Qualitative Research

How Can Research Help with Digital Transformation?

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Sondra Brown

President and Founder

The digital transformation of life has fundamentally changed human behavior. Our habits and perceptions are increasingly shaped by our everyday experiences with technology. Over time, these experiences have created new sets of assumptions that guide the routines of human life.

This change requires business to develop a coherent understanding of the culturally salient signs and symbols that guide consumers navigating digital spaces, the social values driving them to make decisions, and the relationships, networks, and social environments through which meaning is created, shared and altered.

For example, the rapid growth of influencer marketing requires an understanding of social networks and how meaning is shared through them.

A client in finance recently approached us with the anticipation that influencer networks might provide a path forward to fostering a more meaningful and positive relationship with its millennial base.

However, their hypotheses on how to collaborate most effectively with this group were largely untested. They asked MDRG to conduct research to understand how to most effectively leverage influencer networks amongst Millennials.

Initial survey findings showed that Millennials are more influenced by their peers than other generations across most spheres of life – relationships, food, music, fashion, and technology – with the exception of finance. For matters of money, Millennials were far more likely to seek guidance from their older relatives than their peers.

However, further qualitative research showed that Millennials do exert influence on money matters amongst both their peers and older generations when those matters relate to technology, sustainability, and social justice. We found that Millennials often encourage each other and older relatives to trust and adopt finance-related apps and online services, to exhibit greater awareness of social issues and tolerance for differences, and to support more sustainable and conscious buying habits. This influence is often facilitated by digital token of exchange – apps or digital content that can be shared by text messaging or social media.

These findings demonstrate that Millennial influencer networks would be best leveraged by approaching the topic of finance through the lens of sustainability, technology, and social justice. Digital tokens of exchange – content or apps – would also help facilitate Millennials’ influence over the perceptions and habits of their peers. Millennial influencer networks also present opportunities to reach older generations like Gen-X and Baby Boomers.

Digital transformation also requires consideration of the impact that adopting digital tools and automated processes will have on people.

For example, a business providing staffing and recruitment services found the employees they were placing were increasingly dissatisfied with their experiences after placement. They hoped to leverage automated solutions to provide communication at vital touchpoints in job seeker’s experience but also recognized the significance of providing meaningful human interaction with job seekers. To better understand how to improve rates of satisfaction, the client asked MDRG to conduct research to understand key touchpoints in the job seeker journey.

MDRG discovered that many job seekers tended to feel lost and uncertain because of a lack of updates from their recruiters when job hunting. Some were also suffering from a sense of alienation after receiving a job due to a lack of meaningful connection with regular employees. As they approached the end of their contracts, employees also found themselves struggling with the uncertainty of their futures.

 MDRG recommended building trust with job seekers and employees through personal communication at key moments in the job seeker’s journey – such as letting them know personally when they receive a job offer to share the excitement of the moment and build a meaningful connection.

We also suggested implementing automated processes at less emotional moments, such as at odd instances as a means for job seekers to check up on updates for their application process and see how they compare with competitive applicants. This would enable job seekers to feel catered to and taken care of without surrendering more of the recruiter’s time.

MDRG has also worked with clients looking to understand how to develop a more modern brand identity that resonates with consumers’ changing expectations of technology, and how to communicate advancements in product technology to customers, among other topics.

These studies reveal the importance of research and analysis in managing these changes. For instance, successful utilization of influencer networks requires knowledge of social networks and how meaning is shared through them. Effectively automating work process requires an understanding of the new cultural expectations for digital processes and spaces, as well as the social value of human interaction. Developing a more modern brand identity requires understanding culturally salient signs that communicate modernity – signs that will continue to change as our notions of modernity change.

The interplay between consumer behavior, business strategy, and technological innovation will continuously provoke rapid culture shifts that will require adaption and transformation – successful management of which will require an understanding of shared human values, meaning, and behaviors.

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