Marketers are data drunk

As published in Research World Magazine by ESOMAR in October 2017. Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to interact with and observe several evolutions on the end client side. Depending on how we look at the glass, the developments are worrying or an opportunity for our profession as well as an industry but the outcome is the same. We need to help end client insight professionals ‘deliver’ on truly understanding consumers.
Research and data have democratised. Marketers and brand owners have plenty of figures available and in digital native companies it is the lifeblood. In today’s (digital) reality everything is measured constantly and real time experimentation is easier than ever before. This brings considerable implications for insights professionals on the client side.
First, all that ‘gets measured’ also creates the impression of it ‘being managed’. Hence, many marketers believe they now know everything and consequently have a diminishing need for market research in the traditional sense. Specifically descriptive and ad hoc research is being replaced and foundational work becomes a planned business action. Digitisation also generates pressure on methods. Agility is common so identifying information needs, collecting data and delivering insight must be simple and (almost) streamed in real time. In addition, suppliers of digital and data driven services apply a different go to market strategy as they push themselves through marketers not research departments. All the evolutions are happening at a very intense rate. To use an end client quote:

What we have learned in the last 3 years is completely different from what we have learned in the last 20 years, and what we have learned makes the last 20 years obsolete”.

These evolutions may be leading to the fact that insight departments on the client side are side lined. During a variety of ESOMAR conferences and discussions with end clients I have seen some of the following observations from end clients:

1. Keep relevant and visible internally

To keep a seat at the table (or be invited to it), human collaboration and internal marketing are key. It is all about developing human relationships internally as well as externally. Insight departments need to adapt their way of working – adopt a start-up mentality, be lean and go the extra mile as a business partner.

2. Redefine quality

Research quality has a broader meaning and should now factor in ‘time’ and ‘appeal’ against ‘good data’. Delivering something on time or conveying a message in a sexy format is also quality. But insight professionals can still be the guardian of data and analytics quality. Big and social media data only cover part of reality and has recently been proven imperfect. Researchers are capable of making risk assessment to determine whether the data quality is good enough and the incomplete coverage of reality is still sufficient to base decisions on. Add cost to the mix and it becomes a matter of assessing if e.g. 60% of the answers at 10% of the cost or time is good enough?

3. Focus on the delivery of innovative methods

Brand owners want to stay abreast and ahead of a fast changing reality but at the same time have low attention spans. With this in mind, we should focus on research innovations that bring simplicity and speed but also add human context. Behind every (good) data point or click, there is a human being which we all want to understand.
Marketers are data drunk. They do not need more data but more value!
Eager for more insight on the market research industry? Check out our Market Research Today, Tomorrow and the Day after Tomorrow infographic featuring an insight into the future of the market research industry according to corporate researchers.

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