Why systematized market research is the future of consumer insights

Ryan Barry, President

With so many research suppliers out there (there are over 1,300 listings on the Insight Platforms directory right now), it’s no wonder that insights teams often decide which to use on a project-by-project basis. There are just so many options to choose from — you want to make sure you’re using the best one for each individual project. 

But if that’s the way you’re approaching research, you’re not setting your company up for consumer-centric growth.

To achieve that, you need an intentional, tailored and integrated ecosystem of data suppliers and thought partners that are deeply rooted in your business. You should be in control of YOUR consumer data investment. That’s how you drive consumer centricity in your organization and set your stakeholders up for success.

And yet I still see big enterprises wasting their time deciding which supplier to use to test a claim.

What’s the problem with this and what’s the alternative? Let me share my thinking.

The cost of project-by-project thinking

When you approach research project by project, a lot of time is wasted selecting the right vendor for each project and conducting admin tasks. Your team spends its time reacting to research requests, selecting vendors and setting up projects — rather than delivering strategic value to the business. These insights managers aren’t able to elevate their roles, because they’re doing procurement tasks.

And by the time the selection is made, you could have already had the data in hand.

It slows your business down and leaves your team unable to focus on the important stuff. 

And, unfortunately, your data is useless beyond each individual project. It isn’t getting smarter over time and you can’t learn anything across projects. Plus, if you’re looking to take advantage of AI in the future, you’re going to find it impossible without a clear data strategy. 

There’s a better way

It’s time to get intentional about your insights ecosystem. It’s time to focus your suppliers to the best-of-the-best and standardize how repeatable research is run through your organization. In other words, it’s time to approach research in a systematized way.

Systematized market research is the way that brands approach research when they view consumer insights as a competitive advantage for their business. It involves:

  1. Embracing technology and leveraging it to drive efficiency, consistency and effectiveness.

  2. Using a consistent testing process that allows your business to validate, optimize and iterate on ideas in the same great way across brands and markets.

  3. Using a consistent set of audiences when conducting research to build your data asset.

  4. Using consistent data (and characterizing of the data) time and time again to create a learning loop and derive insights that make your business smarter over time.

  5. Democratizing insight for faster decision-making. 

This systematized market research approach has multiple benefits: 

  • Speed & ease: You won’t waste time rethinking the same things for each project, inputting the same competitors, building out the same survey questions, selecting the same audiences, etc. It’ll all be set up in advance so no time is wasted.

  • Better quality research: Every research project runs off the same great thinking (the thinking of your research partner combined with that of your business), so you know it’s always right for your business and you’re not recreating the wheel every time — risking bad quality and/or inconsistent research in the process. 

  • Ongoing learning through consistency: Once all your research is consistent over time, you can start to learn more and more about what works to help inform future decisions. A single project is only valuable to help you make decisions once, but a large data set made up of learnings from every project is valuable for years to come. And that is only going to become truer with AI.

  • Democratized insights: Once you standardize processes and put guard rails in place, anyone in your organization can run research themselves — allowing decision makers to have consumer data at their fingertips for every decision. 

The benefits of systematized market research.

With systematized market research, your insights team can go from working on tactical projects to delivering strategic insights

From wasting time on project management to spending time influencing decisions. 

What we needed to do was transform the perception of the role of insights from a doer that provides support, to a strategic partner to the different key stakeholders. And for that, we first needed for the local insights team to be able to focus their time on more strategic projects and not be drowning with very recurrent simple tasks.

Jennifer Picard, Head of Centre of Excellence for Mix Optimization at Pernod Ricard

From reactively responding to research demands to proactively bringing the consumer voice to your organization. 

Through consistency and owning our own data, we now have greater consumer centricity. We are getting smarter and smarter over time by connecting all our data across brands, countries, categories, on and off platform to give us meta learnings.

Stephan Gans, SVP Chief Consumer Insights and Analytics Officer at PepsiCo

From grading work to collaborating to help improve the work. 

We don’t just use the tool to kill or proceed, it’s about nurturing those ideas and making them bigger and better and more resonant for consumers.

Tim McEntaggart, Director of Brand and Innovation insights, PepsiCo

And from looking in from the outside to being an essential part of the team. 

We’ve started to do more iterations of tests on the same concept, to make it better. We can fit in a round of consumer input at almost any phase in the process now, which makes us much more in demand with our cross-functional partners.

Matt Cahill, Senior Director, Consumer Insights Activation at McDonald's

How to change

If this world sounds good to you, here’s how you can get started: 

  1. Identify the questions the business asks repeatedly that consumer insights can help with. 

  2. Audit your current stack for where there are gaps or where questions are answered in a non-systematized way.

  3. Select a research platform that doesn’t compromise on either the best-in-class research thinking or the technology that can ensure consistent research again and again. 

  4. Understand the global and local needs of your business to make sure the platform can deliver consistent research that helps the business grow smarter over time while also helping local teams make the right decisions day to day.

  5. Set up your system and be sure to collect clean, harmonized and query-able data. This is the ONLY way to truly unlock the power of generative AI with consumer data.

  6. Enable the organizational change so you aren’t playing whack-a-mole with decks/research briefs and can instead be a strategic partner informing the big decisions, making the business smarter and every idea better.

And when you work with ZappI as your agile market research platform, you set up your best practice once. You establish your audiences, solutions, questions, benchmarks that are important to you, language, frameworks and outputs that work for your business. Then your data asset grows more and more valuable with each piece of research you run — because it’s all consistent and comparable.

Final thoughts

There is a huge opportunity facing insights teams today to deliver strategic value and facilitate consumer centricity through their organizations. But that future can’t be realized using outdated research practices. It can only be done through an intentional, systematized approach. 

If you’re interested in doing research like I’ve outlined in this blog and want to learn more about how we can help, let’s talk.

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