Nissan Motor’s Naoki Takahashi’s Challenge to Market Researchers


Posted by Ray Poynter, 17 December 2018

In a NewMR webinar presentation last week, Mr Takahashi from Nissan Motor Co. Ltd, Japan issued a challenge to market research agencies to make proposals for a new model of working. Click here to access the slides and recording of Mr Takahashi’s presentation.

The opportunity highlighted by Mr Takahashi has two key elements, both created by the growth in new data options and the democratization of information.

  1. Market Intelligence groups, like the one Mr Takahashi leads, are increasingly gathering information from many sources including many that are not traditional market research sources. For example, from social media, geolocation, websites and sales data. But, market research agencies tend to be focused on research data.
  2. Other parts of the Nissan organization are increasingly able to gather information without talking to the Market Intelligence group, potentially reducing the benefit of the role of Market Intelligence.

Mr Takahashi proposes that there should be a new model for how client-side Market Intelligence groups should aid decision-making in their organization, and wants to hear proposals for how market research agencies could re-think and improve their role in this process.

Market Intelligence groups have the expertise to work with research data, but often do not have the expertise needed to work with the new forms of data. Mr Takahashi proposes that as well as addressing the expertise needed; there should be a re-defining of the MI structure.

The diagram below illustrates the existing MI structure.

Traditional MI Model

In this structure, data enters from several sources to the MI team and the MI team have the expertise to handle it. The hiring and nurturing is focused on adding people to the MI team and developing them over time. The output from MI is a 360° view of the customer to the rest of the business.

A new customer-centric model of the customer

The traditional way of thinking of a car customer is in a product and communication-centric way. For example, researching customers’ evaluation of products and communication.

Mr Takahashi suggests moving to 3 topics (or perhaps 3.5 topics), creating a more customer-centric view, for example:

  1. Purchase, looking at the path to purchase, including all the channels for search, recommendation, and actual purchase
  2. Usage, including expectations, satisfaction, usage etc.
  3. Narrative, what does the customer hear, what do they say, how does the narrative around the brand, the model, and car develop?

The additional point (i.e. topic 3.5) is Subscription. The world of auto is moving more into a subscription way of operating, something that will blur the Purchase and Usage divide.

MI teams need to create an integrated picture based on the multiple strands that feed into these three topics, traditional market research information and the newer forms of data (i.e. the structured digital information and the unstructured information from places like social media.)

The skills in the MR team

Not many people will be data analytics experts and also experts in providing insight recommendations to senior management for strategic and tactical decisions. So, it is perhaps best to think that the future MI team will comprise a Front End and a Back End.

  • Front End  – these people understand the business and their expertise is in working with data and business requests to help create better business decisions. These people are likely to be recruited from within the company or as part of the graduate entry scheme.
  • Back End  – these people are the data scientists, the Python programmers, and the creators of AI systems. These people are likely to be recruited from outside the organization, bringing their skills with them.

A new role for market research

At present, the way that MI receives information is shown in the diagram below.

Traditional Role of MR

In most cases, market research agencies are only delivering one part of the picture, the MR data / MR tool part of the picture. This traditional model creates extra strain on the MI team as the data from the different vendors is not integrated and is often not in a form where it can quickly be integrated.

Proposals wanted from MR agencies

Mr Takahashi has issued a challenge to market research companies to consider how they could deliver a model more like the one in the chart below.

Proposed MR Model

In this hypothesised model, the MR agency would coordinate the different strands from different vendors, utilize a customer insight framework, provide tools for data exploration, and provide training to the MI team.

A Question to other Client-Insight Teams
How does this model seem to you? Does the proposed picture work for your context?

A Question to Market Research Agencies
Can you propose a solution to Mr Takahashi?

[BTW, don’t ask me for Mr Takahashi’s contact information, if you can provide an integrated proposal, then I am sure you can find his details 🙂 ]