And so we come to the end of another phase of one of my great Labors of Love: The GRIT Report. For most of my career in research, GRIT has been an annual (now bi-annual) effort to understand the forces of change impacting our industry. Like all research projects, it’s an effort to fill in the information gaps with data so that key stakeholders can make informed decisions with a higher probability of success. And like all research efforts, the data is just part of the picture: there must be a contextual frame of reference to tie it all together. For most that is their own experience, secondary information sources, and of course the facts on the ground within their business. Although we strive to deliver a comprehensive view of the areas of the MR industry we focus on, by no means is it a comprehensive view of the industry as a whole nor of the reality for many that work in it. We can offer pieces of the puzzle, but the rest is up to the reader.
With that in mind, I’d like to add a final piece of the puzzle for you based on my experience.
I am in a relatively rare position in this industry. I have the luxury of taking a high level view and synthesizing many sources of information into my own contextual frame of reference. There are only a handful of us around lucky enough to make a living, not by being in the business of market research any longer, but by making the market research industry our business. In essence that means that I talk to a lot of people, I read a lot of content related to topics important to MR, and I have the privilege of being asked to help many folks solve their business issues as it relates to the insights space. In most cases those conversations and the help I give are confidential; I simply can’t share details (but Oh boy do I wish I could sometimes!). However what I learn shapes my own context, so when I read GRIT and all the other studies conducted about our industry it’s through the lens of what I know to be true from my own experience.
Here are the lessons I learned in 2013 that shape my view of GRIT data. Perhaps it will be useful as you put your own pieces together.
- Insights are beginning to be sexy for investors: As more and more of the mechanics of research shift away from service-based approaches to scalable technology and IP, investors are beginning to find our space interesting. SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics, the (assumed) impending IPO of Vision Critical are prominent examples, but every day brings news of new investments in analytics, data collection channels, and insight-enabling technology. Often those businesses don’t fit into the traditional definition of sample-based market research, but make no mistake: they are insights plays and money is pouring in at an accelerated rate. That is good news for those embracing tech and looking for growth capital, not so good news for the service-based businesses operating in an increasingly competitive and margin-squeezed environment. For sure there is a need for those service components, but reaching scale and becoming a large entity is tougher and tougher. Many of the companies listed in the GRIT 50 fit that profile.
- Clients are taking the bull by the horns: I am aware of at least 50 major global brands engaged in some type of activity to shape the future thinking and technology that will drive the industry forward. Whether through funding innovation labs, incubators, accelerators, or direct investment (usually via pilots and convertible notes) brands are taking an aggressive role in helping companies create the solutions they need to help fuel insights-driven competitive advantage. Most don’t talk about it publicly (although some are hiding in plain sight via their relationships with platforms like IIeX) more and more client organizations are becoming very actively involved in transforming the industry. Their focus isn’t necessarily on data collection either. Instead topics like single-source data, neuroscience, Big Data, image analytics, wearables, 3D printing, interactive visual displays, virtual reality, and omni-channel media engagement are where their interest lies. The expectation is that the rest of the industry will get on board or be left behind. This is hinted at in the in-depth interviews herein as well as the “Reactions To Change” section, although we did not ask those explicit questions.
- It’s about Impact, but cheaper, faster & better are important to: In GRIT we certainly see the desire for these things listed in the “Drivers Of Supplier Selection”, but since I am often asked to help brands identify and engage with new suppliers, I know these factors are paramount. Suppliers who wish to grow their business take heed: the same old, same old just isn’t acceptable anymore, no matter how good you think your relationship is or how captive the client is to your trackers or norms.
- The future is bright, just different: We live in an amazing time; there is more radical and iterative innovation in every aspect of human life than at any other era in human history, and the pace of change is only accelerating. That creates unrivaled possibilities for our industry; we are, after all, the ones historically depended on to deliver information and insights. In a world driven by data and changing human behavior we can and should be the heroes if we can let go of the past and embrace the possibilities of the future. This sense of optimism was reflected in our emotional segmentation for the industry, and that should make us all feel better.
If you take nothing else away from this edition of GRIT I hope you’ll hold on to this: yes, change is happening and that is a good thing. As long as we stay focused on delivering business impact, value, and innovation MR will be just fine.