Five things I wish IT managers knew about market research data

The “ask” we hear is simple: “give me a tool made for market research, so I can do my job better and prove my value every day.”

Many market researchers have become hackers within their own companies. Why? Because they are forcing square pegs into round holes. Instead of adopting technology that works intuitively with the complexities of market research data, researchers must often use generalist systems, like business intelligence (BI) tools, in their day-to-day work. This means time-consuming workarounds and lots of manual steps.

So why are we talking to the IT team about this challenge? Many times the mandate for using specific technology comes from IT departments. They may be locked into legacy platforms or processes and think that a general BI tool is “good enough” for the research and insights team. Others may have adopted newer systems, but those systems can’t cope with inherent intricacies that come with complex survey data. Forcing a tool that is not fit for purpose to accomplish the sophisticated levels of analysis that market research requires results in high frustration and low quality. 

Your market research team is tired of just “making it work” when it comes to data analysis and reporting. In a landscape that demands holistic consumer views, easy access to insights, and fast data turnarounds, there has to be a better way. In speaking with insights professionals at some of the globe’s top brands every day, we’ve found a few things that they wish their IT managers knew about technology solutions for market research.

They say:

  • “I need a tool that can handle my unique data inputs fast and easily.” Right now, every company and brand needs to know more about consumer audiences than ever before. Things are changing fast, and a holistic view is essential. Researchers need ALL the data to tell them what and how people are doing things and why they are doing it. Some generic tools are designed for aggregate and relational data and can’t process respondent-level data or multiples data inputs easily. With generic tools, If a researcher wants to bring disparate data sources together, it must be done manually before uploading or using limited data preparation functionalities. This is both time-consuming and error-prone. The right solution can seamlessly bring together things like survey responses, online interactions, in-store shopping data, social media posts, qualitative interviews, and other marketing-relevant data. This also gives a more accurate customer view.
  • “I need a tool that allows me to investigate market research data with all its intricacies.” General BI tools don’t allow the researcher to accomplish essential tasks like examining weighted data, data hierarchies, significance testing, statistical testing, processing multi-response questions, or building metrics on the fly. Without these capabilities, the researcher is at a disadvantage. For example, in market research, we seek a representative sample with whom we conduct research. The data will often under-represent some groups and over-represent others and means the data must be weighted for accurate outcomes. A platform that's architected for market research will inherently do that, but researchers will have to work really hard to apply that weighting if a different type of tool is used. They need ways to do ALL of the analysis and investigation, find patterns in the data, and turn those analyses into insight.
  • “I need a tool that is easy to use, for all.” The bottom line is that everyone wants to prove their value within a company. For market researchers, their value lies in the insights they uncover, and they must be able to share data among wider stakeholder groups for business decision-making easily. When a tool only allows data experts with querying experience and data model knowledge to create meaningful analyses, many people are left out. Insights teams are left relying on just a few people who know how to do things, like applying the correct function and feeding the tool the correct inputs. What’s actually needed is a solution with integrated capabilities so that the greater team can safely explore the uncovered insight without having to be a data expert.
  • “I need a way to share interactive insights beautifully.” Again, here’s where individuals prove their value as researchers - through how they deliver information and insights. This means reports need to be designed for stakeholder interaction. When someone from a leadership team asks a question, a researcher doesn't have time to go back into the data, query it, produce a spreadsheet, and output static slides. It takes too long in today’s fast-paced world. When data visualization is a core part of a technology platform, a user can easily ask questions of the data and can quickly and visually display answers. Market researchers must share the stories the data is telling in multiple, highly consumable formats, including online interactive dashboards with the ability to dig deeper and filter by any available variable on the fly.
  • “I can’t wait for clunky, expensive in-house mods.” Many large companies may think modifying an existing BI tool to handle the needs of market research data is the way to go. However, the technical debt that can ensue from this type of approach is crippling. Not only do IT teams waste massive amounts of time and resources, but more often than not, these efforts end up in failure. Technology solutions for market research require an intimate knowledge of how data needs to be linked, how weights need to be applied, and how populations need to be projected. These are not intuitive for the non-market researcher. Over and over again, these efforts take the focus off the main priorities of the overall business and cause frustration at every level. 

The “ask” we hear is simple: “Give me a tool made for market research, so I can do my job better and prove my value every day.” Researchers need a system that takes in all the data related to critical audiences, quickly analyzes it, and then generates insights that are shared with the people who care about them. Ultimately, this creates a better understanding of a company’s world, its customers, its competitors, and its brands - because of the insights the researcher has generated. And that’s good for every department in the company, including IT. 

And, if you’ve ever wondered whether these specialized market research investigation tools can directly connect or fully integrate into your data lake - the short answer is yes, and it’s often much easier, cheaper, and faster than building your own solution.

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