Achieving better insights and better product delivery through in-house research
One of the most common questions for research and insights professionals is whether they should conduct their research programs and panel management in-house or outsource them to an agency.
Two organisations opting to run their programs internally are media powerhouse Nine Entertainment and custom art gifts company Redbubble. At the recent XM on Tour event, both companies shared why they chose to bring these research capabilities and audience management in-house and the impact it is having - from faster time to specific and evolving market insights through to creating richer profiles of customers and consumers.
Why create an in-house panel when outsourcing is the obvious answer?
The question initially put to both was why create an in-house panel when outsourcing seems like an obvious answer?
According to Melanie Ingrey, Head of Audience Insights at Nine the decision was heavily influenced by the sheer breadth of the Nine organisation, which encompasses print, television, radio, and a marketplace. “It really comes down to the demand we have from internal stakeholders,” she said. “Having an in-house panel allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of a fast-evolving media landscape, and to confidently track changes over time.”
Ingrey also notes Nine has ad-supported business units and the company needs to create compelling stories for its advertising clients, allowing the business to drive revenue opportunities. The company needs evidence about campaign effectiveness and category studies for the verticals advertisers play in.
“We need to package up evidence and insight-led conversations for advertisers. It would not be possible to respond to that by outsourcing because we need to constantly respond to advertiser needs,” added Ingrey.
In-house also brings a greater depth of knowledge over time, she observed. This knowledge would be lost to the company if audience research and panel insights were outsourced, making a bespoke solution the obvious choice.
For Redbubble, the decision to go in-house was an easy one. Running the program and panel in-house allows the company to respond to the complexity of its market and customers.
“We are a market where artists upload artwork and it’s applied to products on demand,” said Redbubble’s Lead UX Researcher Jo Lumsden. “The product does not exist until it is ordered.”
Lumsden said silos exist within the business and the only way to break those down was with timely qualitative insights. “We help connect the dots between the artists, customers and fulfilment.”
Importantly, the research group has buy-in from the very top of the company and Lumsden says leadership has great appetite for the evolving insights the group provides.
In-house research also lets Redbubble connect with customers at a deeper level. For many customers, the products they order are deeply personal, representing themselves and their identity. “There are rich emotions and when we talk to customers and artists we could talk all day. Doing this type of audience management In-house provides us with the scale we need for deep qualitative insights,” says Lumsden.
Capturing insights in fast changing environments
When COVID hit, Ingrey knew the news department, as well as advertisers, would call on her group for audience insights and sentiment. As such, she created what was initially called the COVID tracker, taking the consumer pulse every week and later going to fortnightly and monthly.
The service was later renamed Consumer Pulse and continues to this day. “Our audience wanted an outlet. They wanted to tell us what they were thinking and how they were feeling,” she said. Response rates were strong, with about 50 per cent uptake from people being polled.
It has since morphed into an in-house omnibus allowing new and topical issues to be added to audience polling by stakeholders. “We can pivot fast, add new questions easily and leverage the technology we have with a super engaged audience.”
The next step for panels, said Redbubble’s Lumsden, is to double down on bringing the human element to the forefront. “We are very interested in using video content to build empathy. We want to understand what customers are experiencing and put those insights into delivering better quality products and service.”
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