How technology is transforming market research
If there’s one thing that’s universal, it’s the desire to be heard and understood — and in the digital-first world of today, it’s never been more important for brands and businesses to keep a finger on the pulse.
From the expectations of prospects and job candidates to employee concerns and customer demands, listening to every voice, understanding every need and acting on every opportunity is what enables leading brands and businesses to thrive.
For those that miss the mark, the risk is huge: bad experiences cost organizations some $4.7 trillion every year globally — and as the cost of switching trends close to zero, it’s never been easier for customers and employees to go elsewhere.
What’s redefining how organizations engage with people is market research and the emerging technologies to support it and strangely, it’s the best-kept secret in modern business.
The best-kept secret in modern business
Historically, market research has always been perceived as a ‘back-office’ function — a core component of the business and contributor to success, but one that’s never seen, talked about or in some instances, celebrated.
Even so, market research has offered answers to brand and business problems for decades: What do prospects want? How do customers feel about our brand? What products and services should we pursue? All of this to achieve a competitive edge.
But as we venture more and more into data-driven and data-led environments, especially with the rapid shift to digital due to the pandemic, it’s become increasingly essential for brands and businesses to get higher quality insights faster.
At the same time, people increasingly expect brands to connect with them in more meaningful and personal ways, from providing tailored recommendations based on the data they themselves share to listening to and actioning feedback. The move to digital hasn’t just changed customer behavior, it’s completely flipped the script on what we all expect from those we buy from.
It’s no longer enough to just ‘understand’. To stand out, organizations have to predict and anticipate — and we’re seeing it happen at scale.
Implementing the technology to win
Across the globe, organizations are doubling-down on MR tools with emergent technologies — APIs, automation, natural language processing, advanced statistical analysis. Subsequently, in just months, market research has moved quickly from a responsive ‘back-office’ function to a strategic, proactive and always-on service.
And it’s taking the spotlight.
According to our own research, 77% of organizations highlight market research technology platforms as critical to their success. After all, technology has drastically altered the way in which market research is done and made it possible for everyone to capture, analyze and use insights.
Artificial intelligence is supercharging automation, enabling brands and businesses to implement feedback at scale and grow their initiatives like never before. By consuming great swathes of data, natural language processing (NLP) tools can understand intent, sentiment and immediately link feedback to the appropriate teams.
Through AI and automation, market researchers can drastically reduce time to insights, run highly advanced statistical analyses with just a click, carry out and collaborate on research projects with any department in the organization, and cut costs across the field.
Furthermore, the platformification — or tech-driven integration — of market research is helping brands and businesses to consolidate market research tools, data points and touchpoints to achieve a holistic view of customer behavior and research activities. Through this, organizations can achieve an end-to-end democratization of insights. Part of this includes the union of qualitative and quantitative research capabilities in a single platform, and for novices and experienced market researchers alike, it’s providing a consistent and accessible level of depth that was never available before.
The union of qualitative and quantitative research capabilities in a single platform
Indeed, for market researchers, one of the most pertinent technological advancements as a result of platformification is the union of qualitative and quantitative research capabilities in a single platform.
Typically, organizations have carried out qualitative and quantitative research in a siloed fashion, only amalgamating insights after the fact. They’d use several different tools and methods to capture data and glean insights, but they never truly carried out real-time nor responsive analysis of the data.
One research team would focus on qualitative research, which is all about collecting non-numerical data through open-end responses, such as interviews, focus groups discussion boards, to gather deep and meaningful insights. The other, quantitative research, which is about analyzing numerical data through statistical analytics methods to generalize results across larger populations.
Now, things have changed.
By combining these two methods and in a single platform, organizations can access deeper and more meaningful insights, and simultaneously test hypotheses, compare and contrast results, scale activities and embed rich insights at every stage of the research project.
Researchers can now bring generic and flat data (quantitative) to life in real time by using studies from a smaller group (qualitative). Likewise, they can learn from initial findings from qualitative studies and then test their hypotheses at scale using quantitative research.
But the question is, with this game-changing capability, how can organizations effectively leverage market research data to inform and transform personalization at scale and in time?
Using market research data to transform personalization
The fact is that everyone wants more human and personal experiences. It’s not just about addressing needs after the fact, it’s about hearing and understanding people in the moment.
At the heart of this process is market research. Technology hasn’t just transformed how researchers gather insights, but also how, when and where those insights are applied.
For example, through the union of qualitative and quantitative data, market researchers can understand — at scale — the behaviors, wants, needs, expectations, challenges and opportunities of prospects, customers, products, services and more. This enables them and teams across their organization to leverage findings and create unique experiences for every customer segment and individual.
There’s more: let’s say your market research department uncovers a need to enhance the customer service experience through a combination of self-service and dedicated account manager options.
With this information, you can then use AI to personalize customer experiences at scale and streamline specific outcomes. Let’s say a customer is looking for a specific product on your website and starts a conversation with a chatbot. That chatbot will analyze the customer’s previous history on your website and purchase behavior to provide a tailored list of options, as well as a series of product recommendations. From here, the customer can self-serve and follow the path most relevant to them.
When that customer next returns to your website, the chatbot has a complete record of that visit — and that information is shared with your sales representatives. So the moment the customer asks a query the chatbot can’t answer, they can choose to be forwarded to someone who can — and that person has the complete context of their situation.
As important, both the chatbot and the CRM used by the customer representatives will record that customer’s preferences for engagement and communication. This means a truly unique experience for every single visitor.
And all of this was achieved as a result of a market research programme.
Empowering researchers, teams and everyone across your organization
Finally, the technological transformation of market research extends beyond just how it’s used by researchers — there are benefits for everyone in the organization, too.
The digitisation of market research means that everyone can now create, run and manage market research projects at scale, while intelligent functionality and modularity means that they don’t need research expertise to design effective projects. Drag-and-drop capabilities and intelligent, AI-driven statistical analysis mean that teams can create new and highly efficient research projects on the fly.
The brands and businesses that consistently win and differentiate themselves are always running market research projects supported by these technologies. They’re monitoring activity across digital and offline channels and connecting captured data to a central platform where they can analyze it and glean insights from it.
The result is that when it comes to new campaigns, product launches, experiences and the like, market research is the foundation that supports them from beginning to end. Whether it’s running product concept tests to identify and validate the most promising ideas, or conjoint analysis to narrow down the best packages and products to offer, or simple. Furthermore, within these use cases, organizations can use highly effective digital intercept surveys to measure sentiment and satisfaction with digital products.
Simultaneously, market research and the right technologies are the foundation for helping companies to create empathy-driven experiences and understand their customers.
As unstructured data grows in importance, the technology to capture and decipher this data is opening up entirely new ways for organizations to listen to and understand people at scale. Then, through the use of refined AI models, they can decipher human sentiment, behavior and intent at a level previously unknown. Then, by reinjecting this information into campaigns and strategies, organizations can achieve a 360-degree view of their prospects, customers and employees.
Having the capability to do the above is mission-critical, and the organizations that are listening to their audiences, understanding needs and acting on experience data are the ones leading the charge.
Learn more about the 2022 market research trends and challenges
May 19, 2022