OPINION13 June 2019

Keeping up with the trust economy

AI Opinion Technology Trends

Market researchers don’t need to struggle to keep up if they are smart about what they choose to focus on: making the most of the time afforded by technology, writes Horst Feldhaeuser.

Time speed clocks_crop

Market research has traditionally had the enviable place of being close to the consumer. As the consumer landscape has shifted, so have we in order to keep up and maintain that closeness. If we examine our history, we have adapted (albeit slowly upon occasion) from paper to online, from online to mobile and more. Today’s sweeping economic, digital and societal changes are unlike anything we’ve experienced.

Some of these changes are pushing the maturation of what some call the ‘trust economy’, which is driven by globalisation and the advent of new technology. This model is based on principles of transparency and accountability, and operates on a currency of trust. Good examples of the trust economy in action are Uber and Airbnb, where participants trust others to make recommendations, and Yelp! and other review sites, where consumers look to others to provide the information needed to help purchase decisions.

Consumer expectations in this economy are driving change across business categories, including ours. These expectations range widely, but three key areas include:

  • Control: booking travel and online banking are now taken for granted, along with instant access to information, services, shopping, appointment scheduling, relationships and more
  • Transparency: consumers increasingly want to know everything about the supply chain of the product they are buying. This demand can be translated into the market research space as we create transparency for clients into our processes and for people participating in research
  • Participation: consumers look for collaboration from brands and experiences, giving us a clue into how the business world is poised to change, with less of an emphasis on commodities and more on partnerships and relationship building. 

We must examine these demands with a lens of not only how to continue to reach consumers, but also how this new environment can provide tips for our own industry practices and methods. Shifting the way we approach client relationships and our role in the research process and looking with fresh eyes on how to build better outcomes from the ground up is a good start.

What do we need to do as an industry to keep up?

1. Create partnerships from the start
Market research is a people business. Strong partnerships cultivate trust and allow both parties to flourish. Carve out meeting time with clients up-front to gain a deep understanding of goals and build relationships, offer visibility into processes, and create a feedback loop. 

2. Balance DIY with talent
Demands for transparency and control are changing the way we approach research with collaborative tools and do-it-yourself technologies. We encourage a collaborative approach that combines human expertise with carefully curated technology that is fit for purpose. Far from losing touch with that important client-agency relationship, we’ve found that navigating technology and maximising its potential is how partnerships are changing in the trust economy.

Choosing the right solution can be daunting. Buyers of software should consider exploring whether or not the solution has a firm foundation in market research, if it is addressing needs for speed and accuracy, and is the solution backed by a nimble vendor with stellar customer service. Answers to some of these queries can help give a foundation for decision making.

3. Offer nimble technology
Beyond making the decisions when it comes to DIY solutions, we need to dig down into the technology itself. It is key to ensure that it allows participation and can speed up mundane tasks to allow time to feed natural curiosity and dig into the data. We all need to uncover the story the data is telling us, quickly and accurately. But first we need to make sure all the data has a voice. Technology that allows us to align multiple sources of consumer research data, integrate that data and feed it into reporting metrics is the only way to achieve consistent, actionable results. Traditionally, this level of alignment required multiple steps, and lots of time, before the analysis could even begin.

When technology is applied correctly, the steps from data integration and processing to visualisation no longer have to happen in sequential order but can instead happen simultaneously. And they don’t need to be complicated and convoluted; rather, they can be beautifully simple and intuitive.

In this trust economy, we can take some clues from those consumers with whom we claim to be close (or hope to be). We don’t need to struggle to keep up if we are smart about what we choose to focus on: taking the time that technology allows us to build in forward-thinking methodology. We must think about allowing control, transparency and participation for research stakeholders and stay ahead of the curve using the technology we may already have available to us. We too can build trust, and keep that competitive edge when it comes to understanding consumers, the new economy in which they operate and how we fit in.

Horst Feldhaeuser is group services director at Infotools