No matter how amazing, game-changing, covetable, delicious, beautiful, or affordable your product is, if you ignore market research — or do it wrong — none of that matters.
Here's what does matter: who your audience is, what they're thinking, and how to reach them. Thanks to market research, we can know all of these things and strategize accordingly.
While market research is nothing new, the way we do it is continuously evolving. By discovering more accurate ways to gather and analyze data (thank you, technology), we now have the ability to know our customers better than ever before.
Way better WiFi
Ladies and gentlemen, 5G is here. For consumers, 5G means a more reliable wireless connection at higher speeds than ever before. For market researchers, it means more ways to gather information. And just like its 3G and 4G predecessors, this latest upgrade in wireless technology will soon become the norm.
In addition to making mobile surveys a more viable option for gaining consumer insights (and forcing survey programs and software to increase their mobile compatibility), 5G will also allow companies to make better use of the growing Internet of Things. Everything from cars to TVs to refrigerators are now connected, and better WiFi will enable these devices to become prime points for gathering data on consumer behavior, trends and more.
Move over, Millennials
The last thing a Millennial wants to hear is that it's not all about them anymore.
But seriously, a new generation is on the rise, and marketing and advertising execs are taking notice. Make way for Gen Z!
Born from the late 90's to the early 2010's, Gen Z's are getting older and their purchasing power is increasing. This is the generation that grew up with all things digital. They don't even know a world where the internet, social media and mobile devices didn't exist.
Because of that, they have a different consumer mentality than Millennials and other generations that came before. Moving forward, brands and marketing agencies will be investing in research to find innovative ways to reach this audience and figure out the driving factors behind Gen Z behavior.
AI for all
Perhaps one of the biggest game-changers in market research is artificial intelligence. AI enables automation by generating insights from large amounts of data that would otherwise take teams of people days or even weeks to produce.
With automated research, marketers can spend less time designing and conducting studies and more time analyzing the data and presenting insights to clients. And thanks to machine learning, insights can even be extracted from written comments and social media.
When coupled with the human skills of creativity and critical thinking, AI's ability to make complex calculations based on huge amounts of data could help us collect and understand insights we never knew were possible.
Market research is a very powerful asset, and we've seen just how successful brands can be when they use it correctly.
Take Starbucks, for example. Lately, they've been able to zero in on specific audiences using private groups on social media (mainly Facebook). By having direct conversations with consumers who care about their brand, they're learning about what trends and values affect purchasing decisions and can engage customers by involving them in product development and testing. It was this approach that helped them discover the demand for dairy-free alternatives several years ago -- they began offering them in stores shortly after.
Tesla discovered on Twitter that their dog-loving customers wished they could keep the A/C on in the car so their pets could rest comfortably while they got out to run errands. Now Tesla has a "dog mode" that does just that.
Further proof of how important market research is are the epic failures that happen when brands get it wrong.
Back in the 90's, McDonald's decided to try its hand at a healthier burger -- The McLean Deluxe. And if the name wasn't a dead giveaway...it was a total flop. Why? Newsflash, McDonald's -- health-conscious people do not eat at your restaurants. The McLean Deluxe was also pricier than other menu items and took longer because it was made to order. People who frequent McDonald's want the exact opposite experience: cheap and fast.
The McLean Deluxe was contrary to everything loyal customers liked about the brand. It's clear that if McDonald's did any market research at all for this product, it did not include their current customers.
And let's not forget 2017's completely tone-deaf Pepsi commercial starring Kendall Jenner that offended pretty much everyone who saw it. Market research was most likely skipped in Pepsi's haste to capitalize on the current events of the time. The result? An ad that resonated with people in all the wrong ways.
It pays to do your research
The latest market research innovations are providing insights that have more depth and authenticity than we've ever seen before. Companies that choose to ignore them are basically saying they hate money and success. When you invest in getting to know who your customer is and what makes them tick, they'll inevitably return the favor by investing in your brand or product. The bottom line? Everybody wins.