In the past two years, we have watched the Big Data phenomenon lead the market research industry in a new direction. Organizations have built immense databases with information on everything from science to retail, from government to consumer opinions. As growth continues and big data plays a larger role in marketing decisions, suggestions that big data will push out traditional market research have been discussed. But, in all reality, that simply will not happen.
Big data provides organizations with massive amounts of information that can be so large and complex, research teams would not be able to organize and make sense of all of it themselves. Technology has been developed to store and provide easy access to the data, which has helped the market research industry identify trends from the past and project future trends based on quantitative information. Using unbiased big data can assist organizations in making key decisions that will directly impact their business.
The key thing that big data doesn’t do is provide the qualitative information that helps support the information set in front of us. This lack of qualitative focus can create several gaps in a company’s business intelligence strategy.
Data doesn’t answer the why.
Even companies with the largest datacenters, hosting tons of information on their customers, cannot answer why they behave in certain ways. An article in the Huffington Post analyzed Facebook, a company with data on every photo, post, and like we have ever done, and discovered that even with all their information on their users, they still regularly poll members about their Facebook experience. This is because big data is not answering why users like/dislike aspects of the site or what their attitudes are.
Data might be too big.
With all the information that big databases hold, finding statistically significant correlations might become more difficult. Computer programs analyze all the information and create correlations amongst answers and behaviors it identifies. These technologies do not recognize associations that might not make sense to even the most complex of machines, requiring human rationale. As databases grow, inaccurate correlations will increase as well. We, as researchers, must not rely 100% on big data, but still continue to analyze ourselves.
Data doesn’t replace companies’ competencies to use market research.
Investing in the latest high-end operating systems to hold big data at your company does not mean you will now be able to analyze and use all that information effectively. Many organizations do not use the information they already have in an effective manner, meaning they do not manage, analyze, or use data to enhance their understanding of certain aspects of the business. If a company does not work to understand how to use data and analysis to make business decisions, then using big data is potentially unbeneficial.
As more and more companies begin to use big data-- which they will-- it will be most important for market research teams in these organizations to use big data as a supportive tool to true research. Big data has so many benefits that can make researchers’ lives much easier, but, the key thing to remember is it simply does not replace the information that can be gathered that computers do not understand yet. Human interaction, understanding, and behavior are still what traditional market research works to understand.
To learn more about Big Data and its impact on the market research industry, check out some of our other blog posts.
Thanks for reading!