I’m not one for making predictions.  I often feel like I am stretching too much without a solid foundation.  Instead, I prefer to make resolutions.  What can I do to enhance my craft and become a better researcher?  With so many clients turning to “big data” to shed light on customer behavior, I am often required to sell-in the value of more exploratory methods to provide context and clarity to the relationships revealed by data scientists.  My 2017 resolutions are all focused on exploring how we can extend the value of primary research methods and help build the necessary bridges between “big” and “small” data insights.

  1. Become a better observer of the “small data” around me, choosing more exploratory designs to reveal unexpected insights.

Over the holiday break I dug into a relatively recently published book – Small Data by Martin Lindstrom.  Many of you may remember his earlier book, Buyology, which focused on how our brains react to various stimuli in advertising.  He took a rather scientific, almost “big data” approach, interviewing and observing brain scans of 2,000 consumers.  In contrast, Small Data focuses on the power of observation to uncover insights that are not likely to be found in traditional data sets.  That’s not to say that he is completely random in his approach.  He begins each project of observation rather systematically, yet he is not afraid to steal learnings and observations from one project to fuel the insights needed for another.  Nor is he afraid to let one finding change the direction of his study as he tests and retests hypotheses.

Reading Small Data reminded me of two other books I read some time ago from Kelly Styring, founder of Insight Farm.   Through her two books, In Your Purse and In Your Car, Styring uncovers a variety of consumer truths that go well beyond the expected.   A consumer’s purse or even their car seem at the outset to be a small element of any one person’s life, yet these explorations revealed mountains of usable data and insights that a typical primary study would have missed.

  1. Work harder to design survey instruments that engage and challenge respondents to provide more insightful responses.

My second resolution piggy-backs off of the first…how could these more exploratory inquiries lend themselves to developing more engaging survey instruments.  By habit and often necessity, I find myself relying on tried and tested survey templates.  Clients appreciate speed of delivery and familiarity in key metrics, not to mention the ability to compare research across studies.

Yet, how do consumers view very traditional surveys?  Have we trained them to answer as they feel we expect them to?  Many agree that interesting conversations and activities engage respondents and can lead to unexpected, yet valuable insights.  How can we create more of “aha” moments in a traditional research environment?  In some ways the Invoke LIVE platform offers more opportunities to create an engaging experience than many surveys.  Within the LIVE environment we can probe more deeply by adding additional questions on the fly or even chatting one on one with respondents.   My goal this year will be to use a greater variety of question types and language that will challenge both consumers and our clients to see things a bit differently.

  1. Continue to explore new sampling options to improve the representativeness and effectiveness of primary research.

This past year we designed a few longer term projects with a singular recruit.  We dubbed these projects “client labs.”  The genesis of the labs was a client need for on-call sample at a cheaper price.  With often long screeners and low incidences, recruitment is a very expensive element of our research model.  The client labs fulfilled this need quite successfully.

In 2017, my goal is to develop more options that tie “big data” learnings to our small data insights.  How can we help clients work with their own client data as a sample source?  How can we append user behavior data from other sources to primary research findings?  Where can we turn for more targeted sampling that is reflected of real, not self-reported behaviors?

So that’s my short list of resolutions…how about yours? How do you resolve to be a more intuitive researcher in 2017?

Kathy Alexander

VP of Research & Insights

KathyCapitalizing on her broad research experience over the past 20 years, Kathy demonstrates an in-depth understanding of industry trends and consumer needs. With an emphasis on how consumers use media, she has conducted a wide variety of projects including advertising messaging, programming evaluation, brand positioning, market segmentation, customer satisfaction, pricing and packaging, and new product development. 

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