As soon as you think you understand market research, something brand new comes along to challenge everything you thought you knew. With the rapid evolution of technology, those moments seem to be happening more than ever.
Today’s market research campaign looks very different from how it would ten or even five years ago, and technology is one of the major driving forces behind the evolution of market research. Every year brings a slew of new tools, techniques, and platforms built to make research more accessible and more effective.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most important things that have changed in market research due to technology, and we’ll also explore what new changes could be lying in wait in the near future.
Market research technology: what has changed?
Over the last several years, there have been several significant technological changes that have impacted market research.
Technology has changed how industries operate, and market research is no exception. Advancements in technology have seen a rise in the self-service model, where brands can implement their own short surveys. But perhaps the most significant impact technology has had on the market research industry is agility. Market research technology allows researchers to quickly test, measure, and pivot projects.
Technology allows traditional research briefs to move past online surveys. For example, eye-tracking technology enables researchers to observe shoppers exhibiting their natural behaviours while walking around a real or virtual store, making note of fixation and gaze points. This can be highly revealing in usability studies, product and package testing, and shopping research.
Here are some of the main forces driving the evolution of market research.
It’s hard to believe that social media has only been around since the early 2000s. In the two decades since its inception, social media has transformed our lives, and market research is no exception.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more offer unique insights into your market and customers. These platforms are home to enormous reservoirs of data on your audience, providing unfiltered and direct feedback around how they’re feeling, what they want, their pain points, and hopes and desires. It’s also easier than ever to share surveys and questionnaires, collect attendees for focus groups, and much more.
Another benefit of social media is more accessible competitor analysis, allowing you to gain an easy glimpse into what other companies in your space are doing and saying, what marketing techniques they are using, and what’s working.
Observing customer behaviour
The explosion in personal technology devices like smartphones, IoT gadgets, Alexa, smart cars, and wearables make it far easier to observe the behaviour of your audience members and collect valuable insights in real-time. Even mobile apps can collect customer data and establish behaviour patterns.
Wearable technology is one of the most recent developments in this area. Gadgets like the Oura Ring, Fitbit, Apple Watch, Rayban stories, and much more allow researchers to observe customer behaviour as it takes place naturally in the real world. This gives a unique insight into how customers behave that can never be truly replicated in experimental conditions and can pick up on responses that customers themselves might not even notice.
It’s never been easier to analyze data and draw valuable conclusions, thanks to the vast leaps made in automation technology in recent years. The growing amount of audience data available to marketers can now be processed and analyzed much more efficiently, allowing you to gain valuable insights and learn as much as possible about your customers and how they behave.
Chatbots are another example of the power of automation in market research. These tools can ask questions and conduct basic surveys from social media apps and websites, allowing you to communicate with customers and collect valuable information in seconds without relying on time-consuming manual work by human staff.
Increased reliance on video and remote collaboration
Spurred on by the pandemic, video collaboration tools, and remote meetings have skyrocketed in popularity and ease of access. There are many advantages to this for market research, such as a shift away from in-person focus groups.
Researchers no longer need to hire a venue, convince large numbers of people to take the time out of their day to attend, employ multiple staff on the ground, and do all the other logistical tasks involved in a physical interview. Instead, the whole thing can occur via a Zoom call, saving enormous amounts of time and resources for both interviewer and interviewees. This also allows you to contact a much broader sample of participants without being bound by geographic location.
Reach much larger and more diverse audiences
Not so long ago, market researchers were confined to methods like postal surveys, local interview sessions, and phone calls. Technology — specifically the internet — has allowed researchers to radically expand their horizons, reaching audiences in far-flung parts of the country and even distant parts of the world.
It’s now easy to conduct real-time interviews and focus groups with people several timezones away, allowing companies to gain a much bigger and richer picture of their audiences. This is especially important for international market research but is also helpful to achieve a complete understanding of your audience as a whole.
Build richer buyer personas
As it becomes increasingly easier to collect data from your audience and analyze it in vast amounts, it becomes possible to build much richer and more detailed profiles for your audience members.
The buyer personas of the past were often vague, two-dimensional things, often built around vague generalizations and assumptions. The small amount of data available to researchers decades ago made it challenging to construct genuinely accurate and useful personas.
Today, with the enormous amount of data made available by technology and the internet, you can learn a lot about the people in your audience and build genuinely valuable and richly detailed buyer personas to inform your marketing decisions, product development, and much more.
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What the future holds for market research technology
As time goes on, market research will likely continue to evolve, driven by entirely new advancements in technology. Some of these developments will come as a surprise and may be unexpected side-effects of existing or planned technology. We can also predict some future trends based on what we already know.
Tools like AR and VR
Virtual reality and augmented reality open up a whole host of exciting new possibilities for market research. Both tools allow for much more interactive research where participants can use products and experience services in a completely immersive way without leaving their homes.
This makes it much easier to gauge responses, observe behaviour, and collect meaningful feedback without shipping large amounts of physical products to participants’ homes or asking them to travel to a research site.
One example is how Kadence worked with Asahi, using augmented reality to research a new packaging design. Participants used AR to generate models of beer bottles, allowing them to visualize what the bottle would look like in their own homes and provide more accurate and detailed feedback around specific details.
More use of voice assistants
Today, voice assistants are already popular, with tools like Siri and Alexa quickly becoming a central part of people’s everyday lives. These voice tools allow a unique insight into customers’ daily experience and behaviour, and if this data can be collected ethically, it has excellent value for market researchers.
Increased agility is a fascinating prospect for market researchers as technology advances. In the past, researchers were forced to take risky gambles instead of using a more flexible approach and making adjustments as needed.
With the ubiquity of data in today’s world, businesses can now take a more agile approach to market research, making quick and frequent changes and course corrections in response to the feedback they get from various channels. This trend could mark one of the most significant changes in how we conduct research over the coming years and suggests a step away from over-reliance on guesswork and individual opinion.
Technology has had an enormous impact on how businesses conduct market research, and as time goes on, that impact is likely to increase. The best thing market researchers and companies can do is be open-minded and prepared to embrace new technologies as they evolve.
At Kadence, we can help you harness all the newest and future technologies to conduct market research most productively and effectively, gaining valuable insights into your audience and getting ahead of the competition. Find out more.