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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Evidence giving way to gut instinct, fears Poynter

UK— Vision Critical’s Ray Poynter worries that society is moving away from a culture of evidence-based decision making in favour of gut instinct.

But it’s less a conscious choice, more one brought about by the failure of the market intelligence function to respond in good time to the needs of executives, says Vision Critical’s group CEO Scott Miller.

Speaking at a client summit this morning, Miller - a former top ranking Synovate executive - said: “I’ve watched more and more decisions being made by CEOs and CMOs without the benefit of market intelligence. The market intelligence function can’t react quick enough to the number of decisions these executives are having to make.”

Traditional market research agencies struggle with speed, cost, relevance and finding the right people, he said. Poynter agreed. He said there is a perception among senior executives that market research will take too long. “And late is useless,” he said. “Speed is becoming fantastically important.”

“Cheaper, faster, good enough” might well be the mantra of the modern business world, he suggested.

Fundamentally the research model needs to change - or will be changed by the emergence of disruptive technologies.

Things like gamification, behavioural economics and mobile compatible surveys - while important - are ultimately just “sticking plasters” to help our existing models “limp along a little longer until new models can come into play,” Poynter said.

In terms of real disruptive change, he pointed to community panels - Vision Critical’s main business - arguing that these allow brands to take back ownership of the insights which they had previously outsourced to agencies.

SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile) is another disruptor, Poynter said, giving brands and researchers the ability to be where behaviour takes place.

Greater use of sophisticated text analytics will mean researchers will no longer have to limit themselves to closed questions, while AB testing will allow for cheap, quick and effective iteration of advertising and communications materials.

Further over the horizon, there’s Big Data. CRM,  transactional data, social media activity - “a lot of insight is going to come out of that in the future”, said Poynter, although currently “information is going into the database much faster than it is coming out”.

Then there is augmented reality, which presents an opportunity to bring research into the consumer’s environment rather than having to bring consumers into the research environment. Software bots are also advancing, Poynter said, and will one day be able to interact with consumers, answer their queries and ask questions in the way researchers currently do.

Lastly he pointed to crowd sourcing, powered by social media. Insight questions won’t be put out to tender in the future, Poynter suggests. Instead companies will put out a general call for someone to come to them with the answer in much the same way that Darpa’s Red Balloon challenge sought to leverage the internet and social networks to locate 10 balloons scattered across the globe.

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Readers' comments (8)

  • Some of us of a more cynical dispoition have long thought that many CEO/CMOs just look for the bit of research evidence that supports their gut feeling!

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  • "Then there is augmented reality" "he pointed to crowd sourcing"
    ...and sundry other buzzword-heavy things.

    The problem is that if, as Ray suggests, one discounts gamification and behavioural economics as 'sticking plasters', what, precisely, is so different about crowd sourcing and AR that will make them gamechangers? Personally I agree with Ray on the gamification point - it's just a different front end for the same machinery under the hood - but as a research expert we can't just say 'this is crap but this one will change the world'.
    Ultimately, *good* research has always been about using gut instinct to help guide us in developing studies that find the true themes, trends and motivations. This isn't changing and there is no magical one-stop solution; what we're talking about are simply some new tools to add to our toolbox. All we can do is sift the good research from the bad; and that's unique to VC.

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  • Community Panels are one of a number of answers to "speed, cost, relevance and finding the right people". They are however, not the cheapest, least time consuming nor the quickest! The fact that traditional agencies and their techniques have struggled to keep pace, is hardly new news is it?

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  • My background is in Quantitative Research, more specifically, the collection, reporting and insights drawn from data collected at retail.

    This issue of the need for 'speed' fascinates me in that in the past, I worked for a supplier that developed a service that collected and reported results from stores in 'real time'....reporting results within 24 hours of collection. On more than one occassion, it was my experience that a handful of prominent CPG companies felt the 'real time' service was not attractive due to the fact that their Marketing, Sales and/or Promotion departments were not set up to respond quickly enough to correct for the gaps in distribution, location, display presence, etc. that our 'real time' service provided. Unfortunately for them, their competition was taking advantage of this 'real time' deliverable and, as a result, making more informative deicisions as to what does/does not work at retail.

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  • One of the problems of speed and gut is that tactical actions may jeopardize strategic plans. If a company can use new tools that make it faster and easier to get information, that's great! More than that, it is necessary. Better if you can understand the info and the consequences for your business in the short and long term.. I think that the idea is also valid for the research companies. Here in Brasil big and small companies are looking for innovation desperately...myself included.

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  • Now I know why people are turning off there GPS locators on their smart phones. Why should they share this information when there is no quid pro quo? Speed to information is critical but those who think it will be found in SoLoMo interactions in the future are not facing the reality of declining willingness to participate in sharing information. Just look at the reactions to Facebook's latest attempts to boost revenue. Users are increasingly becoming less enamoured with the promise of social media. What we will soon start to see is the closing of social circles to networks that are only relevant to the user and are very narrow and personally meaningful. Already frequency of usage is declining and users are questioning what they get out of sharing data in the social medium. Early days, but watch this space.

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  • The fundamental issue facing our industry (and the elephant in the room) is the rapidly decreasing ability to access truly randomized and representative populations. It is actually quite ironic, as never before have we had the ability to instantaneously interact with so many potential respondents; yet this seems to have become as much a liability as a solution. The basics of good research have not changed: it is the quality and representativeness of the respondent pool that ultimately determines the quality of the output. We all know consumer participation rates continue to plummet, with most panels and online communities consisting primarily of self-selected individuals who are either highly opinionated or are participating because of incentives. The same thing for social media analytics, which mines data generated by the small percentage of the population who proactively share their opinions online. All very interesting information to be sure, but just not particularly great for most research. Full disclosure: our organization, RIWI http://riwi.com, is based at the University of Toronto, and for the past 4 years have focused solely on creating technologies to access highly randomized populations online for global research purposes. Not perfect yet, but proving to be highly effective. Feel free to check it out and share your thoughts.

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  • Eric (above) mentions that 'quality and representativeness of the respondent pool...ultimately determines the quality of output".

    Really? Not the quality of research design (method/questions/observation) combined with the quality of analysis? And quality of commercial thinking or of extracting insights from a mass of data?

    Having the most 'representative' sample ever can still give you biases or result in rubbish if you don't ask the 'right' questions, or do a decent job on the analysis. Most clients these days want an answer which is 'good enough'. And most don't care about the sample - or not to the extent to which Eric seems to suppose. And why should they? If they are able to answer a business question, does it really matter?

    That's quite aside from the fact that 'representative' samples just don't exist in the real world. People are human and don't conform to mathematical rules (I like to use a 'bag of balls' analogy when training juniors on sampling. You can always pull a red or blue ball out of a bag to demonstrate probability theory, but you can't do the same with people when selecting them from an interview) and inevitably most research (at least where you recruit people) is going to be self-selected. There's no such thing as a representative sample in MR!

    Rant over.

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