Anthony Shephard, Head of Online Communities and Research Manager at Mustard, discusses the virtues of being a weather geek and draws comparisons with quantitative tracking and continuous market research.
I am a weather geek, there I have said it! The reasons why? Well I check the weather forecast daily for starters (sometimes numerous times a day) and if I am going on holiday I start keeping tabs on the weather (and temperature) at least a month before I go.
I also play a little game with myself trying to decide whether to take a brolly or not or deciding how many layers I need to wear. Yes I realise this is a little sad (but in my defence I am a weather geek!).
Where does this stem from? Well as a researcher I have always been fascinated by fluctuations and trends – now I sound even more of a geek, but it is true, why else would we work in market research?!
It was in fact the fluctuations that first inspired this blog – late last year, I saw a news weather bulletin which described September as being the driest on record and it was also likely to finish in the top five warmest too.
Following on from that, we had the warmest Halloween on record, where a temperature of 23.6C / 74.3F was recorded in Gravesend, Kent and then just a few days’ later temperatures had dropped almost 14c and we had one of the coldest November nights on records. And this was all in the space of a couple of months!
The fluctuations show no sign of slowing down and it was recently announced that April 2015 was the sunniest on record!
For a while, I thought of these fluctuations in my head and compared them to that of continuous or tracking market research projects and I initially came to the conclusion that the latter fell somewhat short in terms of being as exciting.
I came to this conclusion after thinking back to a previous role, where I managed a continuous customer satisfaction tracking project (for 3 years) where it was sometimes a bit of a challenge to be as excited by the relatively smaller increases or declines (for example + / – up to 5%) for some of the KPIs we were measuring.
However, after further discussions with colleagues I changed my mind; OK so sometimes monitoring the results on a continuous project might not seem as exciting (or extreme!) as the weather. But when you strip everything back and with the robustness of a rich data set (along with hundreds or sometimes even thousands of individual verbatim responses to open ended questions to review, understand and spot emerging themes) it can be. And when taking the time to delve deeper you enhance your understanding of longer term trends and what influences the small increases or decreases, then it definitely can be every bit as exciting!
Furthermore, working on (for example) customer satisfaction tracking projects with multiple waves or even continuously allows us as researchers to understand our clients’ businesses for longer periods of times. It allows us to strengthen our relationships with our clients and really get under the skin of the issues and challenges they face, which in turn can only be a positive for the insights we glean from the research and are looking to embed within their organisation.