FEATURE7 January 2009

Buzzing about the recession

Data analytics Features Financials Trends UK

Wavemetrix CEO Anders Schönberg tells Research companies are turning to buzz tracking during the difficult financial climate

UK— In the midst of the global recession, buzz research – the tracking of online consumer opinion about products and services – is proving to be a popular method of research for companies looking to stay in touch with customer needs.

Anders Schönberg, CEO of buzz tracking agency Wavemetrix, told Research that the firm’s revenue has risen by more than 50% each year for the past three years as more companies want to find out what their customers are saying online.

Schönberg said: “On one hand, as companies are struggling a bit they want to achieve more for less and are looking for solutions that are more cost-effective. The cost of a buzz research study is around half – or less – of a study that will give you comparable results using traditional market research methods. The second thing is that in the current environment, in most industries, companies are fighting to get additional revenue. Being much quicker than traditional research forces people to look at buzz to get faster feedback and react quicker.”

He said a typical online buzz tracking survey could be completed within two weeks, while a traditional tracker survey could take anywhere up to six months.

Schönberg said that new types of clients have been turning to buzz tracking. “A couple of years ago the people tracking buzz were consumer electronics, technology and mobile phone companies,” he said, “but in 2008 we did a lot of work with fashion, media, pharmaceutical and food companies – the range of businesses interested in buzz research is now much wider.”

However, interested clients do not necessarily mean new business, he said. “Sometimes it is not really possible because you need to have an engaged online community to be able to do something that is worthwhile. You can't really do buzz research on Fairy Liquid or even Coca-Cola because people don't talk about standardised purchases online, but things that affect people’s lives… are where clients get the most bang for their buck.”

Schönberg is confident that his company will not suffer as the buzz tracking research industry grows, claiming his firm’s human analyst methodology provides an edge over the automated systems used by other agencies. “It is still a very young space,” he said. “There are lots of automated products in the markets but I think that space is quite messy. The quality of data that is interpreted properly and manually is better.”

An example of this, he says, is a recent Wavemetrix project on patient compliance, where the firm tracked why people were not taking prescribed medicine. Schönberg said the study “required careful reading and classification of each individual” rather than an automated measurement of how many times certain words were mentioned.

Author: James Verrinder