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4 Things I Learned at IIeX North America 2018

IIeX this year showcased themes related to key technologies, speed, and inspiring action, that are changing research right now.

Editor’s Intro: Many IIeX presentations this year focused on technology, “better, faster, cheaper” and the need to turn insights into action. While we sometimes think about these constructs in the context of quantitative research, Ray Fischer writes about some of the learnings from the perspective of qualitative research.


For the last five years, the Aha! team has attended IIeX in Atlanta. We have participated as an exhibitor and have also led dozens of roundtable discussions on topics related to Online Qualitative Research. The annual conference, put on by GreenBook, is always a rich experience where brand clients, market researchers, and the emerging technology community gather to assess the current state of the industry and look ahead to the emerging trends that will affect how we will mine and deliver insights that can transform a client’s business. This year was no different.

Here are four things I took away from the conference:

1. AI and Blockchain are no longer the future. AI is beginning to happen now.  It started with quant research methods but is working its way into qualitative as well.  You will see more AI applied in areas like social engagement, data collection, and analysis.  While not replacing traditional moderation, AI will have a role.  This will continue to evolve quickly, and as market researchers, we need to continue to adapt and adopt new technology as it converges and improves.  But I also believe that the human touch is critical — and that brings me to my second point: people.

2. Smart people continue to transform MR. Once again, I am amazed by the number of smart and good people in our space who really know their stuff. I’ve been at this for a while now, and the people I meet and collaborate with, including clients and even our competitors, have become good friends of mine.  And while technology-based research companies are flourishing, it is the smart people at the heart of the market research who are building relationships and moving the thinking forward. It is smart people who are innovating new approaches to insights. And it is smart people who are driving how we turn insights into impactful and transformative business strategies.  Our clients are in good hands.

3. The need for speed is increasing. I recently wrote a blog about how brand clients are increasingly challenged to respond to the market in near real-time. Many of my discussions with brand insight strategists at the conference confirmed that while big data is playing a larger role in that reality, there is also a need to rapidly innovate, test concepts, ideate, gain insights on dynamic buyer journeys and get feedback on everything from packaging to ad campaigns at a much faster rate than ever before. This new sense of urgency has pushed insight strategists to develop and manage projects and initiatives more efficiently and effectively. The role of online qual technology is increasing.

4. Activating insights matters to clients. One of the presentations I attended focused on how to become a great “Red Zone” team. The premise is simple: you have to develop ways not just to find great insights, but to activate them as well. Your research plan should include how you’re going to sell your insights throughout the organization and inspire activation and commercialization across multiple channels — I couldn’t agree more. It is enlightening to see the industry start to mobilize around the idea of making insights a reality and helping clients sell through their organization to get great ideas to the marketplace versus having them collect dust on a shelf (or computer hard drive.)

So that is my take.  I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

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