As an industry, market research is under pressure. But in a world where data volumes are increasing exponentially, and businesses are striving to become more data-driven, market research should be flying.
So why isn’t it?
Why We Are Under Pressure
In my mind our industry is held back most of all by its legacy. This is the legacy of methods that were created to serve clients at a time when the marketing world was data poor, the channels to consumers were simpler and our clients saw regular year-on-year growth in most categories.
Many of our approaches to answering client questions have incrementally improved over the years but are still fundamentally the same methods. In a world today that is data rich, these methods lack precision, they are slow, they rely on claimed behaviour and they cannot connect to other client data.
As an industry we have been too risk-averse in challenging the way we do things. The irony is failure to change is the biggest risk. A new wave of insight has arrived.
The New Data Economy
The whole concept of market research is based on an exchange with the consumer. They share information with us and we give them something of value in return.
The value-exchange we are giving consumers on our research panels is no longer attractive because people’s time has increased in value while monetary incentives have not. The New Information Economy has overcome this challenge by incentivising in different ways.
- Social / Content: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp provide us with social and messaging services in return for our data and our acceptance of advertising. Netflix and Spotify have built significant paying user bases from getting access to content and use data to tailor services.
- Crowds: Many businesses are getting increasing value from their own customers. Bringing them into crowds and communities in exchange for the promise of impacting a company’s direction and decisions.
- Micro-Surveys: New market research companies have emerged looking for new ways of delivering surveys to consumers. As an example, rather than building costly and hard to maintain panels, some businesses use networks of publishers to deliver surveys to consumers in return for access to premium content.
So we can now access data that is bigger, faster, real and connected. If realised, this information can help us to be more precise with our insights, to make more confident recommendations and to embed our insights inside the data ecosystems of our clients.
Still Some Work To Do
While the information economy promises much, there is still work to be done. The great news is that the inherent skills and ability in our industry make us the ideal people to overcome these challenges:
- Rigour: We have the skills in the market research industry to be the arbiter of quality and to advise clients and agencies on what data can be used for what purposes. Our voice is still not loud enough here.
- Impartiality: A lot of this information is either owned or is used by businesses that are spending the media budget of clients. Clients need an impartial voice to help measure and guide their marketing activations.
- Creativity: We need to direct our creativity in different directions. We must be creative in what data we select to solve problems, in how we bring to life this data and in the talent we bring into the industry.
So, the new wave of research is here and, as an industry, we have the skills required to help clients make the most of this. The question is, will we move quickly enough to be the ones leading this change?
In our next blog we’ll be looking at where this leaves traditional market research approaches.