(Originally published in iMediaConnection)

Ask anyone who’s struggling to stay on the cutting edge: Technology is evolving at light speed, and that means new innovations, new gadgets, and new data sources are hitting the market every day. It also means that America’s 300,000 market research analysts are feeling more confused and overwhelmed than ever.

It’s no wonder: With every technological advancement — whether it’s a new gadget, wearable device, or social network — new data points grow exponentially. And business executives are challenging researchers to use that data to make smarter marketing decisions right now. After all, it’s just data; how hard can it be?

But here’s what C-suite executives don’t know: The big data they need for thorough quantitative analysis is buried in Oracle databases. And once it’s exported — only after asking a company’s IT department very, very nicely — it’s just millions of rows of raw, uncorrelated atomic data. Agencies can have an even harder time getting transactional or behavioral data from a company, and no single social platform provides every metric, which translates to acquiring access to several tedious, expensive platforms.

There is hope, however. First, companies need to create a new, diverse portfolio of research approaches. Then, they need to explore how these approaches complement each other — and which combination fits their business best.

The Right Questions

Every day, all over the world, millions of consumers are leaving trails of comments, posts, pins, and cookie-based data. So why are concrete, accurate consumer profiles so hard to create?

Most companies already know they should start by getting a complete, in-depth profile of who’s buying what they sell and why they’re buying it. Ideally, a complete portfolio of source data would show:

  • Who bought your product
  • What they bought
  • When they bought it
  • Where they bought it
  • Why they bought it
  • How they bought it

To answer all of these questions in a complete, meaningful way, you need more than one kind of data analysis. After all, five out of six of these require quantitative data.

In the past, ascertaining a concrete answer for “why” was the hardest question on this list. But now, with so many different ways and places to buy, the other five questions are difficult to answer completely, too. Your best bet for netting answers to all of these questions is to blend several different kinds of marketing research together.

The Right Balance

The case for mixing in-depth, analytical research with real-time market research is growing stronger every day, and big-time industry leaders are beginning to share the news.

At GigaOM’s Roadmap 2013, Instagram’s founder and former CEO, Kevin Systrom, had a unique angle on why businesses need a more diversified research strategy. He said that “hunch-driven design” works when you have 100 users, but you need data-driven design when you have 150 million.

It’s true. Big brands with a reputation to maintain can’t gamble on a hunch. They need hard-and-fast numbers to base their actions on, and that’s where a balanced mix of these two kinds of research can come into play.

The Right Process

Creativity and research can live together beautifully and help you create a smarter, more tailored product. But there’s a clear order you should take when pairing these two together. 

After all, smart development comes from a creative place, but that doesn’t mean creativity can’t be informed by facts. When it’s used correctly, data shouldn’t hinder your company’s innovation. It should guide it.

That’s why creating a mix of in-depth, analytical research with real-time market research is a necessity for any growing, evolving company. It can give you the information you need to innovate — and the justification you need to take that next great leap forward.


About Mattr

Segment your audience in hours — not weeks or months — all without asking questions. Craft campaigns and products that appeal to their personalities and unique interests.

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