By Ziad Skaff, Managing Director for Hall & Partner MENA
During a recent meeting with my global Hall & Partners counterparts, there was a passionate debate about whether technology was killing or helping the market research industry.
I sided with the latter, simply because I’ve seen first-hand how technology improved the way we work. It’s no secret that digital technology continues to disrupt clients’ businesses and, increasingly, the market research industry.
The conversation between brands and consumers has evolved from monologue to dialogue.
Eventually, brands will have to request permission or earn the right to engage with consumers, fighting an increasingly complex battle to make an impression in people’s overworked and cluttered minds.
From my experience in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, catering to consumers is tough, mainly because of a high percentage of youth who are increasingly turning their backs on traditions and demanding personalization.
However, the region cannot be looked at as a whole, since each country has so many local nuances that brands need to recognize and understand.
Right now, the research and insights investments are not at the level needed to keep pace with change and enhance the consumer experience.
The region still lags behind most other markets and is yet to fully appreciate the importance of studies and evaluations at every stage of brand, product/service or marcom development.
Today, the need for better insights is greater than ever. Technology has allowed us to generate information and deliver findings in much more compelling and useful ways.
There are countless developments in the market research world but three, in particular, have really resonated with me.
RESEARCH AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Real-time stems from the ability to capture insights as consumers experience a product or service.
With smartphone penetration levels and current capabilities, traceable data can be combined with on-the-go surveys to accurately pinpoint consumer journeys, engage in timely conversations and limit the memory bias in delayed studies.
Mobile technology has allowed us to capture consumer feedback in real time. In a fast-paced world, where brands crave agility, mobile research helps us to react quickly and for a fraction of the cost.
However, despite this, it’s important to note that this shouldn’t replace all other forms of research just because it is cheaper. Marketers should always look for approaches that help them best reach their objectives.
Behavioural studies have been a hot topic in recent years, as we continue to bring more science into the way we understand and interact with consumers.
With technologies such as eye-tracking and neuroscience, we have started to recognize what consumers think and how they feel.
These techniques help us assemble a more scientific picture of their behaviour, as their rationalization of answers takes a back seat to the analysis of their physiological reactions to stimuli.
Behavioural research also bridges the gap between social listening and advanced psychographic studies to draw more accurate and servable personas.
CREATING INSIGHTS STORIES
Finally, delivery counts a lot in any business and this is equally true for market research.
Technology has allowed smart reporting, the blending of different data sources, the sharing stories and advanced data visualization, helping marketers to explore findings further while simulating different scenarios.
From basic dashboards to advanced data management and insights community platforms, the industry has grown drastically in the last few years. New visualization solutions save marketers time and help them focus on what counts the most.
If this proves anything, it’s that market research is evolving beyond qualitative and quantitative studies. I, for one, am excited about how technology has already made our lives easier and datasets more robust.
This merger of old and new has helped us engage with consumers in innovative ways, leading to smarter insights.
Technology hasn’t killed the market research industry, rather, it has allowed us to evolve and adapt in line with the changing climate.
The disruption we’re all facing right now will continue to push us to think smarter and apply our collective brainpower to helping brands build relationships that matter today and in the future.
The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Gulf Marketing Review.