Traditional Market Research and Big Data | Which is More Actionable?

September 18, 2016

It's no secret Inc.com is one of my favorite business magazines and also one of my favorite business websites to check out on a daily basis. As far as I'm concerned nothing beats a cup of coffee with Inc.com open on my laptop at 7:00 AM in the morning before I get prepared for the day. In particular, any Inc.com articles which reference market research, big data, or anything customer feedback related are of particular interest to me.

Take action with your data

 

This article titled "The Best Data is Not Big, It's Actionable" sums up the benefits of traditional market research and how the custom insights it provides separates it in a world filed with big data. It's a story about a travel agency started in 1997 named Atlas Travel by Elaine Osgood. You're probably thinking 1997 was a terrible time to start a travel agency as website like Travelocity, Expedia, etc. just began to pick up steam in online bookings through the internet right? Still to this day, travel agents are viewed as a dying breed and an unnecessary middle-man in a digital process. Rather than panic after fearing similar challenges in the 1990s and 2000s, she saw an opportunity.

 

With a background in psychology, asking questions, listening, and solving problems was nothing new to Osgood. With online booking websites offering an overwhelming amount of big data for Atlas Travel to analyze from online bookings, something was missing. All of this big data looked at the past - most flown airlines, paid ticket prices, and most-utilized routes. The big data lacked forward thinking and the metrics lacked a voice. Therefore she turned to her customers.

 

She used traditional market research to dig deeper on customer needs. With price and ticket fares being such a large decision-making factor for B2B travel, companies wanted to know what was the best discounts they could get for booking all of their travel through one website or agent, what advantages there were to booking 14 days in advance instead of 7, and so on. Osgood worked as less of an order taker, and more of a predictive consultant for her customers. She also pooled this data with other travel agencies and created a spin-off data analysis company from this customer feedback. Atlas Travel & Technology Group, located in Milford, MA earned $221 million in revenue in 2012 and has a three-year growth rate of 58%. Not bad for a dying breed of travel agents right?

 

Big data has been a hot topic in market research over the past half decade or so, and the amount of data available is far outgrowing the time available to review and analyze it. Like any data, big data has its limitations because it is often difficult to make actionable. However, with traditional market research using online surveys, in-depth interviews (IDIs), or focus groups, if you learn 85% of your customers tell you your product needs to change X in order for them to buy more, it becomes pretty clear you need to take action and change X.

 

Drive Research is a market research company in Syracuse, NY. We specialize in a number of methodologies and industries of focus. Questions about how you can make your market research and data more actionable? Contact us at info@driveresearch.com or call us at 315-303-2040.

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