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Part 4 of 5: The Death Of Traditional Market Research

The New Age Of Market Research

What does this mean for the future of market research? In short, times are changing and it is time to jump on the new age bandwagon. Let’s face it, I applaud Likert…in 1932, he was at the top of his game. But he could not foresee technology advances like the cell phone, social media, and of course the emoji. When Likert created scales, people became accustomed to forming conclusions based on numeric ratings. But today, in this new age of technology and of course cultural changes, numeric scales are no longer accurate.

So now comes the new age of market research. What does that even mean? I know this may come as a shock to many companies, many market researchers, many marketing, sales, and customer service leaders, and many statisticians, but it is time to break the market research inertia. Just like we could hardly envision streaming video, having video calls, or even answering phones from our watch 20 years ago, it is time to rethink the way we do market research.

Let’s start with how things began to change. Now I am slightly older than the average age of an avid Tinder user, though it would have been a fun option if it had been invented in the 90’s when I was first dating. Tinder perfected this simple little idea of swipe left and swipe right, using an algorithm based on the Elo rating system. The Elo rating system is a method for calculating the relative skill levels of players in zero-sum games such as chess. It is named after its creator Arpad Elo, a Hungarian-American physics professor.

The idea behind Tinder’s use of Elo score was that Tinder would rank dating candidates by visual appeal to the its user. Elo scores are used to rank chess players, too, but in the context of Tinder, the more people that swiped right (or liked) a person’s profile, the higher their assigned score went up. While Tinder still adjusts potential matches a user sees every time someone acts on his or her profile, the fundamental algorithm still uses a pair of choices to rank preferences. And Tinder does this in a very user friendly, customer experience manner, whereby pictures are used to rank preferences.

What can we conclude from this?

1) Respondents do better with limited choices: respondents are far better at selecting what is most important to them from a pair, as opposed to set of multiple attributes. The Elo system can help prioritize preferences without overwhelming the respondent.

2) Visuals matter: we live in a world now where visuals have overtaken the written word. Simply showing a sentence can be confusing. I am not suggesting that you don’t provide a written phrase, but people think in soundbites. Short phrases or pictures accompanied by a short phase that describe an emotional feeling. Think about all the social media. Twitter allows for a thought to be described in 280 characters. With Instagram or Facebook, every thought is communicated via a picture with an accompanying phrase or description. And even more, most postings carry some sort of emoticon that convey the feeling or emotion that the individual posting the social media has. Users can try to explain that they are perplexed, sad, depressed or ecstatic, but it is very difficult to put that into a brief phase. Today, a simple emoticon image does the trick. And let’s not forget about the Meme, a video that actually describes your emotion. Again, Likert could never have imagined that this type of technology could be used today to convey an emotion.

3) We live in a far more diverse society: last, and perhaps most important, unlike 1930, most every developed country in the world has an amalgamation of cultures, ethnicities, races, and varying ways to define sexual preference. What that translates to, is that traditional approaches to finding homogenous populations using traditional statistics is becoming increasingly difficult. Simply put, there is no longer a homogeneous population. But there is a homogenous approach to expressing emotion. Happy is happy, sad is sad, frustrated is frustrated. The one thing that binds all cultures is that expression of emotions are homogeneous. So market research needs to capture the emotion, not the antiquated idea of a number on a Likert scale. stay tuned for The Death Of Traditional Market Research - Part 5 of 5


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