By Ellen Woods
For what seems like years, there has been a shadow cast on marketing research that seems much like the ticking of the clock just before New Year’s Eve. It’s that moment where you remember all the good times and wonder what the future will hold. Eventually, the clock hits midnight, everyone cheers and then we wake up with the hangover that lets us know that reality has stealthily crept back into our lives.
Nothing has changed and yet the possibility is there for everything to change.
That’s the reality that has existed ever since tools were invented. There’s always the lamenting of the lost way of life, the excitement over the possibilities of change, and the crazy guy in the corner who is melting ore into shapes while the “real” work with stones and mortar is getting done.
Extending the use of current tools while incorporating new ideas is a fundamental part of a functioning society and it’s critical that transitions use resources effectively, regardless of their age or contribution. It’s inevitable that certain tools become obsolete as new ways of thinking allow for more progressive options. What’s different about the transition in research is that the new types of measurements don’t build on old methods. They exist in a sort of complimentary continuum that is more synergistic that cannibalistic, yet their adoption will eventually yield new models that supersede and antiquate the use of statistical measurements.
Our society is based on normatives in everything from medicine to housing plans. Reaching beyond those boundaries to form a new set of measurements that are based on behavioral patterns is a new and necessary way of thinking, and one in which research leads the charge.
Pattern recognition goes a step deeper than normatives and provides a basis for individual measurements, whether you are using behavioral data, big data or neuroscience. The biggest difference is that patterning takes into account factors that are intuitive to human nature. The need to belong to a group or the drive to exceed peers is not a standardized mathematical equation – not yet.
Many of the newer market research techniques continue to focus on data collection methods that need normatives; that’s why they aren’t gaining wide acceptance. They often take a step back from the moment in time that is “purchase” and in some ways they become more removed rather than informing earlier. For consumers it must seem that we are invading their privacy at every level. That’s really a big issue when you consider that market research created a billion dollar business model by asking people questions. There were millions of people anxious to share their thoughts until we quit listening.
Market research is at a cross-roads right now. Researchers need to fully utilize the tools (in this case data) that we already have and further there needs to be some thought given to understanding what contributions are actually useful. We exist because of insights, yet we leave the definition of those insights to others; who often see only part of the picture. Other industries are integrating business units to leverage their intellectual capital. Bottle manufacturers are recycling spent plastics to make clothes, solar providers are using solar energy to cool buildings and biologists are experimenting with new and natural methods to improve food and water supplies that don’t involve chemical interventions.
So, as the New Year begins, so begins a new opportunity for researchers to embrace what they have on hand, and create new levels of understanding by integrating data, and deriving new insights that drive business decisions, and by listening to that consumer who’s really excited; or the guy in the repair department who solders new connections that reduce corporate energy use. Nobody has a more vested interest in technology than a user whose livelihood or family depend on the solutions that fuel tomorrow.
Happy New Year Everyone!