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Interview: Jill Chiara of Forrester on New Tools, New Strategies, & The Future of MR

It’s probably no surprise that the Forrester Research analysts in their Market Research practice and GreenBook Blog have great respect for each other. I think they do a fantastic job of keeping abreast of all of the developments in the industry and provide significant thought leadership on the future. With that in mind, when Forrester announced their new Technographics and Community Speaks offerings I thought it would be interesting to explore that topic with them a bit deeper, and to delve into some broader questions about the future of the industry.

In case you didn’t see it, Forrester Research announced a series of new consumer data products aimed at helping market researchers operate as strategic business advisors. These new offerings include a market research online community (MROC) called Community Speaks, and the expansion into Russia of Forrester’s industry-leading Consumer Technographics.

Here’s more on each new product offering:

Community Speaks

If Forrester’s Consumer Technographics helps market researchers understand the “what” behind emerging consumer trends, then the new Community Speaks helps them understand the “why.” Community Speaks is based upon a market research online community (MROC) of more than 2,000 participants. Community Speaks provides Market Insights Professionals with qualitative consumer insights built from foundational Technographics data on topics such as customer experience and loyalty, consumer technology adoption, and media and Internet behaviors and attitudes. Companies’ need to keep up with the new multichannel digital consumer in real-time means that more global brands are shifting budgets to this kind of innovative research methodology.

 “Community Speaks is one of the most significant enhancements ever to Technographics,” said Jill Chiara, vice president and practice leader serving Market Insights Professionals at Forrester. “The combination of quantitative Technographics data plus Community Speaks qualitative data, in addition to insight from Forrester analysts, is unique in the marketplace.”

 To learn more about Community Speaks, visit

Russian Technographics

With expansion into Russia, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics will survey 330,000 consumers in 18 countries this year, providing insights into how technology affects global consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. Combined with the previous introduction of survey work in Asia and Latin America, Technographics now offers Market Insights Professionals a consistent view of consumers in the emerging BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. In 2011, Forrester will survey 5,000 Russian consumers.

 To learn more about Russian Technographics, visit

“Taken together, these new products and services arm market researchers with a more qualitative and global view of their customers,” said Chiara. “That data elevates the market researcher role to that of a Market Insights Professional and makes him or her a more strategic partner to the business.”

To learn more, you can see their complete press release here.

I think the overlay of an MROC component on the Technographics suite makes an immense amount of sense and I applaud their efforts to drive innovation in the MR space by leading by example.

Now that we’re all on the same page, I used these announcements as an excuse to interview Jill Chiara, a Vice President and Practice Leader at Forrester Research where she leads the organization that serves Market Insights Professionals. She also leads the Consumer Technographics® and ForecastView Data product teams at Forrester. I wanted to understand a bit more about their thinking on these new products, but more importantly I hoped to get more insight into their overall take on the key drivers of change and implications for the market research (or as they prefer to call it: the “Market Insights”) industry.  I’ll let you be the judge on how well we covered those topics!

The interview was conducted via email over the past few days.

LM: Forrester coined the term “MROC” so it’s certainly appropriate that you’ve incorporated that approach into your offerings. How are you combining the tracking data with the more flexible and qualitative data from the community? How have your clients responded to this new enhanced offering so far?

JC: Our large-scale consumer Technographics surveys provide the what around consumer behavior and attitudes, Community Speaks is going to provide the why. We start with taking a deep look at our ongoing survey data and pulling out interesting trends. We then tap the community (a subset of the survey respondents) to probe on similar topics aiming for emotional and “in the voice of the consumer” responses to add much more color than what we could ever get from a multiple choice response in a survey.

So far, clients are very intrigued with the offering. In fact, it was after we had conducted several custom projects with our community that several clients asked us to offer them something more ongoing. They saw real value in tying these qualitative insights back to the foundational data. They also love the option to ask the community proprietary questions as a part of the service. One client said specifically, “if you guys can come up with a trends service that’s more grounded in reality than whimsical that would be pretty awesome.”

LM: Your analysts are on the forefront of the marketing intelligence & insights industry in terms of projecting the trends that will shape the future of the industry. What are you hearing from them, and your clients, regarding what that future may look like?

JC: Our analysts are seeing 3 big trends in the MI industry:

  • Market Insights is being managed more and more as a business vs. back office operation. This means that successful MI pros are marketing and selling their capabilities, building value perception and able to align their research to high ROI (for the business) efforts so they can move from being a cost-center to value-driver for their companies.
  • Market Insights is moving up the value chain. There is a clear call from executives and stakeholders for MI pros to transition from providing data and reports to providing insights, strategic recommendations and to play a key role (as the Voice of the Customer, Voice of the Market and Voice of the Competitor) in informing their companies’ direction.
  • Market Insights is turning its vision from the past to the future. What and why something happened is becoming much less important than being able to come up with data-supported and logical scenarios for shifts in consumer preferences, market trends and competitive changes so that businesses can make smart proactive decisions and stay ahead of the market.

In terms of future outlook, it really depends on where you’re standing! For those MI pros who are aligned to the points above, they are pretty optimistic as they are seeing increased budgets, stronger political support (from execs and even board) and more empowering engagements (with stakeholders). For those traditional ‘market research’ organizations not aligned to the points above, they are getting seriously overloaded with work, watching their power recede and feeling politically very vulnerable. As in any Darwinian evolution, only the fittest will survive.

LM: I agree with your vision of where the industry is heading; it’s a pretty significant change for most traditional MR suppliers to make the shift from reporting on “what is” to consulting on “what may be” and focusing on implications and outcomes. What advice can you give to firms to help make this happen? What type of technologies, human capital investments, positioning shifts, etc.. should companies be looking at now to have a chance to stay competitive in the new paradigm?

JC: Firms need to hire a new type of MR professional – one with experience connecting multiple sources of data to develop future looking insights that will prepare their organizations for what’s ahead. We expect firms to hire former management consultants or former business-unit leaders who know how best to communicate with the C-Suite. We also see an opportunity for MR departments to leverage new and emerging technologies to gather insights – such as neuroscience, predictive markets, mobile surveys and MROCs.  MI pros must spearhead these efforts now or else find themselves left on the sidelines.

LM: It’s interesting that you’ve built a “syndicated MROC” with Community Speaks; I am not aware of other firms that have done the same thing, although it certainly makes sense. Do you anticipate more firms combining methodologies like quant tracking, communities, social media monitoring, etc.. to develop new offerings to deliver a more “360” view of markets?

JC: Yes, we’re seeing this with firms large and small. The trick is understanding what data to collect and how to make sense of it.

LM: What technologies do you consider to be “game changers” for MI?   

JC: Mobile and Social are game changers for MI. Just as the rise of the Internet forced change in the practice and economics of market research, the ever-connected consumer is changing how people communicate and want to be communicated with.

We’re seeing traditional surveys and qualitative focus groups slowly losing ground to more interactive methods that reflect both social and mobile behavior as well as the flexibility that these new “methodologies” provide. They’re faster, and, in many cases, cheaper. While these new methods may not fully replace traditional ones, they are often a great complement and sometimes a better alternative for specific research projects.  

LM: Again, I couldn’t agree more on both the changes companies will need to make and the game changing tech and recent data from the GRIT study (I’ll share that with you as soon as we get done analyzing it!) supports that as well. However, many others have pointed out that the majority of client-side research budgets are spent on trackers, syndicated data, C-Sat, etc.. which are deeply entrenched legacy initiatives that it will be difficult to migrate away from. That strikes me as a reasonable argument and will mean that these new techniques will not be major revenue generators for suppliers, thus slowing down the speed of adoption.

On a similar note, many clients seem unwilling to pay for the deeper consultative support necessitated by the shift to “strategic foresight partner”. Both of these issues seem to create a challenging dynamic to overcome and in my mind means that firms from outside the traditional MI industry such as business consultancies, BI providers, social media agencies, and perhaps even the likes of Google, Facebook, and SalesForce will be well positioned to move into the space and disenfranchise MI suppliers. What do you think of that hypothesis?

JC: I agree it’s tough to move away from trackers that have become important health metrics for a business. However, when we talk to MI pros we find although there is reluctance to jump in feet first, they are willing to toe dip. Many want to see some successful case studies to help them convince upper management to make the change. As for Google, Facebook and SaleForce bumping out traditional MI suppliers – I don’t see it happening full stop. These companies have great data and may be developing some consulting capabilities but at the end of the day they’re trying to sell you something else…

LM: What’s your take on the recent wave of consolidation in the MI space, such as Ipsos/Synovate, Verint/Vovici, Arbitron/Zokem, and  Questback/Globalpark? What are the implications for the broader industry?

JC: We’re closely watching the consolidation happening in the MI space (see ). Some of these mergers are providing a technology solution for the consolidation of data, others are focused on offering  a combined methodology solution – both very important to offering clients a 360 view of the customer.  It’s all about managing the research data stream more efficiently.

LM: Last Question! What’s next for Forrester? Any interesting new offerings coming down the pike you can mention?    

JC: We’re exploring some of the emerging MR technologies and will likely incorporate these into our Global Consumer Technographics offering soon. Stay tuned!

One other big topic we are spending a lot of time on is the increasing importance of Market Insights and Customer Intelligence collaboration.

The old roles of market research and database marketing aren’t cutting it anymore and need much greater alignment to drive business value! The process of “alignment” is of course much easier said than done, and it won’t solve all of the challenges that MI pros face. When done right, though, a more adaptive insights function emerges that can drive more efficient marketing and in the end help grow the bottom line.

LM: Thanks for being such a great subject Jill! I’ll look forward to keeping up with the latest developments at Forrester!

JC: No problem Lenny. It was great to chat with you and thanks for the really good conversation.

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