By Jason Anderson
After two nonstop days of discussion and knowledge sharing at MRMW, at first I wasn’t really sure how to summarize the meaning of it all. I felt energized, but was also feeling an intense sense of déjà vu. After all, many of the top memes of the conference have been circulating in industry chatter for quite some time:
- Mobile technology has changed everything.
- Big data is important.
- The biggest threats to the industry are other more technology-savvy industries.
This didn’t really explain the déjà vu, though. It then occurred to me: I already wrote about this 10 months ago. I made eight specific observations about the challenges facing research vendors, and what I would be doing if I were on the vendor side of the relationship:
- Get out of the survey business.
- Find a better way besides surveys to collect data.
- Get out of the syndicated report business.
- Become a data integration super-ninja.
- Sell impact, not methodology.
- Build or buy technology-based scalability.
- Recruit technologists.
- Embrace multi-modal interaction.
Quite unexpectedly, this became one of the more controversial blog posts picked up and cross-posted on Greenbook. My intention had never been to be controversial or stir up trouble; I was only projecting forward what I thought were some of the most probable implications of technology’s current trajectory.
I won’t be shy about this: I left MRMW feeling rather vindicated. Two days of excellent speakers, one by one, reinforced each of the points above:
- “If you’re in the data collection business, find another business.”
- “The leaders of market in research in 2020 could be companies like Google, Apple, or IBM.”
- “Being the gatekeeper for client research is not a smart idea.”
- It’s not about surveys, it’s about inferences from measured behavior and a different way of doing research.”
- “500 million Google survey impressions in the first two months of operation.”
There are plenty of other one-liners sprinkled throughout the event, but the message was consistent: things aren’t going to change, they have changed, and now because of complacency and skepticism many companies are trying to catch up. Even more concerning to me: there are many more vendors not in attendance at this forward-thinking event, blind to the changes or staring at the headlights. None of my current vendors were in attendance, for example, which is somewhat disconcerting.
The message I would share with my vendors (and I know from my weblogs that you all track what I say here) isn’t one of criticism. We are all in a highly competitive environment and there are many conferences to choose from. We often have project and travel conflicts. I don’t need you to go to a bunch of conferences; what I do need, however, is for other smart people to get proactive about the foundational changes happening in data collection. I don’t mind being a scout, but I’m not going to be the canary in the coal mine.
Do not underestimate how quickly a software startup can go from zero to hero. My current fear, and the thing I am thinking about most obsessively at the moment, is identifying the problem spaces where it isn’t already too late to get into the research technology game. Competing with Google, IBM, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook is not something for the cautious or weak-willed. I already see very practical uses for Google’s polling tool, and so do other teams in my business. The client-side research team disintermediation process has already started, albeit in small ways, and we all need to work together to redefine our roles.