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Decoding Consumers Using Technology

Since the early part of twentieth century Market Research (MR) has been a handy tool for brand and product managers to understand market trends, need gaps, consumer psychology, etc. In today’s scenario, it has become vitally important to conduct MR not only during the product usage life cycle, but even at product development stage.

Traditionally, insights had been captured face to face using pen and paper (for quantitative surveys) or were audio recorded (for qualitative surveys). Around the turn of the century pen and paper gave way to computers, which changed the way surveys were taken. Few of the game changing technologies were:

Computer Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI) – As the name suggests, in this technique the interviewer administers a software application based questionnaire to the consumer using computers, the interview is conducted in-person. Some of the predominant softwares which used this method are Nebu, Askia and Confirmt.

Computer Assisted Telephonic Interviews (CATI) – This is similar to CAPI, in fact the software used for CAPI can also be used for CATI. The only difference between the two techniques is that the interview is conducted over the phone instead of in-person.

Computer Assisted Web Interviews (CAWI) – In this case the questionnaire is on an online software tool like QuestionPro or SurveyMonkey (CAPI & CATI are generally offline tools). In some cases these questionnaires can be self-administered by consumers as well. The most popular way of doing this is via online panels like Xcel-OnlineSurveys. Online panels are groups of consumers who have agreed to participate in MR projects from time to time over an extended period of time.

Online Focus Groups – Focus groups discussions are one time discussions where up to 10 consumers gather at a central location and discuss a specific topic face to face. Online platforms such as FocusVision make it possible to conduct this activity online via text, audio and video inputs.

Online Bulletin Boards/Forums – These are online discussion platforms like VisionsLive, 2020Research, etc. which are closed in nature. Here multiple participants, (can be from different cities and even countries) who have been specifically recruited, can answer the questions asked by the researcher. Additionally they can also respond to comments posted by other participants. These forums can extend from few days to few weeks.

Though the above technologies are still relevant today, there have been three recent technology advancements that are having a massive impact on the market research landscape. The first is the increasing penetration of wireless internet, the second is the thriving of budget mobile devices market and the third is wearable technology. These technologies have not only enabled consumers to have live interaction with brands, but they also allow brands and researchers to gather real time consumer data and gain “instant insights”, which was not feasible few years back.

Since mobile devices are always with people, they are a great way to capture live experiences. Below are examples of few mobile technologies, which researchers are experimenting with in order to capture “in the moment actual behaviour” and not just the “claimed behaviour”

Passive Data CollectionIn this technique an application is downloaded on the mobile device which automatically captures information such as applications used, duration of app usage, number of calls made, device OS, etc. This can help multiple stakeholders like application developers, advertisers, cellular service providers, etc. in designing and optimizing their products and services.

Geo Fencing and Location Based Surveys (LBS) – In addition to GPS, device locations can be mapped using various techniques such as cell tower tracking, NFC, WiFi related systems, etc. By studying the device locations, consumer location analytics companies like Locately assist brands in identifying the daily routines and routes of consumers in order to understand the purchase behaviour across product categories.

Retailers can use the in-store location data to understand consumer movement within their store. This helps them plan the floor layout, product and advertisement placements. Additionally, using geo-fencing technology like SurveySwipe, companies can trigger popup surveys on consumers’s smartphone in case they are found visiting or leaving a predefined location such as their stores, restaurants, etc.

mDiaries: Mobile devices are excellent platforms for tracking shopper purchase behaviour. Mobile diary applications like Qualvu and Ethosapp enable consumers to log their product purchase and consumption in text, picture, audio and video format.

Event Based Triggers – This is quite similar to geo-fencing surveys, a survey pops up whenever the consumer performs a certain action on their device. The trigger can be on the basis of apps used, website visited or even a specific time frame. One of the leading technologies in this space is RealityMine.

Sound Finger Printing – Though in development stage, content recognition technology can listen out for audio matching the pre-specified audio library and help accurately capture the frequency of consumer interaction with a particular advertisement, jingle, etc.

Though mobile research technologies are still being developed, the next step of evolution is already here – Wearable Technology. Eyewear devices such as Tobiipro enable researchers to have a complete shopper’s view in a retail setup and see how they interact with products while shopping.

There are other advanced wearable products like BodyMonitor, out in the market, which gauge neurological responses of a consumer to stimulus such as concepts, advertisements, products, etc. using smart bands.

With more mobile devices and wearable products coming into the market, avenues are opening up for MR companies and brands to move beyond using memories for research and look at capturing live consumer experiences.

*Many of the above technologies require consumers to agree to participate in the survey and download application(s) on their devices or give permission to access passive data. However, it should be ensured that the data is used for market research purposes only, data privacy is maintained and the MR companies abide by the law of the specific countries in which research is conducted.