“We should use ‘Real’ Data,” he said !!

Several months ago, I participated in a meeting with an accomplished group of management from a respected consumer oriented company. The discussion was focused on the use of Market Insight's consumer preference data collected on MyProductAdvisor.com (MPA).

As several members of this company's team had already come to embrace, we collect the data continuously from shoppers drawn to MPA in search of advice in preparation of buying decisions. These are not paid respondents; the shopper doesn't even know that his/her anonymous recorded preferences are being collected. The shopper answers natural questions genuinely, to acquire unbiased buying recommendations.

One member of this company's group was meeting us for the first time. He absorbed our message and understood the nature of the data. But he found it difficult to accept the process. The legacy of his experience and study was steeped in quite a different data collection model. “The problem with your data”, he said emphatically, “is that it's not the real data. We should use real data.... data from the surveys we take, not data from the web”!

Wow !..............

His perspective was that the preference data collected from real shoppers, in real-time, who did not know they were effectively being “surveyed”, and who were motivated by receiving an unbiased buying recommendation….... was somehow less “genuine” than….... the answers given by a paid survey respondent, at a static point in time, who may or may not be in the market for the product at all. It's interesting how perspective can sometimes be cast by legacy and not by reality at all.

The fact is that shopping behavior, buying decision processes, and shifting consumer sentiment are drastically different these days than in the past. The change has occurred rapidly as motivated by global cultural evolution and continued technological advancement.

The effective cost of “errors in decision” for new product introduction, product design, enhancement, replacement, or any significant modification in a company's product offering to consumers can be devastating in today's competitive environment. Markets move faster, sentiment is affected broadly and more powerfully, and buying decisions occur differently in this new era of consumer engagement. We are far beyond an era of “static insight”. Today's market intelligence should measure the voice of the shopper with continuous feedback and location-based impact.

Customary, paid respondent surveys and proven qualitative research methods have a worthy place in the development of a full perspective of consumer market insight. But there is no doubt that the “real data” should be represented most by an ability for real-time engagement and sharing of social capital that exists today. The stated preferences of real shoppers are the purest form of “real data”. And real-time, continuous collection and processing of that data is the “pace” that companies require for optimal decision-making.

Rich Falcone is President & CEO at Market Insight Corporation