Albert Sim is staunch in his emphasis on the human element in data research — at every stage. Dismiss this link, he warns, and you could be following the hype blindly.
Sim, Miaozhen Systems’ new vice-president of research and consultancy, believes that using data to analyse consumer behaviour is an important aspect of the industry. “You have to apply experience, insight and expertise to interpret the data,” he says. “That’s why Miaozhen hired someone like me. It’s a company that’s very comfortable with data and high technology.”
And he’s the synthesiser — Sim has over 20 years of experience in marketing research in China and Malaysia, integrating qualitative, quantitative, big data and other data sources to create consumer insight in his previous role as managing director of Millward Brown in Beijing.
The traditional research methodologies he honed previously, he says, complement Miaozhen Systems’ business model of using high technology to glean consumer insights. “Millward Brown is a traditional business model — that is a beautiful thing, it’s proven in the market. Still, you need to keep learning different forms of big data, different forms of analytical ways to understand the same old consumer. We have to embrace change. There are opportunities to learn more about the consumer, and traditional methods need some improvement.”
This is not the first time Sim has worked with Miaozhen — he brokered a partnership between it and his previous company six years ago. They launched Internet Gross Ratings Point (iGRP), a target-centric measurement that calculates frequency and advertising reach, and which pioneered impact measurement in the digital advertising landscape. “Together, we transformed this industry,” he says.
Transformation, he insists, is still his gameplan.
“My vision is for Miaozhen Systems to extend itself beyond just measurement, and to truly uncover the value of technology and data to provide insights for marketing,” he says, adding he plans to utilise Miaozhen’s large data-gathering capabilities to structure data for clients. “We are trying to find treasure in the midst of a big pile of garbage.”
Miaozhen’s data capabilities, he says, can be used to understand consumers better, a strategy largely overlooked in the industry. In a market that hypes up new technologies, instead of paying attention to the consumer, he has taken a different perspective:
“You should not ignore the fact that behind the data is a human being, with emotions and motivations. Data is never enough because you must try to understand consumers as a human being who has emotions, needs and perception.”
As a change agent, he is concentrating on social data — the large volume of data generated during online discussions. The current “spider” technology may gather a big volume of data quickly but it has limitations. “You get volume without understanding who is the person behind the internet,” he says.
“It becomes very difficult to acquire a deeper level understanding. Through the consumer understanding experience, we have to solve this problem, learn more about the person behind the social data.”
“I’ve seen a glimpse of its [social data’s] potential, and next is to implement more innovative ways to gather and structure the data for clients to use.”
Sim is also looking forward to solving hot-button issues such as ad-fraud and data integrity. “As an industry, there’s not enough proactiveness to address these,” he cautions.
Miaozhen Systems’ reputation of developing technology to overcome data fraud, such as UserPulse, is an endeavour that many companies may not be willing to undertake.
Articulating his stance on integrity and data fraud, he points out: “As a third-party agency we have to be bold enough to come up with better technology to tell clients the truth. For example what data is correct, what is risky and how to add value to consumer. When you do that, you rock the boat in the industry.”
The complex nature of China’s digital landscape is going to help — especially since audiences are a step ahead and an array of software to delete tracking cookies is widely used. The pressure will be on China to innovate in order to survive, he says. “The process is painful, but it’s exciting.”