As insight professionals, we know the inherent value of context — it can be the difference between false data interpretations and truly actionable insight; as such, it is crucial to understanding the reasons why consumers behave as they do.
Most marketing professionals also know a fair bit about the value of context, but usually only so far in terms of aiming their campaigns at the right people through the right medium and at the right time. Contextual insights can vastly enhance marketing communications beyond these fundamental elements, and the marketing industry is starting to realise this, triggering a revolution in the pursuit of research.
How Context Enhances Marketing Efforts
Personalisation has become the cornerstone of marketing strategies; with 93% of companies using personalisation reporting an increase in conversion rates and 59% of consumers stating that personalisation significantly influencing what they buy, it’s hard to say that personalisation (when planned and executed well) doesn’t work! The more traditional segment-focussed marketing has also become a widely-used, easier fallback for when personalisation don’t quite go to plan.
As researchers, we know the inherent value of context — in terms of marketing, it’s the difference between forging a meaningful, personal connection with a customer and a campaign that sparks a consumer-led boycott.
Both personalisation and segment-based marketing work well, but only if marketers adequately research their audiences (with either an individual or tribal focus respectively) beforehand. Data they gather directly from customers such as shopping history and basic demographic/identifiable data (such as full name, date of birth, and location) can only stretch so far; more in-depth data will propel marketing strategies to the next level, providing an experience that consumers will feel more of a connection from.
With the success of any strategy comes innovation; there are some articles, such as this one from the Economist Intelligence Unit and this one from Rebecca Lieb, arguing the case that marketers need to go beyond personalisation and form meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with each and every one of their customers through contextual marketing strategies. With the rising success and popularity of personalisation, with some businesses experimenting with hyper-personalisation strategies, this means that more and real-time information is needed in order to understand daily consumer behaviours, and this is where market research comes in.
Market Research: The Not-So Secret Weapon to Understanding Audiences
Market research is the key to generating the most actionable and accurate contextual data that marketers can use to inform their strategies, but how can researchers prepare for this new wave of demand for contextual insights?
First, we need to educate marketers on how to properly plan a research experience, that way we can understand both their business and research goals, and recommend plans of action accordingly based on what contextual insights we think they would need. But not only that, involving marketers within the research process at each stage means that they will gain a working knowledge of what data they are able to generate and use to influence future marketing strategies, making future research experiences much easier and more profitable for all parties involved.
It’s basic knowledge like how a mixed methodology will always generate more valuable insights that those outside of the research industry lack, and sharing this knowledge will only serve to enhance the research experience for both researchers and clients.
Creating an even exchange of data and experience is the goal for all research-informed marketing strategies. And the first step is to find out how much data your target audience is willing to give up in exchange for a personalised (or hyper-personalised) brand experience. With the current views of data, and security practices like GDPR in place, odds are that consumers are likely to give up more data that we first thought; but it’s learning how to strike that balance and only gather the data marketers need in order to provide the experience that they want, that researchers will have to learn to gauge.
Then marketers need to find out as much as possible about their target audience without going over their agreed limit. Now this is the part where researchers will need to prepare most for, because this will likely be an intensive exercise in order to provide marketers with as much contextual information as is needed for them to create more effective and relevant marketing campaigns. The information needed could be everything from consumers social and political stances (such as can be seen in Cadbury’s ‘Donate Your Words’ advertisement) to what toothpaste they use within their daily routine and the what books they might like to read.
New technological innovations will also bring with it new methods of research. Researchers currently are also behavioural and data scientists, game designers, semioticians and so much more, but the future will only bring more methods, such as geospatial tracking, etc. that they will need to understand in order to meet the demand for more real-time data generation.
Technological Considerations and Innovations
All industries, including marketing and market research, are looking to the future and trying to plan on how to adapt for future innovative disruptions. Currently, smart technology is being sold commercially, but marketing strategies haven’t caught up as much as they need to in order to properly use these communication channels.
Currently, the Internet of Things is providing both opportunities and challenges that marketers need to overcome. The Internet of Things can be directly connected to the rise of social media and influencers. Content can be created by anyone nowadays, so marketers need to step up their game in order to cut through the noise and stand out among the crowds. New personalisation tactics, new methods of communication, and new data is needed in order for marketers to stay ahead of the game and market their brand effectively.
But with this challenge also comes a myriad of opportunities; smart phones, smart assistants, smart energy meters, even smart fridges and doorbells are becoming more and more common within consumers daily lives, with around 30% of people surveyed in PwC’s Connected Home 2.0 Survey planning to purchase a smart device for their home in the next two years (this is opposed to only 14% in 2016). With these devices, comes the opportunity for more innovative communication channels and marketing personalisation tactics.
With marketers offering more personalised customer experiences, customers are more likely to consider providing more of their personal data in order to facilitate these experiences; but that has impacts for the research industry.
There are already companies using mobile phone data to track geospatial movement and satellite equipment to gain insights into current atmospheric conditions, and using this data to provide great real-time relevant content for consumers. With wearable technology like Fitbits and smart watches for us, and new innovations such as GPS trackers for pets, we can not only enable the real-time data collection of human data, but also animal data for the pet-focussed industries. In order to keep up with this demand for new types of real-time data, we must be on the lookout for new data collection methods and integrate them into our current processes so we can expand our offering provide more in-depth, specific, and relevant real-time data to clients who need it.
The Context Revolution
As insight professionals, we know that context is insanely valuable, but actually quite hard to get a full picture of. With marketers offering more personalised customer experiences, customers are more likely to consider providing more of their personal data in order to facilitate these experiences; but that has impacts for the research industry. For one, we will now have to find ways to generate this new contextual data, and find a new balance between what is necessary and what is just nice to have. There are undoubtedly lots of other impacts that researchers should keep in mind to prepare for, but hopefully I’ve covered the basics so that we have at least a helpful starting point for when the revolution hits.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.