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Middle aged man in denim shirt working on laptop. Market research is now called customer insights.

Whither “market research”? It’s bigger than ever, though increasingly under different names.

A long time ago, in an enterprise far, far away, there was a department called market research.  It still exists in some organizations; but in many others “market research” is now called “customer insights”, “consumer insights”, or “market intelligence”.  Whatever the label, the primary purpose of the function is largely unchanged: to collect and collate data and insights about the wants, needs, preferences, opinions, and attitudes held by a company’s customers and prospects.  The information gathered may affect a company’s overall business strategy, product development, marketing, and sales initiatives.

However, the methods and means for conducting market research have changed over the past few decades, as has the services industry that surrounds the function.  A recent editorial in the International Journal of Market Research summarizes those changes well.  As the author states, today there are “more surveys, more depth interviews, more focus groups, more ethnography, more usability testing, more semiotics, more build-test-learn, and more analytics. Indeed, more of almost anything that allows organizations to leverage insights about what people want, experience, and believe. However, less and less of this research is being done by people who call themselves ‘market researchers’ doing tasks that they describe as ‘market research.’”

In particular, the advent of software-based solutions for conducting surveys has revolutionized and democratized the gathering of market / customer insights research.  Bottom line: there is more of it, performed by more people, than ever before.  Which means, among other things, the ability to conveniently store, index, access, and apply all that research is more vital than ever before… and more complex.

Hence the explosion of enterprise knowledge management systems for market intelligence and customer insights.  (Interestingly, the advisory firm Forrester uses the term “market & competitive intelligence”, which it abbreviates M&CI, adding competitive intelligence into the mix of content – and strategic uses – for all this research.)  Systems like Northern Light SinglePoint™ are increasingly in demand because the sheer volume of content, and the need to manage it effectively, are growing exponentially.

Knowledge management boils down to two primary tasks: compile and organize the company’s information assets; and effectively share the wealth with professionals across the enterprise, whose ability to do their jobs hinges on ready access to relevant information.

From a systems perspective, all information, from both internal and external sources – whether it is called market research, customer insights or consumer insights – must be aggregated and indexed so it is easily searchable and findable in one place.  Because a user may not know exactly what (or who) they’re looking for when they begin their search, a “smart” system imbued with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities – for example, a system that can learn about a user’s interests over time based on their research behavior – is invaluable.  Other useful features include text analytics optimized for research applications (especially the ability to tag documents automatically with rich industry and company-specific taxonomies), and collaboration solutions to bookmark and tag documents, share documents and bookmarks, form groups, and identify internal experts and collaboration partners.  In addition, an enterprise knowledge management system needs to contain tools that afford multiple ways of sharing relevant content with all who might find it useful in their work and decision-making.

In the end, what an organization calls its market research content doesn’t matter; the information and the functionality to apply it do.  As the editorial author writes, “Research will grow and its impact will grow. But it will increasingly not be called ‘market research’ and it will increasingly be conducted by people who do not call themselves ‘market researchers.’”

And regardless of labels, organizations that put their content to best use – making it widely accessible, findable, and applicable – will fare best in an increasingly competitive, global business environment.

To discuss the benefits of an enterprise knowledge management system for market intelligence, consumer insights, or whatever your organization calls it, contact Northern Light.


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