Why “Classic” Market Research Is Important – Now More Than Ever

by DJI

Recently, a long-term client who had switched firms the year before was commenting on his new work environment and said, “we’re not just data-rich, we’re data-drowning.  We are really strong on analytics but nobody seems to be able to answer the ‘why’ question to anything.”

Technology has delivered a lot of great new
customer intelligence tools to marketers; companies can “listen” to feedback through social networks and third-party websites like Angie’s List and Trip Advisor solicit and post reviews from consumers.  Companies can now establish their own direct feedback links in order to stay close to their customers and their critics.  In fact, entire departments are set up within corporations to help gather and analyze these streams of information – so why do you need to do research the old-fashioned way?

There are several reasons why firms still need market research today, in spite of all the different ways of finding out what people are saying about you.

  • Strategic Relevance:  Many feedback methodologies (and most of those more recently developed) assess what you are doing or have done – they look back, not forward.  As our client above noted, “we have a really good fix on how well we are executing, but not much at all on why we’re doing it.”  Both perspectives are important, but often one is sacrificed in favor of the other.
  • Balance:  Consumers will often volunteer feedback as a result of unusually positive or unusually negative experiences.  While their input should be taken seriously, it shouldn’t be taken out of context.  Keep the big picture in focus by viewing both the bad and the good alongside what your typical customers think.
  • Breadth of Focus:  You can study feedback from your own customer base, but this won’t tell you what has your competitors’ customers hooked.  Formal market research can be structured to include your competitors’ customers, giving you key insights into how you are really doing.
  • Probative Insight:  Social listening or monitoring trends in the blogosphere is a critical tool when your brand is caught up in an emergency or sudden SNAFU, but monitoring how reactions play out won’t predict how things will settle out over the long term.  Market research, because of its broader focus, can help tell the difference between a fad and a genuine shift in culture – and it can also help explain why change is occurring.
  • Options Analysis:  Problems are often more easily understood than solutions.  Many methodologies tout their ability to provide fast, almost instant feedback on how consumers may be reacting to a new product or ad campaign or PR issue… and that is important.  But in many cases, one needs to explore the “what ifs”.  A restaurant chain client had a tainted product problem and getting a fast and thorough insight into customer reactions was do-able thanks to industry technology.  But the information was simplistic; determining the ideal strategic response required more classic forms of digging.
  • Accuracy:  Professionally trained market researchers follow specific, tested procedures to avoid biased wording or leading questions and they ensure accurate sampling and data collection procedures are followed – all of which makes the findings more reliable.  If DIY research fails to follow these procedures, it makes it difficult for marketers to be confident that the findings are true and relevant for everyone in the market.
  • Objectivity:  Finally, it’s not just professional training and resources – independent researchers also offer objectivity, which is critical for tackling a business challenge.  When companies rely on internal resources for research, they can lose the objectivity that independent researchers bring to the table.   It’s easy to get so close to the issues that you lose perspective.

Image from www.kavewall.com.