Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Future of Market Research Data Collection

By: Research Now CEO Gary S. Laben

This post was originally published on the Research Now Blog.

The vast expansion of communications technology has obviously sparked a dramatic change in the way our world functions. Certainly one of the most ubiquitous and transformational impacts is that brought on by new technologies that allow virtually everyone to remain constantly and instantly connected; connected to one another, certainly, but also to the growing number of systems upon which we are growing increasingly dependent, if not addicted. Modern communications systems have given users unprecedented access to information and services without regard to time or location, letting them get more done faster than ever before. Even more, the devices and systems continually monitor users’ behaviors to refine the responses to personalize the service delivered. By providing experiences that are tailored and relevant to each user’s expectations, this new generation of technology doesn’t just provide a better user experience, it also preserves the user’s most valuable resource: time.

The idea that we can use deep knowledge about individual and groups of users’ situations, preferences, and past behavior to provide a better, more efficient user experience applies equally well to market research. Of course, this is not a new idea. We’ve always used profiling data to target specific communities for research studies and minimize the amount of information we need to collect in each study. Avoiding collecting redundant data shortens surveys, reduces participant load, and improves data quality. What’s changing is the vast volume of data we can mine to automatically extract and maintain components of the user’s profile – even in real time – without the need to explicitly query them. This is the realm of big data.

Applying big data to market research has tremendous benefits to all involved in the research process. Data providers can use automation to maintain more expansive and accurate research databases at a lower cost. Market researchers can target research communities with greater accuracy and know more about them in advance of fielding a study, which lets them devote more of a survey to the core questions of the research rather than qualifying questions. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, the study participants benefit from reducing the number of tedious and repetitive profiling questions asked of them, shortening surveys, keeping them engaged, and giving them back valuable time.

The allure and promise of big data for market research is compelling, but not without risks and issues. Technology has created a window of opportunity for brands to know more about consumers than previously ever thought to be possible. But, just because we can reach everybody, doesn’t mean we should. Technology sometimes presents a facade that can lead researchers to lose sight of the fact that they are dealing with real people. Real people who have thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, dreams, and likes and dislikes. Dehumanizing a person to a set of numbers and patterns obscures the advantages that big data enables. Further, easy collection of data can make us forget about the very real and important privacy interests of our participants. If we fail to recognize, respect, and account for these concerns, we will lose their trust and their willingness to participate.

The market research industry must use big data as an opportunity to get smarter, quicker, so that we are able to be more personable in our approach to collecting information. We need to maximize participants’ time by creating relevant engagement for them that is also useful to the researchers. Big data presents a new opportunity to improve our ability to accomplish both.
At Research Now, having more data, specifically more accurate data, about people is what defines the quality of our panels. It allows us to be less intrusive and more in-the-moment with people who want to engage with brands. Having more information about whom we’re talking to permits us to put greater focus on core research by bypassing things like screeners and get right down to the questions our clients are interested in asking.

This improves the participant experience and gives our research clients the ability to collect more desirable data, which in turn fuels deeper insights and gives everyone back just a little more of their precious time.

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