In many of the Angst-ridden debates about the future of MR, disintermediation seems to be one of the concepts that is much cited as a driving force for structural change. Why pay a Full Service Agency when you have access to a broad range of DIY tools – online panels, DIY Survey Software, Stats programs?
Microsoft’s Excel alone offers a huge array of statistic options: want to know your correlation co-efficient? Standard deviation? No problem. Plot a Pareto curve? Excel will sort you nicely. And so, for that matter, will Google.docs which offers a broad range of stats equations at zero cost.
The tools are there for DIY, no doubt.
But what value do any them bring without the people who know how to use them judiciously, for what occasions, under what circumstances? Are we – often client-siders – overstating the game-shifting power of disintermediation, or underestimating the risks? Here’s my take.
1. Tools are only as good as the person using them.
How many DIY surveys are fielded by non-MR professionals? Plenty, I would guess. Which underlines the dangers – if you’ve never heard of the Likert scale, how can you know about its’ shortcomings?
2. De-bundling a value proposition requires skill.
Say, as an MR client, you wish to take a portion of your Insights work in-house. You need to be sure your team is adequately skilled to give the consultancy advice internal clients require. This to me is one of the key questions on how fast our industry shifts on this issue – are our methodological and analytics skill sets up-to-date and road-fit?
3. Badly done DIY Research can be misleading and potentially dangerous.
Ill-conceived surveys, poorly designed questionnaires produce results that can be extremely misleading.
I recently filled in a hotel’s customer satisfaction survey after a trip to Berlin. The main scale was a 5 pointer, but with no mid-point. Instead there were 3 positive options, and two negatives. The lack of a balanced scale suggested that either the hotel wished to get slightly more positive feedback, or wasn’t aware of the inherent bias.
4. High-worth elements in the MR value chain need to maintain their visibility.
Many of the sponsors I see at conferences or events are online Panel Providers. I don’t see many of the Full Service Agencies investing in their brand at these occasions.
If you’re a client, the question being prompted is obvious: why not go directly to the panel providers? Share of mind often equates with Share of Market.
5. We all need to stress that MR is a skill set that needs learning.
Market research is in the first stages of going down with the same illness that advertising has suffered from for a long time – virtually everyone feels they have a degree of expertise, and an opinion to go with it.
There’s no easy answer to this in today’s Wiki-world. MR is an unregulated industry, without the standards and legal requirements necessary for say the legal or medical professions.
Case-related “compare and contrast” is a technique worth trying – take a survey or questionnaire done by a non-MR professional and show the inherent dangers and weaknesses. Insist on good and best practice,
DIY MR is a powerful tool, but a potentially dangerous one – a bit like a chemistry kit that can be bought in a department store. Instructions are needed, as are cautions about the possible dangers and consequences. DIY MR is also clearly here to stay, and seemingly on the increase.
I’d say the onus has to be on Client side Researchers to look to provide the education necessary on what good Research practice is to the various corporate stakeholders that maybe get tasked with engaging, say, with Survey Monkey software. Agencies don’t have the visibility.
It’s an important task. However strong the lure of the Siren’s voice calling “faster, lower cost, more flexibility” , an understanding of where the rocks are in the MR river is critical. Not everything that is fast, cheap and seemingly easy is valuable.
Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.