Market Research as We Know it is Unsuited for the Digital Economy

Market Research as We Know it is Unsuited for the Digital Economy

Feature Friday: Market Research as We Know it is Unsuited for the Digital Economy

Guest Post by Michalis Michael

Market Research, as we know it, is perfectly unsuited to add value in the digital economy; companies still use traditional methods which do not address the complexity of our times; they require more resources and achieve less impact. Every company needs to figure out how to utilize social media and the data deluge coming from different sources, in order to understand their customers’ behavior and how to influence it.

There is no integrated approach to enable customers to extract insights by connecting the dots so that they can co-create, find leads/influencers, scale brand engagement and generate advocacy for their brands through social media. Having said that, insights cannot be the result of data analysis; we can only get to insights when we synthesize data from different sources. Every time two dots get connected magic happens.

We have all heard the infamous quote from Procter & Gamble research head Joan Lewis, speaking at the ARF conference in March 2011:

“Survey research will decline dramatically in importance by 2020, with social media listening replacing much of it and adding new dimensions”

We fully agree with Joan as a matter of fact we have a very concrete view on how market research will be by 2020 – see the last paragraph of this article. There is however, one big issue with social media listening : “Noise”. The biggest challenge is to be able to remove all the irrelevant posts harvested from the internet based on key words or phrases. This can be achieved with machine learning (previously known as artificial intelligence) and human curation.

Here are 3 main issues with traditional market research:

It deals with population samples, not networks, and it uses data sets that area small fraction of what’s available
It operates with a monthly/quarterly/ad-hoc cycle – needs to be daily if not near real time.
Its ‘toolset’ hasn’t drastically changed in 30 years; social media has changed the consumer environment a lot.

We firmly believe that the next generation marketing research agency will be a thought leader in active web listening with extreme focus on data quality and hygiene. The knowledge collated from “listening” to what customers say 24/7 will be analyzed and then, within private online communities, certain issues uncovered during listening will be discussed with customers and probed in online focus groups or using other online qualitative and quantitative research tools. The learning during probing may lead to an adjustment of the ‘social media monitor variables’ in order to include additional or different online conversations. Next-gen marketing research is a virtuous circle of continuous: listening, probing and listening again using real-time data sources.

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