More and more we see our daily lives being influenced by technology in ways we might have never imagined and as time goes by we can't live without these technologies. However we don't see the same rapid uptake of technology within the South African research community.
Technology in our lives: More and more we see our daily lives being influenced by technology in ways we might have never imagined and as time goes by we can't live without these technologies. For example when the first brick sized cell phones came out you would never have thought that in a few years you would be using the same device to connect to the internet, receive emails, take HD video, update your Twitter feeds and so on. Now you wouldn't be caught dead without it for fear of your daily life falling apart, in fact you'd feel somewhat naked without it.
Underestimating technology: We sometimes underestimate this rapid growth of technology and how this growth is ever increasing. I'll take this opportunity to quote Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM in 1943 - "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." This is often the type of thinking that still prevails even in today's world.
The rapid uptake of technology: Given this we should probably be adopting technology early on to avoid being left behind. Last year I saw advert for Commonwealth Bank (view video) depicting the way they foresaw the future, where a couple seeking a home loan made use of illustrious technologies to communicate and deal with their bank. I thought to myself nice concept but it'll be ages before we see this applied. Let just say I was wrong, a few days later I came across a Commonwealth bank media release (view release + video) stating how the bank has now implemented some of the very same technologies via an iPhone app.
The problem with traditional methodologies: The point I'm getting to here is that we might see this rapid uptake of technology within our own lives but how is it that we do not see the same in terms of the market research community. We are still extremely dependant on the more traditional research methodologies such as focus groups, paper based surveys, telephonic interviews and so on. Now I'm not saying we should do away with these methodologies (well maybe paper based surveys) and replace them with ultra-advanced technologies but rather we can use current technologies to improve on the traditional.
As current methodologies stand they have many inherent problems such as cost, lengthy turnarounds, participant recruitment, response rates and sample quality. It is these factors that technology can definitely help improve on.
For example cost and lengthy turnaround times are a result of having to rely on large teams of staff that manually capture data and then turn it into a meaningful report which takes time, and time is of the essence if you need to respond to your market quickly. The answer is simple; there are various feedback software packages that allow for the responses to be captured electronically. This allows for the results to be viewed in real-time and the same software can easily analyse and report on the captured data. This approach takes up far less time and resources saving you money and thereby allowing you to conduct research on a more regular basis. This regular research ensures you keep your finger on the pulse of the market place at all times.
The other inherent problems such as recruiting participants, response rates and sample quality are also easily solved through simple database software. This database software allows you to create a database of participants that have opted-in to partake in research. This means that you no longer have to worry about the sample quality as the software allows you to define a balanced sample based on the profile information these participants provide when they sign-up. Also in our experience the response rates amongst these participants are exceptionally good, so much so that you could have the results of a survey within a few hours.
New research technologies: We've discussed improving on the traditional research methodologies but what's out there that is new. Well believe it or not that is actually a very long list, so I'm just going to touch on few that I feel that stand out. The first is a very brave initiative undertaken by the First Direct Bank which allows consumers to rate their experience on their website (View site) and the results are then published live and in real-time. Another similar initiative is that of Star Bucks whereby consumers can post their ideas on the website (View site) and other consumers can vote on whether they like the idea or not. If the idea gets enough votes then Starbucks will go onto implement it in their stores, now what better customer satisfaction can you offer than that.
Social media is an ever growing platform within businesses but it is somewhat of a more recent phenomenon. This means that not all businesses necessarily have the correct approach or some don't approach it at all but putting your head in the sand is just going to create more problems. Whether your business is actively engaged in social media or not, it doesn't matter because your consumers are and this is all that matters. So the first question is "How is my company perceived within social media networks?" and the second question is "How would I measure this?"
Not to worry though, a recent study was conducted using social media monitoring software and what this software is able to do is scan the infinite social networks that are out there and searches for any conversations or comments mentioning your brand. It will also determine whether each mention had positive or negative association. Ultimately you will understand how often your brand is being mentioned, the type of sentiment being associated with it and what networks mention you the most. Best of all you can get the results in a matter of hours.
There is also new powerful survey software that provides a host of features taking it beyond simple surveys. Results can be accessed in real-time and shared across key contacts within an organisation. The software easily integrates with existing systems such as CRM or call-centre systems. What this means is that if a consumer is logged as having a negative experience they are immediately sent a survey querying their experience and the relevant contact within the organisation is notified. The software also allows all the data within an organisation to be consolidated so that information is easily accessed and shared across departments which goes a long way to ensuring operational continuity.
Now is a very exciting time for research and there are endless possibilities out there so I urge you to start adopting technology as part of your research strategy. I have seen and experienced some amazing new research tools and I ask you to keep in mind the benefits when using these technologies:
It can be used as an enabler for conducting more frequent research.
Allows for more accurate sampling.
Can optimise the way we conduct traditional research.
Can be used to reduce turnaround times.
It is a cost effective alternative to some traditional methods.