By Maggie Whitley, Senior Research Associate, Bellomy

“Unprecedented times” make for a seemingly endless amount of information to dig through – there are always new topics to discuss and new questions for researchers to explore. The rate at which consumer opinions and actions change is increasing and businesses equipped to navigate these changes will reap the greatest rewards.

But where do we start identifying the right questions to ask? How do we formulate questions about behaviors when we know people have been, and will forever be, changed by the global pandemic?

For us, those answers were found in the actual words our respondents shared with us or on their social networks.

Who will help us understand what is coming on the horizon?

Consumers are constantly sharing their motivations, fears, opinions and experiences.

By examining the unstructured feedback they’re sharing through digital channels, we can gain insight into what’s to come – before we start designing a survey or study. Take yourself back to February 2020 and consider a typical multi-select question that asks respondents to indicate (from a predetermined list) the top categories they purchased that month. Did it include some newly emerging categories like personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies?

When fielding our COVID-19 segmentation survey, items like masks and hand sanitizer were added to our survey options only because we were able to leverage unstructured consumer feedback in a meaningful way. 

How do we transform unstructured, organic responses into a wealth of knowledge?

While including PPE in our survey was obvious in this case, other categorical and behavioral shifts are not so easy to identify without the help of advanced text analytics.

Text analytics tools take consumers’ thoughts and feelings from the channels where they express them, transforming a collection of comments into insights that help businesses learn, change and grow. In the past, mining large batches of unstructured feedback was difficult and time-consuming. However, recent advances in text analytics have allowed us to pull in data from more sources than ever before – social media, Google store reviews, forums, Reddit threads and even traditional survey open-end responses – and analyze that feedback in a comprehensive and aggregated way.

Why do we want to go beyond formal, constructed surveys to mine unstructured consumer feedback?

Researchers empowered by robust text analytics systems can quickly surface business risks, opportunities and challenges and work with business teams to identify strategies that leverage traditional and emerging research techniques more effectively.

Modern text analytics tools are key to making sense of the changes ahead. Improved ROI for innovations and improvements, faster recognition of business opportunities and risks, and increased understanding of consumer-business interactions will enable organizations to realize their objectives, build new products, market themselves better and deliver on their promises to stakeholders and consumers. 

So, what do you do when the pace of society surpasses the pace of research?

Anyone can read through individual reviews and verbatims but the keys to the future lie in tools that mine themes, map connections, identify trends from thousands of real-time responses from everyday people and deliver actionable findings to researchers.

If we want our businesses to not only survive on the other side of the pandemic but thrive and serve our customers better than ever, we need to extract the maximum value from verbatims and truly listen to what consumers are saying.

To see how Bellomy’s Text Analytics tool can help you navigate through a sea of consumer comments, request a demo at bellomy.com/text-analytics.