Modern market research is underpinned by technology. New tools have often been used by researchers, whether it's a move from note taking to tape recording to mini discs to digital recorders and from face-to-face surveys, to post and phone surveys, then email, then desktop and smartphone surveys. This is not only about making the researcher's life simpler, but ensuring the knowledge is recorded in the most effective way to perform a detailed review afterwards.
The number of technologies available to market analysts has however, increased exponentially in recent years, with the rise of widespread internet access and smartphones with cameras and computers with the computing power to crunch large 'Big Data' sets becoming commonplace. This has the ability to provide masses of rich qualitative data and immense complex data sets for the modern researcher. A new challenge has therefore arisen for research technology providers: not only to promote data collection, but to allow researchers to easily manage data storage, retrieval, analysis, interpretation and presentation.
In market research, there are in general, two kinds of technology providers: technology firms that provide market research technologies and research firms that provide technology. Originally, the former may have targeted another industry and extended their product offering to target market researchers, and the latter may have created their own technologies or leveraged the white label offering of other businesses under their own name.
Then there's an increasingly complex range of research technologies. Firms specializing in online forums, study committees, polling tools, interactive diaries, focus groups/IDIs, eye tracking and virtual reality are out there. There are digital organizations undertaking surveillance of social media. There are sample providers on a range of websites providing samples. And then there are companies for data processing, visualization, reminders and data cleaning that specialize in automation.
The task, then is to incorporate this broad range of methods so that participants can effectively engage in the analysis, merge research methodologies, interpret data and create visualizations.
Key Characteristics of Research Technology
Sample control: It is important to be able to quickly and easily tailor the research to the appropriate segments and demographics and also to be able to select participants based on their responses to previous activities for research tasks, whether they are points raised in a forum, comments in a focus group or on a picture or responses to a survey or fast poll.
Analysis across data types and sources: It is important not only to be able to target specific research activities to specific participants, but also to be able to combine, compare and contrast their responses across qualitative and quantitative tasks and further segment these data by demographic and segment information.
Access control: Not only is it necessary to be able to control what your study participants can see it is beneficial to be able to control what activities your stakeholders can see and even engage with in order to ensure that the individual in the company best qualified to make a decision is open to the most appropriate insights.
Remembering the Purpose of Research
To some extent, all this can be achieved by building in various third-party tools and connecting apps through APIs, but as a result, the user experience for the researcher and stakeholder can suffer and you can log in and out of various platforms and accounts looking to get your data together and get closer to your customers.
In short, a technology vendor should be able to help you get closer to your customers or their clients, involve your stakeholders, and provide your senior management team with impactful information to help them make the right decisions.