Photo by Andy Kelly
LAST WEEK I HAVE SPENT 2 DAYS AT ESOMAR FUSION IN DUBLIN. THE CONFERENCE SHOWED US ONCE AGAIN THE DIVERSITY IN RESEARCH METHODS, GOING WAY BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL DESCRIPTORS OF ‘QUALITATIVE’ AND ‘QUANTITATIVE’ TOWARDS A FUSION OF BIG AND THICK. HERE ARE MY 5 KEY TAKEAWAYS AROUND THE CURRENT (AND FUTURE) STATE OF COMMERCIAL RESEARCH:
AI HAS TO BE WELCOMED TO THE TEAM
More and more companies are using machine learning and neuro networks for product innovation. Using passive data and organic conversations to understand market landscapes, consumer journeys, behaviour and attitudes provides an unimaginably deep insight into the real world without even asking questions – a constant ambition of researchers. But the rise of AI seems to be accompanied by the rise of human fear. Will the human researcher be superfluous because of this new colleague of ours, called AI? A comparative study conducted by German CPG company Beiersdorf reveals that the machine is better, or at least more efficient, than the human to search for content online and it also performs on par with the human mind when it comes to analysing the gained data and clustering it. But it still falls short in one crucial aspect: Meaningfully interpreting the insights. Hence there are great possibilities in working together with new technology and we sure should embrace it!
INFOBESITY IS ON THE RISE AND WE NEED TREATMENT
More and more data sources exist and, more importantly, more and more data sources are readily available. This provides at first sight huge opportunities and at second sight huge challenges. Hence insights professionals are searching for new ways to combine and aggregate the vast amount of data to make it actionable within the organization.
We do this, firstly, by working with data in more sophisticated ways to gain knowledge, e.g. by making use of the benefits of machine learning and advanced analysis, but also by adding qualitative analyses to understand the ‘why’s’ in our massive amount of data points to add meaning.
Secondly, the way we share insights is gaining more attention. Insights platforms are being optimized for use of various stakeholders in the organization and not just the analysis department: they are more fun to use and tend to combine a variety of data sources. Also, gone are the times where a simple PowerPoint report with a great storyline can break through and become viral in an organization. More and more clients and agencies go beyond traditional media to convey results to have impact.
CARPOOL KARAOKE INSTEAD OF CONSUMER SAFARIS
In qualitative research there is an increased awareness of the problems related to the, often hierarchical, researcher – participant relationship as highlighted by companies from Indian conglomerate TATA to oil and gas company Shell. They feel the urge to level the participant-researcher relationship to create a more trustworthy environment and to trigger an open dialogue.
In other words, more and more emphasis is put on not being “on” consumers’ shoulders, but rather “shoulder on shoulder” with them. Various presentations at ESOMAR FUSION showed creative and unusual approaches to do so, such as carpool karaoke in ‘consumer connects’. You think that would make you feel awkward? Indeed, it probably would, but it would be for both parties and ‘birds of feather flock together’.
IS QUALITATIVE BECOMING MORE QUANTITATIVE?
The presentations at ESOMAR FUSION pointed towards an increasing quantification in qualitative research. This scalability of qualitative data is a development that is driven by AI. While there clearly seems to be a wish for replicating the reliability of large data sets, clients and agencies crave for depth at the same time. While AI is gaining a seat at the table, it still doesn’t provide the stories that we long for. Instead we do need the human curation of data.
WE LIVE IN AN AGE OF DATA AGNOSTICISM
With an increasing amount of different data sources and methods out there today, the focus is not anymore on which data source or method to use, but on how we can help a client’s business case or solve a client’s business challenge; no matter how much we as researchers love to talk about innovative and exiting new methods. Solving business challenges often means that a combination of data from different sources is needed. This not only calls for more creativity in terms of what type of data is used but also more openness towards fused research. And, lastly, it also calls for researchers to be more commercial thinkers.