Real-time and rapid-time research is where market research is going, in fact where it is at right now, writes Brad Aigner. The digital revolution has provided amazing new opportunities to market researchers and real-time research has upped the game in terms of both the speed and quality of data that we can deliver.
Along with this potential, however, the digital revolution has also resulted in there being so much data and information out there, that it has become litter in some respects, because so much of it is of little use. Data which lacks insight is not useful and often by the time you look at it, it is already old. These days it is important to receive actionable insights almost, if not, immediately.
Using market research to deliver insights to companies and decision makers in real-time is definitely the future. Research houses need to embrace real-time research right now and offer it to their clients. It enables a decision maker in a business to access data that tells them how a market segment has reacted to something as it happens and allows them to make a decision right there and then. The companies who can do this will be the ones who win. It is the job of market researchers to make meaningful insights available to these decision makers from the mass of data collected.
The opportunities technology provides for collecting information in real-time include methodologies of which consumers are both aware and unaware. Consumers can use their own tech devices to respond to a survey in-store. Sometimes, however, consumers don’t know that their behaviour is being recorded to make business decisions. Consumer behaviour can be captured using software in-store to extrapolate meaningful data, for example electronic barcode scanning information is collected when a consumer goes through a till point and is sent to a database in real time. This can help retailers keep track of what is selling, when and where. With loyalty cards individual customer purchase behaviour can be collected. This is now more than just a data dump, suppliers with the help of professional research analysts, are using this data to help businesses make strategic, actionable decisions.
Mobile devices can be used to capture consumer response to anything in real-time. Advertisements can lead customers to a page through their mobile devices through which they can transact and make a purchase and the response can be measured.
Real-time data delivery
One way of making real-time data immediately available is through online panels. As data is being collected in field, it is uploaded in real-time to an online dashboard with password access. While we are in field clients can login and access the data while our research analysts are sifting out meaningful insights in real-time, allowing for immediate business decisions.
FGI leverage free wi-fi hotspots for the purpose of collecting data. There is a big push for retailers to offer consumers free wi-fi and when individuals register and connect to a wi-fi network the personal data they enter is collected. In future whenever the customer connects to the wi-fi service, the connection flags that they are in-store and customised messages or surveys can be sent to their mobile.
Researchers can use this data to measure how long a particular person is in the store and when they leave the store. As soon as we get a flag that they have left the store, we send a link to customer service questions. One of the biggest value propositions of this real-time connection is the value of getting feedback immediately after the retail experience, when it is still fresh in their mind.
With the introduction of free wi-fi on taxis, research can be conducted via mobile in an area where it has traditionally been very difficult to engage. Another example is passengers on an aircraft who can be interviewed once they register for free on-board wi-fi. With techniques like mobile which we currently utilise, people can choose when they want to complete a survey, for example when they are waiting in a queue or for a flight. This methodology is far less intrusive, minimising chances of irritation and respondent fatigue and hence improving the quality of the data.
Streamlining research processes
Feedback through a mobile device that is based on fresh recall provides quality data that is much cleaner and more accurate. Real-time surveys can also be sent to samples for media research, we know that immediate recall of audience experience is much more accurate 30 seconds or a minute after an advertisement has flighted on television, for example.
Real-time research is rapidly transforming traditional research methodologies, the entire process from recruiting participants right through to final reporting has to be reassessed. Traditionally, creating a sample, recruiting participants, collecting and capturing data has been the most time consuming and expensive part of the research process, and it adds no value to the end result. The purpose of research is to provide actionable strategic insights that enable a business decision. Everything else is a means to an end.
Real-time and rapid-time methodologies streamline research processes. For qualitative research processes focus groups in the past required the recruitment of a group of people who had to meet at a pre-assigned venue at a specific time. This takes time and money, to pay the recruiters, for the venue, for refreshments, printed questionnaires and often the participants. With real-time and rapid-time research this focus group can be replaced by an online panel. People of different profiles and knowledge bases can be recruited as a sample and then called upon and put together to participate in an online focus group almost immediately.
Connecting anywhere in the world
We can now run focus groups using software that enables us to connect with people anywhere in the world. It is possible to live stream these focus groups directly to our clients as they interact. We can have a focus group moderator sitting in Cape Town and nine focus group participants sitting anywhere else in the world London, USA, Australia, you name it. The participants are connected through cameras on their laptops for a panel discussion. Anyone who wants to view can login to that session and be part of that discussion in real-time.
Another advantage is the quality and variety of focus group participants which now become available. Not only can one put together a focus group of participants from varied geographic regions, but higher level executives who may not have had the time, inclination or need for reimbursement can more easily be recruited. There is even scope for participants to login at a time that suits them. In-depth interviews can be recorded though audio and video and the responses will be delivered to a central database for analysts to collate and to deliver actionable insights to clients.
Traditionally clients have had to wait for a report to be presented before being able to use research insights to make decisions. With real-time they can make a decision at any time FGI sets up customised online dashboards on behalf of our clients showing just the critical information that they are looking for. Computers still can’t do everything and the human element is very important. Through technology this process can, however, be done in real-time with research analysts also logging in to the dashboard.
Writing in Admap, as quoted on the WARC website, Tricia Benn, MD (US) of Northstar, argues, “Real-time research is raising the bar substantially on the insights we deliver to our clients and creating opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago… Despite the undoubted advantages that real-time research makes possible, many clients, agencies and researchers remain reluctant to embrace the new, whether for reasons of habit, fear of failure or a simple lack of trust. A risk-averse stance is no longer an option.”
Brad Aigner is managing director of Freshly Ground Insights (FGI).
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