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Looking Back & Looking Ahead

As we stand at the cusp of a new year, it’s customary to pretend we’re Janus as we look back at the previous 12 months and look ahead to the future! This post will attempt to sum up some of the best insights and predictions out there.

Yes, it’s that time of year folks! As we stand at the cusp of a new year it’s customary to pretend we’re Janus as we look back at the previous 12 months and look ahead to the future! This year there is plenty of fodder for navel gazing and prognostication and this post will be an attempt to sum up some of the best out there.

First, a big thank you to readers of this blog. We started this as an experiment in the summer of this year and since then it has taken on a life of it’s own. We’re coming up on 22,000 views during the past 6 months which is far and above what we ever expected! With that in mind, here are the Top 10 posts from the GreenBook Blog in 2010:

Post Views Author
The 2009 Honomichl Top 50 report is out 1,790 Leonard Murphy
The Winds of Change 491 Cambiar Consulting
Making Market Research Sexy? Yep, & Here Is The Proof! 474 Leonard Murphy
So How Do Market Researchers Become Strategic Insight Consultants? 418 Leonard Murphy
The times, they are a changin’ 393 Leonard Murphy
The Future Is…Now! 381 Leonard Murphy
Smart Enough For Mobile Market Research? 360 Navin Williams
Co-creation, Innovation, Insight: The New Brand Paradigm 318 Leonard Murphy
Market Research: It’s About People, People 310 InsightsNow
Brother, Can You Spare A (Nickel &) Dime? 266 Ron Sellers

Many of those posts have to do with the future of market research as well, but there is no shortage of others in our industry making predictions for the year ahead. It seems that many of our colleagues have embraced the idea that the forces of technology, the economy, and cultural shifts have combined to produce the greatest paradigm shift our industry has ever seen. Let’s take a look at what others are predicting for the future!

Last week Sentient Decision Science predicted the 2011 trends that will continue to transform the research industry and help shape the customer agenda for Global 2000 brands. This post generated lots of discussion on various LinkedIn Groups and it will be interesting to see if their vision of a new era of hybrid approaches that is driven by behavioral science vs. traditional market research takes hold in 2011.

Frankie Johnson of Research Arts take a slightly different approach; she evaluates her previous predictions and makes new ones for 2011. Another differentiating point for Frankie’s predictions is, in her own words:

No market research predictions here. There are several other people doing a great job predicting how the industry will go. I prefer to think about the broader context and admit that I am very uncertain about everything except the bear market in anything that promises to temper uncertainty.

Frankie is being modest; her macro-trend predictions could have profound implications for MR. Take a look and see what you think!

While not necessarily a prediction, GreenBook Blog contributor Andrew Jeavons  asks an important question on his Mass Cognition blog: Is 2011 the year Facebook will move into MR ? Based on their movements and statements this year the answer may very well be “yes”. That would be a doozy of a development, wouldn’t it?

Our good friends at Forrester continue to be thought leaders and have made a series of predictions regarding what the future holds for market research as part of their Predictions 2011: What Will Happen In Market Research report. Reineke Reitsma gives us all a glimpse of their thinking via the Forrester blog:

It’s the time of year again, in which we tend to look back at what has been, and look forward to what will happen. Looking at this from a professional angle, 2010 was a very interesting year for the industry: research vendors bounced back from the recession, there was an increased focus on added value, and we saw a lot of innovation happening. In our report Predictions 2011: What Will Happen In Market Research, my team and I have identified a number of trends that we expect to shape market research in 2011.

Organization, technology, and social are defining the research agenda in 2011. In fact, in 2011 market researchers need to embrace social media as an information source, recognize technology as a driver of change while understanding how to implement it effectively, and continue to identify and integrate innovative methodologies to prepare for the future ahead. This will drive, for example, the following trends:

  • The industry should coalesce around a long-term vision for the profession. The past year saw some lively debates about how market research professionals have to prepare themselves for the future. In fact, there was even a debate over whether or not market research would still exist as a profession in 20 years’ time. To continue to stay relevant, client-side market researchers need to take on the task of redefining the role their departments play in the business. Some questions they’ll be addressing: What will be the vision, mission, and values of the team? How will the team collaborate with other departments internally? Which technologies does the team need to own to prepare for the future? Who will the team support and how?
  • Market research will act as the social conscience of the organization. With social media currently owning many organizations’ PR agendas, it’s really easy for market research departments to be firefighting for a living, responding to each social media outburst. But the real question market research should answer is this: How damaging are these outbursts to the organization? Is the uproar about a genuine problem with the product, or just hype? In fact, in 2011 market researchers will focus on how to make sense of all the chatter that’s already happening on social networks, integrate social intelligence into their research, report these insights into the organization, and uncover major issues before these actually hit the groundswell.
  • Technology will help the market research team to build a central knowledge house. Market research departments need to start using technologies that will make it easier to analyze large amounts of data and find meaningful patterns across sources, through knowledge discovery tools such as data and text mining and analytic software. In 2011 market researchers will spend more of their time on understanding how technology can help them with their vision, mission, and values moving forward.

Other trends we’re covering in the Predictions 2011: What Will Happen In Market Research report are around emerging methodologies and how they’ll gather interest with client-side market researchers (although we don’t expect them to spend much money on it yet). We also expect a new wave of DIY uptake that, because of the broad capabilities of the offerings, will support the whole organization, not just market research departments.

For more insight into Forrester’s thinking on 2011, there is a great interview by Robert Bain with Reineke in Research. One important quote from that article that bears mentioning here is:

This is the year where we have to decide where market research will end up in 2015 or 2020. I hope that we’ll have come to a consensus at the end of 2011 – it will be damaging if we don’t, because there are other roles in the organisation using customer data, and if we don’t come to a conclusion they’ll take over some of our responsibilities.

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Market Research is at a critical juncture in our history; if we don’t move aggressively to re-position the industry, we will become marginalized in the coming years.

As an interesting counter-point to Forrester’s predictions, our own just completed GreenBook Research Industry Trends study indicates that new methodologies will see fairly widespread adoption in 2011. As I previously wrote about here, Mobile, Social Media, and MROCs are poised for continued adoption growth over the next two years, with Mobile techniques positioned to experience the greatest growth. The final results of the prediction market module where we asked all respondents which technologies/methods they anticipate will see the most growth over the next 12 and 24 months seems to validate the other findings of the study:

Concepts 12 Months 24 Months
Mobile Surveys 14% 19%
Mobile Ethnography 3% 4%
Mobile Qualitative 5% 5%
Serious Games 2% 1%
NeuroMarketing 2% 3%
Virtual Environments 3% 2%
Crowdsourcing 3% 3%
Social Media Analytics 17% 17%
Apps based research 6% 6%
Visualization Analytics 3% 4%
Webcam-Based Interviews 7% 5%
Text Analytics 6% 8%
Eye Tracking 4% 2%
Predictive Markets 3% 2%
Biometric Response 3% 2%
Online Communities 18% 18%

We’re just beginning to dig into the data in preparation for releasing the report in late January/early February. It will be interesting to look at all of the results by the various segments of respondents and compare the results to the predictions being made by all of our colleagues!

Tom Ewing tested his own fortune telling abilities by revisiting his 2010 predictions first posted on The Future Of Research: 10 Odd Ideas. In his review here,  Tom recaps his previous predictions and where they stand today. As usual, his imagination shines through and many of what he might have considered odd ideas a year ago are looking increasingly prophetic for 2011 and beyond. Here are his Top 3:

1. Respondents RIP

What I thought: The perceived power of crunchable real-time data will render the individual respondent extinct.

Has it happened? Not yet! But it’s closer than I thought it might be – I’ve seen presentations (eg. from InSites) talking about data mining, and what’s also interesting is that the central notion that the individual respondent is a bad, unreliable source of direct data is gaining more and more credence.

2. Social Meteorology

What I thought: The focus of social media monitoring will shift to predictive work – classifying and forecasting events, treating social like a weather system.

Has it happened? I’m not sure. I always feel I’m a little out of touch on monitoring, that there must be more exciting things happening than I’m aware of. I did a presentation about this stuff – social currents – at Research 2010 in the Spring and it was fairly well received but I don’t think I got the point over as well as I might. I’m still really interested in spontaneous (as well as planned) social events and I don’t think enough work is being done here.

3. Dawn Of The Replicants

What I thought: “Research Bots” – artificial respondents – will develop as a tool.

Has it happened? Yes! Well, sort of. What I didn’t know when I wrote the post last November is that Brainjuicer have been working on this technique and in 2010 they started talking about it publicly. In fact, I’m really looking forward to hearing John Kearon talk about it during tomorrow’s Festival of New MR conference. At the moment bots are being used as a kind of digital concept board or pen-portrait – we’re not (yet) at the level where they can interact successfully in “the wild” or be used to simulate responses. That’s when things will get really intriguing.

The rest of his predictions are equally engaging; check them out!

Another emerging leader in our industry, Ben Smithee of Spych Market Analytics asks the question Market Research in 2011-Are you ready? and outlines his forecast for the future of MR. Ben is quickly assuming the role of one of our foremost thought leaders, and I think his predictions are spot on. The whole post is great but here is a sample to whet your appetite:

The walls fall down:

Researchers are finally going to get sick of talking about this qual/quant divide.  So many blended advancements will also help to break bricks and create a universal language which we will call understanding.  That is, understanding the consumer first as a person (More on that in a bit).

Another barrier that will continue to deteriorate in the 2011 is this MR silo.  It’s inefficient and quickly becoming a barrier to the almighty Understanding…at least in achieving it in an effective and efficient means.  MR is going to be a facet of the entire communications/customer relationship mix.  Those walls between marketing/advertising/PR/etc. are coming down too.  MR will follow.  Communications, driven by the consumer, are too fast to have completely segregated teams trying to keep up.  That gap between the marketing and MR teams will diminish rapidly, and it’s okay…I promise!

Good stuff, and more of the same can be found in the rest of his post. Take a minute and read it to see if you agree with his conclusions.

Joshua Hoffman at Research Access has been posting a series of predictions under his Thinking Ahead topic thread. Each post covers a different idea, and all are excellent. He covers a diverse set of topics including behavioral science, social analytics, and business trends. Each is well worth a read!

Closing things out, we have the “crowd sourced” Market Research Prediction Site established by Kathryn Korostoff. Here you’ll find 35 of the most interesting predictions by a variety of people, each voted for or against by visitors. Here are the top 5 based on votes so far. The rest are provocative as well so I encourage you to read them, vote on them, or even add your own!


What predictions do you have for the coming years? Do you agree with these, think everyone is crazy, or are folks on the money? What is beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the market research industry is changing quickly, so wherever you land regarding these predictions the big question for us all is: are we ready for what the future holds no matter how it manifests?

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3 responses to “Looking Back & Looking Ahead

  1. Thanks for the shout out, Lenny. I would think of this as a must-read post even if you hadn’t mentioned me! I think everyone would agree that you deserve loud cheers for all you do for our business. I predict you and Greenbook will have a smashing next year!

    1. Aww, thanks Frankie! Right back at you my friend. I know that myself, and everyone here at the GreenBook, is looking forward to working with you more in 2012!

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