Guest Contribution by Carly Napoli, Director of Solutions Engineering at Resonate
Every brand on the planet is trying to get closer to its customers and prospects these days. Fostering this closeness in an authentic way starts with knowing your audiences—who they are, what they need and, importantly, what causes them to choose one product, solution or brand over another.
For decades now, the first stop for many brands in the pursuit of this knowledge has been market research designed to help the brand build marketable personas and segments—but the limitations of the traditional market research approach are becoming painfully obvious in our fast-evolving, cross-channel, AI-driven age.
Traditional market research can take many forms, but most segmentation efforts start with custom studies and analyses that can be expensive and, thus, are undertaken infrequently. Let’s look at these constraints in more detail, as well as the ways in which brand marketers can combat them.
Weaknesses of Traditional Market Research
To keep up with today’s dynamic, socially aware consumer, brands require market insights and segmentation strategies that live and breathe alongside their efforts. Unfortunately, a great deal of custom research is incapable of keeping pace. That’s because…
The Insights Are Stale
The moment a piece of research is packaged up and handed to a brand, the clock is ticking on its relevance. In some cases, where researchers tap into old-school focus groups, the data tends to be weak to start, given the small sample size.
In addition, the insights can already be weeks or months old by the time the final recommendations hit the page and are seen—not to mention put into action—by the brand. As such, brands’ personas and segmentation strategies are always at least one step behind current consumers when relying on traditional research.
It’s Hard to Find the Right People Across Channels
When traditional research employs decidedly offline tactics in crafting personas, brands often find it challenging to translate those personas to the real world in digital and social environments.
Sure, audiences can be purchased along demographic lines, but how can brands match their static personas to dynamic audiences if they don’t understand how their target audiences behave in the wild?
( Also Read: Benefits of Combining Digital with Traditional Marketing )
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
In addition, while custom market research enables brands to ask the questions they know they want consumers to answer, what about the questions that they don’t know are relevant?
Traditional market research can be limiting in that it shows you the dimensions of consumers that you know you want to uncover, but it doesn’t enable marketers to reach beyond that knowledge to discover new unexpected insights that might yield game-changing competitive advantages for their brands.
Solving for Stagnant Segmentation in a Digital World
It’s time that we translate tried-and-true principles of understanding audiences for today’s digital reality, and that means employing today’s AI and machine learning capabilities to the task of making market research fresh, actionable and insightful beyond its origins.
Brands Require Always-On, Constantly Refreshing Insights
Solving for the main challenge of stale insights in market research means it’s time to put the technology that has already transformed digital advertising on the web to work for market research purposes. Market research doesn’t need to be a manual one-and-done scenario.
By breaking the mold on traditional focus group tactics and employing efficient digital survey distribution on an ongoing basis, marketers can tap into segmentation research that can be regularly refreshed to reflect the latest in consumer sentiments.
Brands Require Scalable Insights Based on Online Action
Beyond employing an ongoing approach to consumer surveys and insights, consumer intelligence platforms today can combine what consumers say they do and want with insights into what their behaviors (both online and offline) indicate they actually do and want—and they can do so in a privacy-compliant, opt-in manner.
By pairing survey-based research with consumer actions, brands can not only uncover the true motivations that drive consumer action, but they can also identify the real-world audiences most likely to be receptive to their products, services and causes.
AI and Machine Learning Uncover Unexpected Insights
Finally, brands today have an unprecedented opportunity to tap into the latest in AI and machine learning capabilities to ensure their market research isn’t just telling them what they think they want to know about consumers, but rather what they actually need to know.
Simply put, today’s advances in the realm of AI-based segmentation are allowing brands to connect dots like never before when it comes to their target audiences.
By tapping into platforms that already have a base understanding of the U.S. adult population at their core, brands can identify their target audiences within that population and then explore completely new dimensions to the values and motivations that drive those individuals—ones that might never have occurred to them at the outset of their segmentation initiatives.
We live in a fundamentally different digital world than we did 10 years ago, not to mention 50. So why are so many of our market research tactics the same ones we’ve employed for decades? It’s time to break the mold and unlock the true potential of today’s always-on, always-learning technologies.