No, consumers probably aren’t desperate for better AR/VR integration in retail apps. And no, there probably isn’t a single best time to post on social media.

Nothing pains me more than bad research, except perhaps bad insights drawn from research. This seems to be a problem that is particularly prevalent in digital marketing, where bad insights drive bad decision-making by brands and agencies on what is important to focus on. There is so much you can measure in digital, and so many questions brands and agencies have about how best to use the opportunities that digital offers, that any data or insight drawn is going to be rapidly consumed and used to inspire (or justify) decisions. But in this, there is too much mediocre research. Too many poor insights. And too many decisions made from these.

The start of the year is always a time for trends, predictions and insights, and a couple are good examples of the kind of poor insights that can lead to brands and agencies making poor decisions.

The first is the report in Campaign, based on research that reportedly shows that 60% of consumers want greater AR/VR integration in their retail apps. The immediate reaction to this might be for retail brands to order their tech teams to develop better integration; that’s what consumers want after all. But I struggle to believe that your average UK consumer, in their busy lives, really are bemoaning the lack of AR/VR integration in these apps. It feels like that is a solution (among many) to problems they might have. But I don’t think if you announced a new app ‘with the AR/VR integration you asked for’ then it would cause materially more people to use this and to impact your business performance.

matt campaign

Source: Campaign

In fact, this ‘insight’ masks the real insights in the survey that are more interesting to think about when developing strategies and solutions for brands. That consumers struggle to visualise the size of things they might buy. Or that they want to see what customisations might look like before they personalise items. It is these that consumers want fixing, and there are many ways they could be addressed. The benefit that AR/VR could bring to advertising and to brands is huge, but by suggesting it as a panacea for all will only hinder its adoption. People aren’t asking for more of it. They want their problems solved in the best and most convenient way.

The second is a report in The Drum, which explains that the best time for brands to post in social media is off-peak, “when there is less competition”. This research from BuzzSumo follows in a strong tradition of research that claims there is a single optimal time to post on social media. If we ignore the logical inconsistency in their insight – that if all brands post off-peak then there will be more competition, and so they should go back to posting at peak time – it is also blatantly untrue that there could be a single best time to post. That there is some structural reason why a post at 8pm would be more successful than one at 2pm, for example.

drum matt

Source: The Drum

This kind of insight has always frustrated me as it can be an excuse for lazy planning. There probably is an optimal time for any brand to post, but that probably comes from a deep and detailed understanding of the brand itself and of its own particular audiences on any given channel. For a brand targeting breastfeeding mums, for example, it may make more sense to create engaging content at 2am when mums are awake and alone with their babies. For a brand targeting football fans, as another example, your research may find that your audience most wants to engage after football matches in the afternoon or evening.

Bad insights exist across advertising, but digital marketing seems to attract more than its fair share. And in a world that can seem different or opaque to some decision-makers, these insights risk being more adopted and used to inform decisions than you might find elsewhere. Always interrogate insights that people draw. Always dig into the data and what was really asked. And always know that a detailed understanding of your own audience and your own brand will get you further than generic insights drawn from headlines in the marketing press.

Matt Rhodes

About Matt Rhodes

Digital Strategy Director for work. Marathon runner and charity trustee for fun.

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