Corporations are hungry to know more and more about consumers, but gathering the right blend of data and analysis — in a time-efficient manner while also managing costs — is becoming ever more complex.
When asked to identify the biggest challenges in her day-to-day work, Tracy Paukstys, Senior Director of Client Development at Insights in Marketing, replied that “Clients are tasked with getting richer and more impactful consumer insights despite often more restrictive budgets and timing.” She noted that this “seems to be the norm more than the exception.”
Russ Klein, CEO of the American Marketing Association, expressed the same concern. “Researchers are expected to get more consumer feedback faster, using the same — or sometimes even smaller — budget,” he said.
Integrating Multiple Data Sources
To overcome these hurdles, Paukstys leverages custom solutions that mix different research methods. “For example, if a client’s objectives would be best addressed by engaging consumers from a wide array of markets, but the budget and/or timing allows for only 1-2 markets, we may recommend a combination of in-person qualitative and digital (online and/or mobile) qualitative to ensure both the breadth and depth the client needs while also managing costs and not impacting the timeline,” she explained.
As a second example, her team often combines the depth of qualitative with the power of quantitative to “really uncover the full story for our clients.”
Maria Stephens, a Senior Data Researcher based in Atlanta, also sees the value of using a hybrid methodology. For Stephens, creating data mash-ups is a new and exciting opportunity to tell a more cohesive narrative. “We’ve got the Internet of Things, social media, structured and unstructured data sources, along with second and third-party research, and research we collect ourselves,” she said. By fusing these data sources together, market researchers can “paint a detailed picture of the market and consumers.”
Effective Data Management
While synthesizing different data sources can deliver powerful, fast insights, this approach also includes its own set of unique challenges. Every company’s situation is unique, and finding the right data sources often requires innovative thinking.
“In a large agency, I work with dozens of clients, and everyone collects different types of data, and it’s rarely enough to create a holistic view of consumer behavior and the market,” Stephens explained. “Today’s market researchers need to think outside the box and find new sources of data.”
With an explosion in the amount of data organizations are able to capture, data and analytics will play a larger role in marketing research. In addition to data management, data mining and visualization will become increasingly important in order for organizations to create predictive models of the customer lifecycle, according to Klein. He also expects marketing research firms to hire more data scientists in the future.
Choosing the Right Technological Solutions
A multitude of new computer tools and platforms are now available to facilitate data visualization, analysis, and mining. But with so many options available, “it can be a full-time job just to stay on top of the software that’s available,” Stephens explained.
Not every tool delivers what it promises. “The downside is that a lot of solutions are claiming to be innovative and revolutionary when they are just starting out, so working with them might end up being a waste of time,” Stephens added.
As technology continues to evolve, market researchers will play a key role in navigating these different technological solutions. “What will be important for the market research professional is to be the expert on which tools a company should leverage, and how to leverage them to pull the right insights for the client to solve their problem,” Klein said.
Ensuring teams know how to use software tools properly will also be critical, as data can often be messy and complex. Incomplete and inaccurate information can do more harm than good, and the need for experienced researchers will not go away.
Staying Competitive in a Shifting Landscape
The challenges that market researchers face today are often related to time, cost, and the role of big data and technology. But on the flip side of these challenges are unique opportunities for experimentation and innovation.
What about you? What are the biggest challenges you face as a market researcher? Depending on the role, your experience might be quite different. Please share your perspective in the comments section below.
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