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The Future Fast

Behaviourtech is the next big blueprint

Market research has seen little innovation in decades, but Mike Abel tells ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK there is a new tech in town.

A simple concept underpins a groundbreaking new approach to market research and marketing technology. Irish-based company Sens has it emblazoned as a slogan on its website: “Behaviour is truth.”

The concept has led to a new category of technology startups in an environment crammed with the likes of fintech, healthtech, proptech and edtech. The terms all speak for themselves, but the new one, “behaviourtech”, takes some unpacking.

That is a task readily taken on by Mike Abel, executive chairman of the M&C Saatchi group of companies for South Africa and a member of the global executive of the worldwide group. He has just been appointed non-executive chairperson of Sens.

“It is a combination of behavioural science, artificial intelligence (AI) and technology, and how you fluidly blend those together. We use the three together to understand human behaviour better, and to predict human behaviour better, getting to a much higher level of quality.”

Abel argues that there has been almost no innovation in the research industry, in terms of understanding human behaviour, for decades. However, the advent of AI has changed the landscape. From having a high level of “garbage in, garbage out” analysis, he sees clarity and “truthfulness” emerging.

“The benefit is, how do we attract business more effectively, and how do we grow our business? How do we retain our customer base and grow it? How do we retain employees and ensure they are happy?”

Abel won’t name names, but offers several case studies of blue chip companies that have “successfully completed projects where they’ve been blown away with the results”.

In one case, a retail company was struggling to retain clients and seeing a high level of churn, despite priding itself on customer satisfaction.

“They had conducted traditional research but hadn’t understood their real hot buttons, why they would churn customers. We were able to better understand and elicit those true insights. Some of them were not major things at all. They were quite easy to implement.

“It was really to do with the barriers they were encountering in fulfilment in terms of understanding the friction factors regarding delivery. By taking out certain restrictions we were able to solve a problem.”

A more widespread problem, solved for a large blue chip company, was that it had a very high staff satisfaction level, yet was experiencing a very high staff turnover.

“They weren’t effectively able to elicit those truths from the staff on why they were so happy and yet why they were leaving.”

Behaviourtech was applied, using an approach that allowed employees to be more authentic.

“So what does the behaviourtech do? It looks at your answer, looks at your posture, your tone of voice, as a single behaviour. If it feels your truthfulness score is low. It’ll ask you the same question in an entirely different way.

“The research we conducted for the same organisation gave them a totally different result. From an apparent 70% staff satisfaction, their people hit a 30% staff satisfaction level.”

It turned out that true satisfaction was less about the “warm fuzzies” that they felt towards the brand, which were high, but rather about factors in the work environment. The research was followed by meetings with the HR team and the CEO to make small changes, which enhanced trust levels, leading to greater satisfaction.

“The most important thing about behaviourtech is that it can be done at scale. You now have a flywheel in terms of research. To do qualitative research at scale has never been possible. It’s always been one on one interviews, focus groups.  Now you’re able to unlock the potential of running that 24/7 and globally, at a lower cost, and at a higher truth and insight level.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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