OPINION4 December 2014

Intimacy, mobile chat and self-service


For those feeling jealous about me being in Sydney for a conference, I have to tell you that it’s grey, it’s been raining and it’s not that hot! But as we arrived at the NSW University Campus for the first APAC IIeX, at least indoors the mood was more sunny.

The conference started with a series of presentations on new technologies and their use within research.

Megan Brownlow of PwC talked about media owners competing over who knows the most about their audiences as marketers seek deeper insights. There was also a nice little video of voxpops that she used to illustrate her points, as she said researchers are very bad at selling their own great insights. As a communications specialist she knows the power of a few intimate, human encounters to illustrate and power up her main points.

John Batistich of Westfield gave us a great tour of new technologies and how they are being used and integrated with traditional research from a retailer perspective. From location data to behavioural data, retailers are learning more and more about us and the way we shop. There is still a role for traditional research to help provide the why behind this data but the role did appear to be diminishing!

Beyond the technology we also had presentations from Thailand and Japan on understanding those cultures. Dangjaithawin from Intage Thailand helped draw differences between Thai and Vietnamese or Indian cultures. She also gave a passionate plea to not promote millennials too early! Tomoko, a freelancer from Japan, helped us understand the difference between Japanese and the West using the old saying: “The US is a culture of guilt and Japan is a culture of shame,” to illustrate the difference between an independent culture and a culture of interdependence.

Bob Burgoyne and Ryan France of TNS gave an interesting talk on using social media data instead of survey data for tracking. Their data showed that they could accurately predict brand equity from social media data, which enabled them to significantly simplify typical tracking surveys. Given the pressures on budgets this type of work could be a great boost for clients, although at the moment the solutions appear to be only validated in English-speaking markets.

The afternoon session kicked off with a discussion of mobile chat apps such as WeChat (very big in China) and What’sApp and how researchers can use these approaches to generate insight quickly, simply and potentially cheaply. Chris Clarke of SSI talked through their experience of using technology to improve the respondent experience and improve response rates and engagement. Chris told us that the average questionnaire length is 23 minutes and rising, which drew an audible groan from the audience and a collective realisation that we really need to do a better job on this front.

The final sessions looked to the future in terms of research solutions and access to respondents. Tom Mitchell-Taverner of Cint discussed a world without panel companies, or at least panel company executives. He talked abut the self-serve world and the type of API technology used by companies such as ZappiStore. Then Ray Poynter moderated a panel with contributors from Affinnova and Survey Analytics discussing new research visions with a specific look at how this differs in Asia compared to the US. Obviously spend is much smaller by country and the language issues and technology adoption impacts research options, but the overall mood was optimistic that there is more that binds us than separates us in terms of what we can do.

So a good first day with some interesting discussions on new approaches and applying them to the Asian context. Lets see what tomorrow brings…

Stephen Phillips is CEO of Zappistore.