Thinking / Research Technologies: Reading the Pulse of Your Target Audience

Research Technologies: Reading the Pulse of Your Target Audience

The emergence and growing influence of digital technologies has created a surge of new marketing research platforms, to meet quick-response, behavioral and mobile research needs.

The good news is that this demand is being met. The bad news is the demand is ever-changing and the solutions will require constant exploration and evaluation. To assist in this on-going challenge, we’ve asked Marcus Thomas’ Audience Insights Manager Jessica Folger and Associate Research Director Edwige Winans to provide a concise review of some new platforms they’re employing for our clients:

Quick Turn Solutions

“For those situations where you need 24-48 response and you’re on a tight budget, there are many options for quick turn research,”Winans said, “but the three below are solid choices built on solid platforms and utilize sound methodologies.”

QuikTake — For quick quantitative surveys of 20 questions, we can get 100 responses in five hours or 1,000 responses in up to two days. The panel sample is balanced to the census, representative of the U.S. adult population. QuickTake is great for concept testing, brand awareness and perception and ongoing tracking; and for market sizing.

AnswerTap — This is a great video-conferencing solution that allows researchers to get one-on-one with respondents, whether it’s one or a hundred. Great tool for understanding consumer preferences or behaviors or to validate assumptions, ideas or to explore a topic.

GutCheck — If you’re looking to validate a concept or need broad reaction to specific questions, GutCheck is an emerging platform that give us quick response across a big pool of potential respondents. It’s chat based and secure, so it can be used to explore new concepts.  Typically, the chats are 30- to 45-minutes in duration and there is a 25 participants minimum. Again, great tool for evaluating ideas, concepts and gaining insights.

“Keep in mind, while these platforms are connected to large reputable panels, they’re best suited for easy-to-reach audience groups, e.g., general population segments,  rather than niche segments.”

Behavioral Tracking

“It’s always important to watch what people do rather than just listen to what they say they do,” Winans says. Which is why she, and others, love interactive tracking approaches.

“There are a variety of tracking technologies available. We are watching ZQ Intelligence; it's a promising solution. It relies on a panel of respondents who meet specific criteria. The panelists sign on to allow tracking of their activity on the PC. (Table and mobile versions of this are in beta.) Tracking takes place for 30-60 days and it’s a great complement to self-reporting techniques.”

“Tracking technologies are great for gathering audience insights on where and how they engage,” Winans says. “They’re also great for assessing digital advertising effectiveness.”


On the mobile research front, there are a number of companies serving this market, with more soon to enter the fray. Most provide capabilities to survey via SMS, browser or app, depending on the mobile usage and adoption of your target consumer.

Folger says they’re particularly useful for qualitative work, including diaries, ethnography studies or communities, with opportunities to collect multimedia content.  “Say you wanted to learn about the skincare habits of college girls. You could have them take photos of the products in their bathroom, and then have a roommate videotape their skincare routine.  There’s so much to be learned through the non-verbal, and applications like these really get an audience engaged.”

Location-based mobile research is also maturing, with GPS technologies allowing us to understand where people go, the routes they take, and the amount of time they spend at a given location. “Locately is one partner we’ve been watching closely. They are really making a mark in consumer location analytics.”

Folger suggests you can also use geo-fencing technologies to ensure, say, a survey is only sent to people who are inside a convention center for a specific trade show.

So why mobile over more traditional research methodologies? Mobile technologies are incredibly useful for capturing real-time insights, because you can engage with users while they are in the middle of an experience. There are, obviously, fewer memory recall issues; no need to be physically present; and you can get easier access to hard-to-reach samples, like Hispanics, men 18-24 and Physicians.

“Mobile research really helps create a 360 degree view of a consumer/customer by combining the 'who', 'what’, 'where', 'why' and 'when,'” Folger says. “We can gather a lot of information passively without having to ask, and we get more candor, because the respondent is using his or her own device.”