Why researchers must embrace the data revolution

Within the next few years, for the first time more than 2 billion people will regularly be using the internet. More and more data is being generated through interactions and transactions taking place on platforms related to online tools such as social media and electronic banking. Caroline outlined the reasons the market research industry needs to change, and as it changes it must embrace this data revolution.

Even more amazingly, shortly after this threshold is reached, it is likely to be surpassed by the number of devices permanently connected to the web without constant human control. Smart devices such as temperature sensors and traffic sensors are on the increase across a whole range of societies and will continue to increase dramatically. They have the effect of enabling the researchers to tune into and record much of the data that our planet transmits as a result of both natural and human activities.

Not only, therefore, are market analysts now benefitting from the streams of data that people have begun to generate online, the industry is also now able, via the so-called ‘web of things’, to listen to and record data that has been produced organically for many years but never accurately recorded. The ensuing sea of data can be allied with intelligent analysis to offer the market research industry the opportunity to truly modernise and innovate.

One of the main ways in which this can be done is through the adoption of co-creative research techniques. If you combine the fact that consumers are now able to interact so much with the brands they buy through social media, with the fact that these brands can access complex ‘demand chains’ through various streams of their consumers’ data, then it will often be the case that consumers actually become akin to hackers. While a hacker can adapt a program to increase the value he/she derives from it, a co-creating consumer is now able to feed back into the product redevelopment process, not only increasing the value of a product to the consumer, but also providing valuable insight to the producer. The environment that allows this process to happen stems from the data generated and the interaction made possible by the ‘web of things’.

Co-creation has already achieved real success and consumer buy-in for many brands. For example, Lego produced a successful Lego-Factory website which moved towards mass customisation and represented a form of open innovation. Nike ID was a similar ploy by Nike. In financial services, a Barclays community allowed consumers to influence the terms of their prospective credit card and Commonwealth Bank have created ‘IdeaBank’ in which consumers can post ideas for innovation on which other visitors to the site can either approve or disapprove.