If you read my Telltale Ten regularly, you know that I like to write about a bunch of random things like buying travel accessories at the Dollar Store, or how to assess personality traits. I rarely write about topics specific to the Market Research industry. So you might be surprised to learn that I actually do know a bit about Market Research, the industry as a whole and what we are doing at SoapBox to stay ahead of disruption. The super cool people at Wakoopa (who also seem to know a thing or two) invited me to be interviewed as a part of their blog series called Behavioral Data Barometer. If behavioral data is what gets you excited, definitely check it out. If it is not what gets you excited, read it anyway and maybe you will find yourself excited (or confused – it could go either way).
What made you decide to go into passive metering?
When SoapBox launched at the very end of 2012, it was seemingly the most ridiculous time to enter the “online sample” space. The market was saturated and companies were fighting to sell $2 sample. We saw a unique opportunity to stay focused on the evolution of research, the convergence of technology and the changing behavior of consumers.
Passive metering has actually been around a lot longer than most researchers know. There were some forward-thinking early adopters, and then lots of chatter. Researchers tend to be slow to adopt new technology, but in this case, it was not only the technology (which has since caught up), but also the data. Researchers and marketers have a great appetite for understanding how people behave and make decisions online. Brands want to understand their audiences beyond demographic and attitudinal data; passive tracking data fills this need by showing how consumers move across the digital world with step-by-step interactions. Connecting actual digital behavioral data with demographic/attitudinal data, results in the high-depth, actionable insights clients want.
We recognized the benefit of contributing to the rise, understanding, adoption, shaping of best practices of passive metering. We were lucky to partner with a forward-thinking client who was ready to take risks and experiment, almost immediately following the launch of SoapBox. That experience really propelled us into passive metering and we are continuing to evolve.
How has SoapBoxSample incorporated ‘My Soapbox Meter’ in its panel model? How did it help/change your position as a panel provider?
We have a two-pronged approach. We do a lot of custom recruitment for our clients. They are typically looking for a very specific audience and want to meter them for a designated period of time. Sometimes, they are looking for passive data alone, and other times they want to incorporate methodologies like surveys or diaries. We also recognize clients’ desire for look-back data which was initially the driver for building our existing metering panel. The metering panel also helps with profiling, targeting and a host of other advantages – some of which we are still uncovering.
Where do you see the most valuable use cases of behavioral data?
There are two key areas we focus on with clients. The first is gathering a 360-degree view of the consumer journey. By gathering consumer behavior (as opposed to relying solely on recall) we can see the influence certain types of sites and apps (social media, review sites, coupon sites, etc.) have on the path to purchase. This helps our clients intercept their audiences with the right message at the right time. The second use case we focus on is building digital profiles of our clients’ target audiences. By understanding how certain segments use websites, apps, and search terms our clients can optimize their media spend to reach their target audiences at an improved ROI.
What do you see as the main challenges when dealing with behavioral data?
One of the major challenges about passive metering data is that there is a ton of it and it is totally unstructured. Some of that data is incredibly valuable and relevant to the research objective and some of it isn’t. It takes time, experimentation and the willingness to dive into the unknown to find the connections between seemingly unrelated data points. The idea is to help brands understand their customers by taking millions of tiny details that, when seen as a whole, paint a vivid picture of their customers and their underlying motivations.
Another challenge we deal with regularly, is that most often the clients asking for “metering” data don’t understand the methodology yet and often try to make it fit where it doesn’t, or assume it is the Holy Grail of research data that can answer any and all questions about what people are doing online and on their devices. This is a struggle as there is really no checklist for what metering can/cannot do. Well, there are some checklists on what it can’t do, but the newness, combined with the complexity is a brand new challenge. Clients have to work in partnership with their providers, take risks and be willing to delve into the unknowns to get the magic nugget of information.
How will the growing importance of mobile affect passive measurement?
Opportunities for brands to connect with people, and for people to connect with brands increase as we spend more time on our mobile devices, and we have more devices in our hands. Each item (computer, phone, tablet, wearable) offers researchers another window into people’s online lives. Passive metering is the most effective way to find out what people are doing without disrupting the process, and I believe it will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
How will passive metering influence sampling, data collection and surveying?
I think the research industry is beginning to recognize the value of passive data collection. What remains to be seen is to what extent passive data will replace traditional surveys, how often it will be used in conjunction with traditional surveys, and how data integrations from a variety of sources (survey, transactional, customer, 3rd party, passive) will be leveraged. At SoapBox, we’ve had a lot of success with blending methodologies to create innovative solutions to help answer client’s business questions.
For me, the most unexpected (and potentially disruptive) shift I am seeing is that sample providers, and/or data collection providers in general, are moving away from being order takers of pre-determined research approaches by full service agencies or end users/brands, and now have a seat at the table in designing and contributing to the research approach. It is super exciting to see collaboration from the start of a project to the end.
Is there any advice you would give the market research industry?
My advice would be to stay as lean and nimble as possible. Now is the time to dive in and start even though things aren’t all “figured out” yet. Those who wait and watch, will be passed over. With the coming advances in AI and Machine Learning, the market research industry will certainly be faced with major disruptions — more than we think, and earlier than we expect. We all need to hone our adaptation skills to survive in this business environment. I say learn how to anticipate the ever-changing needs of the industry and be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice.