever else the information needing to be extracted is. The core thing here is to design a GAME…something fun, addictive and engaging followed by a Market Research tool (and not the other way around which is what we end up doing a lot of the time). The next level of this would obviously be virtual worlds (like Mingleverse where you’re able to walk around, make purchases, comment about the items purchased, click on a quick poll etc all within a virtual environment (or alternatively conduct a focus group within a virtual world with virtual characters). This game would obviously be site based as well as app based for Mobiles and digital devices, and this way we’d collect data without the member even feeling like they’ve just done a “survey”.

MR Apps: So far I’ve a few interesting apps which take the core idea of an Online Panel and turn it into a MR Mobile Panel. Once users have downloaded the app, they receive surveys via the app, and the survey is simple enough that the user can complete it on their Smartphone. The rewards/points shop is integrated and it’s kept within the app nicely. There’s also just “pinging” the user on their mobile when a survey is available in their E-mail Inbox but that hardly excites me at all.

The real area for improvement here is again HOW we ask the questions, how we blur the lines and how we keep people engaged/happy.

The way this has currently been done to some extent is still the old model (sign-up+enter profile information+complete a survey+be paid). Just moving it to a new “platform” isn’t really innovating if the thinking behind it is still old-school. The potential lies in again turning the surveying methods/question types into having more of a”gaming” feel. The other potential lies in not only being able to tap into this pool of people for research but also for marketing. I can see that getting the large-scale numbers on these Mobile based App panels would be an issue and the competition it would face from all the other countless of apps which are more fun, exciting and engaging would be something to address. In the words of Tom Hayes (author of JUMP POINT)..we’re moving into a world more and more where we’ll be fighting for people’s time and a few dollars isn’t going to make the difference between doing something exciting/fun/engaging and not doing it. These apps are on the quant side. On the Qual side I recently worked with Revelation who offer qual based data collection via an iPhone app. I think the same model applies there, with the added component of including a community function to engage members.

Are we heading towards a integrated solution?? Are we heading towards a “Community” which allows Marketing and Market Research (should rules permit/bend…I know Thumbspeak is already thinking along these lines) to work more synergistically and in tandem? The “Community” would be designed as a smart/social game taking the best of what we’ve seen so far from Qual and Quant based solutions in this space and integrating them into one. This would be website and app based, and rather than being focused on incentives, the “community” would be based on badge-based (or some other form of “value” system) much like FourSquare and GetGlue? (members of these networks get exactly $0)

This is obviously focusing on the “front-end”. The “back-end” could be a dashboard that spits out “Infographic” reports, or instant video reports of the activity/data collected in the background? This area I need to put more thought into…..

Lastly….a large number of these apps are all still essentially “data collection”….what are the chances that the makers of FourSquare or Cityville actually designed the idea?

Looking forward to everyone’s thoughts…

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