Reliable consumer insights are essential to any business, no matter the size. Often, they are the foundation for identifying what changes need to be made to a business. For example, they might wish to know where their brand is ranking in terms of a relevant brand index, identify strengths and weaknesses of their brand currently, or be gaining information to help shape a new product or service. Yet, in this digital age, we can not always trust some sources of customer feedback and consumer insights.
A major concern when it comes to collecting reliable customer information from the web is bad bots. These types of bots can do a whole range of things within a website. In terms of gaining consumer insights, the problems lie with how they can skew data. For example, they can distort site traffic, write fake reviews for products, or even try to sway whole decisions (by both customers and the company) by targeting specific areas of data to distort, in such a way it demands an action.
Another area of concern is how samples of data collected from social media sites may be coming from biased samples within social media. In certain areas, this may be due to response rates of surveys. For example, when only people with positive views of a product or service are contacted to write reviews. Another problem, common with any form of data collection, is the size of those being asked may be too small for an accurate generalisation to be made. These add up to the samples being asked not accurately reflecting consumers in the same way as when a company would directly contact customers for feedback. These may seem like problems found throughout any type of collection. The real problem however comes from how the margin of error increases exponentially when viewed through the realm of social media. Due to all these small areas of unreliability adding up to something a lot bigger.
There are various ways in which digital teams can try and fix these problems. Yet, the simplest way of fixing them is changing the way in which customer insights are collected in the first place. Instead of relying on digital data that can be distorted, companies should go directly to customers and potential customers alike about feedback and opinions on a brand, product or service. This can be carried out through the use of surveys (see here for a range of templates) or even by asking them face to face. This may sound like an arduous task. If it seems like too much to take on compared to the simplicity of extrapolating digital customer feedback, it might be worth considering outsourcing this area to specialized market research companies.