In our fast paced digital business climate, immediacy is critical and carefully constructed market research focused on customer wants and needs and large brand tracking studies have been replaced with newer, cheaper and sexier techniques. While there is a great deal to gain by using digital data and web listening or by engaging in on-line community based conversations, marketers may be throwing out the baby with the bath water. I am concerned that in the effort to be timely and current, insufficient focus may be given to using the appropriate methodology or to taking the time necessary to gather the right intelligence to make informed decisions.
In the digital era, it has become easier to develop and promote new products/services and to establish a brand or create a buzz. Barriers to entry for many businesses are low and the increased sophistication of marketing has enabled better targeting. Yet, clearly there are many cases of businesses failing. And, while the costs of entry might be relatively low, the cost of failure may still be very high. Businesses may not be taking sufficient time to understand what clients really need or feel and how this changes over time. They also may not be putting in the appropriate metrics to measure success. Thus, when things go wrong they may not have the insights they need to understand what happened or to develop a strategy to ensure future success. Too many simply move on and pursue the next shinny new object without learning a thing.
In the quest to reduce marketing expenditures, some businesses have forgotten that not everything can be obtained cheaply and that there is often a difference between stated and unstated needs and values. Could they be missing something critical? Web analytics provide valuable data, but they do not always provide insights about what drives behavior. The digital world is full of data and on-line behavior tracking. But, what creates and sustains brand loyalty and why clients act like they do are often more difficult to discern.
I am not suggesting that research return to the days when insights were only from one-way mirrors or phone based surveys. I do, however, recommend that a more balanced approach be taken and the right tools employed to gain knowledge. The optimal combination would be multiple types of data that could enable one to understand the full complexity of market forces and customer requirements. Most businesses would love to be able to predict customer behavior so that they might act to prevent defection. Having the means to do this often requires intelligence that cannot simply be gained quickly and through only one channel.
The on-line world certainly allows a level of customer intimacy that did not exist before and it has provided a vast array of data. But, one should not lose sight of the limitations of the information that is often readily available. There are costs to failing. Longitudinal surveys and focus groups, may actually turn out be good investments!