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GRIT Sneak Peek: The Top Emerging Market Research Techniques

Analysis and preparation for publishing the latest iteration of the GRIT report is just about complete. I am so excited about the findings in the study that I can't wait to share them , so here is a sneak peak at the top emerging research techniques.

It’s that time again folks! Analysis and preparation for publishing the latest iteration of the GRIT report is just about complete. As usual, I am so excited about the great findings in the study that I just can’t wait to share them with all of my colleagues in the industry, so here is another sneak peek at what we found out. The rest of this post is a combination of analysis by myself and Bob Walker of Surveys & Forecasts, LLC.

Compared to prior waves of the GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) study, the Summer 2011 wave is relatively compact. In addition to key issues that have been trended since the initial 2003 study, new questions on research technology, anticipated staffing characteristics and skill sets, and anticipated changes to marketing research methodologies and business models were asked. Specific probes on influential and/or authoritative industry organizations were also included. We investigated spending levels, the overall levels of optimism vs. trepidation, and how the industry perceives and is reacting to change.  Even the moniker “marketing research” itself was a subject of this most recent wave, along with the standard complement of annual GRIT tracking questions.

All of that and more will be detailed in the report, which should be published within the next week or two. In the meantime, we’re going to take a look at one set of findings: the top emerging research techniques. 

There has been a lot of debate about whether new technology adoption within market research, especially mobile and social media, is over hyped. Well, I think the latest data from GRIT tells us that although some techniques may be over-hyped when compared to current or planned adoption, that is unarguably NOT the case with mobile, MROCs, social media research, and text analytics.

As we saw in 2010, widespread experimentation with new research technology continues apace. Of the “techniques” ever used, the top items include online communities (aka MROCs) at 35%, data mining (32%), social media analytics (29%), text analytics (22%), and mobile research (at 21%). Interestingly, buyers/clients are leading the way here, with higher levels observed for online communities, social media analytics, data mining, and text analytics.

What is also interesting is that these finding were consistent with the 2010 results on projected use; meaning that participants in the study are following through with their implementation plans and are aggressively adopting new techniques to at least supplement and possibly to replace more traditional methods.

The chart below compares 2010 planned adoption and 2011 actual usage.


As traditional sources of respondents for consumer panels become more problematic (i.e., from a recruiting and attrition standpoint), clients and suppliers must apply new methods to extract consumer insights and bridge the gaps between traditional and new modalities. Despite the more aggressive adoption of social media, mobile apps, and online communities, far less use is seen for serious gaming, biometrics, neuromarketing, virtual environments, crowdsourcing, predictive markets, and visualization analytics; less than 10% of buyers or suppliers predict they will use these methods in the near future, relegating them to very niche positions within the broader industry.

The big news for 2012 will be the massive growth (in many cases almost doubling from 2011 levels) of social media analytics, MROCs, data mining, mobile (both quant and qual approaches), and text analytics.

In almost all cases client-side researchers are leading with utilizing these techniques, with suppliers lagging behind in their adoption (and therefore offering) these techniques. This indicates that either buyers will be centering their relationships around vendors who can offer these methods, and it is likely that in many cases that means they will be working with non-traditional suppliers, many of which may not even consider themselves within the market research space. This is certainly in line with current thinking of many industry leaders about the emergence of new competitive forces that are encroaching upon the traditional “insights” field.

The chart below shows the projected usage of merging techniques in 2012.


As part of our GRIT study, a parallel social media analytics study was also conducted, in association with NetBase, a study co-sponsor. For this exercise, NetBase used their social media monitoring platform to search public websites for comments about emerging methods – specifically, the frequency with which emerging methods terms appear, and the sentiment (positive or negative) associated with each one.  The intent of this analysis is to understand whether “online influencers” differ from self-reported feedback based on industry research, such as GRIT.

As you can see from the charts, the amount of buzz associated with Online Communities, Data Mining, Social Media Analytics, Text Analytics, and Mobile Surveys is proportionate to the percentage relationships seen in our GRIT sample (i.e., those who indicated that they have used these technologies in the past).

However, there is more buzz than actual use for Eye Tracking, Crowdsourcing, Virtual Environments, NeuroMarketing, Biometric Response, and Serious Games – that is, there is a lot of chatter about these methods, yet little use to date (most are well under 10%).

Here is the chart:

This indicates that marketing researchers are certainly thinking and talking about a multitude of emerging technologies, but have yet to figure out the ways in which they can implement many of them for marketing insights and business guidance. To understand this a bit better, NetBase also produces a quadrant map showing the “Brand Passion Index” for each of these emerging technologies. Here we see that most of emerging methods captured by the buzz algorithm are viewed favorably – at least in terms of liking – but that the two that seem to most loved are Mobile Surveys and Facial Tracking/Scanning. Mobile Surveys are one of the methods used most be our respondents (Facial Scanning was not asked in our list, but will be included in future waves). One emerging method was associated with more negative buzz: Neuromarketing – a method used by few (just 5%) in our GRIT study.

We read this as although there may be a disproportionate amount of “buzz” for some methods which have strong adherents or fans but little widespread usage, in most cases there is no “tail wagging the dog” phenomenon; the share of discussion around mobile, MROCs, social media research, etc.. is earned buzz. Researchers are using these techniques, are discussing their results online, and are planning to do more with these technologies in the near future as a result.  Of course this positive word-of-mouth is influencing others to try these techniques, but we see a distinct transition from early adopters to mainstream usage in 2012.

These changes will have a profound impact on all aspects of the market research industry globally, and we have more information on what some of those changes may be in the full GRIT report.  I will likely do another “sneak peek” at the data we collected on new human capital strategies reported by GRIT respondents prior to publishing the report. In the meantime, next week I’ll be participating in three different events where I’ll be discussing many of the findings from the study. If you can’t wait to hear more about what else we have found, hopefully you can attend those events!

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7 responses to “GRIT Sneak Peek: The Top Emerging Market Research Techniques

  1. Looking forward to the full report, but the sneek peek findings above make a lot of sense to me. Talking to the users of research I am finding the hunger for text analytics and social media analysis to be immense. In terms of communities, this is becoming mainstream in a big way, with MROCs increasingly being seen as part of the community panel offer for some of the larger clients.

    1. Thanks Ray, glad to have you chime in and agree!

      I think we’ve still got a long way to go to get an accurate picture of the financial impact of these methods, but we’re clearly reaching a tipping point where the emerging techniques are poised to become major drivers of project volume and revenue, and that may happen in small / mid-size firms before the H25 can position themselves effectively to capitalize on the demand.

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