Judging from the growth of interest in text analytics tracked in GRIT each year, those not using text analytics in market research will soon be a minority. But still, is text analytics for everyone?
Today on the blog I’m very pleased to be talking to text analytics pioneer Tom Anderson, the Founder and CEO of Anderson Analytics, which develops one of the leading Text Analytics software platforms designed specifically for the market research field, OdinText.
Tom’s firm was one of the first to leverage text analytics in the consumer insights industry, and they have remained a leader in the space, presenting case studies at a variety events every year on how companies like Disney and Shell Oil are leveraging text analytics to produce remarkably impactful insights.
Lenny: Tom, thanks for taking the time to chat. Let’s dive right in! I think that you, probably more so than anyone else in the MR space, has witnessed the tremendous growth of text analytics within the past few years. It’s an area we post about often here on GreenBook Blog, and of course track via GRIT, but I wonder, is it really the panacea some would have us believe?
Tom: Depends on what you mean by panacea. If you think about it as a solution to dealing with one of the most important types of data we collect, then yes, it can and should be viewed exactly that way. On the other hand, it can only be as meaningful and powerful as the data you have available to use it on.
Lenny: Interesting, so I think what you’re saying is that it depends on what kind of data you have. What kind of data then is most useful, and which is not at all useful?
Tom: It’s hard to give a one size fits all rule. I’m most often asked about size of data. We have clients who use OdinText to analyze millions of records across multiple languages, on the other hand we have other clients who use it on small concept tests. I think it is helpful though to keep in mind that Text Analytics = Text Mining = Data Mining, and that data mining is all about pattern recognition. So if you are talking about interviews with five people, well since you don’t have a lot of data there’s not really going to be many patterns to discover.
Lenny: Good Point! I’ve been really impressed with the case studies you’ve releases in the past year or two on how clients have been using your software. One in particular was the NPS study with Shell Oil. A lot of researchers (and more importantly CMOs) really believed in the Net Promoter Score before that case study. Are those kinds of insights possible with social media data as well?
Tom: Thanks Lenny. I like to say that “not all data are created equal”. Social media is just one type of data that our clients analyze, often there is far more interesting data to analyze. It seems that everyone thinks they should be using text analytics, and often they seem to think all it can be used for is social media data. I’ve made it an early 2015 new year’s resolution to try to help educate as many market researchers as I can about the value of other text data.
Lenny: Is the situation any different than it was last year?
Tom: Awareness of text analytics has grown tremendously, but knowledge about it has not kept up. We’re trying to offer free mini consultations with companies to help them understand exactly what (if any) data they have are good candidates for text analytics.
Lenny: What sources of data, if any, don’t you feel text analytics should be used on?
It seems the hype cycle has been focused on social media data, but our experience is that often these tools can be applied much more effectively to a variety of other sources of data.
However, we often get questions about IDI (In-Depth-Interviews) and focus group data. This smaller scale qualitative data, while theoretically text analytics could help you discover things like emotions etc. there aren’t really too many patterns in the data because it’s so small. So we usually counsel against using text analytics for qual, in part due to lower ROI.
Often it’s about helping our clients take an inventory around what data they have, and help them understand where if at all text analytics makes sense.
Many times we find that a client really doesn’t have enough text data to warrant text analytics. However this is sad in cases where we also find out they do a considerable amount of ad-hoc surveys and/or even a longitudinal trackers that go out to tens of thousands of customers, and they’ve purposefully decided to exclude open ends because they don’t want to deal with looking at them later. Human coding is a real pain, takes a long time, is inaccurate and expensive; so I understand their sentiment.
But this is awful in my opinion. Even if you aren’t going to do anything with the data right now, an open ended question is really the only question every single customer who takes a survey is willing and able to answer. We usually convince them to start collecting them.
Lenny: Do you have any other advice about how to best work with open ends?
Tom: Well we find that our clients who start using OdinText end up completely changing how they leverage open ends. Usually they get far wiser about their real estate and end up asking both less closed ended questions AND open ended questions. It’s like a light bulb goes off, and everything they learned about survey research is questioned.
Lenny: Thanks Tom. Well I love what your firm is doing to help companies do some really interesting things that I don’t think could have been done with any other traditional research techniques.
Tom: Thanks for having me Lenny. I know a lot of our clients find your blog useful and interesting.
If any of your readers want a free expert opinion on whether or not text analytics makes sense for them, we’re happy to talk to them about it. Best way to do so is probably to hit the info request button on our site, but I always try my best to respond directly to anyone who reaches out to me personally on LinkedIn as well.
Lenny: Thanks Tom, always a pleasure to chat with you!
For readers interested in hearing more of Tom’s thoughts on Text Analytics in market research, here are two videos from IIeX Atlanta earlier this year that are chock full of good information: