Data is the New Gold Rush

Felix Rios, Market Research Technology Manager, Ugam,

Are you a self-confessed early adopter? Do you have the inexplicable urge to get your hands on the next technology device that promises to change the world? On a daily basis, do you find yourself having more sensors and gadgets on you than Neil Armstrong during his first expedition to the moon? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, (spoiler alert) Google, Facebook, Nest, Apple, Fitbit and Netflix probably know more about your life than most people. You are also part of a rare minority; however, this plethora of devices and interactions with applications make you a data goldmine!
When you make the conscious decision to live a connected life, you accept that companies will be mining your data. It’s the price you are paying to get better and more relevant products. The growth of social media platforms and free email providers like Gmail, may show that consumers  understand this, and accept it.
Silos on the Landscape
While the amount of data broadcasted by these “early adopters” on a daily basis is ideal to understand their behavior patterns and preferences, it also shows clearly one of the challenges for the market research industry. This data resides in silos. And the devices, applications and manufacturers are making sure that it remains like this.
If Starbucks could see a customer’s Fitbit data, it could suggest one of the lighter options when they walk to the store. It might prompt someone to buy a granola bar instead of a double chocolate muffin or a soy latte, instead of a caramel macchiato. It could even automatically update a user’s calorie count and the impact on daily steps goal to compensate for the indulgent coffee break.
Siloed data is a big challenge. Both Apple and Google understand it and are trying really hard to push their own aggregation standards. Apple’s solutions are HomeKit and HealthKit. Google’s is Nest (via Thread standard) and they also recently released their answer to aggregate data from health trackers, Google Fit.
A unified standard is the foundation for a universal data aggregation platform that will allow us to get actionable insights at a level that we have never been able to get before.
Let’s Get Our Hands Dirty!
If there is an applicability of these technologies in our industry (we strongly believe there is), Market research panels and online communities are the natural place to start exploring these technologies and for them to grow and mature. First and most importantly, it is critical that the recruitment process complies with all industry regulations, guidelines and best practices. This offers peace of mind to participants and assures them that their data is being used exclusively for research purposes.
It is important to protect and nurture the trust that participants have in market research firms. It’s important to remember that it takes years to build trust, but only seconds to break it, and forever to repair it.
One example of this comes from us here at Ugam. We have experience recruiting highly specialized device panels of physicians and supporting device consumer panels. Our experience has shown that technology is a very engaging and attractive incentive. With a layer of good and constant communication and the correct level of support, we are able to keep customers highly engaged with minimum attrition and high levels of satisfaction.
Already, Internet of Things (IoT), wearables and connected device manufacturers, have started to take steps in allowing access to some of their data via API. The concept of aggregating multiple data sources is not alien to the market research industry, but in the very near future, it will become even more impactful. As this technology becomes more mainstream, our clients will demand it from us.
A few years from now, life for this type of research outside of panels and online communities (e.g., IoT and wearables) will exist. There could also be a public marketplace of data where individuals would be able to select what information to share and choose the best bidder. If someone is generating all this data, why can’t they just sell it directly? It’s even possible that a band system is developed where data costs more depending on how granular it is. As participants become aware that their data has monetary value, it will lure more people into this vast and open behavioral data marketplace, making it richer and more dynamic.
The next 10-15 years promise to wow us. If the analysts get it right, in the next decade, our homes, cars, and personal devices will be connected and talking to each other.
In its essence, market research is about observing the few to understand the behavior of the many. Asking questions has been one of the most important ways we’ve had to get data. The new breed of devices that will inevitably be part of our lives will not only allow us to ask fewer questions, but will also allow us to make them more relevant, smarter and contextual. We have to understand this and embrace it. This will be one of the most important changes that our industry has made since we started collecting data.
Some of the content in this article originally appeared in The Green Book Blog on February 11, 2015.

The Author:
Felix Rios is a Market Research Technology Manager at Ugam. He is passionate about technology and beyond the office walls, also enjoys photography.


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