From neuroscience to behavioural economics, from advanced and adaptive choice models to participative ethnography, from facial coding to big data there are masses of analysis approaches that are threatening to be the next big thing (yes, I know they are not all new, but they are contending to be the next big thing), and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
However, in my opinion, text analytics (using the term in its widest sense, but focusing on computer assisted and automated approaches) is my pick for the biggest hit of the next few years. There are several reasons for this, including:
The software is beginning to work, from tools to help manual analysts at one end of the spectrum, to better coding, through to concept construction software, the tools are beginning to mature and deliver.
Text analytics, as a category, is not linked to a niche. Text occurs in qual and quant, in free text, in the answers to survey questions, and in discussions.
Text analytics will help us ask shorter surveys, one of the key needs over the next few years. Instead of trying to pre-guess everything that might be important, researchers can reduce the number of closed questions massively, and ask Why? For example? and Which? as open-ended questions.
Text analytics will work well with the current leading growth area in research, namely communities. Many communities are kept artificially small to make it practical to moderate and communicate with members. With text analytics it will be possible to have far more members in discursive communities.
Text analytics will be essential to help understand the ‘why’ created by big data’s ‘what’.
Text analytics is the key to most forms of social media research, turning millions of real conversations into actionable insight.
I am clearly not alone in my view on text analytics, at this year’s AMSRS conference in Sydney there are at least three papers looking at different applications of text analytics and I am going to be running a number of workshops on text analytics in the second half of this year.
What are your thoughts on text analytics?
If not text analytics, what would you pick as the analysis approach which is likely to have the biggest impact over the next five years?
1 It’s not your classic textbook
This book focusses on the questions that are part of the everyday practicalities of market research, the advice you don’t typically get from a textbook – the type of advice researchers would ideally have a mentor or more experienced colleague to ask – unfortunately not everyone has these support networks.
2 The contributors are practitioners
The content has been prepared by a team of experienced researchers, so the advice is relevant for researchers who are talking to clients, writing proposals, managing projects, developing questionnaires, analysing data, reporting results, etc.
3 A great resource for the generalist or research all-rounder
(Thanks to Sue Bell for emphasising this point.)
Many conferences and events, social media forums, and journals focus on specialist areas. This book, doesn’t cover everything, but aims to give a solid grounding on the basics, written and reviewed by experienced market and social research industry heavy weights who know what you need to know.
4 A balance between traditional and new techniques
The book covers the traditional areas – questionnaire design, qualitative, pricing research, B2B – as well as the emerging techniques, for example, communities and social media research.
5 A variety of views of expressed
In some areas of our profession there is not a consensus view – particularly in new and rapidly developing areas. This book highlights areas where consensus does not exist and presents the differing viewpoints.
6 The Client perspective is explored
Special attention is paid to one of the key relationships in market research, that of client and research provider, with an emphasis on the points of tension.
7 A Global Perspective
Unlike some textbooks, which focus on specific markets or regions, this book recognises many researchers are operating in international markets and also the issues and challenges faced by those working in markets with different levels of economic and technological development.
8 Ethics, Laws, Codes and Guidelines
As could be expected of book put together by ESOMAR, the book explains in simple and clear terms why we have these and how to fit them into everyday research.
9 Advice for both new researchers and more experienced researchers who are new to a topic
Thanks to Phyllis Macfarlane for emphasising this point.
10 It’s great value, at 20 Euros (including postage and packaging)
And, if you like it so much you want to bulk order for colleagues, clients, or students – better prices are available via ESOMAR!
Join us at the book launch
On Wednesday, 22 May, ESOMAR and NewMR are holding a virtual book launch, where contributors to the book will explain the book’s mission, its content, and more about how you can be involved. Click here to find out more details and to register to attend.
So what do you think?
Declaration of interest, I am one of the Editors and Curators of the project (as was NewMR’s Ray Poynter) – Sue York
One of the questions I am frequently asked about insight communities is ‘Why are most of them composed solely of customers?’ ‘Surely’, some people ask, ‘we should be conducting market research with the whole market?’ My feeling is that this question fails to recognise how much market research has changed over time.
Over the thirty-five years I have been in the research industry there have been quite a few changes, in terms of technology, organisation, methods etc. One of these changes has been a major shift from researching whole markets to focusing research on customers.
If we look back at the 1970s and early 1980s, most market research was conducted with the whole market. But that approach reflected the times. There were fewer products, fewer brands, and fewer channels for advertising. Markets were less mature, brands were establishing themselves, they often had genuine product differences, and market researchers were like explorers, mapping an unfamiliar land.
Moving to the later 1980s and the 1990s we see a shift to researching target groups and customers. Ad and brand tracking focused on target groups, customer satisfaction focused on customers. Concept and product testing, which had previously used whole market samples, started to focus on heavy users versus light users versus non-users. In the market place, the number of brands and lines had grown, product advantages were proving to be illusory or temporary, and the battleground was shifting to logistics, sourcing, and image based advertising.
Since 2000 the focus in marketing has moved on again. Most brands manage to achieve product and service and advertising parity. Organisations have become much smarter about calculating the cost of customer acquisition, lifetime value, and the problem of churn. For many brands the issue has become increasing share of throat, size of shopping basket, and total usage. The focus in much of the business literature is to use customers, and co-creation, as a key source of competitive advantage. Forrester has even been advocating the customer obsessed organisation.
The writings of authors such as Mark Earls (Herd) and Rijn Vogelaar (The Superpromoter) have highlighted that brands tend to succeed through social copying, rather than through non-users being ‘persuaded’ by marketing or advertising. In many cases the best way to grow a brand is to increase the number of customers who ‘love’ it, because these people will recommend it, use it ostentatiously, and offer it in group settings. In most cases, a new line, a new campaign, a new service will only succeed if existing customers respond positively to it.
Given the shift from the whole market to customers in the wider research world, it is not surprising that most insight communities focus on customers. There is a community of interest between a brand and its customers, they all benefit if the products and services are improved. Customers know about the strengths and the weaknesses of the brand, they are in a position to give insight into where the brand should go next.
What proportion of research should be with customers?
For most brands and services (I will mention some exceptions in a moment) my feeling is that about 80% of research should be with customers. This would include measuring satisfaction, usage, testing product and service concepts, product and service refinements, and co-creating the future.
The 20% conducted with the wider market would include market sizing, mapping needs in the market, and competitive intelligence (for example why do users of competitive brands use that brand).
This 80:20 prediction is based on two key points:
The brand is most likely to grow through social copying/recommendation/word of mouth.
Most good ideas for the brand will be seen as good ideas by customers.
The main exception to the 80:20 rule is where the main focus is to massively grow the number of users, either from a zero start (a product launch) or from a very small base. Examples of this situation would include Apple when it launched the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. When these products were launched Apple had no customers in these segments, and the users of existing MP3 players, smartphones, and tablets were not their primary target – so researching customers was not a viable strategy.
Most brands and services focus on customer retention, providing the right products and services to delight their customers. The thinking behind Fred Reichheld’s Net Promoter Score is based on data that shows that brands that do well have more people who recommend them. A key finding from Andrew Ehrenberg’s double-jeopardy model is that dominant brands have customers who are more loyal.
Most market research, for most brands, most of the time, should focus on customers. This customer focus is one of the key reasons why insight communities are currently so popular. Insight communities are not pushing brands to focus on customers; the focus on customers is pushing brands and organisations to use communities.
So, what are your thoughts? Feel free to add your comments, or vote on the poll below.
I have spent the last couple of weeks in Australia as part of my role in Vision Critical University visiting a number of clients, and several of them have, or are in the process of, creating B2B insight communities. One of the great things about this sort of concentrated activity is that it encourages examination of the key issues, and this time that has included the question ‘why do people join online insight communities?’.
I think the key point that companies need to remember, when designing, creating and managing insight communities, is that most people only join a B2B community because they think there is something in it for them and/or their organization. Further, they only stay engaged if they believe they are actually gaining a benefit.
The benefits from being a member of a B2B community can be summarised as:
Special access, including networking with others in the field.
Growing the business through learning more
Growing the business by shaping the future
Reducing costs through learning more
Reducing costs by shaping the future
A successful community does not need to offer all of these, but it needs to offer something. At the stage the community is created the prospective members need to have the benefits outlined to them, along with the scale of the commitment expected.
The community also needs to be engaging, but in the case of a B2B community, engagement is a necessary but not sufficient element.
As the community develops, the members will assess it on whether it delivers against its promises. Members will assess whether they have learned useful things (from the process, form each other, and from the client), whether they feel they have been listened to, and to what extent their feedback has shaped what the organisation does.