There is a rumor circulating that market research as we know it will be on life support by 2012 due to the increase of users on social networks. That is, according to some….
Social Media evangelists suggest that, especially business to consumer companies will realize that there is no better way to gain competitive advantage than understanding consumers by following them online. This tale is provoking red faces among traditional researchers, who are skeptical about the quality of the customer experience data available on virtual chats. With tempers boiling, it is time to reflect; in this world of YouTubing, Facebooking and Twittering, is there room for being conventional when it comes to customer intelligence?
No doubt the market analysis industry is facing challenges. Free and easy entry to mass communication channels encourages a variety of shopping discussions between people of different demographics. From these interactions companies never-before-imagined access toso-called “infectious insights.” However, presuming that this is the end of, for example, traditional focus groups and phone interviews is precipitated. Above and beyond that, the restricted debate about which data collection methodology is going to survive is simplistic. It leaves behind floating questions that might lead businesses to be better prepared to face these tendencies, such as, why the obsession with viral conversations is happening now.
The medium and the message
Not long ago, we were influenced exclusively by our close environment and mainstream media. It was difficult to compare similar products as the market lacked transparency. All of these factors narrowed our capacity to judge what was bad or good service. With the popularization of the internet and all its forums and platforms, consumers are finally able to be heard and informed. For this “tribe,” the objective of sharing buying experiences is to express their perceptions of brands and be knowledgeable about how to better spend their money. This is not very different from small talk between friends, but it is evident that word-of-mouth is spread faster when an unlimited universe of virtual communities is just a few clicks away. Nowadays, instead of asking advice from a neighbor about which bank is the best, anyone can start a group discussion with thousands of Facebook friends.
Consumers have now the tools and the voice to control companies´ reputations on a global scale. It means that you and I can be the medium and the message, roles that originally were played by marketing departments. And with power comes a change in attitude towards paradigms. These open resources are changing consumer expectations, as they are rejecting the established definition of quality and value. Because it is possible to search for information from different vehicles and smell manipulation before committing to a brand, we no longer just scratch the surface of a product or service. Bottom line, the real social media revolution is not technological, it is behavioral.
Tradition vs. Overwhelmed
Since we have agreed that the consumer transformation is physiological, the true challenge for market research companies does not have much to do with the methodology used to gather customer experience. Because ideas are spreading with little control from outbound marketing, lack of predictability of the analysis is the actual threat. Being an effective researcher these days means being aware of what influences shoppers´ decisions today, and what will be a good idea to sell tomorrow, accepting that some information collected may be seasonal or time-sensitive. To that end, it is imperative to keep track of the changes in the target group’s mood on a daily basis. Having said that, the forward-thinking researchers’, either non-traditional or traditional, mission is: work on a “Google-time” to scope out what is coming, in order to produce reports with ready-to-use action plans, and focus on insights needed to improve sales, marketing, staff productivity and product development simultaneously and continually.
Sexing-up traditional research
Every time new technology comes up, apocalyptic premonitions arise. TV would banish Radio; cable TV would close the local channels´ door; internet would make the TV history. As the rules history teaches us, we can predict that traditional market research will not be eaten by new trends, but yes the industry must hold the eyes wide open for certain transformations.
No matter in which side of the ring you are, the ideas are to:
- Focus towards building listening platforms with a more systematic approach;
- Identify specific touch-points that affect the enterprise´s triumph to avoid over-surveying;
- Start incorporating the vocabulary of new marketing-speak, such as sentiment analysis and emotional connection.
Along with this, what research should provide to end-users is a sense of connection with the vendor, making the purchasing process more personal. Jaroslav Cír, head of consumer & market insight at Unilever shares the same thoughts, “The brand ideals and ideology, full of optimism and endless possibilities, begin to contrast with the real lives of the consumers (…) Brands are ideas and ideas die when the gap between them and the reality becomes too wide.”
Finally, clients will never stop contacting companies through traditional channels. In addition, they are feeling more comfortable about expressing their needs. Companies are becoming more welcomed by their clients to use phone or postal surveys because part of the consumers’ behavioral transformation is the understanding of the importance of giving their opinion.
About the Author
Marketing Communicator focused on Loyalty and Social Influence Marketing. Specialist within Customer Experience Management.
At TeleFaction, Daniela Guido is responsible for the Corporate Internal and External Marketing Communications strategies, involved mainly in Market Analysis, Sales and Marketing collateral, Strategic Communications, PR and Online Marketing content.
TeleFaction - your specialist for integrated and automated multichannel customer surveying. Whether in-bound calls, face-to-face meetings, email or direct mail - we can measure it all- constantly and organisation wide.