Access Before Analytics: Thoughts from ESOMAR Fusion

Thoughts from ESOMAR Fusion

I recently attended ESOMAR’s Fusion conference, held in the beautiful city of Madrid. It was an eclectic two days, split between papers on Big Data & Analytics and qualitative inquiry. I took away three key themes: data ownership, data democratization, and evolving the disciple.

Theme 1: Data Ownership

During one of the closing remarks at Fusion, Director General of ESOMAR, Finn Raben, impressed the need for researchers to advocate that they are the best at making sense of customer data. Earlier in the day, a panel discussing who owns social data, conjured broader discussions on who or how many departments should be the keeper of customer data. The panelists held one of two positions: market researchers as the keepers customer data or customer data is democratized across the organization. By the end of the panel session, the debate concluded with enterprise researchers underscoring the point that data is democratized.

Theme 2: Data Democratization requires data literacy

Data should be democratized and there’s no way, nor would it even be desirable, to prevent it. There are more types and higher volumes of data now than ever before. No one was born with the skills to make sense of it all, it requires re-skilling. Data is the language in which our customers now speak, and that data is very different from what many market researchers are used to collecting and synthesizing. I think we should all welcome a future where the word model isn’t misinterpreted as a cross-functional fashion discussion.

Theme 3: Evolving the disciple

If market researchers are to remain the best suited to interpret the customer data, we must acquire and connect customer data. Market researchers are highly capable in customer data interpretation, however, with the availability of engagement, behavioral, and attitudinal data the narrow lens that market researchers have traditionally used is no longer enough. The future of customer data synthesis will be predicated on the contextual knowledge we can generate by connecting primary research with engagement, behavioral, and attitudinal.

Acquiring more customer data to connect can be a harrowing proposition, for no other reason than few market researchers have the skills or technology to process large volumes of text, images and audio data.  The market research tool kit for data synthesis has stagnated. In the qualitative research world, we’re wasting data because no one has technology, time or budget to make sense of every minute of it.

This was my core argument when presenting the work we at FocusVision have been doing over the past year on video analytics. The technical paper accompanying my presentation won the ESOMAR Smart Data paper category, providing further validation of the automated video highlight extraction tool we’ve built. I still pinch myself to think about the positive impact it can have on the industry.

The goal of qualitative research is to illuminate the human understanding, to tell the story of the consumer. The goal is never to do video analysis. We’ve built a machine learning model to give researchers the time back they need to build connections and re-skill while retaining top spot as consumer representative. Connections take time to build, re-skilling takes time. Time, however, is not something that anyone has a lot of these days, my hope is that with new technology we can get some time back. It gives us the opportunity to acquire new skills, new data and most importantly allows focus market researchers to do what they do best, tell the story of the customer.

The overarching key message from ESOMAR Fusion was that the industry needs to be proud of where it’s come from and how far it’s gone while also recognizing that the future will necessitate advocation, some re-skilling, and strong multidisciplinary collaboration.

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