Taming the digital data frontier
It’s hard to believe in 2009 we were still trying to persuade clients in developed markets that online was a viable data collection method. At the time, internet penetration in the UK was about 78%, but Market Researchers were still nervous about bias. I remember this vividly because it is the year we founded Winkle.
Our vision for Winkle was driven by our frustration with the clunkiness of Innovation Research, powered as it was by street intercepts and CATI. We were lucky enough to co-found Winkle with Hans Lingeman who was one of the true pioneers of online MR and we were immediately able to create a range of tools that enabled us as innovators to connect with consumers in a much more agile way right across the innovation journey. But as with all innovations it took a long time for the market to accept it. Today, of course, online is the de facto means of interacting with consumers for innovation research and Winkle’s business is thriving.
That was in 2009. Today at the MRS annual conference IMPACT, I found myself listening to many of the same questions but this time applied to the next generation of automation and to social/digital data sources. Is the sample representative? How can we use data that’s so messy and lacks context? Unless you’re a big brand, isn’t the data set too small?
The data set is huge – over 2bn Tb are added daily. If nobody is talking about your brand it is because frankly, it’s too dull! One big difference between elicited data and the spontaneous data out there in the web space is this – ‘the absence of feedback is feedback’!
For innovation, we should only really be interested in two fragments of that huge data set – frustration and excitement. Frustration tells us where the missed needs are. Excitement tells us where brands and ideas are succeeding in cutting through and delivering something people really want. We are on a journey to tame the next data frontier with StarMaker and yes, it uses some very smart analytics to find the hidden gems of data we need, but the real trick we’ve pulled off is not what we’ve built into it, but what we’ve left out. We’ve focused our technology on our specialist area – succeeding at innovation in crowded consumer markets. By focusing on one tangible business challenge we have been able to harness some of the value in a dataset we could only dream of in 2009.
I believe the real challenge Market Researchers have with digital is not the sample, but on finding their focus on what business problem they’re actually trying to solve. I think that MR has a huge opportunity to start doing what they should do best, which is to use their human brains, their analytical capacities, their curiosity and creativity to make sense of big data sets, focusing on what matters and leaving out what distracts.
David Walker, Founding Partner & CEO Happen; Co-founder of Winkle