Democratizing Market Research: How Consumers Can Participate in the Brand Experience

As consumers evolve, they have begun making purchasing decisions not just for themselves, but based on a range of cultural and societal factors. As a result, marketers must achieve a 360-degree view of their customers to understand how a product or service fits into their lives. 

Fortunately, recent progress in the democratization, affordability, and self-service technology of market research is improving brands’ abilities to have real-time conversations with customers. As consumers realize the value of their perspective, they will increasingly look to brands that focus on consumer engagement and connection when choosing products and services.

 

Realizing the democratization of market research

“Prepare for consumers and brands to engineer new relationships that emphasize identity, purpose, and connection,” writes Forrester. The research group believes 2020 will be the year consumers and marketers will cooperate in the development of products and services as part of a greater, more hopeful social purpose. As both quantitative and qualitative research methods become more accessible to B2C companies, new methods for consumer engagement will contribute to this end.

Marketers have used research for decades as a means of connecting to consumers. They often leverage information and customer insights from these efforts to improve how products fit into those consumers’ lives.

But for far too long, consumer research has been inaccessible to smaller brands and startups. Research is critical to any brand’s success, so the traditional barriers to entry for smaller companies are particularly unfair. Worse, inaccessible methods have forced brands to resort to guesswork and underserve consumers; they have also increased the gap in understanding between the makers and users of consumer products.

Fortunately, many of the world’s leading brands are democratizing research within their organizations. They’re taking the formality out of research and encouraging teams to speak to consumers directly. This helps teams humanize consumers, develop empathy, and then build and market the best, most relevant products and campaigns.

At Discuss.io, we’re helping B2C companies create both brand and customer value from these connections with the help of accessible digital platforms. With these tools, marketers can tap a growing desire among consumers to add meaning to the customer experience.

 

Qualitative research and the accessibility of modern research tools

“Qualitative methods are valuable for uncovering customer attitudes, emotions, needs and wants, category and brand perceptions and usage, the impact of culture on consumption, and, especially, for adding depth and context to marketers’ understanding of their customers.”

Forbes, “Why Entrepreneurs Should Use 360 Degree Market Research,” 2019

 

Research processes are notoriously expensive, so they tend to exclude less prominent or less senior members of marketing teams. Some methods exclude entire brands altogether. Worst yet, brands often overlook viable forms of research in favor of others, and at the expense of their customers.

“When weighing how to spend limited research resources, many marketers believe that qualitative research is ‘soft,’” writes Forbes. “Quantitative research—especially big data—reigns supreme,” but adding qualitative research can “add substantial synergy to research in marketing.”

When decision-makers empower team members to connect directly with consumers, they are providing an opportunity to ask consumers qualitative questions according to their own timelines and needs. Modern digital tools can help reduce the time and money spent on traditional methods of research. Automating research processes also helps to make solutions support self-service and on-demand.

Naturally, the digital tools that facilitate these processes must be online. Much like how products like SurveyMonkey take the hassle out of creating quantitative surveys, new digital platforms make face-to-face qualitative consumer research easier for marketers—qualitative research also becomes self-service, on demand, and simple.

 

Democratizing qualitative research

“Taking this on does not require a large staff or a substantial budget . . . [Entrepreneurs] will emerge with profound customer understanding and strategic inspiration and increase their chances for marketplace success.”

Forbes, “Why Entrepreneurs Should Use 360 Degree Market Research,” 2019

 

By automating processes and leveraging ubiquitous technologies like webcams, web browsers, WebRTC, VoIP, and others, marketers can simplify the qualitative process. What’s more, the process can be carried out with live video conversations when you need them.

Brands connect with consumers face-to-face much as they’ve done in person for years. These new digital environments are more accessible and more automated, and provide greater access to tools to help marketers disseminate their findings throughout their organizations. Brands are able to connect with consumers contextually, since they are being reached in their own home and work environments, opening doors to nearly endless possibilities and use cases.

 

Finding your role in the evolving research landscape

Today, qualitative research isn’t just focus groups and in-depth interviews; brands are requesting closer, more regular contact with consumers. They want to understand them not just as respondents, or even just as consumers, but as people.

Fortunately, today’s consumers want to do more than simply buy—they want to participate in a brand experience. “Forward-looking CMOs will recognize that customers don’t merely want to be served but want to be part of the service,” writes Forrester, as “consumers will view brands as vehicles to participate in a larger cause.”