Is Big Data for Market Research?

Tom H. C. Anderson
November 27th, 2012

NGMR Software and Forward Looking MR Clients can make it happen in 2013!

There’s lots of talk about Marketing Research professionals missing the boat on Big Data.

I’m more optimistic in this area – Why?

Marketing research professionals who typically do customer segmentation work, even if it’s typically on smaller data sets (1500-4000 records) have EXACTLY the same skill sets needed for analysis of Big Data!


So what’s missing? Three things:


  1. More powerful Software
    Traditional MR statistical packages like SPSS can’t handle Big Data (nor does it do a good job on unstructured/text data). But these tools will become more readily available and affordable.
  2. MR Knowledge built into the Software
    For Marketing Research to play a significant role analysis of big data must also become available to more junior analysts. This can happen by involving those that have the aforementioned experience segmenting and working with actual market data in the software design.
  3. Client Side Researcher Interest
    Client side researchers must drive this, and they’re not going to do it by hopping on the social media analytics bandwagon. They must seek out valuable Big Data sources that are provide a good ROI on analytics today, not what might do so tomorrow.


Marrying the knowledge of market research analysis with the more powerful software are exactly the two things we’ve been working on over the past couple of years at Anderson Analytics. I would be surprised if others weren’t at least thinking about this as well.

Sharing this knowledge (via next generation market research software) with the rest of the MR industry is the next step.

Therefore I think MR certainly has the possibility of becoming a significant player in the Big Data space. Even a JR level MR analyst has stronger data analysis skills than your average IT professional.

I was recently asked to give a prediction for something that can definitely happen in Market Research for 2013 (both within the NGMR LI group as well as to RFL Communications). Here’s what I said:

 “Big Data is the big buzzword right now, but I’m not sure MR clients who would need to drive the effort towards greater use of this data, have the interest, knowledge or clout to get it done.

I’m still amazed at how researchers at fortune 1000 companies seem to focus on just specific areas within traditional MR allowing valuable silos of big data to be analyzed by others or not at all.

The exception currently is twitter and blogs which are over hyped relative to possible ROI.

What I find hardest to believe is that many of these firms are sitting on large amounts of customer service data (call center logs and email complaints and suggestions from hundreds of thousands of customers), while this data really isn’t being analyzed by anyone client side researchers seem to prefer trying to go for a wild goose chase for what Twitterers may or may not be saying.

My prediction and hope is that client side researchers will wake up and realize that customer service data is easier to get to (few barriers to the silo) and more valuable than they thought (can be analyzed through big data and text analytics).

This can certainly happen within the next year, and I plan to personally play a role in making it a reality for our clients!”


Will market researchers play a role in big data – I think the choice is ours. Curious to hear your thoughts and whether you agree.


Do you share my desire to help make it happen this year?





3 thoughts on “Is Big Data for Market Research?”

  1. While there are many sources of big data, what’s preventing more extensive use is a lack of software to process it (such as IBM/SPSS Modeler), and the budget to pay for someone to look at it. Sure there are a few companies doing it, but until you can convince them of the benefits, especially in down economic times, the movement forward is going to be slow. Look at how many companies cut back on research during recessionary times – times when one would expect them to double down on research just to stay competitive.

  2. Great topic and discussion around this. Big data, prediction techniques, machine learning and associated technologies is a big opportunity for MR. We’ve been exploring a lot of these techniques and are finding traditional surveys can lend great insights with big data both ways, in terms of input and as validation of these techniques.
    The reality is that many MR firms are not creative, don’t invest in the methods and technology to explore these. Adoption is rather slow and a laggard in these areas.

  3. I think it is critical for MR to be part of the solution to managing lots of different operational data. To do that we have to work with other groups to create messages/stories that all groups can live with. I don’t think MR has traditionally thought that working and playing well with others is part of their job description.

    Companies want to do more with the data they have and having a MR person constantly suggest conducting new studies (more data), that is completely uninformed by existing data sets just isn’t good enough.

    I am not sure who should lead the charge, but MR has to be open to participating.

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