Market Research Lessons Learned From Behavioral Economics

Recently, I attended the MSI Workshop on behavioral economics at the Harvard Innovation Lab. The presenters included an innovative crew: a number of academics from Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely , author of Predictably Irrational. They gave many examples of how consumers aren’t always rational and don’t always know why they do what they do. This is troubling for market researchers, since it’s our job to understand what drives consumers so that companies can effectively optimize what works and what doesn’t. Let’s look at a couple of examples of how principles of behavioral economics can wreak havoc on market researchers:

  • The path of least resistance (AKA the default). Ever wonder why you are enrolled in your company’s 401(k)? Why you take generic over brand-name prescriptions? Why you’re an organ donor? Is it because of your financial sense or your values — or could it be because it was simply the default (and hence the simplest) option? In fact, multiple experiments in behavioral economics suggest just that: People tend to go with the default option but don’t realize they do.
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Technology In Market Research: Highlights From The Market Research Technology Event

I just returned from the IIR Market Research Technology Event (TMRTE). These were three action-packed days of industry leaders delivering great insights on what’s important for the market research industry, as well as the challenges and opportunities that technology presents. It was a pleasure to meet and connect with so many thought leaders in market research. Here are three main themes I gathered from the event and what I think market researchers need to pay attention to:

  • Big data is here. Many of the presenters highlighted how intimidating the flood of digital data can be for market researchers. Christopher Frank from American Express and Paul Magnone from Openet say it’s like “Drinking from the Fire Hose.” But Stan Sthanunathan from Coca-Cola reminded us that big data is a reality — so we’d better embrace it or get left behind. As a result, market researchers will need to move from viewing technology as an enabler to viewing technology as a driver.
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