Written by Robert Faithfull & Russell Speight
Market research industry discussion is currently around new techniques and specifically how Big Data will replace traditional techniques.
The thinking now is that Big Data market research will answer all questions, and therefore traditional techniques will quickly become irrelevant. Or will it?
Traditionalists argue that Big Data informs us what happened in the past, but not WHY it happened! Without understanding the data, taking action is not possible.
Consider that Robert bought orange juice from Coles, in Vermont at 19:03 on 5th April 2015. We have this information about the sale but what we do with this? Who is Robert? Why did he buy orange juice? Why did he buy it at that time? Big data can tell us about lots of transactions but it does not tell us why this customer made this purchase at the time.
Big Data Analytics shows in Florida before a hurricane the #1 best selling food at Wal-Mart was not water, the retailer sells 7 times more strawberry Pop-Tarts right before a hurricane than any other time. Informatica, Jakki Geiger, 2014, The Surprising Link Between Hurricanes and Strawberry Pop-Tarts: Brought to you by Clean, Consistent and Connected Data.
Does this mean that grocery stores now reduces their stock of water and increase their stock of PopTarts just before a major storm activity because they will be stuck with oversupply of bottled water when the storm hits?? This wouldn’t be a wise change unless you understood why were so many pop tarts bought at that time.
Big data is an ocean of data where we can go fishing for knowledge. It is great to have all this data and it can reveal very powerful insights about customers, but we need the right techniques to identify the trends. When we have found these new trends through advanced data analysis techniques we will use traditional marketing techniques, like customer surveys or focus groups etc, to tell us why the new trends are emerging.
Lee says that traditional marketing, including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications, is rapidly becoming obsolete. Many people in traditional marketing roles and organisations may not realise they’re operating within a dead paradigm:
- Buyers are checking out products in their own ways, often through the Internet;
- CMOs lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth;
- Traditional marketing and sales, does not work in todays social media-infused environment.
Harvard Business Review, Bill Lee, 2012, Marketing is Dead.
We don’t agree with Lee that traditional marketing is dead. It might be downsized or even grow through the extra information, but it will definitely be driven in a new direction by the insights from Big Data. Where big data is not available for some suppliers or segments, traditional marketing techniques will continue.
Big data will reveal the deeper truths of customer behaviour that will empower traditional marketing methods to find new ways to meet customer needs and wants. The reality today is that market research traditionalists and the new technologists can work together, and the role of Market Researchers is being transformed to that of Big Data Analysts.
Do you think we will be sourcing all our marketing intelligence in the future from the owners of big data or will it become just another option for the marketing professional to use?