By John Mitchell
December is the season for predictions. What does 2018 hold for market researchers? Here are three trends I see affecting the insights industry in the upcoming year.
The Rise of the Machines, Continued
Machine learning achieved the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” in Gartner’s 2017 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, as companies seek patterns and insights from an huge repository of business. Within our field, machine learning has already enhanced how we explain and predict customer behavior. Most applications help researchers mine structured data for insights into consumer behavior, such as website clickstreams or shopping cart composition. Meanwhile, new methods have emerged that help researchers analyze unstructured user-generated content, such as product reviews, asynchronous discussion boards, and customer forums. In 2018, we expect these methods to gain traction and give product teams access to a huge new source of qualitative customer insights.
The Merger of Customer Experience and Market Research
Interest in customer experience (CX) has exploded in the past few years, as companies recognize that building an enduring brand requires not only delivering a better product, but also addressing the customer’s entire journey from consideration, through purchase, and into use, enjoyment, and troubleshooting. Entire CX departments and even a “Chief Experience Officer” have appeared on many org charts. CX teams have assumed functions usually associated with market research, including journey mapping, needs analysis and satisfaction measurement. In some cases, companies wind up with redundant capabilities and uncertainty over where customer experience research belongs. More effective companies have successfully integrated these two capabilities into a single center of excellence, combining the insights-gathering expertise of market researchers with the experience-improvement skills of CX professionals. Given the attention paid to CX, market researchers in 2018 would be wise to refine their understanding of CX and build bridges with CX teams in their organizations.
Integration of Survey and Behavioral Data
Survey research, despite its value in decision-making, suffers from a fundamental limitation: surveys rely on what people say they do, not what they actually do. Likewise, behavioral data, drawn from digital sources, suffers from another limitation: they show clear proof of what people do, but offer little insight into why. Recently, we have seen companies overcome these limitations by connecting the two data sources. In one case, we worked with a team at Twitter to measure the brand value created by delivering customer service through Twitter. We integrated a conjoint survey with data mined from customer tweets to support desks at companies in different industries, proving that customers who had a good service outcome are willing to pay more. Since more and more of the customer experience occurs through digital channels, we expect companies to demand research studies that help evaluate their improvement efforts.
As these trends continue to shape our industry, AMS is ready to support our clients with new and deeper insights, built on our extensive experience in nearly every industry category. If 2018 brings you a particularly difficult research question, perhaps we can help you answer it. We will see you in the new year!