FirstEval-Melissa Kovacs


Big Data in Market Research – Not the Only Game in Town

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Market research is one sector that is experiencing a sea change thanks to the availability of big data.   

Simply put, “big data” in marketing often comprises recordings of consumer interactions.  The behaviors and interactions of consumers are collected at each point in the shopping / purchasing process.  These interaction data points can then be linked to the consumer’s demographic and background information and purchase history.  This is immensely helpful for targeting marketing to current consumers, and helping to understand which consumers are purchasing which products.   So helpful, in fact, that Forbes recently estimated that companies who take a data-centered approach to their marketing strategies can increase their marketing ROI by up to 20%. 

Yet what about those potential customers not in our big database?  What about “everyone else,” our comparison group, who doesn’t interact with the seller?  Who are they?  Are they brand aware?  Why aren’t they buying?  Did our advertising resonate with them?  Did they even see our advertising?  Are they female, educated, wealthy, or parents? 

Simply put, big data does not tell us about our potential consumers. 

Deloitte, LLP recently pointed out that not everything can be captured as a big data point.  Emotions, interests, awareness, and feelings of consumers aren’t captured in the swipe of a frequent shopper card.  Behavioral economics, focus groups, and targeted surveys still have immense value in this brave new big data world. 

While some argue that big data will lead to the end of the market research industry, I concur that it truly is a game-changer to understanding current customers.  Yet, understanding the nuanced interests of non-customers remains extremely valuable, and requires other market research methods besides big data collection.

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