What changes does technology bring about in the field of market research? Where technology is a disruptor for some, to us it is a clear facilitator for our work. Other than the exciting area of data analytics and AI-assisted analysis, which are widely discussed elsewhere, four areas stand out where technology significantly enhances consumer insight generation.
Accessibility is the umbrella term under which we can summarise those four areas: 1) geographical coverage 2) ongoing dialogue 3) live channels/ real-time feedback, and 4) cross-generational access to interested consumers.
#1: Nation-wide Coverage Enabled by Online Tools
Technology brings versatility and diversity to research results. Collecting insights from customers in rural Hokkaido or Okinawa used to be prohibitively expensive – and arduous work. Today, with digital tools commonplace, it is possible to access consumers anywhere in Japan, even the remote islands. Studies no longer need to be limited to the easily accessible audiences, mostly concentrated in urban centres. This is particularly important as sales channels have also expanded to include (almost) all locations.
Technology opens up access to the full potential audience resulting in better accuracy and understanding of the data for a client’s product or service. There are various secondary benefits too – money and time saved on travel can be reinvested in other areas of research, and easier scheduling means projects can be turned around faster. In sum, more efficient access to the full range of potentially interesting respondents.
#2: Continuous Engagement with Dedicated Online Customer Panels for Brands
Digital tools, such as online communities, allow us continuous and long-running access to consumers, meaning an ongoing open two-way channel with customers nation-wide. Rather than sporadically listening in, you can constantly have your ears to the ground. Moreover, having a more longitudinal consumer panel can be a cost-efficient way of having an open channel for collecting immediate customer feedback, putting feelers out for ideas, or gathering data to make insight-led and evidence-based strategic decisions – as setting up new studies for each project is time-consuming and costly.
A dialogue over time also creates opportunities for more creativity and innovation in methods of communication. For example, chat-based research is more relaxed and informal, creating a space for respondents to express themselves more openly and honestly. Building something of a rapport with the consumers, combined with strategic decisions about when to refresh the consumer group, results in more dynamic (less static) research conversations with consumers that get into the motivation behind their decision-making offering a new depth to insights. The questions that are being put to respondents and even some of the fundamentals around the focus of a study can also adapt over time according to feedback that the same study is generating. Considered from this perspective, consumer research is less one way and can almost be animated or brought to life through technological advancement in participant engagement.
#3: Real-time Participation from Anywhere
Automating the interview process means it is possible for you to access consumers anywhere in Japan more easily; conversely, teams from anywhere can more easily join the fieldwork, listen in, and attend to unfiltered consumer insight first-hand. Not every client will want to sit in on every research session, but there will be times when that direct feedback from clients will be valuable, and that is now a far more viable option.
Sometimes live, but more likely with recorded interviews that can be viewed anywhere and anytime, not to mention, a number of times. This also means we are working from richer data. Where traditional interview methods might have resulted in losing an opportunity to tune into what respondents have to say, there are a variety of ways to both analyse raw data and present findings now. Advancements in technology mean that we can, for example, comb the same set of data multiple times looking at different indicators; and use the research sessions to present information to the client in a way that brings the findings more to life. Real-time access therefore covers a variety of benefits – some around speed of presentation to the client; some around the form of that presentation; and some around the quality of analysis that can be achieved.
#4: Cross-generational: Reaching New Customer Segments
Lastly, technology brings a significant impact in terms of reachability of a wide variety of candidates for interviews and studies. The different this makes is huge because, for clear reasons, candidate selection is at the heart of market research. Who you can talk to used to be limited to those people who signed onto research panels. But not anymore; because, today there are tech services for anyone to easily join panels or become respondents, allowing much wider access to groups of consumers who were previously impossible to reach.
LINE RP is a primary example of being able to access huge numbers of usually difficult to recruit Gen Alpha (aged xx-18y or so) consumers in a way that feels far more natural to them by adding them as their friends on the LINE app. They would get notifications from time to time that there are surveys to join, and they would get LINE points after completing the survey in return. It is a genuine win-win, easier for researchers to recruit and for respondents to reply during their daily business. The difference between traditional method and access created by tech services is significant, a far more hassle-free way to engage previously tricky-to-reach groups of consumers.
Technology brings game-changing changes to the world of market research. These new levels of accessibility are a tangible disruptor. For some service providers, they will challenge traditional business models. However, they also create an environment in which it is possible to generate more accurate consumer insights faster, and also more efficiently. The reach – both geographic and in range of consumers that can be engaged; the relationship with respondent enabling more relaxed styles; and the agility and variety of access client companies can get to output – technology continues to change the whole field of market research.