The Top 5 Takeaways from IIEX


Our Project Manager, Josh Emington, recently had the opportunity to attend the IIEX conference in Atlanta, Georgia, an event for those in the market research industry – here’s what he had to say about his experience.

Exploring the floor and the sessions at IIEX in Atlanta Georgia, Josh had the opportunity to speak with suppliers and clients, and to explore some of the latest innovations in research technologies by startups and veteran firms alike. The sessions are a mix of case studies, panel discussions, technology and methodology reviews, and best practices.

IIEX is of the ilk of other market research event favorites such as Quirks, TMRE, and CRC with a serious focus on innovation. It was exciting just trying to make my way through the crowd as the corridors were packed with enthusiastic industry folks loudly discussing the latest issues. Of those issues, there were a few common themes being discussed that stuck with me long after the conference ended.

Five themes were especially strong this year:


1. Behavioral data compliments traditional and innovative methodologies

Access to an incredible amount of direct data such as location, details about online purchasing, smart phone interaction, and so on provides valuable context and starting point insights that cannot be ignored. There’s a lot of room for more collaboration and integration of behavioral and observational (or interaction-based) research methodologies and tools. Firms that can successfully leverage the value of each data source will provide especially impactful recommendations.

2. Growing issues with trusting the quality of sample (people that participate in research) continue to emerge

A panel on ‘Data Quality’ featuring several corporate research leaders and several panel platforms and providers emphasized the ongoing issues with sample, from extremely low incentives and ‘professional participants’ to poorly selected group sets and lack of transparency. The tension remains between getting cheap fast research and the costly measures necessary to protect the quality and validity of data collected with panel suppliers. The agency or full-service firm offering consulting and service is often caught in the middle with a strong need to supply quality and demand transparency from their suppliers while maintaining competitive pricing. Several other discussions and sessions reiterated these points.

Perhaps the most important underlying issue with many new and existing online methodologies is the inability to guarantee that the insights were derived from direct conversations with real customers or potential customers. For my part, I always recommend at least a small direct customer conversation with any Voice of Customer initiative. At best, old school research allows you to truly connect and resonate with your customer and at worst, you can identify fraud or incorrect sampling.

3. Validating changes in emotion throughout the course of an intervention (Ads, sales conversations, copy, etc.) is becoming more important than ever

Lowe’s and MARS both presented detailed case studies showcasing how monitoring emotion change throughout the customer experience allowed for them to inform significant improvements in advertisement development. Knowing when, how, and to what degree advertising materials impact the emotions of potential customers is extremely powerful.

4. Qualitative and quantitative tools leveraging Machine Learning, AI, and NLP are maturing

A year ago many of the products and tools allowing for rapid online insights were greeted with skepticism, confusion and intrigue. Today, the tools are capturing consistent attention and have evolved to provide equivalent quality along with advanced and enabling speed. As confusion and hesitation diminish, these advanced tools allow for augmented intelligence. Now insights clients and suppliers can leverage next generation tools to accomplish detailed insights reports with key themes, segments, and verbatims in days or weeks rather than months and expect to gain the same or better overall quality as longer studies done in the past.

Insights leaders are especially excited that the market research industry is finally reaching its own industrial revolution. AI and machine learning products, along with the automation perfected over the past five years in rote tasks such as transcription, community building, recruiting, and reporting, have allowed for the evolution of the industry. Today corporate and agency researchers are able to eliminate or outsource less valuable elements of the process in favor of more time spent with high value uniquely human tasks such as advanced business-question-driven consulting, deeper insight development, and overall research design (avoiding bias, answering key questions, etc.).

5. Increasing access to DIY research options empowers and further educates corporate researchers while introducing a slew of unforeseen challenges

Along with more options comes more challenges. While DIY research options allow corporate researchers to hand-pick some of the services or tools to use in their research projects, this quasi-customization creates major responsibility. The corporate researcher must not only understand the value and differences between these services or tools, but know how the services interact and accept the challenges of working with so many people.

In order to successfully utilize one of these options, you need to properly organize all of the different tools, vendors and methodologies in order to achieve a valuable output. This means researching the solutions to ensure each component will meet your needs, as well as dealing with the broad range of relationships that come into play when using multiple vendors.

Key Takeaway

The key takeaway from the conference: innovation is headed slowly in a positive direction. There’s a lot of shiny marketing attached to new tools, but the underlying elements are taking a while. Luckily, quality seems to be increasing overall and machine learning is taking us in a great direction.

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