Data: The New Gold Fever

Felix Rios, Market Research Technology Manager, Ugam,

Data: The New Gold FeverI’m a self-confessed geek and an early adopter. I have the inexplicable urge to get my hands on the next technology device that promises to change the world. On a daily basis, I have more sensors and gadgets on me than Neil Armstrong during his first expedition to the moon. Google, Facebook, Nest, Apple, Fitbit and Netflix know more about my life than my mom, my wife and probably myself. I also am aware that this makes me part of a rare minority, however, this plethora of devices and interactions with applications make me a data goldmine!

When I made the conscious decision to live a connected life, I accepted that companies will be mining my data. It’s the price I’m paying to get better and more relevant products. The growth of social media platforms and Gmail may show that other consumers think the same way. We keep signing up for store cards to get discounts, for example. Those pesky store points increase slower than the Mumbai traffic, yet I better not forget to hand out my supermarket card at the checkout!

Silos on the Landscape
While the amount of data that I broadcast on a daily basis is ideal to understand my behavior patterns and preferences, it also shows clearly one of the challenges for the market research industry. My data resides in silos. And the devices, applications and manufacturers are making sure that it remains like this.

If Starbucks could see my Fitbit data, it could suggest one of the lighter options when I walk to the store. It might prompt me to buy a granola bar instead of a double chocolate muffin or a soya milk latte instead of a caramel macchiato. It could even automatically update my calorie count and the impact on my 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!
Market research panels and online communities are the natural place for us to start exploring these technologies and the natural place 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 gives participants peace of mind that their data is being used exclusively for research purposes.

It is important that we protect and nurture the trust that our participants have in us. We should remember every day that it takes years to build trust, but only seconds to break it, and forever to repair it.

At Ugam, we have experience recruiting highly specialized device panels of physicians and supporting device consumer panels. Our experience has shown us 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 them highly engaged with minimum attrition and high levels of satisfaction.

Already the Internet of Things (IoT), wearables and connected device manufacturers have started to take baby steps in allowing access to some of the data via API. While the concept of aggregating multiple data sources is not alien to the market research industry, in the very near future it will be our bread and butter. As this technology becomes mainstream, our clients will demand it from us.

A few years from now, I can see life for this type of research outside of panels and online communities (e.g., IoT and wearables). I can also see a public marketplace of data where individuals would be able to select what information to share and choose the best bidder. If I am generating all this data, why can’t I just sell it directly? I can even see a band system where my 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.

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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