Transformational research

As Anita Peerdeman pointed out in her recent blog post on the internal Galvanize Congress of InSites Consulting, researchers got stuck in creating extended PPT decks and cherishing a practice of sending. In best case, a deck with solid conclusions and valuable recommendations is brought by a talented storyteller, but often nothing more than a well-designed set of charts and tables is sent over by e-mail.

The insight generated from primary research is just the hidden, underlying driver of company growth. Provocation and inspiration are what actually drives transformation and actions.”

This is how Stan Sthanunathan, Senior VP CMI at Unilever, stated it at least year’s ESOMAR Congress. So, what does it take to deliver research in such way that it has that transformational effect? This was a big theme during the Galvanize Congress.

Fight commodity, enter the experience economy

Thomas Troch and Filip De Boeck shared their point of view, inspired by the Progression of Value framework developed by Pine and Gilmore.
Transformational research
Applying it to research deliverables, raw data and table reports can be regarded as a COMMODITY. This is not differentiating and the value it provides is limited. It becomes a GOOD when these results are turned into a PowerPoint presentation. Only by adding workshops and consulting can we refer to research as a service. This is more differentiating and is also perceived to add more value. But is this SERVICE level sufficient to drive change?
Luckily, Pine & Gilmore feature a 4th type of offering: EXPERIENCE, a series of events that stimulates the senses and activates an audience to pay full attention. It evokes emotions which are crucial in creating memories. How can we now deliver market research as an experience?
As shared by Thomas Troch and Filip De Boeck at our Congress, we need to bring insights in a way which is memorable and generates empathy. It may come in many formats and shapes, but it boils down to two crucial dimensions to engage an audience; the level of participation and the type of connection.
Transformational research
Level of participation: at one end of the spectrum lies active participation, where the research audience interacts with events and affects their flow. At the other end lies passive participation, where the audience doesn’t influence the events.
Type of connection: the second dimension is about the connection of the audience with the event. If they are observing the event from a distance, they are absorbed. If they go into the experience, they are immersed.
Over time we have developed a broad set of tools and techniques to engage smaller audiences in workshops. We play board games to explore personae and insight platforms, or casino games to bring across the results of a concept test, both tools creating interaction to have results absorbed. In other instances, we set up consumer speed-dating sessions or go on a consumer safari with clients, working more on the empathy side.
But how can we further scale this, without necessarily requiring any active participation from employees?

The (ro)bots are coming

The need for experience raises the bar for our own Insight Activation Studio. The Studio is a digital application that connects internal stakeholders around consumer observations. Employees can enrich Tiles with short, snappy and visual consumer content that is curated by researchers through their own observations and ideas to identify actions together. We believe that the Studio, as it stands today – though already disrupting the way research is shared and used within companies – will develop into a hub for experiential deliverables in the future.
The wider market research industry recognizes that today we are just at the stage of experimentation but exponential technological change and growth are expected to hit the industry sooner rather than later. What will Artificial Intelligence bring to the table? With Marck Zuckerberg pointing out that conversational interfaces will replace apps, we are adding a chatbot, Galvin, to the current Studio experience.
Jilke Ramon, Ken Vanderbeken and Tom De Ruyck revealed some upcoming Studio features. Via a bot, we can give employees the feeling to be talking with their consumer while they are actually interacting with user personae based on predetermined consumer segments. A bot can also help users to proactively point them to Studio content that is of most interest to them, or alternatively help them find the content related to a project or business question based on a smart search functionality.
By integrating Virtual Reality, we make immersion more scalable to a bigger audience. Instead of limiting the experience of an in-home ethnography to the happy few, VR could make this experience accessible to a whole organization, by literally walking in the shoes of consumers when buying or using clients’ products.

The end is near – the party is just starting

We had a lively debate at our Congress on how to surf this bigger technology wave. Some might fear an unseen shake-out in the industry, but we believe the time is right to start experimenting. Let’s build this future together with our clients and take market research to the next level, for both practitioners and users. To that point, Ray Poynter from NewMR believes that

”Automation and Artificial Intelligence will, over a period of time, replace the worst (approximately) 75% of market research, leaving just the best as having a significant human component”..

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