Looking for market research? Don’t get drowned in data

JANUARY 13, 2012 – There is more data available to companies wishing to conduct market research than ever before – every day, consumers are adding to the stockpile of data with mobile activity, internet browsing, social networking and other actions.

Yet the same thing that is creating many opportunities for businesses to better target their customers and develop products they want – Big Data – is also causing complications, according to a survey released by Empirix and Opus Research.

“The wealth of customer-originated information can help companies achieve stronger customer loyalty and better market position; however, our research shows that most C-level executives lack confidence in their companies making the most of the data,” said Dan Miller, a senior analyst with Opus Research.

He added that top executives may have some idea of what Big Data and social CRM constitute, “yet many are only beginning to craft a strategy for staffing and investing in IT infrastructure to closely link personal information, network data and metadata to offer better customer service, support loyalty programs or influence product development and refinement.”

The companies observed that many businesses are starting to adopt “multi-channel, multimodal strategies” when it comes to how they interact with customers, giving their clients constant, real-time access to service departments through the web, on the phone and via social networks. Unfortunately, the groups noted, this also creates a significant level of stress on the corporate networks’ capacity.

According to the survey of 200 C-suite executives, 62 percent have yet to develop plans for how they will use the customer-originated data that they already have on file. Out of the group of respondents who do have a strategy, just 17 percent said they think it is an effective plan.

The study also uncovered a disparity between the Big Data preparedness of U.S. and European executives. While two-thirds of American survey takers said they believed their IT departments would be able to handle the sudden “deluge” of data, less than 50 percent of European chiefs could say the same. U.S. respondents were also found to be more open to the idea of integrating information into their companies’ operations – from addressing workflow to product development.

Empirix’s marketing vice president, Tim Moynihan, commented that customers were now starting to expect constant, uninterrupted access to networks and servers, which means it will be a priority for customer-facing businesses that have ecommerce websites or other online portals to make their networks reliable and robust.

“Organizations need networking resources that are prepared to handle the large volumes of personal data and conversations through the various channels at a customer’s disposal,” Moynihan said.

He advised companies to seek out solutions that can cope with huge volumes of conversations and personal data on a variety of channels, adding that the “most effective strategies” were ones that involved a mix of data collection and analytics with quality guarantees and network performance.

In a Forbes article, Steve Olenski points to an earlier survey conducted by IBM that found many CMOs were also ill-equipped to cope with many of the innovations affecting their industries, including the sudden focus on Big Data, analytics and market research. He spoke with a data security adviser from Fox Rothschild LLP, Scott Vernick, who noted that keeping all the information that companies gather safe from prying eyes is also a major concern that many companies have no idea how to handle.

Vernick added that not only do these executives have no idea what their organizations are doing to combat the threat of cybercrime, but many don’t know what their privacy policy is. If a company is storing a lot of data on its consumers, it should review its privacy policy, make sure customers can understand it and verify that the company is observing all the provisions.