By Richard Thornton

The recent launch of Pulse for Market Research from Microsoft perhaps came as no surprise – it was after all just a matter of time before they followed in the footsteps of other tech giants, including Google, Amazon and Yahoo, to aid market researchers in the unrelenting quest for data and insights.

This new – and importantly, currently free solution boasts more functions than many competitor offerings in relation to real-time research, and can be used on any internet-connected device. This might be Microsoft’s first foray into market research but it will no doubt be extended and advanced over time, most likely extensively across its Windows operating system for mobile.

Pulse for Market Research offers features such as ‘Pulsing’ and ‘Polling’ – allowing researchers to gain real-time feedback at any point prior to, during and after an event (as used by Sky News in the recent UK Labour Party Leadership Debate – a live TV event). It also includes video streaming capability and API access for the gathering of real-time raw data to layer in to help enrich data sets and provide a more holistic view on the data set you’re gathering. The Yammer chat rooms, along with customisable voting pages that can be made brand specific, will provide a forum for participants to exchange thoughts and ideas – features that play to the all-important user experience but also into the sharing economy and community aspect of research that can be so powerful.

Microsoft has the capability to blend profiling data with self-reported survey data and online (via any device) behavioural data. The fact that the platform falls into instant access for respondents, in an environment they feel comfortable within, should aid insights gathering and adoption to drive good engagement and response rates. Additionally, the opportunities for platform extensions via Microsoft’s other offerings – Skype, Office, Windows etc. – lead to a potential plethora of future distribution channels and possible new products and services around the Pulse engine.

So, the industry is beginning to welcome another development in the changing landscape of data collection and insights gathering.  And it won’t be the last either.  More and more technology players are circling the market research industry, looking to strike with their own technology and expertise to add value to what is already being done today.  Such disruptive models are arguably the future for the insights industry and will pave the way for ‘new-MR’.

And what about us at Cint?   Well, we’ve been protagonists of disruption since day one, and perhaps where many see Pulse as stiff competition and the death of traditional MR, we see it as another proof point that there genuinely is change in a notoriously slow industry and finally we are embarking on a world where technology, automation and innovation drives the part in the research process and value chain that has been broken for too long.

So rest assured, the tsunami is coming.  Microsoft is a real challenger but the important question is, are you?


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