By Wale Omiyale, SVP of Market Research, Confirmit
With over 3.8 billion people online – that’s 50% of the world’s population – it’s no surprise that digital interactions are a normal way of life for many of us. For Market Researchers, what’s most interesting is how the connected population is actually using the internet. It spans every aspect of our lives from entertainment and shopping, to work, learning, and our day-to-day social activity.
By Alexander Shashkin
As we know, people do not always do what they say. This is especially true for online behavior. Together with the fact that people do not remember what they do online, this does not allow us to use traditional research methods to understand how people choose and buy products in the internet.
Passive behavioral data help to overcome this difficulty. More and more researchers have access to it and experiment with different possible applications of such data. Though, there is still a need to conceptualize the use of behavioral data as well as to bring more case of business value for it.
Our experience with tracking data at OMI started almost three years ago when we created large user-centric panel in Russia on the back of our access panel that consists of over 1 000 000 people. Desktop and mobile trackers were voluntary installed by over 30 000 participants. Now this panel is working on EnjoyTracking software, and we have three consecutive years of cross-device history of behavioral data. It includes URLs and search queries (clickstream data) for desktops as well as data from mobile browsers and apps. Clickstream data was enriched by social demographic variables known from the panelists profile.
Before analyzing the case I would like to bring your attention to the ‘building blocks’ that we use for behavioral data analysis (see Table below):
This means that in addition to social demographics, researchers can use behavioral variables (such as site visits, search terms, or apps usage to define the target audience. Along with the behavioral data we can ask specifying research questions to accomplish results in its usual format (ratings, indices etc.).
For example, you need to clarify what sites are popular among mothers with kids of 3-6 y.o. in order to choose web portal for a special project and make recommendations on its content. Then you follow three steps:
- Define target audience as “mothers with 3-6 years old kids”
- Build website top for this audience (by reach).
- Add Affinity Index for the websites
As a result you would have a full image of online behavior of particular audience such (as mothers with kids we had in our example) and where to find them to bring your message more effectively.
When it comes to the TA definition through visited websites and search queries, the most time-consuming task is manual or partly automated classification (building a code-frame) and coding these queries and the content visited during the relevant web sessions.
You can do more complex research studies, building them as a construction set using the ‘LEGO blocks’ described in Table 1. I would like to share two real examples of such studies:
- Digital segmentation and media optimization for a pharmaceutical brand.
- to describe the online audience of certain pharmaceutical product
- to perform digital segmentation
- to optimize online advertising strategy.
The audience of client’s product was defined as people performing searches for related key words (we called it thesaurus). The set of relevant searches was first brainstormed, then we found panelists who actually proceeded these search queries and looked at other relevant searches they performed in the same web-sessions. The audience was segmented according to their searches: for example, behavior of those who searched for the problem was significantly different from those, who searched for the brand. Each behavioral segment was described in terms of owned, paid and earned digital channel usage.
The study also allowed to rank different web resources inside each channel making it possible to optimize the brand’s digital presence, meaning that fully actionable results leading straight to the media planning were actually delivered.
- Path to purchase for a mobile device.
- to understand the strategies consumers use to search and buy mobile devices online. This would allow more targeted communication on particular stages of a sales funnel to the client.
First, we selected people from our user-centric panel who performed relevant search or visited relevant websites during the last six months. We realized that the purchase itself might happen offline. To define fact of offline purchase and offline factors we used qualitative research survey for respondents whose online history we followed.
On the second stage we segmented websites related to the topic into different categories (owned/paid/earned + shops, etc). We tried to understand the share of usage for each category of sites among segments that were relevant to the client: those who purchased online and offline, those who made expensive purchase as well as various social demographic and geographic segments.
We also analyzed path to purchase for the most interesting segments qualitatively (following the steps of the person URL by URL). Such analysis was followed by the series of IDIs to understand the reasons for certain steps in search/purchase process.
To summarize, online behavior tracking is an ultimate way to describe and understand the online audience of a brand or product. Researchers are able to 1) define the ‘internet behavioral profiles’ and consideration sets of the consumers to build digital segmentation, 2) better understand the potential brand or product audience in the Internet, 3) optimize online media strategy. Knowing the general media consumption of a certain audience is important for media planning, but knowing the media consumption around and during the search for brand-relevant information is crucial for understanding of the consumers’ decision-making. Combining behavioral data with survey research and qualitative analysis helps to understand the place of Internet in the purchase journey and help brands in developing successful digital strategies based on facts, not only words.
Alexander Shashkin, PhD in Sociology, is CEO of Online Market Intelligence (OMI).
By the ESOMAR USA Representatives
Although North America was unable to retain fastest growing market for research for a second year running, the overall market size has increased by almost 20% according to the latest ESOMAR Global Market Research report. But, while the overall market growth figure may have implied a slowing down, the market measure has expanded to include two additional new sectors, giving the region a net growth of 0.5%. Following on from this we asked the ESOMAR representatives in the US about the challenges, opportunities and trends in their market.
Did someone say mobile? Again?
As this series of articles continue, having looked at the LATAM, APAC an MENAP regions, we do indeed see the same patterns emerging, even more so in a developed market such as the United States. It’s of course, the conversation about mobile and internet penetration rearing its head again. Jackie Lorch, Vice President, Global Knowledge Management, SSI USA, comments, “With online penetration approaching 90%, online is the go-to data collection methodology, and don’t even think about fielding a questionnaire that can’t be completed on a mobile phone.” Yet, although this knowledge is commonplace, it doesn’t mean the industry has caught up yet. With US smartphone penetration near 60%, survey participants are increasingly choosing to take surveys on mobile devices. Lorch observes, “The industry has not made it a priority to put participants first and design mobile-friendly questionnaires. Likewise mobile in-the-moment research presents wonderful opportunities to interact at the moment of decision-making with video or image capture. Yet we have largely failed to engage.”
This sentiment is echoed by Melanie Courtright, EVP, Products and Client Services, Research Now. “The biggest challenge is learning how to evolve for mobile devices — the questionnaires themselves have to change, and we are really struggling with moving fast enough in America.” Although the market research world might be lagging behind, there are big opportunities here, comments Courtright, “Biggest opportunity is in automation of basic research types so that through standardization we can integrate other forms of data better and spend more time on interpretation and make decisions more quickly.”
While the rest of the world might have an inbuilt stereotype of Americans (can anyone blame them, Donald Trump anyone?) – it couldn’t be further from the truth. Lorch comments, “Most of the stereotypes you have heard about America are exaggerations. Most Americans enjoy foods other than burgers, fries and buckets of cola and many are well-informed about and interested in other countries in the world!” Indeed, Courtright observes, “The US is very diverse, both in business and with consumers. It’s like many small countries grouped together, so to try and approach it as one market is not possible.”
The US shouldn’t be treated as one country – this is a population of almost 319 million people, spanning across more than 9 million km. That’s a lot of people, can we really expect them to have the same thoughts and opinions? Lorch expands on this further, “Different geographies, attitudes and cultures can be found within its borders. You’re likely to find doing business in the fast-paced, intense, “in-your-face” culture of New York City different from the more laid-back, proudly non-conformist, technology-driven Northern California, for example. Street signs you may see along the way help tell the story!”
Very visible in the US, but not just limited to here, is a major new societal trend that will impact research – fragmentation – in almost every aspect of modern life. Lorch notes, “From people’s time and attention, the data sources they use, their digital device habits, to the diversity of their beliefs, lifestyles, attitudes and interests. Institutions in the media, government and communities that used to help define large groups among the population have largely vanished to be replaced by customisation of the individual experience to a massive degree. As society fragments, are our traditional research taxonomies relevant anymore? We still group people by age, by ethnicity, by geography, in ways that haven’t changed for generations. We should instead consider life stages, and new attitudinal groupings as ways to better understand the consumer. This is equally true for B2B research where titles, responsibilities and purchase patterns are changing rapidly and we need to target based on the reality of today’s job functions and responsibilities.”
There are many trends impacting on America, and indeed society at large, none more so than technology. Lorch comments, “The idea of technology as not just enabler, but also driver of our business is a phenomenon noted by Unilever’s Stan Sthanunathan. Technology has made research more efficient, and improved its quality for companies who have invested in it. Now technology is doing more: actively directing where research will be and go in the future. It is taking over many research tasks that humans used to do. The challenge is that powerful technology and the expertise to run it is usually only available to the larger players, so many smaller enterprises need to find a new raison d’etre, or risk being swallowed up.”
Big data and the internet of things will also shape the future of market research, but we first need to get over the problems. “The practical and operational obstacles in the way of getting value from all the data now available are not trivial, yet the potential rewards are massive. If we can overcome the obstacles, research can use big data to answer the what, when and where questions and surveys to get at the why and what next – resulting in shorter, more interesting surveys and more accurate factual data.”
And a further trend to look out for, comes from Courtright, who comments, “A trend we’re seeing is definitely privacy and what that means in a world of cookies and meters and observational data collection. And in turn, society’s reaction to those practices, along with their expectations of transparency and responsibility.”
How to do business here
While we know we need to let go of those stereotypes of Americans we seen in the media, how do we do business here?
Lorch has some sound advice, “Americans are informal and direct in business dealings and make decisions relatively quickly – so don’t be afraid to ask for the business and discuss specifics like delivery times and costs.” But, don’t mistake that good old American positivity for success. “A positive attitude is much admired in the US, so even if someone tells you they’re “incredibly excited” about meeting you and hearing about your product it doesn’t mean you’ve made the sale!” observes Lorch.
So what have we learnt about doing business in the United States? Don’t treat this country as one…
Special thanks to Jackie and Melanie for this article.
Jackie Lorch, Vice President, Global Knowledge Management, SSI USA
Melanie Courtright, EVP, Products and Client Services, Research Now
By Alieke Stubbe
Every day we interact continuously with technology by using our smartphones, wearing activity trackers and being online every single moment of the day. Thanks to this, we get smart notifications and real-time information. Think about Google Calendar that tells you exactly when to leave for work based on real-time calculations. My Garmin tracks my activity every day and I just love the fact that I can follow my own activity and optimise my daily behaviour via a personal app.
Technologies enable us to do things we could not imagine a few years ago, but there are still some issues today. First of all, it’s not a seamless experience. We need PIN codes and passwords or have to carry extra devices, which can be rather messy. Overall, nothing is really connected and this creates a very fragmented experience. Secondly, the most important and biggest issue, it’s a blind spot. We don’t always know when we are disclosing information or what will be done with it. We have no control over our own information!
Imagine we could “uberize” the whole idea of data collection: what if humans could leverage and exploit all the data they are collecting anyway? Just like pretty much everyone can drive a car, what if everyone could make value of their own data? Moreover, how can the market research industry benefit more from technology and consumers’ addiction to track just about everything? How can we combine the value these technologies bring consumers with our need to collect data?
In comes the chip: a non-painful chip implant that can be (de)activated by the chip carrier every month. A chip so smart that it captures your behaviour, the brands you use, your emotions, moods, thoughts and attitudes. A chip that can connect with your debit card, smartphone, car and even your home security system. A chip that uploads all data in real time. All these metrics are tracked and can be used anonymously for commercial purposes (like in traditional market research).
And what’s in it for you, the chip carrier? The chip provides you with the ultimate personal coach! You can set personal goals according to your weight or your activity level. You can get personalized working schedules, spending alerts and so on. Companies can offer you customized services and products based on your data (e.g. bank accounts, insurances, etc.). And all this very conveniently and seamlessly. Above all, you are the one in charge of your data, you decide when you want to share your personal information and to whom.
Think about it, no more self-reported data, no more ad-hoc set-ups, no more ‘annoying’ questionnaires. Think about real-time human data and having access to everything consumers do, think and feel. This way we can move from researching to monitoring. Furthermore, we can forget about looking at the what, who, how and when questions; the chip will tell us everything. The only thing we still need to figure out is the WHY, why do consumers do what they do?
So what do you think? What would you want in return for sharing everything you do, think and feel? How much would you want for having a (market research) chip implanted in your wrist, tracking every movement? What price would you want for giving up your privacy? 10 000 euro a year? 500 euro for every month you share your data? Would you have your studies paid in exchange for sharing all your data during those studies? What would be a fair transaction between research agency and participant?
Alieke joined InSites Consulting as a Qualitative Research Consultant, after completing a Master’s degree in industrial psychology & human resources and a Postgraduate degree in marketing management. As part of the InSites Consulting Technology & Services team, she is currently working for a range of local and global clients. With this idea on the future of market research she was rewarded with the Febelmar Young Talent Award at the annual Febelmar Congress in Brussels.