Research vs. Analytics

Oftentimes we tend to use the terms “research” and “analytics” rather interchangeably. We shouldn’t. When we think about market research, we are talking about two things: (1) research—noun: the data that we gather; and (2) research—verb: the process of gathering relevant information about our customers or competition. Research (both the noun and the verb) is a key element of developing a sound marketing strategy and working to improve the efficacy and efficiency of our marketing efforts.

Good research always starts with knowing what we most need to know, learning what questions to ask, and making sure that we are asking the right questions of the right people in the right way. Effective research doesn’t rely on just what people say but also what they do. Why is that, you might ask yourself.

The answer: because all people lie.

In 2013 at Michigan State University, researchers combed through dozens of previous studies on handwashing to see what conditions produced the highest rates of handwashing. In their meta-analysis, they repeatedly found that, when asked, men and women self-report their “handwashing before leaving the restroom” rate of between 94%–96%. Yet, in study after study, in restrooms in schools, airports, museums, and other high traffic areas, the observed rate of handwashing is . . .are you ready . . . somewhere between 35% and 72%.1 And yes, women consistently demonstrate higher handwashing rates than men. (Side note, in one interesting study, handwashing rates increased for women when a sign reminding the restroom user to wash their hands was in place, but went down for men seeing the exact same sign. What?!@$^&#!)

Analytics is strictly a noun, but since it most often refers to the process of evaluating and understanding the data provided, we often talk about “running analytics” or “reviewing the analytics,” which makes it feel like a very active noun. Thankfully, when it comes to deciding what research questions to ask of our digital marketing campaigns and who we should be asking, the platforms themselves have done the heavy research. They have built in the tools and the measurement instruments to gather the right marketing data. Our job is to make sense of it all.

Image by Dr. Melvin Sanicas via Twitter.