Editor’s Note: As a companion to the previews of key findings from the GRIT Report that we presented in the Blog before the report launch, we thought we would present Gregg Archibald’s wrap-up, where he pulls the findings together and discusses larger implications for the industry. At this point, change is not theoretical, rather it is happening before our eyes.
For years, people have been saying that our industry is changing. This edition of GRIT confirms that the change is here, but incomplete. There is a clear bifurcation in what makes up marketing research. The first has to do with data and the second has to do with consulting.
From the data perspective, this is about using tools that can help us gather traditional types of data in more efficient ways, gather new types of data, more effective analysis of data, and new ways to communicate that data to deliver impact. This edition of the GRIT study is encouraging in that more people are using these data tools to deliver greater value. We see this in the high number of studies that clients are conducting give the same budget (or smaller), we see this in the variety of methodologies that are being used, and we see this in the hiring trends and investment priorities of insights organizations.
These tools and capabilities cover a wide variety of applications – from method to business issues to research issues. Most of this can be attributed to technology (though there are some methodology and framework components in here as well). As of today, technology is still a differentiator, but the gap is narrowing rather than expanding. We are quickly coming to a time where the technology will be available to any buyer and any supplier of research. Fortunately, both buyers and suppliers are investing in technology – and not just the big players. The expectations of technology-driven research will be table stakes for all projects and all relationships.
The other side of the bifurcation is our ability to be consultative to our clients – be they internal clients or external. Many may have a better definition, but my definition is the ability to provide very actionable recommendations about what the business should do – and not just recommendations based on the results of a single study. This is difficult – and that difficulty is reflected in this edition of GRIT – client satisfaction with the strategic components of research is very low overall satisfaction of just 49% (Top 2 box).
We also know that this is important to clients. A single point of view from a single study is a lot less compelling than it was – particularly for very strategic studies. Data synthesis, multiple data streams, meta-analysis, and multidisciplinary recommendations are all components of being able to provide business recommendations, rather than just research results. Though we are seeing some clients and suppliers making these changes (evidenced by some of the investment priorities), this approach is still the exception rather than the rule. Until this changes, the satisfaction with being strategic partners in the business will remain low and the work will be transactional.
The data side of the bifurcation is on a solid path and I have no doubts about our continued innovation and improvement, albeit slower than most would like. The consulting side is in a more difficult place with significant process and intellectual changes needed to make this happen. The needs of internal and external clients will drive this change – whether through changing the organization or changing the suppliers that support the organization.
I know this feels like being “half full and half empty”, and it is. But there are signs that it can be more than “half full” – investment continues and is moving quickly downstream, we actually are doing more with less, and there are a LOT of very bright people in this industry (I know, I was one of the judges for the GRIT Future List). That is a very powerful combination of ingredients. Let’s get cooking.