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Where Can Online Market Research Go From Here?

I'm still working on my post regarding the Technology Driven Market Research event. What I can tell you is that it will focus heavily on my favorite topic: the future of the market research industry. Here are recent sharings and an upcoming webinar on that topic.


I’m still working on my post regarding the Technology Driven Market Research event; I am waiting for a few more videos by Ben Smithee of Spych Research to be loaded up so I can incorporate them into my summary and wrap-up. What I can tell you is that it will focus heavily on my favorite topic: the future of the market research industry. I hope to have that out early this week. In the meantime, you can find all of the coverage from the great team of pros that were blogging at the event on the IIR blog.

Now for those that are interested in that topic and are not completely sick of my bloviating on the subject, I was just invited to participate in a webinar debate by Vision Critical on the topic of the Future of Research. I think it will be an interesting exploration on the topics myself and others presented on at the TDMR and will provide a much needed new forum for discussion on this critical issue.  I plan on basing my comments on the ideas that I presented to Frankie Johnson a few weeks back and then honed as part of the kick-off panel discussion on Current Trends and Future Implications with Roxana Strohmenger of Forrester, Kristin Luck of Decipher, and Kristin Schwitzer of Beacon Research/ at the TDMR. Here are my basic  thoughts on the issues driving change in our industry and the probable implications:


I’m honored that the fine folks at Vision Critical thought enough of my musings to invite me to be a part of their webinar. My fellow panelists are extremely smart folks; it will be interesting to hear their thoughts on where the future is headed on what it might mean for our industry.

Vision Critical has been conducting a series of webinars comprised of four sessions starting with the basics of community panels and progressing more deeply into market-proven best practices and the future of online research. This is the last in the series and I think it’s going to end everything on a high note!

Join us for a rousing and sure-to-be controversial panel discussion moderated by Jason Smith, President of Vision Critical’s Innovation Center and featuring Laura Davies, Vision Critical’s SVP Panel Strategy & Innovation, Bryan Dorsey from John Deere, and myself as we reveal what could happen – and what needs to happen – with market research beyond 2011. From social media to smartphones, we’ll cover all the emerging trends, and set sight on the future of online market research.

During this webinar, we will cover:
• The path to maturity for social media integration
• What’s in store for mobile and smartphone platforms
• Managing demands of internal stakeholders
• The shifting expectations and changing role of Market Research

Here are details from the Vision Critical website:

WHEN: May 12th, 2011
10am PST/1pm EST

DURATION: 45 minutes


Senior managers and executives in market research, marketing, customer experience and business strategy, and anyone else involved in or curious about online communities and panels

Register now

On a related note, Jeffrey Henning has a great summary of a recent talk given by Ian Lewis on the Six Winds of Change at the At the 25th anniversary celebration of the SIUE Master of Marketing Research program. Of course Ian and his colleagues at Cambiar have been posting their blog series on the Winds of Change here, but this is the first time I have seen them summarized in one [place. This topic certainly dovetails nicely with the themes of the TDMR and my upcoming debate with Vision Critical so I asked Jeffrey if I could repost his summary. Being the super nice guy that he is, he agreed. Here it is:

  1. Delivering More With Less – 80% of research departments are working with less budget than two years ago (source: IR), while the global market for market research declined by 4.1% in 2009 (ESOMAR). “According to BCG,” wrote Karlene Lukovitz, “low ROI on consumer insight in part results from many companies continuing to run the function in outmoded fashion: they ask market researchers to take orders rather than to act as strategic partners generating breakthrough insights.” As a result, Ian said, researchers need to refocus resources away from what’s not needed to what is needed; forget spending 80% of the budget on tactical research: forget traditional qualitative, usage and attitude surveys, “trackers that don’t add value” and validation research. Refocus on innovation and product development, integrated market measurement, strategic research, shopper insights, in-the-moment research, ethnography, measures of emotions and ROI.
  2. Do-It-YourselfDIY surveys present opportunities and risks for market-research departments. They provide more for the money, making MR a hero with procurement, and they bring departments closer to the customer. Unfortunately, DIY surveys take time away from strategic work, shift MR from a business partner to an internal provider and create the need to institute “guard rails” to protect coworkers outside of MR who are using DIY surveys.
  3. New Research Modalities – Many new modalities are unprompted: unprompted comments from social media listening posts, blog sampling and word-of-mouth tracking; unprompted responses to stimuli from biometrics, neuroscience, eye tracking and facial coding; even analysis of unprompted feelings from emotional research. Next add in technological change to research modes, from mobile surveys to mobile ethnography apps to crowdsourcing and research games. Researchers need to integrate how consumers behave naturally with data from within the company.
  4. The River – Ian discussed the “River of Information” metaphor produced by the ARF Research Transformation Super Council, which concluded “There will be a fundamental shift in how we approach business decision making and influence of strategy. We move away from a project orientation toward an ongoing process of knowledge access and utilization. Value creation is catalyzed from the organic knowledge found in the flow of the river.” In the future, we will first search the information river, then decide whether a study is needed.
  5. New Talent for a New Age – Researchers of the future will tell stories rather than display numbers.  There are three career paths for researchers of the future: management consultants, polymaths and specialists. Management consultants move from the tactical to the strategic, understand the business side and drive innovation and growth. Polymaths wade into the river of information to synthesize data so that they can identify insights for competitive advantage. Specialists leverage their deep analytical capabilities and use new MR tools to assist polymaths with their work.
  6. The New Global Middle Class – By 2030, 93% of the world’s middle class will come from emerging economies; in the meantime, 70 million people will enter the middle class every year. The global economy is just beginning.

These are six winds blowing change through the research industry. As Ian said, quoting Joe Tripodi, the CMO of Coca Cola: “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance a whole lot less.”

It’s fantastic that so much thought leadership is being devoted to the future of research; it is vitally important that our industry tackle this issue head-on. I’m looking forward to being a part of the debate next Thursday and in other ways in the future!

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