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Winds of Change Series: DIY – Friend or Foe?

by Beth Rounds, Partner at Cambiar

Last week Leonard Murphy posted on the scope of the issue and potential implication of DIY (Do-It-Yourself) technology on the market research industry. Continuing Cambiar’s “Winds of Change” series, we’d like to examine the issue from a different perspective and put forth some ideas on how our industry can leverage this trend.

DIY is certainly a hot topic these days with frequent announcements about new start-ups and product offerings. Just this week, two more companies announced DIY solutions for online qualitative and panel management. While early entrants, Survey Monkey and Zoomerang, defined the space, the DIY category has grown well beyond “quick and easy” feedback tools. In fact, Cambiar estimates DIY end user spending to be $700-$800M worldwide, when you combine all license revenues from easy feedback, EFM/Enterprise, data analysis, qualitative and custom panel software. Even if you take the non-MR license base (HR, event, education customers) out of the picture, it is still a substantial and growing area of our industry.

What’s driving corporate users towards DIY solutions? Let’s look at some underlying facts:

Fact #1: Doing More with Less forces introspection and innovation. To understand this, we need to remember that doing more with less means corporate researchers are being asked to be more strategic and more consultative, while budgets or information needs are not necessarily down. This is good news for researchers that offer high value services, whether internal to the organization or as a research supplier. At the same time, companies are turning to DIY for (a) non-value-add methods (most often for straightforward work, such as idea/copy testing or CSat) and, (b) interacting with their customers or consumers via an online panel. Once built, they can interact with the communities and panels themselves, or they can rely on their suppliers to do so for them – sometimes both are done in the same company at the same time. For corporate insights executives, it’s all about making trade-offs and strategic choices as to where they are going spend their resources.

Fact #2: MR Technology has come a long way – baby! If you’ve been to any Market Research conference in the last two-three years, chances are you noticed a real change in the exhibit hall. Joining the regular exhibitors like online panel providers, traditional software firms (IBM/SPSS, Confirmit, CfMC) and a small set of full service companies, are a whole new set of service providers that offer self-service or assisted serve options—most of these founded as SaaS software providers. Companies such as Revelation, Global Park, Vision Critical, GutCheck, MarketSight, Medallia, Survey Analytics, Evolve 24, Survey Writer, Nunwood’s Fizz, among others have sprung up in the past 5-10 years. Most, if not all, are enjoying higher growth rates despite the recession. Their solutions are highly intuitive and rich in functionality. Even the “low end” tools, such as Zoomerang and Survey Gizmo offer amazing features for the hands-on user. I suggest you take a look–you will be amazed.

Fact #3: DIY has gone way beyond a standalone tool to being integrated into the way we work. It’s pretty obvious that the younger generation of MR professional (for fun check out Beloit College Mindset list) is very comfortable with survey and reporting software, social media and mobile applications. “Hands on” is more of the rule vs the exception with this group and will only increase in acceptance going forward.

What conclusions and implications can we draw from these trends?

1. DIY technology can deliver faster and better ways to gather and analyze information. It can also enhance respondent engagement, giving consumers more opportunities for deeper involvement, dialogue and co-creation. Yet technology is just a tool and we desperately need to adapt our skills to this new environment. A new type of researcher will evolve (see Ian Lewis’ latest blog) to include data synthesizing and storytelling. If you need help in this area – Ian Lewis would be happy to share his insights on the topic.

2. The old adage “garbage in – garbage out” still holds true whether you are doing the work yourself or working with a research company. Of course, if you do the work yourself, you have no one else to blame for any ‘garbage out’!! There are also different ways to improve the process. At TMRE, both Microsoft and 3M talked about Marketing – not MR – conducting DIY surveys. Obvious risks are disintermediation of MR and bad quality research. Microsoft MR spent a lot of time developing “guard rails” to protect against bad research. 3M MR took over conducting the research, providing a highly cost effective DIY solution managed by the MR dept. For a supplier, offering a DIY capability that includes a guard rails component to help ensure quality could be attractive.

3. Training is now important than ever. Kudos to those companies, academic institutions and suppliers that offer research skills training – in person or via the web. A new venue – The New MR Virtual Festival – offered an innovative, on-demand conference venue that has amazing potential for learning and sharing going forward.

4. New and exciting opportunities exist for traditional suppliers to pair up with new technology players in order to create new offerings and business models – ones that combine value add consultative skills with new collection and delivery platforms. If you aren’t aware of what’s out there – we can point you in the right direction.

What do you think? Is DIY a Friend or Foe? I vote Friend.

Please share...

4 responses to “Winds of Change Series: DIY – Friend or Foe?

  1. Great article. It is an amazing time for the MR world, and there are a lot of applications coming out which will allow researchers, and end users of research to gain richer feedback in time frames and at an expense unheard of in the past. However, I totally agree that for these tools to flourish, education, and stewardship needs to brought to the end users of these tools to ensure valid outcomes.

  2. Great comments Matt, especially coming from you my friend! I think many MR pros are scared to death of DIY technology like you are pioneering; unfortunately that fear is holding them back from embracing all of the opportunities these developments offer to engage with clients and consumers in whole new ways.

    For too long we’ve relied on methods to be our claim to fame rather than results; DIY gives us a chance to change that if we can change our perceptions a bit!

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