Biased consumer insights and false information are pervasive issues that have had an impact on every arena from politics to business (2016 Election; Brexit). Many consumer insights and research professionals are struggling to maintain quality panels needed to generate the foundational insights required for relevant, empathetic communications.

Even when that sample is representative of a target consumer base, consumer insights and research professionals and the marketers who depend on them are still at risk. Many of the qualification mechanisms to generate consumer insights today are inherently flawed. It is not enough to just listen to your target customers – or any random sample of consumers. Research studies have proved 10x over that people not only lack insight into their own behaviors, but also that reliance on self-reporting methods leads to deceiving results.

A New Approach to Consumer Research & Insights

According to Forrester Research, 95% of human thought occurs subconsciously, including many of the motivations that drive day-to-day behavior, and it is swayed in the moment by unexpected influences (Forrester Research, Building Real Customer Understanding, 2016). With the democratization of information, most consumers want so badly to fit in that they’re more likely to distort or invent attitudes and opinions rather than appear ignorant.

Consumer research firms can contribute to this problem, often struggling with the same challenges. From relying on opt-in samples to conclusions formed on superficial data, these are common – but avoidable – mistakes that are exacerbated by having an unqualified panel of consumers to start with. In pursuit of numbers, most profiling questionnaires and surveys are too short and lack the depth of questions required to adequately qualify the respondents who complete it. While many researchers and consumer insights professionals look to consolidated consumer profiles, purchasing enriched data sets, or subsequent studies to fill the gaps in their consumer profile data, by the time that process is reconciled, most researchers are too far along in the process to change course when they realize the panel they’ve recruited is sub-par (at best).

The reality is, however, that consumers are sharing the reality of their brand and product experiences more now than ever before. In today’s modern society — where WiFi exists in even the poorest of nations; where every mobile device has a camera; where social media is connecting people always in all ways — brands are now being experienced and communicated in ways marketers never planned for. It’s a seismic shift. Marketers are being bombarded constantly with photos and videos of their brands and products from consumers – data that consumers are sharing daily that validates their interests and their expertise. Marketers have the remarkable opportunity to know and understand their brands, products, and consumers like they never did before as a result. But to access those insights directly requires technology, algorithms, and expertise to comprehend.

What if you could dive directly into to the influences and influencers affecting consumers’ behavior? What if you could access a program comprised of vetted, knowledgeable customers who are already accustomed to being partners in the marketing process – yet are still underutilized?

The Influencer Advantage

As marketers continue to struggle to empathetically connect brands and campaign ideas with the behaviors, values, and motivations of their target consumers, the influencers who are influencing those same consumers, by contrast, are succeeding in these areas – growing audiences and often becoming brands in their own right.

Influencers, by definition, have such rich empathy and knowledge, that not including them at the point of initial research is a significant missed opportunity. Consumer insights and research professionals who haven’t considered tapping into their influencer marketing and relations practices have the opportunity to increase the value and efficiency of their research practices, while influencer marketing practitioners have a new opportunity to increase the value of their influencer relationships and programs.

Fig. 1: Research Panel & Influencer Relations Management Share Best Practices

Source: Qualtrics, The Panel Management Guide; Mavrck, The 2018 Influencer Marketing Strategy & Planning Playbook

What if the consumers who comprised research panels were selected and vetted with the same critical eye as an influencer marketing program?

Marketers have the opportunity to increase the capacity and value of their influencer collaborations. As it stands, the insights and content being produced by influencer marketing practitioners are happening far too late in the marketing process to impact the trajectory of most campaigns. Influencer marketing and relations professionals, and the influencers they collaborate with are at a unique advantage to be strategic partners with consumer research and insights professionals because the skills required to manage a quality research panel or community are exceptionally similar, as are the challenges shared among them.

Finding and recruiting the right people, maintaining an engaged community, improving response rates, and increasing time-to-market while reducing costs are challenges shared by influencer marketing practitioners and researchers alike. The difference is that only one are successfully generating the quality insights and content necessary for success in today’s digital economy.

Learn how to collaborate with influencers for research and consumer insights as part of our 2018 Influencer Marketing & Relations playbook: How Leveraging Influencers for Consumer  Research & Insights can Inspire Better  Customer Experiences.