The massive growth of big data, while heralding its success, can also be a bit of a hindrance to our industry. Simply put, there are too many posts, videos, and other data that do not fit the model of query we need. As a result, it’s time to do some big data market research and really think about new ways to store and analyze data. What is “Big Data” anyway? In the event you’re unfamiliar with the term, big data is, in short, business data and the technology required to uphold it. Currently, the amount of existing data grows hugely each day. All of this data, including social media networking data, is relevant to business, but as of right now, only a fraction of what’s out there is being effectively analyzed. Really, though, one of the best ways to conduct research and return relevant advertising to the market is through such analysis. Big Data Boons and Banes Big data can be seen as a double-edged sword. On the one side, it is the single most significant way to gain insight into business, healthcare, and other markets. Business owners have the ability to track sales and target customers like never before. On the other hand, however, it’s important to employ new techniques to understand the significant bits of data being stored. Using natural language processing to monitor social network posts can certainly help. Utilizing advanced algorithms can also be useful, as doing so makes it possible to obtain personal information from posts that can help marketers more accurately predict customer experience. Additionally, none of this is limited solely to text. It’s possible to derive a massive amount of information from video, voice, and photographic data as well. Actually, big data innovators are going so far as to analyze facial expressions in order to determine the emotional state of subjects. Another potential boon of big data is that marketers can take the information gathered and connect it to real life experiences like, sales, returns, etcetera, of a business to derive useful meaning. Big data market research is still in its infancy, but it seems like its youth will be quite promising. Right now, it’s looking as though big data may be a huge job creator in the near future, with experts saying that about 100,000 experts are needed in the field. These sought after professionals include people skilled in understanding statistics, data sets, and other types of data. Also desired are professionals who understand how this information can really benefit big business, and these professionals may even include people from sociology and psychology backgrounds. Additionally, we’ll be seeing the questions of data ownership surfacing again and again.
As technology progresses, older tech is often rendered obsolete. This idea, known as creative destruction, can be applied to any industry and any technology. For an easy example, just look at how a single smartphone has made obsolete digital cameras, CD players, watches, and a host of other technologies. The market research industry is not immune to creative destruction, and these five past staples of the industry are on their way out. 1. PowerPoint Nothing is more ubiquitous or more stereotypical of MR than the PowerPoint presentation. The platform has long been dominant as a quick and easy way to demonstrate the results of research in a visible, geographical manner. Eventually, however, this (some would say) stale and old, but foundational, tool will be replaced. The only question is, what interactive, visual, and intuitive technology will replace it? 2. Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis Just as PowerPoint forces information to be presented in a linear, compartmentalized fashion, Quant and Qual force market research into discreet segments. The time is quickly approaching, however, where this duality—this segmentation—will no longer suffice. Both methods will merge into a new way of recording, analyzing, and presenting information. 3. Focus Groups In-Person Focus groups are essential for market research—that can’t be denied. Already, it’s growing difficult to entice consumers to sit down in a bland boardroom to absorb media and return opinions, however. Instead, focus groups are moving into the digital arena. Communities are already forming around the idea of advanced testing and feedback; the traditional focus groups are going online. 4. Online Surveys Now, who has the patience to sit down and take an hour-long survey about washing machines, car commercials, snack crackers, or tennis balls? Websites offering reward points and tangible benefits are struggling to maintain their user base already, and that’s with easy-to-earn monetary incentives already available. No, the traditional online survey is doomed, and the future lies in quick, five minute or less polls delivered through mobile platforms. No one is going to sit at their computer and answer 100 questions. But, plenty of people will press a quick set of answers into a mobile app, knowing that doing so earns them a few points towards a reward. 5. The Idea of Rationality Almost all of traditional MR is based on the idea that humans behave rationally, make decisions rationally, and will react the same way to the same stimulus every time. For this reason, online surveys are often filled with individual motivators and rankings. Soon, however, technology is going to enable an entirely different way of making decisions, a way that doesn’t respond to the rational frame of the existing means of research. The world’s paradigms are changing, and the MR industry needs to keep up.
Here we discuss another interesting biometric research method, galvanic skin response, or GSR. Galvanic skin response, which goes by several other names, is a way of measuring the electric conductance of a person’s skin. For some time, this process has been used both in research and in treatment. However, it’s rare for GSR to be the sole tool employed in either research or treatment, for it works best when combined with other biometrics. GSR actually falls short when used alone. There are a few reasons for this. First, the technology cannot tell what causes a subject to experience an emotion. Second, it can’t measure which emotion the subject is experiencing. Because of these inadequacies, professionals use other biometric measuring devices and processes to paint a more complete picture during the research or treatment process. The biometric methods most often seen paired with GSR are eye tracking and brainwave measuring.
GSR with Eye TrackingOften, eye tracking is used in conjunction with EEG in advanced marketing research. However, GSR can serve the same purpose as an EEG when coupled with eye tracking biometric devices. Galvanic skin response cannot tell researchers a precise emotion in a subject, but eye tracking may be able to use context to fill in the blanks. Eye tracking can also help researchers understand what the subject was looking at when the response occurred. Combining these two technologies allows GSR to fill in the data blanks for eye tracking and vice versa.
GSR with Brain Wave MeasurementThe electric conductance measured using GSR is a byproduct of the functions of the sympathetic nervous system, which is one of the three components belonging to the automatic nervous system. Of course, however, GSR doesn’t measure the activity of the brain itself, so researchers often include brain wave measurements in conjunction with GSR to make specific determinations. The brain wave measuring technology can determine which part of the brain is activated when the GSR puts out certain data. Usually, the brain wave data is collected via fMRI or EEG machines. When combined with GSR, these technologies can also measure the sleeping brain’s workload and the cognitive workload. Heart rate, respiration, and muscle activity are also helpful biometric indicators that may be used together with GSR. However, these indicators may actually be put to better use if employed in conjunction with the combinations discussed above. When combined, these advanced technologies can provide a good deal of solid evidence from marketing studies to help researchers better understand participants’ subconscious responses to a variety of stimuli, from packaging to advertisements.
In the search to better understand emotional reactions to stimuli and the workings of the subconscious, marketing researchers have turned toward the use of numerous technologies. Here we discuss one of them, facial electromyography, also known as fEMG. Facial electromyography is a technology that enables researchers and medical professionals to measure muscular activity in the eyes. The process quantifies the tiny electrical impulses that are generated by actively contracting muscle fibers. Because fEMG monitors movement in the facial area, researchers can gain a greater understanding of the subtle emotional responses participants feel towards a particular stimulus. In particular, fEMG studies two types of muscles: Certain activity of the corrugator muscle is usually associated with negative feelings, and activity of the zygomatic muscle is usually correlated with positive emotions.
For a long time, corporations have been working to understand how to affect consumer behavior and influence more people to purchase their products. Market research has made some headway in this arena recently, explaining how the impulses that drive consumers to purchase are produced. Now, you may not realize it, but it turns out that what makes you feel good is a part of the brain dubbed “the pleasure center.” It’s this center that makes us feel happy when kissed, that drives us to eat our favorite foods or play our favorite games, that makes us want to relax on the beach.Laboratory tests have shown that rats who can control their pleasure centers with a switch will literally jump at the opportunity to do so. Scientists set up electrical pulses that control the pleasure centers of rats’ brains and found that the rats would sacrifice anything to continuously pounce towards the levers and experience electrical bursts of happiness. Disturbingly, rather than eat or sleep, these rats flipped their switches without end, stopping only when they died of sheer exhaustion… Now, corporations are seeing what implications this experiment could have for product marketing. By studying the brain waves of consumers eating snack food products, researchers found that the participants felt pleasure due to the messiness of the food they were eating. The Frito Lay Corporation, in fact, decided to use this finding to enhance its product advertising. By using “neuromarketing” research for these advertisements, they won a 2009 Grand Ogilvy Award from the Advertising Research Foundation. The ambiguity as to what intent corporations will have in utilizing neuromarketing has led to some understandable concerns. After all, nobody wants to be mindlessly jumping towards products like the research lab rats jumping towards their pleasure switches. But some think corporations will not go in this direction; rather some think that corporations will use the findings to help determine what will drive consumers to purchase their products, and they will use this knowledge for marketing purposes only. These findings can also make sense of what cultural differences exist between different regions—and what pleasure means in them—in order to provide insight into what types of different marketing practices should be used for international consumers. Academics are also interested in how pleasure is processed by the brain, but they have different goals. Rather than sell products, academics are often more interested in exactly how the brain functions. However, when considering the obvious factor that money must be made, you can bet that corporations will be observing academics performing research on the science of pleasure with a watchful eye.
When you first think of market research methods, the image of surveys and focus groups may come to mind. However, market research has evolved, to the point that you may be unaware what methodologies are being used today. While methods have grown more complex, they’ve also gotten a lot more interesting. Here are some examples of how much the game has changed. Analyzing Data Nowadays, collecting information about a consumer’s habit has become much easier than it once was, especially because the Internet facilitates a lot of info gathering. For example, Google actually informs webmasters about aspects like the language in which web visitors speak, the pages that have been visited, and other inferred preferences of consumers. This method is constantly used to refine a website for its visitors, and it represents a shift towards data analysis from a previous high focus on just data collection. Observational Research If you wanted to know the effect of a product, would you rather directly ask those affected questions about their responses to it, or would you rather observe how they respond to the product? Observing would be the more effective route, as it conveys subconscious information, whereas verbal answers to questions are often culturally informed and therefore non-objective. Observational research is increasingly being used to help predict future consumption tendencies. Biometric Research As just discussed, people often react to advertisements in ways they may not be able to adequately put into words. Many market research labs now make use of biometrics, or the measuring of a person’s physical responses to stimuli, to learn about their unconscious and subconscious responses to advertising and products. Physical responses like heart rate, brain wave changes, respiration, eye movements, and skin and muscle activity all fall within the biometrics spectrum and are used to analyze what makes a person emotionally and intuitively attached or repelled to what they see or experience. Virtual Shopping
This process uses a store simulation to test marketing aspects like product placement, store layouts, and packaging. The method places consumers in a situation that looks and feels real, allowing for researchers to collect a variety of information about the experience.There are methodologies out there that have brought the market research industry to a whole new level. We are rapidly evolving from primitive market research tools to new methodologies that will provide more realistic and real-time results!
Most people know great design when they see it, but they have a difficult time defining exactly what it is. People have a strong desire for great design and science is now beginning to discover this as well. Studies of the brain have demonstrated that attractive design can often trigger hand movement in the motor cerebellum of the brain. Humans have a desire to literally reach out and touch that which they think is a great design. Science is at a loss to understand why this is true, but through experiments they are documenting that it does exist. Researchers are looking into human attraction to various colors and have found links to our distant past and the environment we came from. Green, for example, is attractive and may be linked to plant life. Colorful landscapes may trigger reactions deep within our genetic code and can be used to trigger positive behaviors. This includes both painted landscapes and photographs of real-life landscapes. We evolved in the outdoors, and our genetic code seems to still remember this. Our brain also seems to have an attraction to certain types of geometric shapes. One shape that appears to be compelling to our species is the rectangle. For reasons yet unknown, humans have a fondness for rectangles, and they can be found throughout modern society in great abundance. Our genetic material seems to also have a preference for certain density of materials. Items that are in between thick and sparse are those that are preferred. On a porosity scale, where a void is zero and a solid or completely filled area is 100 percent, humans tend to prefer about 33 percent. This holds true for our species regardless of which culture we are raised in. Scientists can only speculate as to why this is. People have a strong and measurable reaction to both patterns and density, and it is clear that it helps to reduce stress. It is now all too obvious to design engineers that there are certain elements that can be incorporated into a product or device to make it more attractive. This includes colors, patterns and densities. Although great design is still mostly an art, the input from science is felt increasingly strong with each passing day. Engineers of the future may be able to design products that sell themselves from the moment the consumer lays their eyes on them.
When the eye wanders, a skilled eye tracking technician can tell you why. Eye tracking is the technique of following a subject’s visual gaze, and discovering what attracts the eye in certain directions. Eye tracking provides helpful clues to the optimum design of everything from a simple printed page to a vast department store layout; it can also give product designers good information about the attractions of certain colors, shapes and features. Technical advances over the past 10 years have allowed the science of eye-tracking to move out of the scientific laboratory and into the toolkits of marketing professionals. There are a variety of tools available; one of the most common, field-of-vision glasses, have a tiny camera mounted on their frame. The video images recorded by the camera follow precisely the movement of the eyes as they examine a room, an object or another individual. A set of crosshairs superimposed on the image gives the researcher more precise lock on the subject’s field of attention. Screen-based systems record eye movements of an individual watching an image, such as a webpage, a television commercial, or a print advertisement transmitted to a video screen. This technology is less expensive than field-of-vision glasses and relatively easy to use, allowing more flexibility in the location of the study. Several data-focusing techniques allow researchers to refine their results. Using samples of a print ad, for example, “gaze plots” follow the sequence of individual glances from one part of the display to the next; “heatmaps” pinpoint the locations most visited or concentrated upon by the subjects; and area of interest measure how much time the subject spent on each section of the ad, from main body copy to images to headlines to logos. Eye-tracking can be combined with other forms of feedback from the respondent, such as biofeedback, to not only understand WHERE the respondent is looking, but also to shed some light on WHY. By combining both eye-tracking gaze plots and heat maps results with the results obtained from biofeedback, such as heart rate, pupil dilation, facial tics and perspiration, the researcher is able to obtain and analyze feedback on a completely new level. Because eye-tracking systems are expensive, many companies have turned to professional researchers to conduct the studies and interpret the results. From end to end, the studies can take anywhere from several days to six weeks. The results can be tailored to budgets and time; even small improvements to an important campaign can bring impressive bottom-line results. Eye-tracking studies can be especially effective when comparing competing products, and helping manufacturers and retailers in their never-ending search for the small edge that translates into bigger market share and a healthier bottom line.
I remember receiving gifts as a child and animalistically ripping open carefully wrapped boxes to get at the contents inside. Honestly, I suppose I still do the same today on occasion. Although some thought has certainly gone into the wrapping of these gifts, often the packaging went—and still goes—unappreciated. The same can be said for packaging at the everyday level; many people think only about the chips inside the bag or the contents inside a shipping container, not about the complexity behind the development of the bag or the container themselves. A whole field surrounds packaging regulation, testing and technology. In food packaging, a new technology called “nano-bricks” employs nanotechnology to more securely coat the plastics used in long-lasting foods and beverages. “Nano-bricks” are composed of some of the same soil ingredients used to make clay mixed with a variety of polymer materials. The resulting film is so thin the naked eye cannot see it, and when applied to plastics, it strengthens the plastic and improves barriers to oxygen and other gases, enabling sodas to retain their fizz longer and ready-to-eat meals (such as those used by the military) to last longer under extreme conditions. At the same time, innovations in food package testing are changing the way we think about packaging. While “nano-bricks” are meant to provide a barrier, new testing is working to reveal the possible effects packaging may have on the food inside. IPS Testing of Wisconsin has developed a method that uses gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) methods and heavy metal analyses to test the safety of foods that have come in contact with various types of packaging materials. While many of the foods they’ve tested are clean, some have been found to contain known toxic substances, illustrating the importance of this sort of package testing. When considering packaging testing in its most common and broadest sense, I would probably turn to shipping containers. Containers can travel on sea freight, airfreight, road transport, and rail, facing a variety of dangers to the contents inside of them. Assessment to check the fortitude of these containers includes vibration tests where different sorts of transportation vibrations are simulated in a lab with a mobile testing bench. In certain labs, cutting edge art vibration controllers are used to test packaging that are meant to reproduce real time and the non-continuity of vibrations in actual transit. Other technologies use darts to test the breaking point of laminated materials and other films. There’s a whole world of packaging technology and packaging testing out there. Perhaps we should appreciate the box as much as whatever is inside.
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