Market Research, like much of the global economy, is going through tremendous upheaval and uncertainty.
Technology is changing everything – from how we socialise, work and eat to how we buy our clothes and consume our news.
Old trades have disappeared, new businesses have taken their place and almost every major industry has felt the impact of the omniscient internet, relentless social media and ever-evolving digital world.
You just have to look at the destruction of the traditional news media industry to see how devastating it can be for those who ignore the warning signs or wait too long to join the technology revolution.
The Market Research industry cannot expect to escape the commotion caused by this aptly named disruptive technology.
Market Research has existed for more than a century while underpinning the explosion of the advertising world and embracing emerging technologies.
Unquestionably, the industry itself has an impressive tradition of creating rock-solid methodologies and surviving and thriving on new challenges.
Yet it is now struggling to determine the sector’s next evolution, at risk of being left behind as other industries take advantage of the space Market Research has inadvertently left for them.
Agencies also need to understand where the value lies in the briefs they are now receiving, with less emphasis on the methodology and a greater focus on the outcome.
To adjust to these growing client demands, the Market Research industry must face a long journey ahead – one that will leave it unrecognisable in a few years and fundamentally different.
Because the future lies not solely in traditional methodologies but, more importantly, in strategic advice and actionable insight utilising newly emerging methods of capturing that insight.
MR businesses need to focus on combining existing research skills, technologies and methodologies with new data science and social listening approaches that enable researchers to deliver true business insight.
This will often mean taking a collaborative approach with other business disciplines to deliver a real understanding of all the data we generate, ensuring it can be digested, manipulated and acted upon faster and more accurately to drive strategic change.
So how can we add value and relevance in an industry where clients want to get closer than ever to their customers – and sometimes try to do it all themselves?
The answer is Emotion Detection
Understanding emotions is powerful, but notoriously difficult to achieve.
Whether using self-reporting from respondents or observers, it has always been fraught with variables and subjectivities that make a consistent methodology challenging.
Groundbreaking facial expression recognition technology is now capable of delivering this analysis without human observation bias.
The technology has been evolving for some time, with increasing traction in areas such as ad testing, but it has been a relatively niche approach primarily linked to ad testing.
However, certain companies have managed to harness the approach effectively.
Video ad tech company Unruly has built emotion recognition into its business and created a number of products that use its power to help them deliver new insights to their clients.
As part of their research for clients, which includes testing videos to understand their impact, Unruly also integrated facial emotion recognition to analyse people’s reactions to the video they were viewing.
This is now a standard part of the company’s offering, which combines survey responses with other methodologies to identify which parts of a video drive emotional reaction and why.
By providing this capability, brands are able to improve the influence of their existing content to drive online conversation and advocacy, and to plan content strategy for future success.
With achievements like this beginning to capture attention, there are signs that Emotion Detection is ready to hit the MR mainstream, with companies developing this technology receiving significant amounts of venture capital money this year.
Over the next few years, leaders will emerge and Market Research companies will need to either offer their own solutions or partner with technology providers who have this available.
For companies that get it right, Emotion Detection will help to mitigate against the erosion of traditional data collection and give them a real edge.
As with most advances of the last decade – mobile, social analytics, text analytics, beacon technologies and more – Emotion Detection will find its place.
So, the big question is should you be using Emotion Detection now?
The answer, as always with such evolving technology, is “it depends”.
As successes become more widely known, it is certain that end-clients are going to expect MR agencies to have the capability sooner rather than later.
More consumer-centric industries are already starting to empower customers with the ability to provide feedback via video and that video will need analysis.
Of course, automated transcription will be a key method by which such multi-media content is used, but Emotion Detection will also have a place to provide insights into customer feedback that words alone do not necessarily allow.
Beyond Emotion Detection, what else do MR businesses need to get to grips with?
Pressure is increasing on corporations to invest more in technology to keep pace with evolving customer experiences, as well as extending growth.
There are many tools and solutions that promise to deliver faster, deeper and cheaper insight and this technology is becoming increasingly accessible to businesses, enabling them to do their own research.
This cuts into the offerings that most Market Research agencies provide.
But data collection in its traditional form is increasingly commoditised so many agencies will have to ensure their offerings focus more on the value-added areas such as data science/analysis, consulting, qualitative data collection and automation.
The role of automation in bringing data from all these sources together is critical.
Not only does it mean the huge quantities of data available are less overwhelming and more manageable, it frees up researchers to do the thinking – because the researcher of the future will be less data collection specialist, and more data scientist and consultant.
Market Research agencies need to get over the idea that automation = low quality. That is simply no longer the case.
Automation has already been around for years, albeit in simpler forms.
Questionnaire scanning, for example, was revolutionary in speeding up the data capture process and was created in direct response to the need for faster results.
The difference is modern automation tools now span the entire lifecycle of Market Research.
As well as automating survey design, sampling, data collection and reporting, tools are available for much more advanced automation techniques, from emotional response recognition, to multimedia feedback, social media analysis and more.
The move away from traditional Market Research and towards the ‘Insight Industry’ much more accurately reflects the role that researchers will play in the decades ahead.
The insight these researchers provide will put clients back in control, bring them closer to the nuances of their business and give them more targeted information for decision making.
This will take the industry out of the shadows and into a central position as agents of change in an insight-driven world.
Technology will be at the heart of this change, enabling new ways of working via automation and providing more collaborative ways of doing research.
By demonstrating a willingness to embrace new technologies and update processes, organizations will have the flexibility, scalability and strategic desire to rapidly adapt to client needs – whatever those needs may be.
Jason Mallia, Manager, Australia New Zealand, Confirmit