person Guy Potter access_time February 5, 2018
Is Digital Disrupting Research?

Digital Transformation has got a lot to answer for. Customer expectations have changed, people want, expect and need information quickly. As a result, bricks and mortar businesses up and down the land are having to play catch-up and respond accordingly.

One area where this is being felt particularly keenly is the market research space. Data is so readily available for organisations that researchers are having to re-think ‘old school’ practices and adapt to these changes.

Additionally, digital is also driving change within the marketing and PR industries. It’s shaping a whole new way of thinking, especially with the increase of martech, which is also driving research to take on a whole new meaning and approach.

This begs the question; does research fit into this changing landscape, and is there a future for our industry?

Our response is, yes, very much so. In fact, the two work very well together. We explain why.

Big Data and research

A warm welcome to Big Data, the answer to every PR and Marketeer’s prayers. Volumes of data and algorithms now providing easily accessible and digestible analysis, costing little or nothing.

With this data readily available at our fingertips, it makes for fast, if not realtime, reporting; what a great method for top-level campaign analysis. What’s not to like?

However, what happens when a few detailed questions from a qualitative perspective come up at the board meeting? Does that top-level analysis give you detailed insights around the results? It probably won’t. You can make assumptions, but it’s not going to be definitive. The reason for this is, quite simply, down to human interaction.

Big data is exactly that, huge swathes of analysis and figures, but with little or no background explanation. If a campaign sees a drop in engagement, stakeholders will want to know why, and this is where ‘traditional’ research becomes more important than ever.

Respondents will, more often than not, give you the specific answers you need, and this is where we see Big Data as an opportunity and not a threat. People make purchases, donate money or use services, they are the ones following and engaging with an organisation or a campaign.

They are also the ones who stop making purchases, donating money or using services. Data will flag this is happening, but speaking to, and engaging with, people on a research level, will give you the ‘why’.

Speed, value and quality are of the essence

The speed at which data is now generated has been transformative. From a marketing-perspective, it has reduced the need for lengthy campaign testing or pre-launch analysis. It also means that any change or drop in numbers can be addressed and rectified quickly, at little cost.

This is where research does need to ‘up its game’, however. Clients need the answers just as quickly as the data analysis, and with this we also have to provide comprehensive research data that doesn’t compromise quality. A tough call.

As a result, treating respondents as people becomes critical. Establishing good relationships will have them engaged and proactively ready to respond when we need them.

It also means they are fully involved and committed to giving the best responses. With the accuracy of Big Data, we need to make sure our results are just as accurate and works with the overall analysis.

Research technology is also critical. Respondents need to respond quickly and easily, which is where Agile Technology stands-out, as clients are able to see results in minutes, not days, and therefore act quickly.

Targeted research

The great thing about Big Data is that it frees-up research to be more targeted and specific. Let technology deal with top-level data gathering exercises and we can get our teeth into what we do best, which is the more detailed analysis.

Ultimately, there will always be a need for the human touch in research, and I think we’re a long way off that disappearing. However, we do need to embrace and adapt to the changing research landscape. Digital disruption is not going away, so it’s crucial we need to work with it and not against it.

Let technology deal with the mechanics of data as it will, in the long-term, saves us time and money, and we can then get on with the ongoing task of understanding consumer, business and general human behaviours.


Guy Potter is maru / usurv's head of research and clients.
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