By Neda Eneva
What does the future hold for the Market Research industry? Not a very light and easy topic to tackle, but the 2015 BAQMaR event in Gent, Belgium certainly managed to spark this discourse within the heart of each and every one of its delegates.
And while arriving in Belgium was accompanied by a very cold and rainy weather and a very tense and cautious atmosphere due to the current security threats, entering the artistic venue immediately lifted the spirits. Surrounded by welcoming faces and buzzing networking, I was excited to join the launch of the event with curiosity about what future insights it will bring. For me, one of the underlying themes of majority of the presentation was consumer-centricity or to put it in more buzzy words – bring back the power to the people.
This lead nicely into the behaviour prediction and consumer insights focus of Peter Harrison’s webinar-style presentation, which launched the Consumer Understanding track. Looking through the lens of psychology and economics, he argued that in market research, asking “Why?” could be misleading as imagery and narratives can influence product perceptions. The questions people ask themselves, he continued, are often more insightful than the questions researchers ask them. Understanding how heuristics work can help us close this gap, he concluded. Peter further shared that at BrainJuicer they have worked out a methodology, which helps understand and avoid the bias of asking questions through fame, feeling and fluency (or availability, affect, fluency heuristic respectively) of the product in the consumers perceptions.
New methodologies to measuring product value and perceptions was also the focus of the presentation by Anouar El Haji from Veylinx. He went further into the modern research approaches to measuring by arguing that indeed they carry two significant biases – the Hypothetical bias and the Hawthorne effect. His answer to this – “Ask people to put their money where their mouth is” or, simply put, auctions. At Veylinx they have adopted a form of the Lonely but Lovely Vickrey Auction thus impacting the value by changing the positioning of the product. They set up a product valuation by setting an auction in which each participant has one anonymous vote, with the final price being the highest losing bid. By auctions, Anouar argued, the people that are willing to actually pay for a product are more clearly distinguished from the people that are not. While a compelling perspective, this did not seem to work too well on the audience at the event, who when prompted to participate in such an action for a luggage tracker in the end refused to actually pay the money they bid for the product. We are yet to find out who will be able to track their suitcases in the near future and how much they are ACTUALLY willing to pay for it.
Similarly, the human focus was the leading theme within Anouk Willem’s (InSites Consulting) presentation on Turning Insights into Memes. She underlined that with the reality of consumer environment constantly changing, we need to spot new market opportunities and navigate this transformation through collective creative brainstorm. “Software doesn’t solve problems, people do”, Anouk reminded. I felt this message through Aart Labee’s presentation on McDonald’s ‘Crafting a wholesome experience through big data’ case study. Aart presented that insights that create true impact come from transforming Bid Data into Smart Data thus understanding the emotional, as well as functional feedback from customers, connecting internal with external data and most importantly, translating this internally into a passion to deliver among the entire staff.
For me the pinnacle of the “Power to the People” focus at BAQMaR’15 was the presentation by Denyse Drummond-Dunn from C3Centricity. Throughout her presentation, she reminded the audience that market researchers know and understand customers better than anyone, so we should all become customer champions within our companies. Denyse stated that market research insights should be the ones driving product development and not data scientists, as big data is only as good as the questions we ask. Data is about people and should be used to change behavior, which is why it is the “why’s” that matter most, Denyse explained. “Big Data has become something of a primadona and it is time to put it back in its place”, she argued. Market researchers need to make information the support act, by translating insights into customer centricity. She also presented the recent Insights 2020 findings highlighting that customer experience has been identified as a top priority for companies to perform better. “Customer expedience is a journey, not a destination”, Denyse concluded.
And so… these are impressions from presentations that focused on innovative methodologies, bringing back collaboration and resourceful co-creation. Understanding our consumers more deeply, but also ourselves in the process. But what will the future of our industry actually look like? The presentation that probably most ignited futuristic thinking for me was the closing keynote by Yuri van Geest from the Singularity University. He dazed the audience with an explosion of innovations from the world of technology. Self-driving cars, block chain, artificial intelligence, generators that creates energy from air. Truly mind-blowing! We are digitising the world and information is key, Yuri warned, because it is exponential. Exponential technology is accelerating and disrupting our whole planet in shorter periods than ever before. Organisations need to adjust and adapt to this new reality by working through open eco-systems and becoming inside-out entities. ‘We have just started with the technology revolution,” Yuri added, “and this is the most exciting and frightening time to be alive.”
What does this mean for market research? Christophe Ovaere from ZappiStore boldly finished his disruption through technology presentation by stating “Market Research as we know it, is Dead, Long live Market Research”. Does our industry need to change in its essence to keep up with the upcoming singularity tsunami? Are we not reacting fast enough to the challenges of tomorrow? And yet, there was that human element. The human element most visible for me throughout the presentations I had the privilege to attend in this rainy Belgian day. Because market researchers are the ones that understand consumers the best, because software doesn’t solve problems, people do.
So, what does the future hold for the Market Research industry? I leave that up to you to decide…
Neda Eneva is Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist at ESOMAR.
By Mary Logan
As Globalization continues to break down borders is there a chance that brands will become synonymous the world over? For instance, a number of celebrities and musicians have a global reach, portraying a consistent image across the globe – a case in point being the omnipresent Kim Kardashian and the singer Taylor Swift.
Could brands be facing a similar future?
The recent and swift exit of Target stores from Canada is a prime example that this is not the case and simply implanting a brand into a different country without truly understanding the local market place, can have huge financial consequence, as well as potentially a longer term impact on the brand itself.
However, the increasing pressure on marketing budgets, the rise of online shopping and social media has meant that some companies are underplaying or simply ignoring the important role that ‘on the ground’ research can play in highlighting the needs and habits of local consumers, which ultimately drives the success or failure of a brand.
Take for instance Canada, a young and growing country with its residents enjoying a high standard of living (average household income ranked 7th based on the OECD Better Life Index 2014). This country therefore offers great opportunity for International brands looking to increase sales by entering new markets. However, the more successful and sustainable brands have got it right by understanding the needs of this Canadian consumer.
A perfect example is Patak’s, the leading curry sauce cuisine in the UK. The company understood the importance of conducting local research when developing a growth strategy for the Canadian market.
Up until a few years ago, Indian food was a relatively unknown cuisine for the majority of Canadians. Patak’s needed to better understand this new consumer and to this end, conducted a U & A study to determine opportunities and potential barriers for the brand. The findings illustrated that for many this cuisine is intimidating, consisting of complex recipes which are difficult to prepare at home. Most also assumed the dishes were too hot and spicy for their palette. This is vastly different to the UK market where Indian food is deep seated into the local cuisine, Chicken Tikka Masala surpassing Fish & Chips to become Britain’s favourite dish.
Adopting a similar marketing approach to the UK would have therefore been disastrous for Patak’s and instead, the company took the findings from the U&A to implement local in-market support activities.
Compare this consumer driven marketing to the U.S. centric approach adopted by Target in Canada. 6 months into their launch when sales were falling short of expectations, the President made the announcement they were still trying to understand how Canadians shop and that Executives at Target will spend next year trying to reshape the habits of Canadian shoppers. This suggests the company did not do their homework before entering this new market place. His additional comment: “Canadians still haven’t fully embraced the “one-stop shopping” concept that’s so popular in the United States,” did little to assuage the situation.
However, in the ongoing uncertain economic climate, many companies continue to face challenging times and consolidating marketing and research departments across borders (as we are typically seeing in North America) is becoming more prevalent. However, it is important that in the quest to save money, companies do not ignore the cultural and attitudinal differences across countries which shape consumers behaviour and brand perceptions.
For instance, differences in environmental values led to varying reactions to a new product idea for Boil-in-Bag pasta within Canada and the US. While this idea registered interest among Americans (ultimately leading to in-market launch), reactions were very different in Canada. Here environmental and health concerns associated with boiling plastic and excess use of packaging resulted in the idea being rejected by Canadians.
While the internet and digital media continue to break down borders it is not the case that one size fits all. Cultural differences continue to play a strong role in how consumers interpret and interact with brands.
Conducting ‘on the ground’ research will therefore continue to play a very important and relevant role. Ignoring this could have huge implications for any organization, as Target found to their detriment, with losses of around $1 billion in the first year of their launch and swift exit from Canada.
Mary Logan is President at Research & Incite, a Toronto based strategic research consultancy.
Imagining the future is exciting, especially if, like me, your childhood was shaped by sci-fi versions of the future; Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Jetsons and Terminator, to name a few. If you can relate, most likely you are also disappointed in not yet owning Marty McFly’s hovering skateboard (Hendo doesn’t really count). If life was a product, at this point I would be asking for my money back.
So what does the future hold for market research? No, it’s not dead yet – I admit that my headline is a mere exaggeration to grab your attention in a disgustingly tabloid-esque style. This is a $40B industry (and growing). It’s not easy to wipe out an industry that is bigger than many small countries’ economies. Or is it?
When talking about the future, it’s important to also talk about the past. The rise and the demise of several technology titans leave valuable lessons for all of us. Everything goes well until something disrupts. Then comes chaos for a short time. Then reactive measures — your clients are gone; they are not as loyal as you thought. Then you realize that there isn’t much you can do and you try to salvage what you have. At this point the disrupting company is riding the wave of success. In the meantime, you’re just trying to cover the holes. You are desperate to look attractive so that someone else can buy what is left of you.
There are three very clear examples of companies who dominated markets but then were wiped out. In just 19 years, these companies lost a bit more than $90B altogether.
- Nokia: At its peak in 2010, it had $74.56B in revenue. In 2014, it recorded $13.4B
- Kodak: At its peak in 1996, it had $16B in revenue. In 2012, it filed for bankruptcy.
- Blackberry: At its peak in 2011, it had $20.59B in revenue. In 2015 it is $3.3B.
All these companies have something in common: they are victims of disruptive technologies that no one saw coming.
Comparing companies that failed individually with entire industries may be like comparing blackberries and apples (pun intended). However, one of the things (for better or worse) about our industry is how cohesive it is. We all seem to react at a similar pace to technology. If seen through this lens, disruptive technologies could be a threat to us all.
Winter is Coming
In our industry, data collection for primary research, comes in many forms, from Nielsen’s TV measurement tools to traditional face-to-face qualitative interviews. Historically, clients came to us as experts at collecting data and understanding it. We designed statistical models to make it more efficient and developed techniques to guarantee the accuracy of this data.
Technology has democratized data collection. The evolution in storage capacity has given us the ability to store pretty much everything without the need to ever delete a file.
Companies now know that all they have to do is collect as much data as possible about their interactions with their customers (this applies to any vertical), organize this data and push it through the right tools and resources. This is easier said than done, but until a few years ago, companies were discarding most of this data and going to third parties for insights about their consumers. I’m sure you’ve read the numbers – one of the careers in highest demand for the next 10 years is going to be data scientist.
The demand for data scientists is coming from every sector. There is an increasing need for people that can analyze data because companies are not discarding data anymore. It is being collected in truckloads. Our clients know that with the right resources, they can mine their data. They are generating all the data they need to get the insights they want.
The power of mining your own data, mixed with the power of mining publicly available data, is a very strong combination. Considering how big our digital footprint as consumers is, this is becoming easier and easier. Let’s take, for example, a company that recently launched a product called Crystal (https://www.crystalknows.com/). This application analyzes people’s public data and then it tells you exactly how to communicate with them. Go ahead, give it a try – it’s free at the moment,
At first it feels like reading your horoscope, but unlike Astrology, there is real science behind Crystal. On a quick test, it managed to match my profile with 97% accuracy. What this means is that if you look me up on Crystal, it will tell you what to say and what not to say, when you want to send me an email. Some of the tips it shares about my profile are freakishly accurate. This tool is the dream of every sales person. Until now, the most common use for technologies like this one has been to sell you very targeted online advertising. This tool takes it to another level.
At this point Crystal only sells itself as a tool to help you write better communications. But depending on how strong its profiling engine is, it (or something similar) could easily grow into other areas like market research. If they are able to determine how to communicate with someone, with “bigger data,” they should be able to apply the same sauce to larger audiences. The implications are tremendous. By analyzing publicly available data and blending it with historical data from your systems, you can shape messages, tailor products and understand behavior. All this without even asking a single yes-or-no question. Crystal is testing this at a very small scale, but its potential is really exciting.
Crystal is showing us how to push the envelope when it comes to mining publicly available data. It’s an ambitious project that is crawling the infinity of the web looking for those needles in the haystacks of information. Somehow, it is now managing to partially do it. Imagine if you could plug it to your own CRM system and allow something similar to profile your clients and tell you what to say and what not to say to them?
Let’s also look at Slice (www.slice.com). This service helps you to keep all your online purchases organized. It collects all your receipts, gives you analytics about your spending, tracks your shipping, and even monitors changes in the prices of the products that you have purchased, allowing you to claim refunds and rebates, saving you money! Best of all, this service is free.
Traditional market research online panels have a transactional relationship with their panelists. For completing every survey you get X, Y or Z. In most cases this is money for surveys. Slice is one of the many companies that show us that people are happy with getting services that make their life easier, and in return they will share their data. Google built an empire with this model.
These type of applications are appearing everywhere, therefore the sources of data and insights are becoming infinite. Clients are already looking at them with a lot of interest. What this means for our industry is that we no longer have the monopoly to provide our clients with information about consumer behavior. Technology has leveled the playing field for everyone. The most innovative agencies have identified this and are already creating partnerships and alliances with a lot of these new applications and services.
In the future, we may also become consultants to help our clients identify which tools they can give to their consumers. We could help them design those tools in such a way that the data gathered can be analyzed more efficiently. Moving from the “survey” to the “tool” will allow customers to voluntarily generate data, not in waves, but in a constant stream of data. This is the ultimate dream of the researcher, and it is also the ultimate dream of every client – real-time constant feedback about their users.
This sounds a lot more complicated and tedious than writing a survey. But don’t worry, market research is not really dead. Concepts and ads will always have to be tested. As long as there are people willing to answer questions in exchange for money, there will be room for this model. However, it is at risk of becoming slow and inefficient, compared to the new sources of data, and is therefore unattractive to our clients. This coming change could be a gradual process or it could happen in one single hit. We won’t know it until we feel the knuckles.
Felix Rios is Market Research Technology Manager at Ugam.
The Research Alliance recently carried out a survey with a number of client-side researchers on how the industry has changed in the last 20 years and what we can expect in the next 20. Here Keith Bates, Executive Chairman of Marketing Sciences talks about the results.