What Lies Ahead? The Impact of Emerging Trends in Marketing Research

At The DRG, we keep a close eye on emerging research trends. Each new year brings a host of predictions about how the industry is evolving. However, reading a list of ‘top trends to watch’ is only valuable if it can be acted upon. Here’s some food for thought on how the developing research trends can provide opportunities to gain meaningful, actionable insights.

We see three core trends driving growth in the marketing research field:

  • Mobile Methodologies to deliver more precise consumer targeting and richer forms of data collection
  • Automation in reporting tools enabling timing and cost efficiencies
  • Finding the Story in the Data to facilitate more effective communication of results and ensure that the research findings are immediately actionable for all stakeholders

While not new, the growth in mobile research is noteworthy given how it’s bringing businesses closer to their customers in meaningful ways. The drive to find cost and time savings through automation is creating opportunities to extend research budgets. Perhaps the most important trend is the industry’s growing commitment to find new, innovative ways of translating data into meaningful business intelligence, making it accessible to a wider audience.

Here are some ways adopting these trends can enhance the role of marketing research to guide strategic decisions, at the pace of business, with greater cost efficiency.

Mobile Research: Bringing Brands Closer to Consumers

It’s no mystery why mobile research methodologies are continuing to gain traction.  According to the most recent PewResearchCenter data, cellphone ownership is virtually ubiquitous among Americans, over three-fourths of which being smartphones.

We’re all pressed for time, which makes it more important than ever before to limit survey length as much as possible.  The most successful mobile surveys average 10 minutes or less and are easy to complete.  As a result, participants’ responses tend to be of higher quality due to less fatigue.

Mobile technology gives us the ability to intercept respondents at the moment of their brand interactions.  With geo-fencing, researchers can invite respondents to participate in a survey as they reach a specific location.  For instance, a CPG brand could intercept consumers, while they shop, to ask their awareness and perceptions of POS displays showcasing their product(s).  A restaurant chain could gather ‘in-the-moment’ customer feedback by asking patrons to report actual wait times, greetings by staff, and other aspects of their dining experience.  The recency of brand interactions and timely recall of their experience increases the accuracy of data collected via mobile devices.

Given the multi-media functions of today’s smartphones, respondents are able to easily share photos or videos to communicate their perceptions and impressions.  Passive data, such as websites recently visited or the location of product purchases can be incorporated with other survey data (when obtained with permission).  Mobile research has the capability of bringing marketers closer to consumers’ actual brand experiences, providing a more holistic view of their behaviors, wants, and needs.

The ultimate value of conducting mobile research is the opportunity to engage more directly with respondents, gather rich information, with greater accuracy, without inconveniencing your customers.

Automation: Increasing the Speed of Information Delivery

Advances in automation tools, in the area of enhanced reporting software, enable researchers to deliver comprehensive research reports in less time. A key element driving adoption of reporting automation software is the ability to integrate data from statistical platforms directly into reporting software programs.  This capability minimizes the time-consuming step of manually creating charts and graphs, and other visuals.  Companies providing this technology typically offer a library of graphic images and ready-to-use templates to streamline the reporting process.

Access to these types of new technologies is, in effect, democratizing the process of data analysis.  Buyers of marketing research can take on a larger role in analyzing and reporting the raw data from their surveys themselves. However, like any new technology, there are cautions to keep in mind. While these tools help streamline analysis and reporting, users still need to have a strong understanding of the data and the analytical techniques being applied, in order for the reports to be accurate and valid.

Care must be taken, when analyzing results, to prevent faulty conclusions. Being mindful of the impact that base sizes, statistical confidence levels, and response bias can have on the research implications are just a few of the many factors that must be taken into consideration when drawing conclusions from research data.

Some wonder whether the drive to automate as many functions of the research process as possible will lead to eliminating human involvement.  The reality is there will always be a need for trained researchers with the ability to think critically about unique business challenges. It takes talent and experience to design creative data gathering methods and communicate results that inspires innovative solutions.

Actionable Insights: Letting the Data Tell a Story

Building on marketers’ need for turn-key research, there’s an increasing demand for reporting that goes beyond the data, tells a story, and identifies actionable opportunities. Here’s where the first principles of research design are critical.  Defining specific and quantifiable research objectives leads directly to developing the right questions, which will, in turn, collect the information and results needed to guide sound business decisions.

Once the research is conducted, it needs to be translated from raw data points into meaningful information that can be shared across a wide audience of stakeholders.  Data visualization techniques are becoming more commonly used to convey the key ‘story’ in the data.  Using compelling imagery, that depicts complex information in a visual format, helps the reader quickly comprehend what the data means. This can take the form of infographics, interactive dashboards, or even video clips.

Marketing research reports need to do far more than simply present data results.  They need to serve as strategic communication pieces, delivering keen insights into consumer behavior and inspiring quick action.  If a research report takes too much time to understand the implications, then it’s failed its purpose.

Putting Technology to Work

Taking advantage of the latest marketing research trends can help you get the greatest ROI from your research initiatives. Innovations in technology will continue to deepen engagement with consumers and provide richer information. Reporting automation tools can streamline the data analysis process, but need to be used with discretion. At the end of the day, if your research results fail to deepen the understanding of consumer behavior or spark ways to accelerate business growth and brand development – what real value do you gain from using trendy methodologies?

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