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3 Digital Trends Influencing the Future of Product and Consumer Research

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

TREND 1: 50% Forecasted Growth in Retail Ecommerce Over the Next 4 years is Reshaping the Shopper Experience

Consumers have changed. Shopper behaviors have changed. Malls and brick and mortar stores are closing left and right. You could thank COVID for this one. We all knew that Amazon (and all ecomm for that matter) would eventually take over the world, but no one could’ve predicted the lightspeed at which it would happen. And there’s no stopping it.

With ecommerce projected to be 25% of global retail sales by 2025- amounting to nearly $7 trillion dollars- brands today are heavily focused on their digital presence and creating seamless, end-to-end customer experiences to build loyalty, trust and engagement. They know loyalty is fragile. They know consumers and market share will be harder to come by. And with new products flooding the digital marketplace everyday- some with huge marketing budgets that can dominate ad space- brands are challenged to find new ways to engage and attract. And product lifecycle research is changing in order to keep up.

Now, with ecommerce in play, research firms are infusing traditional product research techniques with ecommerce technologies giving clients a fuller picture of consumers behaviors, desires, and intent. In addition to asking consumers about attributes, features and key drivers like price for future products, brands are recalibrating research expectations when it comes to ecommerce. They now want to learn more about purchase and search behaviors, intent, and action- which is hard to achieve with traditional product testing like In-Home Use Tests (IHUT) or Central Location Testing (CLTs). Testing products in a real-life, real-world ecommerce environment that mimics the consumers’ ecommerce purchase journey is the only way to uncover a consumers’ real intent and behavior. Our ecommerce insights allow our clients to see how the journey plays out- uncovering how products will fare in competition with others, how long consumers search/view, and if they’ve added it to their cart with an intent to purchase- arming brands with vital data on potential ecommerce performance, engagement, and visibility before they invest in the product and digital marketing efforts.

TREND 2: Social Media is Doubling Down on Commerce and Ad Offerings to Attract Consumers

Social media has become the new mall. With 4.62 billion people on social media (nearly 60% of the world), it’s no wonder why social media platforms have amped up their social commerce offerings for brands to take hold. Brands want you, and they know where to find you- which means consumers will be bombarded with ads across all platforms- making the competition for eyeballs and clicks stiffer than ever. And while 74% of consumers say they are tired of seeing ads- nearly 10,000 ads daily (including Google searches)- they can be effective if your ad hits the right mark, with the right audience, at the right time- as over half of Facebook user have clicked on an ad.

So how do brands make sure their ads get seen? With 70% of all digital ad dollars going to social media, testing is vital. Your tried-and-true A|B, split or multi-variate testing is always a great litmus test to see which ad will outperform. But those tests are artificial in nature with audiences aware of the ads being testing. But what if brands and agencies could test ads in a blinded environment on social sites BEFORE they post live to combat ad fatigue, test performance and gauge audience engagement with minimal budget impact? Whether it’s testing on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and other social sites, live in-context testing is giving brands a leg-up in the competition for coveted ad space. And it’s actually a gamechanger that has elevated how our clients approach their social media strategies. Our live in-context ad testing platform gives brands a preview into ad and consumer behavior performance- all before it goes live. In addition to ad performance, the platform can show how many users viewed, their attention span, whether they clicked or moved on, and what they clicked instead giving clients a clearer scorecard on key behavioral metrics that can inform future success. Getting these insights from consumers early and often allows your social media presence to shine- giving you a leg up when competition is fierce.

TREND 3: The Qual Shift

Like most industries, COVID transformed how businesses carry out operations, serviced clients and interacted with customers. For qualitative research specifically- a fundamental shift happened the moment social distancing came into play.

Face-to-face focus group interviews came to a screeching halt leaving many qual firms and focus group facilities questioning their future. We saw scores of qual firms and focus facilities close, but many quickly (and somewhat hesitantly) made the move to online qual techniques and technologies to keep on top of the changing marketplaces. And as clients saw the need to connect with consumers more than ever before, video conferencing and blogging, online bulletin boards/diaries, social media and mobile emerged as top qual channels- providing real value with real cost and time savings over traditional focus groups and qual techniques. Qual firms also found that talking to people in the comfort of their own homes allowed for more candid conversations- creating environments for more honest feedback, deeper connections, and the ability to infuse light ethnography that can further bolster insights and analysis.

And while traditional qual will always have its place, the shift to online has definitely made qual research more attractive and increasingly prominent for capture consumer insight. Even still, quantitative research still commands a majority share of budgets. However, we have seen a huge uptick for hybrid quant/qual research. Technology has made it easy to integrate both together- allowing for more agility, faster results and the ability to add more dimension to analysis that exceeds output from each technique individually.

It goes without saying that there are many instances where one approach is still advantageous over the other. MarketView has been traditionally rooted in quant, but with the addition of qualitative research to our roster, clients have experienced significant benefits from this powerful hybrid of methodologies. Many saw a boost in quality as well as improved evaluation of data as the limitations of one type of data are balanced by the strengths of the other when using a hybrid. They also more easily answered (and combined) the “whys” and “whats” for more compelling insights for better decision making. And combining the two can set you up for success in today’s hyper-personalized digital space- providing more audience profile data and behavior/perception analysis on a broader scale in order to tailor activity to consumers.

Regardless of approach you choose, data allows you to back up your decisions scientifically and predict their outcome- creating a more impactful story for your brand and allowing you to maximize success at every opportunity. In a marketplace full of competition and consumers wanting an end-to-end customer experience, research and insight are more necessary than ever and can get you a deeper, holistic view of customers that can drive your ultimate success.

Interested in getting to know MarketView's Qualitative, eComm or Social Medial Ad Testing Platforms? Contact us today.

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