The market research industry has had to raise its game and leading the way is SSI. In a Q&A, chief executive Chris Fanning explains how they are staying a step ahead to fulfil the demands of their customers.
Q. What are the major forces shaping the future of market research?
A. Global growth and technology – you can’t achieve growth without scalable global technology. That’s why companies such as SSI that have been around for many years – 38 in our case – must be willing and able to invest.
Over the last three years, our focus has been on building our proprietary panel to deliver bigger, better profiled respondents across the broadest set of countries and establish the largest collection of online panel assets in the industry today.
We’ve invested in products such as QuickThoughts, a mobile app now available in 19 countries, and our new Proximity Sample mobile geo-location capability. With new private equity owners, we’ve been able to make some acquisitions of our own, including two of the leading online research panels in Australia and New Zealand, MyOpinions and SmileCity. Today SSI has the best global footprint of any company in this industry.
Q. What are the main challenges for market researchers and their clients?
A. I think the sheer pace of change has forced companies to look for market research partners and techniques that are more agile and responsive. Technology is enabling agile market research in the same way it enables agile, lean manufacturing, and responsive and real-time retailing. We’ve just introduced new mobile technology that collects real-time, in-the-moment data from people to help market researchers develop sharper, deeper, richer insights.
Then there are the issues around the lack of resources. Demand for better, faster global insights is growing, but the resources are becoming scarcer.
With global expansion, companies need partners who can scale quickly and manage complex, multi-country studies, not just in major markets, but in markets no one even considered five years ago.
Mobile enables intelligent, adaptive surveys, the integration of a real-time mobile behaviour view with in-depth surveys that can be triggered automatically
Q. How can market research help solve for the challenges created by big data?
A. Big data is a term that has really caught on, but actually it’s not that new. Data from which we produce the information and insight has always been there, it’s just that the nature of the data has changed. The problem for clients is the vast amount of data they have buried in so many different silos within the organisation. This restricts their ability to do the analysis and uncover the insights they need to make decisions. We are investing in advanced analytics and data-reporting tools that will produce the insights from this data. We work with a lot of consulting firms and, having worked in that field myself, I know how a big a leap forward it is being able to harness the power of huge amounts of higher quality global data.
Q. Which new technologies in market research excite you?
A. Mobile is the big one. When I joined SSI in 2012, everyone was asking about it. Today there is so much more you can do by having a mobile technology platform, not just the mobile surveys, but the whole range of collectable data enabled by the sensors and technologies embedded in smartphones.
Mobile enables intelligent, adaptive surveys, the integration of a real-time mobile behaviour view with in-depth surveys that can be triggered automatically.
Measuring the location of shoppers and accurately mapping the full path to purchase is being enabled by a new set of consumer mobile technologies, proximity beacons and GPS positioning.
Mobile devices are behind the growth of “shared content” in the form of photos, videos and social media, data sources that enrich our insights. Mobile will dominate for years to come, which is why we have invested so heavily in the technology behind it.