This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I love talking about cool, emerging, and innovative research methodologies. Over the past two years, I have been focusing a lot of my time on researching these techniques and have written several blog posts on this topic. For example, how prediction markets can help determine which concepts will succeed or fail in the marketplace. And how 2012 is the year of mobile, and market insights (MI) professionals need to leverage this channel.

In continuing with this theme, I am launching a blog series focused exclusively on highlighting emerging methodologies that MI professionals should take notice of and examine whether to incorporate into their research tool kit. I will highlight any cool research techniques I come across, as well as any vendors that are building interesting technology tools for market research purposes. 

For this inaugural post, I will highlight location analytics. Essentially, market insights professionals can use a consumer’s location information that is transmitted by their mobile phone to understand what they are doing in their daily lives. For example, you can understand where your target customer is shopping, how she got there, and which competitor stores she drove past. The consumers being tracked do not have to “check in” every place they go to gather this information. Instead, all of the location data is passively collected after a consumer opts in.

While collecting location data is interesting, what makes this data powerful is the addition of in-the-moment data via mobile surveys. Let’s take the shopping example above a little further. Your target customer, a mom between the ages of 24 and 34, enters your competitor’s store and passes your store in the process. As she enters the store, a mobile survey pops up and prompts her to complete a short survey examining why she selected the competitor’s store, what products she plans to buy, and why she is buying them there as opposed to your store. Here, you are able to uncover real-time insights regarding her purchase decisions. That is pretty cool.

Your first hesitations to this method may revolve around representativeness and the fact that the data is biased to only smartphone owners willing to be passively tracked. However, the insights garnered through this method alongside other techniques, such as focus groups, will give you rich, agile insights into customers’ decision-making processes.

One company that is actually doing exactly this – combining location analytics with survey research – is Locately. There are other vendors that collect GPS information to some extent. Typically this information is collected alongside passive metering data which is a topic I will cover in a later post. Vendors in this category include Arbitron Mobile, iPinion, and Lumi Mobile.

What do you think? Is this a technique that you can see yourself incorporating in your quest to get a 360-degree view of the consumer?