In our experience, most clients enjoy qualitative research, even if they do not believe that it is actionable owing to small sample sizes. What they appreciate is the insight or the 'consumer feel' - that in the midst of the mass-base of millions that they call a target audience, they have gotten a grip on how people think and feel, and therefore how they behave - something that sparks ideas as to how to appeal to them. There is something about meeting individual consumers in flesh and blood, that can never be quite replicated by charts and numbers on a power point slide.
What if you could have the best of both worlds? The conviction and actionability of quantitative data combined with the intimacy of knowing each person really well. The good news is that digital analytics and tools are inevitably moving into this realm, tapping into the reams of online data that each individual is generating through browsing behaviour and social networks. And the best part is that all information is based on real-time or recent behaviour, allowing for real-time responses.
For example, Infinite Analytics offers an analytics and personalisation engine which is predicated on the 'social login' increasingly used by e-commerce sites. Increasingly, customers are opting to log into sites with their Facebook or Twitter ID rather than go through the hassle of creating an additional login ID. When they do this, the analytics engine can go through their social network data in a fraction of a second to provide a detailed life slice of the individual, his/her interests and friend networks. This information in turn can be used to provide shoppers with more personalised recommendations.
Another tool we were discussing with a client uses Graph Search aka Facebook to map the circles of influence of an individual, and establish important relationships and behaviours. For example, how often you come to a certain coffee shop, whom you typically meet there, and potentially mapping if this is a personal or a business visit. This in turn allows you to create loyalty initiatives that bring people back more often.
All this is accomplished without 'listening' or trawling the web, only by analysing your own customers data which is collected with their knowledge and consent.
The beauty of the digital medium is that it creates increased transparency and accountability for all activities, allowing you to actually map the ROI of every input. With research tools that back it up, and give a heightened consumer understanding at every stage, there is no reason that marketers should not put their confidence and money into digital. And with India projected to become the second largest internet consumer base in the world in 2014, the shift is perhaps inevitable.