The fundamentals of any important subject are always worth revisiting, and they should always be restated with the utmost clarity – especially when the subject is as complex as market research and consumer insights.
With that in mind, here’s Roger D. Peng, Professor of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University, stating a fundamental principle of data sourcing with perfect clarity. It’s part of an online course, “Managing Data Statistics,” offered by Coursera.org.
“You need to be able to tell a story about how the data came from the population and ended up in your lap. If you can’t describe that process, then it’s going to be very hard to understand how valid your inferences are from the data. The better and more clearly you can describe how the data came to you, the stronger your results will be.”
In light of this simple truth, you can see the shortcomings of using foggy data sourcing methods such as river sampling for online surveys. The same goes for inferring who consumers are from massive sets of third-party data collected from myriad sources, without actually studying the real source of consumer data, which is, after all, real consumers.
It’s worth repeating: “The better and more clearly you can describe how the data came to you, the stronger your results will be.”
That truth from Prof. Peng applies not only to the accuracy and relevance of your analysis of the data, but to the story you need to be able to communicate intelligibly to the business decision-makers who are looking to consumer insights pros for guidance. How did the data “end up in your lap?” How are you going to “describe that process?” And what are the chances your data and recommendations will be respected and applied to the decision at hand if you can’t make it perfectly clear what the data is and where it came from?
Does a complex, roundabout approach to data collection help your cause? Are you yourself a bit uncertain about where the survey respondents came from and who they really are? Does the third-party data and the way it’s processed to create inferences about consumer identities and behaviors make total sense to you?
The best way to meet the fundamental need for clarity and intelligibility is to observe and question validated, real consumers. There’s nothing hidden or complicated about a first-party consumer panel of willing research participants who want to take surveys, and who come from just one, easily identifiable and easily described source. There's no substitute for a research population of validated U.S. consumers who willingly have downloaded a mobile research app and shared various kinds of profiling information about themselves in order to participate. A large majority of app users also consent to a transparent request to enable their phones’ location services, which makes them available for powerful, in-the-moment in-store and after-visit surveys, and allows their movements to be observed and tracked for a powerful understanding of their buying journeys.
As Sherlock Holmes was fond of telling Dr. Watson, “it’s elementary.” Yes, the fundamentals are elementary, but they’re not easy. Clarity is a rare commodity. To learn more about how to achieve the clarity you need about your data’s sourcing, validity, and usefulness in constructing an actionable consumer narrative, just get in touch by clicking here.