Consumer insights vs market research for beginners

Market research has been evolving rapidly over the past few years. With this evolution, comes new ways of doing just about everything. Today we’re covering two ways of collecting data. The old-fashioned, traditional methods of sample sourcing, and in-person data collection, to the newer (flashier) way of collecting consumer insights.

Importance of collecting consumer opinion
Consumer opinion is one of the driving factors of consumer research. Businesses and brands want to know what customers and clients think of their products or services, the advertising, and their overarching opinion of the business/brand and their values. This can help them tailor their future product design, development, and marketing to better serve their desired consumer base and potential customers.

How is this collected?
Consumer opinion is more traditionally collected using market research methodology. The research studies themselves take time and money to design, not to mention the time and effort data collection and analysis takes. Traditional data collection often relies on face-to-face conversations, lengthy surveys, or following the client’s favoured research methodology. This can make traditional market research relatively stuffy. These collection methods can still work for the fast-paced, internet-driven market, however the likelihood of getting a generationally representative sample of the population can be tough. According to statistics from the Office for National Statistics, 99% of adults aged 16-44 were recent internet users, compared to only 54% of those aged 75 and over. As the generations shift and newer consumers come into play, the ways of collecting insights need to shift with it.

Consumer insights cut down the time required for data collection. Consumer insights are more often collected passively using AI. Passively collected behavioural data, trend analysis, and social listening are all ways of CI data collection. This is massively beneficial to today’s consumer behaviour – most of which is happening online. AI is relied on more and more in the current climate. It means that researchers can keep up with trends that can wax and wane quickly. Rather than taking weeks to collect the data, it can be collected in days.

Methods to collect consumer insights
There are several ways to collect CI data. Sourcing behavioural data, trend analysis, and social listening are some of the quickest methods. This means that they can be more easily compared to market research’s slow, sometimes clunky methods.

Passively collected behavioural data can be obtained with use of programmes such as Google Analytics. Analytics shows data on how users and consumers interact with products and services. This means that you can get a sense of what consumers are interested in, how well your marketing programmes are working, and what services you need to put more work into. Other ways of obtaining this data is to analyse cookies, or using web beacons – an often invisible way of tracking what content a user accesses.

Trend analysis shows you what product is currently trending – no surprises there! You can use this sort of service to search your branding keywords to see how popular your brand or product is at any given time. It can be useful in terms of checking to see if your marketing efforts are paying off. You can also see where you need to redirect effort, for example, if an advertising campaign isn’t bringing in the clicks you expect.

Social listening is the act of tracking social media for keyword mentions. It works in a similar way to trend analysis, however instead of searching Google for keywords, the AI trawls social media. This way, you can keep track of your mentions – both positive and negative! Rather than needing to rely on product reviews, compliments and complaints are readily available. Acting upon these potential issues is now much quicker because you’ve found them in real-time. It might also lead you to realise that your post-purchase surveys are too intrusive, or can actually deter customers (see our previous article on that here). You can also estimate brand reach, and find the content which performs most effectively.

Strengths of each option
Each data collection method has its strengths. Not only does CI mean data is collected quicker, but you can also gain an understanding of a brand which might not come out in traditional methods. Traditionally, participants are invited to face-to-face interviews or focus groups. You might not gain insight into the negative elements of what you’re studying. After all we’re all human, and giving negative feedback doesn’t come as naturally for some of us. However, shouting that negative feedback into the void of social media is much easier to do. You’ll also likely find that you increase your respondent age range. Our younger generations live a great portion of their lives online – following that trend for data collection may mean that you’re able to reach more of the younger, up-and-coming consumers whose experiences are just as invaluable.

That being said, having a human collect data in the traditional way means that nuances aren’t lost. AI as it stands currently isn’t the greatest at detecting (and understanding) nuance. Great strides are being made in this area (see our piece on how AI is shifting here) but having the human element can be invaluable. In CI, there is still human-led analysis, but it can be most effectively put in place with a human along all stages.

A middle-ground?
There’s nothing saying you can’t combine CI and traditional methods! Market research has been combining AI and human efforts for years, so it shouldn’t be a stretch to bring in a CI project. We’ve covered some of the reasons why each method is beneficial to brands and businesses, but what can we do with this information?

As the age of consumers changes, with generational shifts, we need to keep up with what they want and how we can access those opinions. By collecting insights as well as conducting traditional market research, we’re keeping up with the generational shift. Most consumer behaviour now happens online, so being able to collect insights through things like trend analysis and social listening is a quicker process. By combining CI with a traditional approach, businesses and researchers are making sure that they get a decent representation of new and emerging consumers.

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