“Big Data” has been quite a buzzword in recent years, but it does have some real world implications for those in the market research industry. As technology evolves, it bleeds into market research and creates both new challenges as well as opportunities. Internet and mobile research have blended with new tools, such as survey applications, and many brands are taking advantage. What does this mean for market research and the professionals that perform it? Will they be pushed to the side, or is there a way for market researchers to adapt and strengthen themselves through these new technologies?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment opportunities for market research analysts are expected to increase 32% from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Big data may have made certain market research positions redundant, but with brands and companies wanting to spend more time researching consumer behaviors, it’s easy to see how a tech-savvy market researcher can set himself up for a lucrative career.
It has never been easier than it is today for brands to survey their customers and then target them with marketing messages and media. They can accomplish this by using their own internal data or by leverage surveying solutions offered by software companies for a low cost. Customer surveys and research have always been an important part of making business decisions and developing advertising or marketing campaigns, but technology is making this research more accessible than ever. The important thing to remember, however, is that without analysis this data is simply numbers. A human element will always be necessary to translate data into business intelligence.
Brands looking to understand their customers need market researchers to examine the landscape of consumer data. Where are consumers engaging with brands? Increasingly, this is happening on Internet-connected devices, whether they be computers or mobile devices such as cell phones or tablets. Market researchers that want to remain relevant within this changing landscape need to face the challenges of mobile and digital.
So, how can they do this?
Becoming skilled at mobile research
Market research is all about understanding the customer, pinpointing their needs, learning their feelings towards services and products, and determining the best course of action to market to them. In today’s increasingly mobile-powered world, there is an immense amount of data available from every stage of the customer journey. A talented market researcher can break this information down, segment and filter it, analyze it, and use it to make informed and targeted recommendations.
Don’t exclude data from mobile users. Sixty-three percent of adult mobile phone users went online using their cell phones and 34% of mobile Internet users solely accessed the Internet using their cell phone instead of any other device, according to the Mobile Technology Fact Sheet. Excluding data from mobile users means excluding a large chunk of the consumer population.
Utilizing social media networks
Real-time messaging and engagement between brands and consumers is becoming both increasingly common and increasingly important. Detailed information can be collected through these exchanges and brands will likely turn to skilled market researchers to interpret it for them.
Like any consumer data, information pulled from social media needs to be filtered and ordered so it can be used to provide actionable insights. Privacy is a main concern with social channels, so market researchers need to be sensitive to these issues.
Market researchers looking to find their place in today’s technology-driven world need to embrace big data and become skilled at interpreting it. The market research industry and the professionals within it will always remain relevant if they can adapt to interact with and study consumers online and on mobile platforms.
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This was written by Megan Ritter. Megan Marie Ritter is a graduate student at USC and an online web journalist. Follow her @megmarieritter.