Those in marketing will know that it is not a one-day job. Marketers must constantly must be on our toes, exploring and experimenting new ways to excite and engage customers. With the introduction of digital marketing came content optimisation, hashtags, and algorithms for the marketers. Then came omnichannel marketing, driving marketers to craft multiple strategies across digital channels, to amplify their reach.
Marketing is an intricate piece of art, an embroidery patchwork laced into the internet trying to make it look better than other patchworks. However, if one turns over the patchwork, they will see a complex disarray of data. Data flowing here and there, with no form or function that makes sense to the naked eye.
Introducing artificial intelligence into marketing is how marketers can make sense of this constantly increasing mountain of data. Intelligent tools help marketers accurately identify what would work to efficiently drive sales. With technologies such as facial coding, eye tracking, voice AI, natural language processing (NLP), and intelligent automation to name a few, marketers can pinpoint the variables that drive consumers to purchase.
A Sneak Peek into Marketing Research
Research is an integral part of any decision-making process. Be it choosing dinner or smartphone, we spend hours on the internet, browsing and making sure we’ve chosen the best and most viable option. In the case of marketing where there’s a lot more money at stake, it is of prime importance that businesses carry out marketing research to pick out the best marketing strategies.
Edwards Demings, an American engineer and statistician once said – ‘In God we trust. Rest bring data.” Marketing research is what gives marketers the data they need to execute marketing campaigns and strategies with a sure shot at success. Let’s have a look at how marketing research helps marketers and businesses.
Steve Jobs, an era-defining marketing genius once said – “It is not the consumer’s job to figure out what they want.” It is, however, the responsibility of businesses to identify what the customer wants. Marketing research can solve this problem.
Crafting the right questions can help identify what consumers are looking for. Marketers can find answers to questions such as – ‘Are they buying a product or a lifestyle?’ or ‘Do they like the color of the packaging?’ or ‘Are they noticing the product in the advertisement?’. Marketers can gain answers to all of it through AI technologies such as facial coding and eye tracking. It will help marketers in crafting a solid marketing strategy which will resonate with the unstated preferences of their target audience.
In a free market, there is no recognized monopoly, even though there are some brands that have an edge with the consumers over others. For e.g.: Amazon is the most widely used e-commerce market in the world. However, there are close seconds.
Marketing research also helps brands in valuing their competition. Once a marketer identifies what gives the competition an edge, they can shape their marketing strategies to scale up. Marketing research helps to understand why a consumer chooses specific brands over the others. Understanding the competition is necessary before releasing a marketing strategy, let alone a product into the market.
The prices of goods and services are driven by demand and supply, in the free-market economy we live in. When products are priced too high or too low – consumers are confused as to the authenticity or worthiness of the product.
Instead of playing a whole ‘The Price is Right’, one could carry out marketing research. This can help businesses understand the consumer’s pricing expectations. The pricing of the product is just one of the variables. There’s packaging, shape and size of the product, name of the product and so on. Marketing research can also shine light on the market trends, as to what works and what wouldn’t. Focus group interviews can be held to rightly identify what the consumer feels when they speak about certain brands, thanks to Voice AI. Essentially, running marketing research before executing a marketing campaign would help brands gain an in-depth understanding of the market.
Space for Innovation
The market is a vast and endless ocean of possibilities. Recognizing a possibility and identifying the opportunity is essential for businesses. Marketing research can help businesses identify the gap in the market and help them come up with a solution to solve the gap.
Let’s take hair care for example. Using hair conditioner is highly recommended after a shampoo hair wash. However, hair conditioners were not around till the early 2000s. The conditioner, initially designed to smoothen beards and mustaches, made its way into hair care when people realized that shampoo leaves their hair too dry and frizzy. Store bought shampoos were only available since the early 1900s, up until then people had to brew their own versions of shampoo. This goes to show that shampoo, an early 1900s innovation, was the problem statement for the conditioner which came up in early 2000s.
Just like so, there might be unidentified gaps in the market waiting to be tapped. Marketing research can help with that.
Marketing Research Gain
Apart from the obvious numbers in sales there are a few other dimensions that stand to gain from marketing research –
Helps Minimize Investment Risk
- Testing out ideas, concepts, or products with a representative sample size of the target audience, or through focus groups, helps in optimizing campaigns. This way marketers are sure of their success rate using only a fraction of the budget, rather than losing it in an unvetted campaign.
- Marketing research can help marketers gain visibility into the target segments that will consume their products/engage with campaigns. Marketers can forecast expected revenue from the research findings.
Maintain Brand Image
- Marketers looking to diversify in terms of branding can largely benefit from marketing research. It can tell them which brand elements to keep (to ensure brand recall and loyalty) or which ones to remove.
Also Read: A Marketer’s Guide to Consumer Research
Real World Mishaps – Why Marketing Research is a Necessity, not a Luxury
Ignoring market intelligence is a risky move. Without marketing research there is no way of knowing how well a product, packaging, web/mobile application, advertisement, and so on will fare in the market.
Businesses can also identify new customer cohorts, looking at the marketing research data. They will have improved visibility into the functions of the market and competition. One can better gauge their products and concepts better through quantitative and qualitative research.
Let us look at some colossal failures of overconfident companies who thought it wiser to not invest in marketing research.
Target in Canada
In the United States, Target was the go-to general merchandise retailer. However, they got a little too overconfident in their footing in the US market, and they expanded into Canada without marketing research. In 2013, Target opened their first stores in Canada and expected the crowds to crowd their stores in the weeks to come. To their dismay, that was not the case.
- In Canada, in 2013, online retail e-commerce stores were doing well. Despite that, Target chose to open physical stores.
- The population of Canada is only 10% of the US population, and spread over a larger region, which calls for complex distribution channels.
- The products available in the US Target could not be available in Canada, since they have different legislations and regulations.
- In Canada, Target did not live up to the tagline of ‘Pay Less’, as products were priced higher than their US counterparts.
These are just a few reasons as why Target failed in Canada and had to close all their stores by 2015. All these could have been addressed by a thorough marketing research.
In the early 1990’s, a time Pepsi wishes it could erase, they came out with a clear cola. Pepsi launched their product nation-wide at the 1993 Superbowl with a minute long advertisement ‘Right Now’, starring their new ‘Crystal Pepsi’. It was set to revolutionize the soft drinks market, according to David Novak. David was the Pepsi marketing executive back in the day who came up with the idea for clear cola. His vision was to market crystal Pepsi as a healthy soft drink. In his own words – “It was probably the best idea I’ve ever had…and the most poorly executed.”
- Pepsi assumed they could ride on the wave of their dark cola. Consumers were confused at the Pepsi label and a clear soda. They assumed it would just be sparkling water and nothing more.
- Novak had held a small focus group to try out the crystal Pepsi, which clearly was not enough. He pushed it to market without any further tests which resulted in Crystal Pepsi disappearing from the shelves in just a year.
In 2014, TIME Magazine named it among one of the top 10 product failures of all time.
Reasons Why Traditional Research Fails
There are two main types of research – Quantitative and Qualitative. Quantitative, as the word suggests, is all a numbers game. In this type of research, it matters which options the respondents ranked the highest. Qualitative is about how the respondents react to the solution/product. However, as we saw in the above two examples, traditional research methods cannot always be considered the gospel truth. There can be multiple reasons as to why banking on traditional research methods alone does not fare well.
90% of decision making is sub-conscious. When filling out questions in a survey or responding in a focus group, respondents are in a controlled environment where they make conscious decisions. The sub-conscious part of it, facial expressions, eye movement, voice tonality is all ignored.
Traditional research assumes that all their respondents are completely honest while completing the survey, which is not the case. Respondents express something called the social desirability bias, where they tend to agree with the most agreed upon. Most of the time, respondents give answers which they think is ‘correct’ and would help the brand solidify their hypothesis. Marketers then must face the brunt of a poorly staged campaign.
Also Read: How to tackle Cultural Response Bias in 2022
Crafting survey questions and sending them out to respondents is the easy part. (Which could also go wrong). Collecting data for the respondents, be it for qualitative or quantitative can be a rather tedious process. Once the survey answers or interview recordings are in, it is a pain to sit through such copious amounts of data, analyse it and then derive customer insights from it. This process takes too long and results in marketers being unable to launch their campaigns on time.
Also Read: A Guidebook to Online Panels for Surveys
Introducing Artificial Intelligence
Owing to hyper personalization of the internet and democratization of technology, businesses have insight into our lives through a thick lens of data. With the recent pandemic forcing people to the adopt technology at a rampant scale and adapt to the internet, businesses have no dearth of data. They just don’t know how to manipulate this data to their benefit.
Data on its own is as useful as a blunt knife. You can attempt to use it, but it’s just not right. Bringing in artificial intelligence is like sharpening the knife. It changes the game altogether. Now, disparate data can be segregated, segmented, and turned into actionable insights. With AI in the picture, businesses could use this data for a wide variety of things – making market predictions, innovations, customer interactions, anticipating customer needs, improving workflows, removing roadblocks and so much more.
Gauge Market Intelligence with AI
Geoffry Moore, an organizational theorist, rightly said “The power has shifted to the customer and it’s not coming back.”
Marketing is the backbone of the market, driving decisions and actions. It is what persuades individuals to consume or discard – be it within the B2C sphere or B2B.
A successful marketing strategy cuts through the clutter and present solutions and services to their audiences. How can marketers today hope to build a successful marketing strategy?
Why, AI of course!
At its core, marketing is essentially identifying and understanding customer needs and ensuring that one’s products/services are marketed in line with it. Traditionally marketing strategies were designed with keeping the products in mind, and not the customers. With the advent of AI, that is no longer the case. Artificial Intelligence has helped marketers evolve their processes of ideation and execution to help them achieve their goals in the most efficient manner possible.
The AI Wave of Marketing Research
Marketing research is no longer just filling our surveys and attending focus groups. AI technologies have revolutionized the game and helped marketers gain deeper, more accurate and actionable insights.
Let’s a have a look at these technologies.
As mentioned before, 90% of the decisions making in purchasing a product or solution is sub-conscious. Unbeknownst to us, our face reacts in certain ways to stimuli, be it an image or a video. Up until the advent of facial coding, machines were not intelligent enough to gauge human emotion.
- With facial coding, through webcams and mobile cameras, intelligent software can measure human emotions by capturing facial expressions.
- With advanced machine learning abilities, tools can categorize emotions and derive actionable insights as to an individual’s or a group’s emotions towards a marketing campaign.
- Example: Facial coding can present marketers with second-by-second breakdown of how viewers reacted to a 30 second television ad. The reactions are portrayed as insights into matrices such as engagement, attention and emotion metrics.
Whitepaper: Facial Coding and Its Applications
Often it so happens that something grabs out attention, we look away and stand still trying to soak it all in. They say the eyes are the window to the soul. Thanks to artificial intelligence and eye tracking technologies, we can sneak a peek through that window to identify what individuals are looking at.
- Eye tracking technologies combined with ML can pinpoint the gaze and motion of the eye.
- With eye tracking, marketers can tap into deeper customer insights of what grabs the viewer’s attention. They can then optimize screen space and space out brand elements as deemed fit.
- Example: Eye tracking helps marketers with detailed insights on the movement of eye gaze across a package or a screen. They can then identify the optimum placement of logo, tagline, price, discount, product imagery, etc.
Read our Whitepaper: Eye Tracking and Its Applications
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
Natural language processing is the segment of artificial intelligence that equips machines to collect, process, and comprehend the information written or spoken by a human form.
- NLP is embedded with advanced machine learning; statistical models combine with computational linguistics to accurately capture the essence of the human language.
- Through NLP deep learning algorithms, machines, be it computers or mobile devices can understand the full meaning of the information expressed by humans.
- Example: NLP helps marketers in breaking down and analyzing the transcripts of hundreds of qualitative interviews and focus group discussions to gauge the overall sentiment.
Artificial Intelligence has advanced at a rampant pace. With the accelerated adoption of video conferencing and online interactions, conversations are captured in recordings for easy access. However, Voice AI help in breaking down the speech into emotions to make it easier for marketers to gauge their reactions.
- Voice AI technologies can turn speech intro transcripts, and with the help of NLP can even translate it into the language of choice.
- Voice AI along with NLP can also help marketers with intent and sentiment analysis for the speaker.
- Voice AI also helps measuring the emotions hidden in their voice tonality, pitch, acoustics, pauses, words used, etc.
- Example: Voice AI comes handy in analysing qualitative feedback for confidence, genuineness and hidden emotions to unearth the unstated preferences in stated feedback.
Benefits of AI in Marketing Research
Marketing research has the potential to go above and beyond, hand in hand with artificial intelligence. As technology evolves, so does people’s expectations. Marketers are expected to match these expectations, and now with AI they can.
Let’s look at a few other gains from mixing AI and marketing research.
Speedy Data Management
Traditional marketing research is a back breaking process, right from data collection to processing to comprehension. However, with AI in the picture, we welcome intelligent automation. Intelligent automation empowers marketers with fast paced delivery of their marketing campaigns.
- The new age marketing research tools can incorporate survey questions (as many as possible), and even upload stimuli for respondents to react.
- The good news is marketers no longer sift through each of the respondents’ answers to come to conclusions. The bad news is, well, there isn’t any.
- Marketing research tools powered with artificial intelligence and machine learning helps marketers to wrap up their research journeys within 1-2 weeks.
Now that data is intelligently automated, it’s time for insights. Thanks to machine learning and deep learning models, the time to insights is exponentially lesser. Marketers can track metrics without having to compute it.
- Customer insights platform powered by facial coding, eye tracking, NLP, and speech recognition will deliver actionable consumer insights.
- From attentions to eye gaze to engagement, marketers have all they need to concoct a marketing strategy that will perform well at the market and the shelves.
- With machine learning in the pictures, the accuracy of these insights gets better with time.
Research was carried out in 2015 at the Georgetown University Medical Center, where neuroscientists concluded that – humans comprehend words and letters and hear them spoken in their brains. Therefore, we can safely call humans visual thinkers and leaners thanks to our eyes which capture images, patterns, and colours.
Which is why dashboards are favoured over excel sheets, PowerPoints, and reports of sorted data.
- Through data visualisation, marketers are easily able to comprehend the insights derived from marketing research.
- Interactive dashboards allow marketers to work with a comprehensive breakdown of the insights when the need arises.
- These dashboards have the added advantage of customization, allowing marketers to present their learnings as visual stories. This way, marketers have to only look at insights they want to.
Improved Customer Experience
“Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart.” – Joe Chernov, CMO at Pendo.io and a B2B marketing influencer.
Marketing is no longer about just about brands or products; it’s about providing valued experiences to your customers. Is more about helping the target audience overcome obstacles than pitching the product. AI in marketing ensures that customers are at the core of the strategy, rather than the product/solution.
- Decisions such as product placement, ad banner placement, product listing strategy, media planning, etc. must be data-driven. Marketers can gain access to this data by understanding consumer preferences via intelligent automated research.
- Marketers must test every aspect of their campaign which will face their audience. Thanks to AI, marketers can now test their ads (print and digital), social media posts, pilot episode, packaging, product concepts, etc before releasing it into the market for consumption.
- Multimodal behavioural analytics and emotion AI can help brands in identifying/optimizing elements that ensures their customer have a good shopping/viewing/digital experience.
The End is Just the Beginning
Too cliché of a conclusion, but it is 100% true. This article is just a tip of the iceberg into the AI applications in marketing research. There’s more to come.
The market is evolving, and so must marketers. It is unwise to spend time and effort on traditional research methods. There are marketing research tools engineered with artificial intelligence along with machine learning, that fulfil qualitative and quantitative requirements. With intelligent automation in the picture, marketers can sit back and focus on more important tasks than data collection and comprehension. Computational algorithms that process data sets of emotions churn out analysis via customer insights platforms, in the nick of time, allowing marketers to work within crunch timelines.
In short, adopting artificial intelligence into marketing research is a piece of cake with automated DIY tools. Sit back and let AI do the work.