We interview Frederic-Charles Petit, CEO and Founder of Toluna on social media, market research, Toluna and the Chinese market.

Q: How has social media and technology changed the way brands undertake market research?

Social media can give brands a false sense of security that their business is plugged into the consumer mindset. Social media is really just a gateway, more than a direct measure of sentiment. It’s at this point that digital insights come in. By frequently measuring the pulse of consumers, brands can have a much more informed, open and iterative discussion directly with their target audience. Toluna was inspired long ago by the social connection between businesses and their consumers around the world. Market research is social in its nature. What makes us unique is that we have been able combine online social voting communities with sophisticated and market leading technology.

Q: Toluna uses the concept of an “online social voting community.” How can brands successfully adopt this concept?

Brands are not adopting “online social voting communities”, rather they are benefiting from them in a very tangible way. Using this social and intuitive technology platform, combined with our built-in community of millions, we can identify, target and access people in real-time, gauging sentiment at a moment’s notice. It’s this ability to create a direct real-time connection with our communities that provides quicker, deeper, intelligent insight that ultimately benefits professionals and businesses of all shapes sizes, and across all sectors. And this spans what we use to call quantitative or qualitative research – when you can reach millions of people seamlessly, qualitative and quantitative can form one as well as claimed and behavioural. 

Q: ‘Insights on Demand‘ is a new transformation market category. How does it help marketing teams who need to remain agile?

All of the market research industry has unfortunately not been steadily moving towards a new way of providing insights that address the need for speedy, informed decision-making. Insights into the on-demand economy are what our clients need and what we shall provide. What has become an absolute need is being wrongly portrayed (a common occurrence with such a paradigm shift) as the alteration of fundamental market research and data collection principles, or as the marginalisation of claimed data to the sole benefit of social media observation.

However this is not what Insights on Demand is about. Instead what it underpins is the requirement for every business to adopt an entirely new way of thinking and to leverage technology to efficiently and accurately understand consumers’ perceptions, needs, intent, and behaviour. To some extent it resembles the technological shift, for example, from carriages to petrol motor cars and now towards electrically powered autonomous vehicles: what differentiates them is not only greater speed and efficiency but more than anything it is time –each vehicle reflected their period and offered tangible benefits to businesses. This is the same for the new ways of driving on-time, on-demand consumer insights that are democratised and available to businesses and professionals of all types. 

Q: Are there any market research trends we should look out for in 2018?

Agile and innovative companies of all sizes – not just giants like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – must continue to find new ways of providing real-time, on-demand value to consumers, and in the meantime, seek new ways to obtain dynamic insights. Those brands that can tap into the demands of the new on-demand economy are the ones most likely to strive and grow.

With brands experiencing continued financial pressure due to economic uncertainty and changing consumer demands, we expect investment in new, immersive and on-demand feedback to continue. Whether it’s concept testing for campaigns, or piloting of new products ahead of launch, we expect real-time on-demand research to play a major role in the way brands operate moving forward. Market research organizations should be looking to strengthen their expertise in Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, R&D, marketing and product innovation. This is clearly a sea change for the market research industry. We will undoubtedly continue to see increased demand for talent across those areas in 2018. 

Q: Toluna recently announced its acquisition of KuRun – what attracted you to the company?

With the average Chinese consumer now twice as well off as they were in 2006 and a population of 1.38 billion people, China is a crucial access point for businesses in 2018 (and beyond). Local market presence in China was therefore essential for us as a global business and KuRun became the perfect stepping stone into this market as they share the same values as we do when it comes to market research – namely, constant innovation and a commitment to advancing market research for the better. By incorporating KuRun’s diverse online and mobile panels (which number more than five million across China), we are in a stronger position to harvest insight for companies across the world.

Q: Are there any key differences in the Chinese market and how do you see that developing over the coming years?

Foreign companies face a significant challenge in adapting to local consumers and too often have sought to airlift marketing campaigns and branding designed for other markets into China. Unsurprisingly, not many were successful. There also exists a complex branding gap for companies seeking to get to grips with China’s dynamic consumers, which has led brands like BMW and Coca-Cola to adapt Mandarin and Cantonese brand variants to achieve optimal recognition. As many CEOs will tell you, accessing the right consumer sample and overcoming social-cultural biases remain a serious challenge in any foreign market.

Q: Finally, can you tell us about other technologies Toluna has at its disposal?

At the core of our business, we also have Toluna Insights™- which is the first, and leading end-to-end automated insights platform, and fully integrates with Toluna’s vast respondent community to deliver insights in real-time.  Using Toluna Insights, clients have integrated access to samples, surveys, communities and analytics in an end-to-end platform. Clients can access the platform directly and leverage Toluna’s managed services, or create fully-customized digital consumer insights programs via engineered services.  Within Toluna Insights, the company offers a range of products and tools which include:

  • PowerSuite: a fully automated, do-it-yourself (“DIY”) tool suite that provides marketers with the ability to create surveys to support decision-making for concepts, package design, and more.
  • Digital Tracking: a single-source permission-based digital tracking solution that provides unprecedented real-time insight into online and mobile consumer behavior.
  • QuickSurveys and QuickCommunities: tools that enable marketers to create their own surveys, or branded digital community in minutes and in real-time.

Frederic-Charles Petit is the CEO of ITWP, and CEO and Founder of Toluna.

Tobias Matthews

Tobias Matthews

Contributor