1. Qualitative Research
When people leave a record of what they’ve done, thought or said, researchers rub their hands with glee. There are many examples of product, brand and service insights gained from a virtual ‘look over the shoulder’ of consumers, and there are plenty of options available. The internet is essentially a massive 24/7 online qualitative feed of consumers’ minds and ignoring the value inherent in this is a business sin.
2. Quantitative Modelling and Predicting
A lot of the most useful data that arises from today’s interconnected lives lies in the data that businesses control themselves, particularly company CRM and social media data, and ideally too market research survey data. This doesn’t just tell you what people have said or done in the past – give it to the right researchers and they’ll tell you what people are likely to do in the future – even if you stick your oar in to shake things up a bit.
3. Machine Learning
Big Data can mean Big Headaches. The average human can only think of 7 things at once, let alone 7 novemdecillion (that's a real number). So let the machines do the thinking. Smart researchers with smarter machines can now answer those classic marketing conundrums that start with “who…” and “who’s next…” and “who do I target…” and “what do I offer…”. It’s like the teacher leaving the answers in the back.
4. One-to-One Customer Relationships
People now expect any business that holds good data about them to act accordingly. This offers great opportunities to deliver service and product experiences more personalized than your third cousin’s birthday card, and these needn’t be about futile attempts to keep every customer highly satisfied or theoretically recommending you. Increasingly, the greatest rewards are being recognized in the zone of problem management, which offers better bang-for-buck than mere ‘satisfaction’. There’s never been a better time to make good from people’s propensity to whine and complain.
5. Virtual Communities
Rewarding though it can be to trawl through social media like a gumshoe detective to infer what people are thinking, but you can also create your own online communities, seamlessly melding brand-building marketing with consumer conversations and consultations. Today, research companies like Ipsos are helping more companies than ever to create their own customer communities, effectively baking instantaneous consumer consultation into the fabric of day to day business. People share more online than in ‘real’ life – that can be harnessed.
6. Consumer Connectivity - From Monologue to Party Call
If I see one more “Word of Mouse” headline I’ll scream. But the interconnectedness of consumer chat now means that consumer opinions spread faster and further than ever – and this can be a good thing. Everything you say and do can be magnified, the bad things especially. But let’s focus on the good. If you do great things worth talking about, they will be.
7. Data Quality
Yes, it’s the “comparing apples with oranges” issue. If the data available from our interconnectedness is to be usefully analysed, it should be consistent, comparable, and with a known source and methodology that can be accounted for. Chances are you’re dealing with more inconsistencies than a Wallabies back line. Boring it may seem but you have to know what you’re working with to know what you can feasibly do with it.
8. Data Quantity – Too Much, Too Little
The challenge of having too much data has been addressed above – machine learning and similar tools can overcome this challenge, as can good social media management tools. Much harder is the challenge of too little data. This is especially relevant in New Zealand – consider that more social media content is made unavailable to spiders every day, and that the TradeMe community remains off-limits to ethical players, and it means that researching your brand within our tiny market can be as effective as a static banner ad. This isn’t insurmountable – but requires some cunning.
9. Legal Accessibility
Did you know it was once illegal to drive from Germany to France with a copy of the phone book? Because that amounted to transporting customer records across borders. And for you three people still sending unsolicited promotions by fax, that’s illegal too.. The law is seldom completely logical or reasonable but keep abreast with the Marketing Association’s regular updates and you’ll avoid a trip to the lawyer.
10. Customer Approval
One of the biggest challenges in using customer data is striking the balance between what customers will allow you to use their data for and what they won’t. It’s not cut and dry – for example, Ipsos research shows that consumers trust banks with their personal data more than their telcos, and (Western) governments are regarded as having the best intent but the worst competency. It’s a trade-off, and customers have to see real tangible benefit for them in the data you hold to feel comfortable about its use. Some are even demanding a cut from the profits made from companies’ analysis of what is after all ‘their’ data.
Of course, any good researcher will point out that four Challenges will not necessarily outweigh six Opportunities, because their relative cost/benefits have to be accounted for.
Regardless, in a world where the challenges seems to outweigh the opportunities, the key is to understand that a marketer who disconnects their business from the digital world may as well disconnect the revenue streams too.