Christopher Horne
Christopher Horne

By Christopher Horne, Director at Research Engine Limited

Marketers rely on great customer insights to inform winning marketing plans and programmes.

Professionals know that the only way to succeed in today’s ultra-competitive and fast-moving business environment is to be as customer-centric as possible. Despite this evident truth, “Many firms are still struggling to fully align themselves to the customer-centric paradigm”1.

But being truly customer-centric is easier said than done! Especially in a highly regulated, R&D driven industry like pharma…one in which “The prevailing management culture, mental models and strategies on which the industry relies are the same ones it’s traditionally relied on, even though they’ve been eclipsed by new ways of doing business”2.

So, how do you obtain the insights you need to be customer-centric whilst at the same time solving increasing pressures on time and budgets?

The 2017 Customer Insight & Analytics Future Trends report3 states that “It seems that innovation and agility are two key factors to ensuring continued success from your customer insights. Making the most out of your data and continually adding new value to your organisation through your customer intelligence requires some organisational focus on the trends arising from the insight and analytics arena”.

So what are some of those insight trends and new developments that you need to be aware of?

THE MARKET RESEARCH INDUSTRY IS INNOVATING RAPIDLY

The good news is that there have been rapid recent advancements in the market research and insight fields with a plethora of new approaches that can help. Many take advantage of the possibilities from new technologies and the power of the web for connecting and interacting. This follows many years when the tools available to researchers changed little.

AUTOMATION IS ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING INNOVATIONS

The GRIT report in the second half of 20164 stated that “Automation & Big Data are clear game changers in MR, with AI and Storytelling not far behind”.

So, let’s focus on one of those major ‘Buzz topics’ that were highlighted – that of ‘Automation’.

The latest GRIT report5 predicts that in future “What can be automated, will be automated and the research industry continues to be no exception. Clients and suppliers are largely aligned in prioritizing the areas they are actively exploring: the mechanics of research execution. There is much room for additional growth around all aspects of automation in the future”.

AUTOMATION IN RESEARCH IS HERE, NOW

The same report lists five aspects of research that can be automated (And already are being automated by 40%+ of all research suppliers globally).

Such examples show automation of individual elements of the research process. Good! But why only automate some elements? Why not all?

FULL AUTOMATION IS THE NEW NORMAL

Thanks to developments by a few vendors, the entire project can now be automated from the client’s perspective.

The research buyer can now go to a vendor website and buy one of a number of standard surveys which have already been created, off-the-shelf. The process typically involves choosing the survey type (e.g. customer satisfaction), telling the vendors website who the target audience is, specifying how large the sample should be and also purchasing that sample via the vendor. Once you have triggered the survey, fieldwork takes place (online to your target audience) and soon after you can either download or will be emailed the report of the results. There is no human interaction.

AUTOMATION DOES NOT MEAN DIY

It is worth noting that what we are talking about here is quite different to ‘DIY research’ using one of the online providers – in this type of research you need to design your own questionnaire, find your own sample, execute the survey and create your own report.

Automation products do all of these tasks for you.

BUT IS AUTOMATION APPROPRIATE FOR PHARMA?AND IF SO, IS IT SUITABLE FOR ALL SECTORS WITHIN PHARMA?

Automated research is becoming popular in many consumer markets, the early adopters. Is such an approach applicable in the pharma industry? We think ‘yes’ because in our experience pharma marketers – despite our industries unique characteristics – have some similar pressures and are looking for some of the same benefits as those marketers in other industries.

But what do you think? And how about your specific sectors? We’d love to hear your feedback.  So you tell us –please give us your views by clicking on this LINK and completing our very short survey.

We will feed back the results in a further article as soon as possible.

AND IS AUTOMATION RIGHT FOR ALL PROJECTS?

Is such a service applicable for all projects? No, absolutely not, because:

  • Your survey objectives might be better suited by a different method
  • There might not be an off-the-shelf survey that fully meets your needs
  • You might not be able to easily buy the specialist sample of respondents that you need
  • You might want or need the support of a research professional (a human!) in your project

So in some cases you would be absolutely right to stick to the traditional model of highly serviced, bespoke research, although it will probably take longer and be a lot more expensive.

THERE IS A ‘THIRD WAY’

Luckily there is a sometimes a middle ground as well. Our own company for example (and with apologies for this blatant promotion of our services) offers automated products but also the chance to customise them plus get hands-on support for your project by an experienced researcher. This widens the opportunities to get the benefits of automation into more projects.

IN SUMMARY – WHAT ARE THE ‘SO-WHAT’S’ OF AUTOMATION?

Automated self-service research can provide insights to support customer-centricity with some great benefits:

  • Speed
  • Value-for-money
  • But, with no loss of data reliability if done right

Research no longer needs to be a heavy exercise that takes an age and costs the earth.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Market research is evolving quickly. There are many new possibilities alongside well-loved methods that have become traditional. Automation is not the only game in town, but it is one of the most immediately advantageous developments. It’s not right for all situations, but can play a big role wherever those needing great customer insights (to support customer-centricity) have a clear idea of what they need and are seeking speed and/or excellent value-for-money.

DON’T FORGET, GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK ON MARKET RESEARCH AUTOMATION. FOLLOW THE LINK TO TAKE OUR SHORT SURVEY

 HEALTH WARNING

It goes almost without saying, that any survey within pharma should be carried out respecting all relevant laws and guidelines including for example, EphrMRA6, BHBIA7, ICC/ESOMAR8, and MRS9So your research partners need to know what they are doing.

References/further reading

  1. The Path to Customer Centricity: Denish Shah, Roland T. Rust, A. Parasuraman, Richard Staelin, George S. Day, Journal of Service Research, November 2006.
  2. PWC Industry Challenges& Issues, Pharmaceuticals, 2017
  3. Customer Insight &Analytics Future Trends;Customer Insight & Analytics Exchange Europe, 2017.
  4. Greenbook Research Industry Trends Report2016 Spring Q3-Q4
  5. Greenbook Research Industry Trends Report2017Winter Q1-Q2
  6. EphMRA Code of Conduct and Adverse Event Reporting Guidelines
  7. The British Healthcare Business Intelligence Association Legal & Ethical Guidelines and Adverse Event Guidelines
  8. The ICC/ESOMAR International Code on Market, Opinion and Social Research and Data Analytics
  9. MRS Code of Conduct