"One emerging research trend is to integrate behavioral and profiling big data sources with survey methods to get a more holistic picture of your consumer and the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. "
While traditional research methods are certainly not going to become extinct anytime soon, technology and a deeper understanding of consumer psychology has had a great impact in shaping new market research techniques. Recent reports such as that provided by the Greenbook Research Industry Trends Report show new approaches emerging that can help us conduct research more quickly, in greater depth, and in some cases more cheaply than ever before. The recent 2018 Quirks Event market research conference in Irvine, CA, that I attended highlighted several of these latest industry trends, which I’ve summarized below.
In the past, automation has primarily facilitated areas of data collection and field execution, for example taking us from phone-based to online surveys and in panel management. More recently, thanks to ever-evolving technology, researchers are attempting to automate the entire market research process, from project set-up to analysis. Benefits include an incredible reduction in timelines and, oftentimes, costs.
Repetitive methodologies such as concept testing and ad/creative testing are some of the most common being automated, alongside brand equity measurement. You select the audience you’re interested in, upload your creative or concepts, and tell it to “go.” The surveys are predefined, so you don’t have to have any expertise in the subject area. The output typically consists of some canned charts/graphs accessed online or via PowerPoint downloads, and in some cases, online cross tabulations.
Automation is an important part of the future of market research. The process from end to end is often too long and costly . Marketers want information ever faster to help them make timely decisions, and they are challenging researchers to help them accomplish this. I don’t think we’re ever going to automate all market research – not even close. But for the repetitive studies it’s a perfect fit. From my personal experience, these automated solutions don’t always live up to expectations, but they are constantly improving, and I do see an important role for them in the future.
After attending the Quirks Event conference, it is abundantly clear: mobile qualitative techniques are trending. Let’s face it, in-person qualitative takes a lot of time and can cost a lot of money. Thanks to mobile technology, participants are allowing researchers to get a window into their lives without having to travel to their homes or recruit them to a centralized location. These platforms allow respondents to conduct video/mobile diaries, interactive social news feeds, creative collages, journey mapping, webcam interviews, etc.
I definitely see the value in these approaches and look forward to leveraging them. We are always looking for ways to integrate more qualitative insights with our quant research, and this could be a perfect way to do so.
Integrated Small and Big Data Solutions
One emerging research trend is to integrate behavioral and profiling big data sources with survey methods to get a more holistic picture of your consumer and the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. These approaches have participants install monitoring apps on their computers, phones, and other mobile devices to track behaviors, and everything they watch and buy online is recorded. Via GPS tracking and frequent shopper accounts, researchers can even track brick and mortar store shopping and purchases. These participants also agree to take surveys, which when layered with the behavioral data, allow you to run tests that assess the impact of marketing stimulus on both sales and consumer perceptions and better understand the consumer journey.
This is definitely a wave of the future and a powerful concept that will impact the market research industry in the coming years. While primary research will always provide the richest of data in regards to understanding consumers’ feelings and perceptions, there’s no question that an integrated approach with big data provides valuable synergies.
Researchers are seeking new ways to integrate machine learning and artificial intelligence into research methodologies. One emerging application is an online approach that creates a live chat conversation in place of or as a supplement to a survey as a way to develop deeper open-ended feedback. The program interprets the written comments and responds with a related probe to get deeper feedback. This approach uses text analytics to automatically code responses and allows you to get hybrid qual-quant insights in one study.
One of the drawbacks to quant research compared to qual is that it is often difficult to get a deep understanding for why people feel the way they do, and getting the qualitative deep dive often requires a separate study. Thus, methodologies that help you get both in one shot are appealing to me. What I would be concerned with, however, is that some of these new platforms completely abandon quantitative rating scale questions and rely solely on open-ended feedback summarized by auto-coding software.
Behavioral economics has shown us that we don’t always make rational decisions, and that many of our decisions are driven by rapid, nonconscious, intuitive thought (also called “System 1” thinking). A wave of methodologies to measure these thought patterns have been under development and continue to evolve such as applied neuroscience, facial coding, biometric response, eye tracking, and Implicit Reaction Time (IRT) (this method measures the length of time it takes for a respondent to answer a specific question; the faster the response, the stronger the presumed conviction).
These methods have a lot of hype despite being fairly niche, but are definitely growing. I believe they will become more common as their price comes down and researchers find more ways to apply them. I spoke to one neuroscience vendor and their price starts at $80k to test one ad with 30 participants. Ouch. To me the neuroscience and facial coding techniques seem to be a good fit for messages that have extended time exposure, such as TV ads or political speeches, when you want to measure change in emotion over time, but not so much for static stimuli. The Implicit/IRT approach intrigues me since it can be integrated into a traditional survey without special equipment. We will definitely be exploring this method going forward!
I hope the above discussion gives you a sense for some of the evolving research techniques in our always-quickly-moving field. If you would like to chat about any of these new ideas, I’d love to hear from you! Please reach out, be in touch, and take good care.