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Trade Talk: For many, big data not making big progress

Article ID:
August 2013, page 10
Joseph Rydholm, Quirk's Editor

Article Abstract

A review of survey results shows market researchers are rolling with the punches when it comes to big data and its role in the industry.

As part of this issue’s focus on social media research, our By The Numbers column (p. 28) features a recap by George Stephan of WebLife Research of a study his firm conducted on the views of big data among corporate researchers. (We helped WebLife recruit prospective respondents in exchange for editorial access to the study results.) He does a nice job of summarizing the results (I weighed in with a June blog post:, so I won’t duplicate his efforts but one of the main takeaways that bears further exploration is how seemingly unafraid of, and in some cases unaffected by, big data the respondents claim to be.

I know we’re only talking about one set of survey responses here, so I’m not planning to jump to any conclusions but after all of the doom and gloom about big data from various corners of the industry, it’s good to see that researchers seem to be taking things in stride.

As I so often like to do in this space, I thought it might be worth delving into some of the responses to the open-end questions featured in the survey, to add a little color to the findings Stephan outlines in his article.

To questions about how big data and marketing research work together at their firm, here is a sample of responses, grouped by theme.

The process is in the early stages:

“We are working on a plan.”

“We are just beginning to determine how market research and big data can work together; trying to form a cohesive team.”

“Still siloed. Different training as well.”

“Part of the marketing department but still don’t work together as much as they should.”

“Have created informal team representing each faction to define rules for us to work together.”

“Sporadically. No time, no budget. Too thinly resourced to be any good.”

“Lack of coordination and understanding of the data at this point. We are investigating and have just started the process of exploring big data.”

We've already figured it out:

“Different departments and work together all the time.”

“Use it to explain abnormalities that show up in data to reaffirm or challenge preconceived or current attitudes about behavior.”

“Don’t have a lot of questions generated from big data yet. We have looked at some things but very little learned from BD that isn’t just descriptive information.”

“Big data only explains the whats, not the whys.”

We're waiting for the wave to hit the shore:

“We aren’t using big data.” (many variations of this same sentiment)

 “Just not on our radar screen.”

“They don’t.”

Live and work together

Of all the responses, these were probably my favorites, as the clear-eyed souls who tapped them out on their keyboards did a perfect job of sketching some ways for MR and big data to live and work together going forward:

“We understand that data can only give us the what and we need to do qualitative research to understand the why.”

“We use it the other way around. Our primary focus is custom MR, which we supplement with other data sources to understand an issue in greater detail.”

“We are just entering this area but there is sincere interest among our analytics and insights teams in better applying big data to support, validate and strengthen our qual and quant consumer work.”

“I run an integrated team that has an aggregate skill set covering both traditional market research and big data analytics (in its many forms). We see big data as just another tool in the toolset to be applied where and when it is appropriate.”

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