6 Most Common Behavioral Data Questions Answered

Two researchers walk into a bar. The one studies psychopathology. The other studies behavioral economics. Long story short, after a few cold ones, they end up in a drunken fit of rage arguing about who actually studies behavior. The truth is, they both do.



Generally, the term ‘behavioral’ describes anything involving or relating to something’s behavior. Pretty simple, right? Well, depending on the industry, behavioral research and behavioral data are defined and analyzed differently.

No worries though, because for the MR industry we wrote the book on behavioral data. No, but seriously we did: Behavioral Data 101.

This article will be taking some tips from our behavioral handbook to help clarify what behavioral means to the market research industry, as opposed to say, psychology or economics.

What is behavioral research?

Behavioral research is any type of non-declarative research implementing behavioral and social sciences to observe and analyze actions, reactions, and habits. Observing behavior can help us understand what drives consumers to purchase. When we understand consumer behavior, we can improve the way we target and sell to them. Just a few of the many variables we can observe through behavioral research are:

  • Emotional stimulation
  • Facial responses
  • Eye tracking
  • Purchase behaviors


What is online behavioral research?

Similar to the above definition, the purpose of online behavioral research is to observe behavior to better understand consumers. The only difference: An exclusive focus on information generated by online activities and behavior. A few examples of online behaviors we can observe are:

  • Browsing activity
  • Search query information
  • App activity usage
  • Online purchases


What is online behavioral data?

Online behavioral data is collected about an individual’s online activities. For example, some forms of behavioral data can provide cross-device information about:

  • Website traffic
  • Search terms
  • App usage
  • Online purchases


How is cross-device information collected?

The short answer: A passive meter. But, depending on the device, the meter technology can differ. Capturing the online activity from a device is a tricky issue. Even after a user gives consent to allow us to collect that information, browsing devices are designed to protect such information. There are 3 strategies to input a meter on a device:

  • Plug-in
  • VPN
  • Proxy


What does behavioral data look like?

In its raw form, behavioral data is pretty much indecipherable. Once the meter is installed through a plug-in, VPN, or proxy, it is constantly collecting unstructured data, including a lot of paradata, that is illegible if not processed. In order to simplify the analysis, behavioral raw data files are normally pre-processed to produce a clickstream file.


What is a clickstream file?

A clickstream file is a text file (CSV) that contains information on every action made by each individual while using a specific device. A basic clickstream file will have at least these three elements:

  • ID: a unique alphanumeric code per individual that allows to relate activities from the same individuals as well as create segments of participants.
  • Action: Description of the online action that the participant made.
  • Timestamp: Date and exact time of each action.


What else is there to know about behavioral data?

From learning how to analyze behavioral data with new programming tools to navigating privacy issues, there’s a ton to learn about online behavioral. Download the free Behavioral Data 101 e-book to uncover further details about everything covered in this article and more!

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