Technology as an Enabler of Better Research (MRMW Summary #1)

As I sit down to reflect on the first day of my first MRMW event — the 2019 European Conference — I find myself at a surprising loss to condense the day down into a single, or even small set of, themes. Perhaps that’s because there was such a breadth and diversity of content; a mix of challenges, debates, case studies and real world impact. As Baileigh Allen of ZigZag Research highlighted in the closing remarks, there were a grand total of 22 speakers on stage over the course of the day.

I think, if I were to attempt squeezing as much as possible into a single theme; the overriding message of the day was around how technology enables better research and better marketing. And what a display of technology there was on show. From Wifi analytics to implicit association testing, crowdsourcing to automation. The conference schedule certainly served as a reminder of just how broad the insights industry is.

Segmentation and Knowledge Management

The day opened strong as Chuck Hwang of Proctor and Gamble presented a fascinating case study that demonstrated the mantra of ‘eyes on the consumer, hands on the keyboard’. The presentation talked through a project local to Amsterdam which drove feedback and development of an innovative diaper recycling initiative.

Eyes on the consumer, hands on the keyboard. A useful mantra for describing the relationship between consumers, brands and researchers from P&G.

Chuck was closely followed by Noelle Gall of Johnson and Johnson who — with the help of real-world examples — challenged the audience to consider how a joint effort between behavioural and demographic data provides the best approach to segmentation. I particularly enjoyed the three-step approach that considers ‘who’ the segment are last, asking how and why they exhibit particular behaviours first.

Next up, E.On and Market Logic presented a fantastic case study on how the utilities firm is marketing their insight department and empowering business units to make the most out of the firm’s existing pool of data. I was especially pleased to see an almost brutally honest, uncut approach to showing customer feedback that drives action (as well as an incredible demonstration on how to run a successful knowledge management platform).

Market Research Trends

After the first break of the day, Stefan Boom from Dynata examined two current market research trends — automation and voice. In this session, it was interesting to note the distinction between the two and how while automation (which was mentioned frequently throughout the day) seems to be relatively well adopted by the insights industry, voice is still an emerging technology. While there was expressed hesitation as to whether it will become a long term trend or die a short term fad — the experiments, nonetheless, look pretty cool.

In the most unique presentation of Day 1, Clara Westman of Bonava, discussed how the construction firm are building happy neighbourhoods by first of all defining a happiness index, and then building on a hierarchical structure of cornerstones. Clara also touched on how AI and automation tools are helping the firm model hundreds of potential neighbourhood designs to quantify extremely complex building decisions.

And before lunch we were treated to a view of the research industry’s #10YearChallenge as presented by Vodafone Ziggo and Borderless Access. Key themes that emerged included the explosion of customer touchpoints & data sources, changing channels (but not underlying behaviours) and integration between data sources. A fun note to end on was the thought of how the industry will change over another 10 years — and whether we’ll even recognise it.

Experimentation and Emerging Methodologies

Following lunch, I really enjoyed the variety of new and innovative research methodologies that were discussed. The first was bought to us by Greg Morris of Formula One, who talked about how WiFi analytics and anonymised tracking data of consumers in a physical location is providing the brand with valuable data that is already driving decisions.

Beyond Reason and Strategir next presented a view on how implicit association testing and neuroscience are helping brands make choices about brand alignment and consumer perception. One particularly scary statistic from this presentation was that the human brain makes implicit evaluations in 300–1,500 milliseconds, calling into question how much we control our subconscious and how much it controls us.

The human brain makes implicit evaluations in anywhere between 300–1,500 milliseconds, calling into question how much we are in control of our own decisions.

Directly following this, Heineken and Veylinx introduced the audience to a unique model of assessing purchase intent by using concept tests run with a Vickrey auction methodology, linked to consumers bank accounts in order to bridge the gap between intent and behaviour (which can reportedly by nearly 600%). Before the final break, Fastuna and Sperbank returned to one of the recurring themes of the day — automation — and how the brand is using it in order to simplify complex research in the context of a global transformation programme.

UX, Trendspotting, Blockchain and Crowdsourcing

The final set of sessions covered a broad range of topics that bridge market research and technology. Helene van den Dries and Kaia Crowe from WeTransfer introduced a robust debate on whether UX will kill market research. Spoiler alert: the conclusion was a resounding no. However, the duo did make a sound case for the two disciplines to better integrate and work together. (Also, whoever designed these slides did an astounding job; they were the most visually impactful I’ve seen in a long time).

Next, John Miranda of Intel walked the audience through a great example of how the brand use signals to identify emerging trends and a combination of experts & crowdsourcing to narrow down trends into the most important. My favourite aspect of this presentation was John’s slide mapping trends against momentum and intensity as a measure of the most important.

The conference continued on, next with Julien Pahud from Eli Lilly providing an excellent introduction to blockchain in market research — and how the two tensions of marketing (improving the past and scouting the future) will likely lead to new opportunities in this field. The first day then closed with Guy White of Catalyxdescribing the benefits and uses of crowdsourcing in the insights industry, alongside an impactful case study of crowdsourcing in action.

Closing Thoughts

For me, what MRMW EU 2019 has highlighted above anything else is that the research and insights landscape is more diverse, nuanced and innovative than we often remember. While a number of the ideas and case studies presented will take years to reach a level of mass adoption (if they ever do), it is by this token of experimentation and constantly pushing the boundaries that keeps insight departments relevant and propelling growth.

There’s no doubt insight professionals are being asked to do more with less, but we’re fortunate to have the technology and innovative spirit to embrace that challenge and continue improving the craft; paving the way for even more exciting opportunities in the future.

The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.




FlexMR is The Insights Empowerment Company. We help brands to act decisively, stay close to customers and embed agile insight at the heart of every decision.

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FlexMR is The Insights Empowerment Company. We help brands to act decisively, stay close to customers and embed agile insight at the heart of every decision.

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