4 Takeaways from Audience Analytics and Insights

This week, Verto spoke at Audience Analytics & Insights, a forum held in London for audience insights and research professionals. While the conference offered the opportunity to talk shop and compare notes with partners and competitors alike, it was a better chance to hear from research buyers about what matters most to them.

While every speaker had his or her perspective, the discussion returned to the same four industry-wide issues.

The rest of the talks revolved around capabilities and different approaches to meet these needs. Our contribution was a quick review of Smart Poll which played nicely into the theme of the conference: “Getting to the why rather than the what of audience behavior.”

1. The problem with insights

What’s changed in the research industry, which used to be built on surveys and focus groups, is data. The ability to capture and process terabytes of data by the second and construct a “data lake” of insights from a variety of sources presents is a huge challenge for two reasons: one, we have more information than we can action; and two, we haven’t asked the right questions. Nick Jones, head of insights at HS2, Britain’s high-speed rail project, summarized it well, saying that when presented with insights, his colleagues have one or all of the following reactions:

  • Thanks for these insights but that’s not exactly what we’re looking for
  • We’re overwhelmed by the data
  • We need something more forward-looking – can you do that?

To build the customer experience of the future, companies need to know what both individuals and audiences care about, how they behave, and what drives their actions. Research helps businesses understand where to invest and how to adapt to changing customer behavior and preferences, but only as long as those businesses are  able to identify which questions need answers. Once that’s been established, metrics and measurement help you quantify whether you are doing the right thing for your business.

2.The gap between data and actionable research

The digital world is generating a vast quantity of data, and that number is growing every day. In fact, 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years. If you want to personalize your customers’ experience, for example, how do you identify and connect the right dots in this near-infinite constellation of data points? And then how do you make your discoveries actionable? The key is turning data into information that then can be turned into a campaign improvement or an A/B test. We need to close the gap between media buying and the customers we aim to serve.

3. What’s needed from research teams

A head of insights or a chief research officer faces a major challenge: how to serve up research that can help their businesses overall, but packaged so that individual teams or departments can digest and use the findings. For example, the strategy team might need a market sizing or a competitive analysis, whereas marketing and ad sales need audience measurement for the media kit.

To serve all research interests, many of the  speakers at Audience Analytics & Insights recommended helping team leads learn how to formulate the assumptions they want to validate. The outcome of this exercise means that their business goals became more aligned as a result, and stakeholders are better poised to actually use the research to improve and enhance business outcomes.

4. The rewards we risk

A fair amount of airtime was devoted to consumer privacy, and specifically, General Data Protection Resolution (GDPR). Many researchers I spoke to were not concerned as most felt that they were already following stringent privacy regulations. But they also understood the risks.

In a world where we want to get to know consumers even more, trust and transparency are critical. Marketers, for example, often think about about buying audiences instead of asking for permission to sell to people. With all this data and the ability to track what consumers do at our fingertips, the gap widens. While we are rewarded with more certainty and trust because behavioral data is now available directly from consumers, we have to remember that it’s a two-way street. Privacy and proper data management builds trust with consumers.

If we’re not careful and responsible, we lose the opportunity to ask, measure, and make all this data work for us.

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