Many of the contributors here at GreenBook Blog (myself especially!) seem to be like the robot from “Lost in Space”, regularly shouting the alarm “Danger! Danger!” to all within earshot. And that is a good thing. Our industry is undergoing what we believe to be is a fundamental change on virtually all levels. We are at the cusp of a bold new direction for the market research/insight delivery industry, but the path is fraught with peril for any firm that is caught unawares.
Contributors like Simon Chadwick, Ian Lewis, and Robert Moran have joined us in the effort of sharing information and thought leadership to help our colleagues navigate the rapidly changing terrain of the industry, with each of use focusing on different aspects if this paradigm shift. However, some times there is overlap and convergence, and that is what I want to explore today.
Earlier this week Simon broke out the five forces driving this new period of evolution in his post “The Winds of Change”, and in it he describes “fishing the river” as one of the emerging trends impacting market research:
This is the concept of a mighty river of information that surrounds us daily, with thousands of tributaries, swirling around us on the Internet and in social media. If we can learn how scientifically to fish in this river, maybe the insights that we need are instantaneously at hand. How does that affect traditional research? Does the survey lose its primacy as the first way to plumb consumer sentiment and information? Does it move down the food chain into more of an instrument of clarification when we don’t understand what the river is telling us? What does that mean for the industry’s portfolio of techniques? Indeed, what does it mean for the very definition of “market research”?
On a related note, last week, Robert Moran analyzed how “brand and reputation converge in a transparent world”. He outlines a possible future where the disciplines of Brand and Reputation research converge driven by social media:
Different metrics and different audiences separate these two research programs. For now.
But, what happens when the following trends collide?
1. Frictionless data acquisition on any company or product.
2. Complete transparency driven by niche blogging, employee websites, wikileaks, etc.
3. Aggregated corporate reputation rating schemes. Think eBay seller ratings and ratemyprofessors.com
If and when this happens we can anticipate the merger of brand and corporate reputation with the possibility that corporate reputation swallows up brand research.
Last week the intersection of these two ideas became a reality with the launch of Alterian’s “Alchemy” product. I’ve referenced Alterian many times before as a company that MR needs to watch; they are a great example of a technology driven firm from outside the market research space that is rapidly emerging as a disruptive change agent. They are re-writing the rules of where brand engagement, insight collection/generation, and marketing begin and end, and this product shows us exactly where things are going. I sat in on the product launch webinar for Alchemy last week, and I was blown away. here is why:
Until now, marketers have been frustrated in their attempts to connect with a jaded and unengaged, but increasingly sophisticated and media-savvy, audience. The problems of over-mined databases, poor data hygiene and lack of any real intelligence about customers have been compounded by multiple, unconnected marketing technology applications which simply cannot ‘connect the dots’ for marketers keen to engage and build responsive and profitable customer relationships.
Alterian Alchemy™ brings together all the applications necessary for integrated customer engagement in one overarching framework. By removing data and application integration barriers, breaking down silos, and putting customers back at the heart of marketing activity, it provides the unique ability to really deliver on the promise of Customer Engagement.
The Alterian Alchemy™ framework was developed around the four principles of Customer Engagement: Listen , Learn , Understand , Speak . These principles are a simple, yet incredibly effective, way to begin engaging with your customers and learning what makes them tick – and then delivering what they want, and at a time and in a way they want it.
In effect, Alchemy merges data collected from multiple sources (market research, CRM, brand engagement, social media) and allows you to create segmentation profiles and predictive buying models on the fly. You can then apply those structures to all of your marketing campaigns and monitor results through this application. It bridges the gaps between data and ROI and it does it by collating most any source of data imaginable. Oh, and it’s all done through an intuitive DIY interface.
Check out this fact sheet for a more complete picture of what this platform can do:
In effect, a company from outside of the MR space has developed a DIY platform to deliver the “Holy Grail” of most marketers: data management and analysis tied directly into marketing campaign ROI.
Does this replace market research? Of course not. Yet. But it is indicative of the type of innovative thinking and technology leveraging that is eroding huge links in the traditional MR value chain. This isn’t hypothetical, it is fact. It is a huge leap forward in the fulfillment of the futures predicted by Simon and Robert. Alchemy is also a clear warning to the market research/insight collection industry: evolve or die.
The good news is that developments like this give us a hint of what the future of market research may look like. I’ve suggested previously that one path may be for us to shift into “Strategic Insight Consultancies” . A product like Alchemy, like any of the DIY tools out there, can be dangerous without a skilled and knowledgeable strategist to help figure out what the data means and how it informs business planning. This may mean a departure from the MR professional being grounded in analytics and methodologies; rather, the MR pro of the future may be more of a business consultant, with soft skills such as creativity, imagination, problem solving, etc.. being more essential.
In any event, we’ll continue to be the security robot here at GreenBook Blog. We’ll keep shouting “Danger Will Robinson!” when we see something that warrants it. We’ll continue to strive to help our colleagues understand the forces of change driving us into an uncertain future and bring you the best in thought leadership on what it all means.