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Three Trends Changing Market Research, Forever

A look at how digital transformation around the collection and use of customer's personal data is reshaping the marketing research industry.

This post is part of our Big Ideas series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Rado Raykov will be speaking at IIeX Europe 2019 in Amsterdam. If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX Europe. Click here to learn more.

This isn’t a story about GDPR, the Facebook scandals, or how data-rich Netflix is. That said – all three are valuable symptoms of fundamentals shifts that are actually in the midst of happening. Shifts that are already changing the marketing research industry and inevitably will reshape it forever.

It’s Not Only the Law, it’s the Culture

The European Union seems to be leading the charge on new legislation affecting how companies gather, use and store data about their customers. The extent to which other markets will follow suit is to be seen. What is certain, however, is that it’s only a matter of time.

Working with and around a legal framework has long been part of doing business. What has changed is the sharp increase in awareness and sensitivity from consumers about their personal data is being used by the companies they interact with. Facebook was constantly in the news last year about this very topic, as were many other companies with more to come. The significant difference between this and many scandals of the past are the numbers.

When millions of people, almost on a daily basis, get a personal notification with the dreaded request to “change your password”, their behavior starts to change. The threat of personal data being made available is drastically changing the perception consumers have of, and how they interact with, many of the world’s largest companies.

New Leaders Are Showing the New Way

At the same time, more personal data is gathered than ever before. And companies like Netflix, Amazon, Uber are doing it in a way that, at least partially, is with the full knowledge, consent and even desire of the users. An increasing number more have made gathering data and feedback an integral part of the user journey and experience.

So why do people click on the thumbs up or down buttons, on the stars, on the “How was your stay at your AirBnB”? – Utility.

We answer because we know “why”. We get recommendations for better films and learn about deals. Utility, speed, and convenience. Being asked a question all the time, but at the right time, and one question at a time.

Market research practices are falling victim, or perhaps are being liberated, by the convergence of technology, processes and once again – culture.

This is the End of the Beginning

When done in the new way, the Netflix way, the Uber way, the Airbnb way – the answer is simply millions of times a day “yes”.

As Benedict Evans points out in his talk entitled “The end of the beginning” – the true digital transformation is only now about to happen.

Forget about companies of all shapes and sizes making a website, advertising online or even developing their very own app. The processes in play will drive convergence between entire departments, practices and even business models.

I would be remiss without referencing a mind-boggling figure from China – 500 trillion dollars worth of transactions in a year initiated by scanning a QR code with a smartphone. In a world where people don’t spend the time to even reach for a wallet, who will spend the “just 5 minutes” to answer a survey?

The Future is Bright for Market Research

If correctly observed, the above-listed trends will lead to the entire industry exploding both in monetary terms and in influence. Only flipped.

The businesses themselves will be generating the wealth of data. From all their customers, not just a sample (or a “paid panel”). Not from time to time, but all the time. The in-house insights specialists will be the right hand, eye, ear and lobe of the company executive board, with budgets and responsibilities dwarfing almost all others in the organization.

So what place does such a world leave for the market research consultancy? In its current shape and form – very little. Or perhaps bigger than ever before! It all depends on the willingness and ability of the true savants of the industry to refocus from data gathering to extracting the insights from the data. From big data. From real-time data. From continuously flowing data.

All the data is already out there. How to access, gather and algorithmically enhance it – that is either solved or about to be solved. What does all this data mean? Now that’s a question that will continue to require human talent. At least for now.

The author is heavily biased, is a non-representative sample and happy to be wrong.

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Rado Raykov

Rado Raykov

Founder & CEO,