Marketers should lean into the “immense overlap” between their work and that of data scientists in order to drive fast paced and dynamic insights, Santander UK’s chief customer and analytics officer Saj Arshad has said.
Speaking at the Market Research Society’s Impact 2022 conference today (17 March), Arshad said there should be a focus on “bridge building” between the two teams, as data scientists can be extremely valuable in areas such as identifying customer triggers. The use of data science can help marketers move away from a “monolithic approach”, he said.
As the incoming president of the Market Research Society, Arshad added there were also key opportunities for market researchers in collaborating with data scientists.
“The overlap tends to be in user experience design and customer journey design. There you see the two sides of the house coming together,” Arshad said.
The research industry could learn from the “pace of the insight” that is produced from working with data scientists, he argued.
“The days where we could afford 12 to 18-month development cycles are gone,” Arshad explained.
“We as a community need to adapt to that. We need to be delivering ongoing, consistent insights.”
Drawing on his role at Santander UK, Arshad highlighted the power of net promoter score (NPS) tools. Santander utilises an app that delivers daily insights from customers to his phone every morning, and allows himself and his team to take action from these insights in real time.
It’s very easy to default to methodologies that we’ve used consistently over time, when there’s such an array of new capabilities, new technologies and new ways of interacting with consumers.
Saj Arshad, Santander UK
For example, Arshad could forward an insight to a team member who would then be able to resolve a customer issue, or would be able to thank someone who delivered great customer service.
As well as the snapshots delivered to the app each morning, Santander also has machine driven processes underneath that surfaces insights based on the customer feedback.
This is one example of how his team is becoming more agile, Arshad said, adding that the question of agility is one the industry needs to look at to keep up with the pace of change around it.
As an example, Arshad said survey design needs to improve to keep up with customer sophistication. The demand now is to see top-line results within 24-hours of the survey being commissioned, when in the past the expectation would have been closer to four weeks.
Focus group fixation
Speaking at the Festival of Marketing: Fast Forward last year, Arshad said he had developed an “aversion” to focus groups, arguing there is “no role” for them anymore amid the many new research techniques, tools and methodologies.
Asked today whether his views had changed, Arshad said he stood by his comments, arguing that even with strong facilitators, focus groups can easily be led down a “cul de sac” by one or two opinionated group members.
He also said that focus group members tend to post-rationalise their purchase decisions.
“There’s something beguiling about that setting where people begin to elaborate a way of thinking and a methodology that perhaps doesn’t always bear a resemblance to what actually happens in the real world,” he said.
Arshad admitted he does now see some role for focus groups, but he would like to see them augmented with what he calls more “pure”, quantitative research methods, like ethnographics, data mining or multivariate testing.
“It’s very easy to default to methodologies that we’ve used consistently over time, when there’s such an array of new capabilities, new technologies and new ways of interacting with consumers,” he explained.
“We owe it to ourselves as leaders within this community to make sure we take advantage of the full panoply of those things.”