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How is market research evolving in a digital, AI-led marketing world?

09 November 2018

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Market research companies need to make the most of machine learning to devise research methods that adapt to consumers’ changing digital habits and attention spans.

The world today is exceedingly digital, especially with the internet, smartphones, the internet of things and machine learning playing a major role in connecting people and brands alike. Global smartphone penetration is expected to reach 40% by 2020 – a truly staggering figure in terms of a sheer number of people with smartphones.

According to Smart Insights, every 60 seconds we make 3.8 million Google searches, send almost 30 million WhatsApp messages, post 448,800 tweets, upload 65,972 images on Instagram and upload 500 hours of videos on YouTube.

While these numbers differ based on region and demographic, the influence of the internet and internet-connected devices on people and their importance to market research cannot be ignored. And the best way to understand connected people today is through the technology in their hands.

Today over 80% of the web traffic is generated on two forms of device, desktop and mobile. The insights industry is not far behind, with 50% of survey emails opened on smartphones and 23% of survey responses coming from smartphones.

While the opportunity is right in front of us, making the most of it is easier said than done. This is due to the varying and unpredictable nature of human behaviour.

Technology holds the solution
One company that is experimenting and successfully tackling its research challenges through technology is Borderless Access, a digital market research products and solutions company.

A few years back, the company, not satisfied with panel management software available in the market, decided to develop its own intelligent community management platform from scratch, employing the best technology for recruitment, engagement and management with advanced predictive analytics in one seamless package, which streamlines its research process and delivers significant cost benefits.

Borderless Access has since built on its platform and expanded its capability to the healthcare market research sector with its advanced, analytics-driven DIY programmatic project management suite.

Overcoming the barrier of human behaviour
With the colossal amount of information consumers are exposed to today, it becomes imperative for brands and marketers to understand the various ‘triggers’ that swing their behaviour, emotions and decision-making patterns. But the big question is how do you amalgamate varying human behaviour with technology for qualitative and quantitative insights that matter to brands?

Anshul Agarwal, senior global marketing manager at Borderless Access, says the company has a solution for this as well. Borderless Access has a unique solution called TAPP that makes use of social media, chat apps and behavioural data, combining it with its machine learning algorithms to understand a respondent’s thoughts, ideas, emotions and a lot more. Inputs take the form of videos, images, text, and sound, taking behavioural and emotional research to the next level.

He further states: “All this was possible with our millions of engaged respondents and decade of experience and data. We have built our innovative products and research methodologies based on the evolving digital consumers and the numerous triggers (broadly categorised under where, whom, what, how, why, channel, device and time) for generating actionable insights for marketers to target today’s connected consumer in-situ for brand activation.

The key to the future of the insights industry
It would be interesting to see how the market research industry copes with the new-age technology such as virtual reality, augmented reality, the internet of things and artificial intelligence, which holds the key to data collection and insights from the ever-evolving digital consumers. New-age market research companies have started experimenting with how to make use of these technologies for gathering insights.

“And, with this shifting paradigm, we are currently experimenting with machine learning-based adaptive research and AI-based sampling, which has shown some promising results. We are eager usher in a new generation of market research,” says Anshul.

Borderless Access has started taking the first crucial steps in this promising area. As part of its first foray into adaptive research, the company conducted a generic brand tracker study in Mexico. However, a set of two questionnaires was prepared for the study – a traditional one of 15 minutes and another with a dynamic length of interview, designed with the help of machine learning models.

Machine learning models were employed to figure out the best times to target respondents when their propensity to respond to questionnaires was the highest. The questionnaires were then divided into ‘nano’ samples and directed at small pockets of respondents.

The outcome was expected but still managed to surprise the researchers. The average engagement time improved by 25% and the survey turnaround time dropped by 23%, hence it was a more efficient and effective way to engage respondents.

In case this hasn’t been said enough, machine learning and market research are a match made in heaven and the industry has just started scratching the surface. And those at the forefront of development could be the potential winners.

There is a lot happening in the insights industry and future seems to be really exciting.

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