OPINION18 January 2018

Big data is getting smaller and more useful

Data analytics Opinion UK

Market researchers need to learn to blend big data and data analytics with traditional market research to keep the industry thriving and ensure the best insight. By Ray Poynter.

Big and small_crop

When Big Data first burst on the scene (according to Google Trends, just six years ago), its most important characteristic was how big it was. However, these days the term is used more liberally, which is leading to better outcomes, and we are seeing a growing range of applications that blend market research, big data and improved analytics in ways that deliver value.

To find out more about how organisations are leveraging big data and market research, the MRS is running a Data Analytics and Insight conference on February 22.

One of the key themes in market research and data is how to combine multiple sources of information. With multiple sources we typically need to deal with differences in volume, format, granularity, representativeness and accuracy.

Another challenge researchers have been grappling with is how to integrate our best practices with the new opportunity created by the growth in data and analytics. And at the conference a panel of experts, from clients such as Sky, Unilever and ITV, will be debated how to bridge the divide between data analytics and traditional research.

Text analytics has been with us for many years, but recently market research has been seeing big improvements in how text analytics is being used, for example with ever larger and more diverse data sets.

Because we have an ever-increasing volume and richness of data, and because analytics are becoming smarter and faster there is a temptation to focus on the what and the how, rather than the why and ‘so what?’

In the early days of the big data and data analytics revolution there was brave talk that these approaches would do away with traditional market research. ‘Why talk to some of us, when you can listen to all of us?’ was the bold assertion.

That claim always seemed like hyperbole, and that has turned out to be the case. But, I think it is fair to say that companies that are able to blend and integrate data and analytics with traditional market research strengths may well supplant any agency foolish enough to stick to a narrow definition of market research.

Ray Poynter is managing director of The Future Place