Phil Hearn: Blogger, Writer & Founder of MRDC Software Ltd.

Why everyone wants online dashboards in market research

Online dashboards have come to the market research industry, but they are certainly not the norm for most projects. There’s no question in my mind that market research will be in a better place once the key variables from EVERY market research project can be made available easily and inexpensively to research buyers. The reasons that it makes the product of market research industry so much more compelling and attractive to buyers are many and varied. Here are the main ones:

Reasons why market research survey would benefit from being in an online dashboard

So, why hasn’t market research adopted dashboards as the norm?

There are several reasons for online dashboards being slow to appear as a deliverable of market research studies. The main ones are:

  • Not viable to produce except for, perhaps, tracking studies or other large-scale projects
  • The software used to deliver dashboards is inadequate or cumbersome to use
  • The software used to deliver dashboards is too expensive
  • The software tools available often are not compatible with market research needs, e.g. multi-response questions, top 2 box analysis, significance testing etc.
  • Too many surveys operate on tight margins (linked to the first point really)
  • Takes too long to deliver reducing their value to research buyers
  • Most dashboard systems cannot (easily) merge data from more than one source (e.g. survey data and other business metrics)

Why everyone wants online dashboards – the detail

I’ve already summarised why everyone wants dashboards, but let’s dig a little deeper. I would like to start by asking you to start thinking about the internet and how you might use it. One of the things that is so amazing about the internet is that you can find out most information you want quickly. That could be a) the year Nelson Mandela was born, b) the population of the Philippines, c) the growth of the Chinese economy year on year over the last 10 years, d) the cost of the cheapest flight between Singapore and Dubai tomorrow, e) the exchange rate between the US Dollar and the Malaysian Ringgit compared to one year ago.

Speed, convenience, data at my fingertips

Well, I performed all those tasks within a fraction over two minutes. Yes, two minutes. And, if you want to know the answers, some of which will be out of date by the time you read this, the answers were a) 18 July 1918, b) 104.9 million (in 2017), c) a gradual decline from 12% to 6%, d) £474 with Sri Lankan Airlines, e) 4.10 a year ago to 4.05 now. I don’t need to tell how I did it. Google was like my dashboard. Now, try finding out that information by using a library and a telephone. You would still be looking for a book at the library on Nelson Mandela or waiting for your bank to answer a call about the US Dollar exchange rate and then not being able to tell what it was a year ago.

Do dashboards help to promote market research as an industry?

My view is that providing online dashboards for (more or less) every survey the industry produces is a necessity so that the carefully cultured data that our industry produces is available easily and for everyone. It means that market research data can be available in a board meeting or at an important marketing meeting. This not only increases the use of market research data, but increases its value and an awareness of adding value to a business. This has to be better than one person or one team knowing the data in depth but only being able distil forgettable information in PowerPoint presentations or at meetings. Bring that data life and let it be known is my mantra.

Do dashboards replace reports?

From what you have read so far, you might conclude that I am bashing the whole business of market research agencies producing PowerPoint reports and presentations. I am not! What I would say is that it is an option. Providing a PowerPoint report has been the norm for 20 years or more in market research. A PowerPoint report should be produced if it is useful to the research buyer. It potentially complements an online dashboard. What I am saying is that an online dashboard is almost always beneficial to the research buyer, particularly once research buyers get used to receiving their survey data in this form.

What’s the solution?

The barrier is the software. Software has been inadequate, too expensive or too time-consuming to use to deliver online dashboards on most research projects. We think that’s all changing as we go into 2020 solving this problem. MRDC Software will soon be launching a budget friendly, time efficient platform that will mean everyone can have online dashboards.