The Rise of Implicit Research Technology and Other Market Research Predictions for 2014

Clint Taylor
Vice President & Strategic Technologist, Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

In honor of Cyber Monday, and as the 2013 holiday season is upon us, we’re about to make good or not-so-good the thousands of consumer predictions made in market research over the past 11 months. Thousands of studies incorporating billions of people in various ways, shapes and forms are about to bear a bounty of fruit, wither and blow away with the autumn wind, or fall somewhere in the middle.

What does the technology of 2014 have in store for market research? Some of my top predictions are below.

2013 Innovations Go from Hype to Hope2013 Innovations Go from Hype to Hope

I’ve indulged in some of the major tech innovations from 2013.

My Samsung S4’s auto-scrolling via eye tracker seems to either never start or never stop scrolling, making it like gamified speed-reading.

Leap Motion’s hand gesture recognition was deemed all but useless for practical purposes (though partially due to some who thought they’d instantly be Tom Cruise in Minority Report).

Galaxy Gear was initially declared marginally useful due to low battery life and limited functionality.

And I think I became familiar with the term glasshole before ever absorbing a portfolio of Google Glass reviews.

Despite the hype and some thudding and limping, I’m excited. All of these demonstrate how technology is inching closer to the subtleties of human behavior, which makes them huge for market research in 2014.

The S4 opened the mobile eye tracking door just a crack, and over 40 million S4 devices in the hands of consumers provide plenty of motivation to sharpen its capabilities and begin a library of apps that consume retina and pupil behavior.

Leap Motion has already made great headway in addressing its initial impracticality, making data collection of natural hand movements an especially exciting draw for us in the Implicit Research space.

At the low cost of the feel of a wristwatch, the Galaxy Gear, on your wrist, allows it to consume arm movement behavior, and potentially heart rate and even sweat beads to measure our in-the-moment reaction to stimuli.

And as if you didn’t already know, you can bet that Google Glass knows exactly what you’re looking at and how you’re looking at it.

The data that the combination of these products could generate for market research is staggering… and we don’t even need to ask a single question to generate it. Look for the sharpest market research technology platforms to stay on top of 2013 innovations like these that are more cool than practical, poised to integrate them into superior data collection capabilities when the balance shifts.

Data Collection Merges with Human Intuition

As technology continues to align with our everyday behavior to satisfy social, communication, commerce and even physical goals, so increase the data collection channels available to researchers. I’ve always been fond of the adage, The best time to answer a question is before it’s asked, because it represents the pinnacle of convenience. You’ve fulfilled a need before someone deviates to ask. Data collection without deviating from innate human behavior can also be fulfilled, when done correctly.

If this year’s TMRE was any indication, data collection through technology by the most intuitive and natural of techniques is value that cannot be ignored and is drawing major investments:

  • Facial encoding by Affdex assesses facial expressions a fraction of a second through a standard web camera.
  • MFour‘s mobile survey platform adjusts standard choice-model study designs to accommodate our intuitive familiarity with small touchscreen.
  • Sentient Decision Science’s own Sentient Prime executes mobile implicit research through standard approach and avoidance movements, audio feedback and animated stimuli.

Technology paired with smart study designs that quickly and accurately collect research data are no longer enough, and 2014 will bring a host of data collection technologies that combine interaction with intuition through touchscreens, video, vocal recognition, movement, and more.

Implicit Research Technology Becomes Mainstream

A growing number of case studies from emotionally-aware Sentient Decision Science confirms: The roads from market research technology tapping into raw human intuition serves as an enabler to the potential explosion of true Implicit Research as a necessary component of market research itself.

Implicit Research Technology executing scientifically-grounded techniques that can produce the accurate, in-the-moment, quantified emotional component of consumer choice on a massive scale is value that cannot be ignored. Insights in 2014, an explosion of implicit market research technology leveraging tactile, vocal and visual cues will be just as concerned with how consumers interact with studies in addition to what they responded.

The bandwagon will grow, but only those who can develop scalable implicit research technology that transcends desktop, tablet and mobile and continue to demonstrate clear competitive advantages will be in the driver’s seat.

In-The-Moment Gets Closer to the Only Moment

With consumer outreach being what it is today through social media touchpoints, push messaging and billions of mobile devices within arm’s reach, In-the-Moment Research will become the only research.

Whether it’s sipping espresso in a Starbucks, the 7th inning stretch at Fenway Park, or still huffing and puffing after the Reebok Spartan Sprint, platforms will employ a flexibility to adjust techniques in real time based on any device, display, time, place or situation to achieve a sophistication of results that are truly representative of the moment.

The platforms that can achieve in-the-moment will boast lower costs, greater value, higher reliability and more accurate predictions for the studies that rely on them for execution. The underlying architecture must be scalable for growth, extensible for future technology evolutions and generally solid as a rock, but easily malleable on the surface. Like Bruce Lee said, “Be like water.”

Television and Film Market Research Evolves

The traditional experience of TV is a sinking ship. The video experience itself is being redefined by online streaming through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and network websites such as abc.com, as well as by complementary “2nd Screen” engagement such as Disney Second Screen and AMC’s The Walking Dead StorySync.

New channels for both collecting data and acting on it have been opened and the consumer touch points have never been more numerous or powerful in an arena that has been dominated by a largely static medium. Look for major advancements utilizing all the capability in laptops, tablets and phones through which consumers engage video. Doing it right will require merging together television and film research tactics combined with user experience expertise spanning web, software and mobile.

Data collection models will be built that can marry scene and product placements with aggregated tweets, status updates, physical locations, profile data, website behavior and more, and will serve as proof of concept that we can shape the direction of future episodes, movies and their online components to the consumer’s liking.

In the coming years, these models will combine traditional viewer data collection with the more rapid-fire experience-changing responses to user data such as the specific advertisements, tones and calls to action – all in nearly real-time – to set the entire stage perfectly in our video experience. It’s a two-way street here, too; imagine in green screen style the product placement on a billboard in a House of Cards scene based on the time, place, recent tweets and profile of the user who’s watching it!

Gamification… Seriously? Seriously.

Let’s face it: this fictional buzzword, Gamification, boils down to simple user experience, period; you’re simply borrowing principles from the gaming industry, right? Well, since gaming in 2012 was a $20 billion industry, you could say it deserves its own verb. If you’re not already serious about it, then get serious or get left behind.

Gamers are supremely engaged in their experience for many reasons as illustrated in Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken as well as in her keynote at TMRE 2013, incorporating generally positive behaviors such as goal setting, gratification, emotional investment, pride and accomplishment.

We don’t need to invent Call of Duty: Brand Warfare (If you do, let me get in on it!), but then again consumers don’t have to take our boring studies. There is a huge industry around simply paying consumers to do it!

The closer we bring market research technology to adhere to principles that generally inspire people – whether we call this gamification, or funification, or awesomification – the more accurate our results will be as a result of consumers being engaged to the point where the research behavior we’re seeking is synonymous with how they are inspired to behave as humans.

Look for mashups of technology, user experience and gaming expertise to grow in collaboratively designing research experiences that aren’t just fully absorbing, but produce results that lift predictions to unprecedented levels. Truly awesomified.

Clint is Vice President of Strategic Technology at Sentient Decision Science. Follow him on Twitter: @ClintTaylor

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