Tracking The Future: Maximizing tracker studies for tomorrow’s consumer - Articles



Tracking The Future: Maximizing tracker studies for tomorrow’s consumer

Administrator | 09 May, 2024 | Return|

By John Bird, Infotools


Right after the pandemic began, I wrote an article for the Insights Association about pivoting trackers in times of change. Little did I know back in April of 2020 just how transformative the change spurred by COVID and other global events would be - to our lives, our businesses, our relationships and, yes, to our trackers.


The enormous changes we made to our daily lives disrupted nearly every metric a traditional brand tracker monitors. Awareness, consideration and preference data was completely turned upside down, as people moved online for all their activities, including product purchases in every category. Preferences changed with the change in circumstances. Reaching people with marketing and advertising meant following them into their homes.  Brands saw huge breaks in their tracker data. A survey, no matter how long it had been running, was no longer enough to understand an audience that was operating in an entirely different context and environment.


Although we’ve emerged, for the most part, from the pandemic, some of the sentiment and behavior changes appear to be permanent. More people are working from home than ever before, as pandemic-related restrictions proved that work could be done effectively in a remote situation. People continue to opt for the convenience of online grocery shopping, food delivery and other digital efficiencies birthed from the worldwide crisis.


I wrote back in 2020 that “now is the time to pay close attention to what consumers and businesses are doing and thinking.” This is still true today. Consumers are making decisions based on a vast number of contextual circumstances, and they are constantly presented with new products, services and opportunities - available in many, many purchase channels. They are flooded with information at all times. Optimizing tracker studies to adapt to this evolving landscape is the best way to gain insights.


Keep calm and carry on - but make your tracker work harder

Because tracker studies help businesses understand how markets and consumer groups change over time, rather than just at one moment, they are an important piece of the market research toolkit. They're useful because they show important things like how much people know about a brand, if customers are happy, what people think, and how well marketing works. As the world continues to change around us, having this ongoing feedback helps us understand what's happening with our customers. Trackers also help find areas where a business can do better and give clear answers to important questions - questions that crop up more and more among information-overloaded consumers.


In order to make tracker studies work harder for us, and give us faster insights, we need to be flexible enough to pivot to better ways of doing things. Review what you really need from your trackers: focus on the vital KPIs related to understanding today’s marketplace and consumer audience, and the ongoing success of your business. Benchmarks are evolving in today’s environment, so why not get rid of the other tracking noise that’s nice to have but not critical?

Evaluate your tracker by asking questions like “How are the current changes affecting consumption and perception of your brand? How will these shifts impact key metrics in the future?” You may need to start asking different questions and tracking different metrics in order to get the insights you need.


Check in on how to make your tracker more cost and time effective, and automate where you can so more resources can be shifted to data-driven decision making. Part of this pivot means changing the way we access, analyze and report on the data the tracker provides - plus the incorporation of other data that gives us more holistic views. At the very least, find solutions that will deliver data quickly and flexibly. Some top considerations include:

  • Automating core deliverables: Forming a direct connection to data and gaining the ability to automate KPIs can help you monitor your insights as they happen. Easily accessible dashboards that allow you to view updated data instantly are a huge step in the right direction. Deft use of automation can help you to not only meet demands for efficiency and speed, but it can also free up time to dig deeper into the data.
  • Fast delivery of ad-hoc requests: It’s likely that you have A LOT of data coming in from all directions. You need solutions that can easily explore your data, guiding your ad-hoc analysis and uncovering insights quickly. The right ad-hoc analysis tools can give you the ability to answer business questions on the fly and disseminate the story across the business, through dashboards or other easily accessible electronic means. 
  • Greater data access across the organization: Being able to quickly deliver on stakeholders’ ad-hoc data requests and provide insights on the fly raises the value of the insights function and makes your data work harder. Better yet, find a system that allows stakeholders across your business to carry out their own investigations without needing to have their data processing team (or agency) recut the data. This gives them a stake in the insights process and can even help inform necessary tracker pivots.
  • Integration of additional data streams: Combining market research and business data with your tracker data can enrich insights from the ground up. Find solutions that can not only properly handle the intricacies of market research data, but also can ingest and process sales and transactional data, and more. Combining these data streams can help you see the real-world impact of studies. If you can drill down to SKU and respondent-level data, even better.
  • Make all your data work harder, and longer: Your organization’s data is probably coming in from multiple sources and directions, so you need solutions that can ingest those data sources, maintain the original data’s integrity and keep the data available in perpetuity. This way you can keep going back into the data to pull new analyses or cuts, throwing different questions at the data either as it is, or after the input of additional waves.
  • Built-in flexibility: If there’s nothing else we’ve learned from the upheaval of the past few years, it’s that we need to be ready for anything. In the past, for example, dashboards that were designed, built and implemented by IT departments were challenging to change. Now, with the right solution, you can add new data, reports, stories and adjust the dashboard as needed. As you are looking to automate and update your tracker to meet the changes around us head-on, look for solutions that can evolve - because the landscape around us is still shifting and will continue to do so.

While the global pandemic may have immediately underscored the necessity for tracker studies to change, it also proved how essential research is in navigating uncertainty. In an era where consumer behavior and sentiment is in constant flux, the resilience and adaptability of tracker studies continues to be important. Now more than ever, it is imperative to harness the power of data to uncover meaningful insights. There are solutions to help optimize your tracker so it can keep working hard for you in the face of ongoing change.


About the Author

John Bird currently serves as an Executive Vice President for Infotools. His experience spans B2B and B2C work and he has conducted research programs in over 70 countries. He is focused on fueling curiosity and moving clients from three ring binders and “death by PowerPoint” to Infotools Harmoni, a SaaS data design, investigation and reporting platform.

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