How to create better research solutions with behavioral data

The world’s biggest brands create great customer experiences, seamlessly integrating offline and online. To make informed decisions on their marketing strategies, brands are looking to better understand the millions of moments in a consumer’s life that pass through the screen of a phone, tablet or personal computer. These moments provide brands with an abundance of opportunities in which they can shape the experience of consumers.

Changing behavior results in changing requirements for market research

Understanding the behaviors, context and motivations that result in these touchpoints and interactions with a brand, poses complex challenges for market researchers.

The sheer volume of marketing events require a capacity for collecting data that goes beyond what traditional questionnaires can deliver. Distraction, as a result of information overload, leads to shorter duration of events, turning them into micro moments. And events are becoming more fragmented and non-linear across different devices as consumers move into different roles and context throughout the day.

Compounding this, brands realize market research has become a brand touchpoint in itself, requiring a research experience that is positively aligned with the overall customer experience. Brands require research to become faster, better and more innovative as a result.

Behavioral data complements market research use cases

The market research industry today collects mostly opinion data on consumer behavior, using surveys as key data collection methodologies. Market researchers responding effectively to the changing requirements of brands, are looking for ways in which they can innovate their research designs and data collection methodologies. Through the technological innovation of passive metering it is now possible to collect behavioral data. Behavioral data collection contains an exact record of what people do online.

Continuous measurement benefits from digital behavioral data

Behavioral data collection has proven to be an effective source of data for a number of market research scenarios. It helps to bring in the full digital footprint of consumers’ online media consumption, exposure to online advertising and is a key step in recording online purchases.

Three areas where behavioral data aids custom research designs

Behavioral data is complementary to other data types to provide a holistic view on consumer behavior in three ways.

  1. As it records exactly what people do online, there is no need to ask them for their online behavior. It improves online data collection where distraction and fragmentation are leading to problems with recall. Moreover, it creates valuable room in the data collection process to probe more deeply. It can also shorten the length of the time required for data collection, improving the overall survey experience.

  2. Behavioral data helps to better recruit research participants. Take for instance the example of people interested in buying cars: with behavioral data research participants who have visited an automotive website can be selected directly. Recent research has indicated better targeting increases participation rates, reduces dropout rates, improves survey experience and yields the same or better survey data quality.

  3. Understand consumer behavior in the moment by surveying in the moment. A unique feature of passive metering technology is to fire a survey invitation close to the moment of the observation. Among other use cases, this enables fast investigation of the subjective experiences consumers have with micro moments throughout their customer journey.

Availability of behavioral data

Panelists on an invitation basis share their behavioral data for market research purposes to consumer panels using passive metering technologies. Their relationship with a consumer panel is one based on trust. They are willing to extend this relationship by allowing panel companies to passively collect their online behavior in addition to surveying them. Behavioral data – like survey data – therefore is accessible to market researchers of research companies and brands of all kinds. A growing number of panel companies invest in software licenses for passive metering technology. As a result, the availability in different geographies and for different target audiences is expected to substantially grow.

Putting behavioral data into action

Building better research designs with the benefits of different types of data requires building data integration skills. Innovative market research firms and data analytics departments of brands have acquired the software tools to be able to use new types of data. And they have invested in the knowledge regarding how to use them.

Of course, things will never be that easy again. The time when we could use a questionnaire to solve almost any research problem has passed. Today’s consumer must be studied from several points of view, through diverse methods and data sources that jointly compose an integrated picture. We are sorry, researchers: your job has become more complex than it was never before, but more exciting as well.

Acknowledgements

By Carlos Ochoa and Daan Versteeg. Originally published on ESOMAR RW Connect on April 18, 2016

Written by Daan Versteeg

Master degree in Economics, experienced in strategy, marketing, research, advertising and technology. After 15 years at Shell, Heineken, Google and Wakoopa, Daan is now Marketing Director at Netquest.

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