Our industry – market research – has undergone some major transformations in recent years. In fact, many of us believe that this is one of the most exciting times for the market research industry. Here are just a few of the recent developments:
Technology has disrupted everything we have grown used to. It’s only recently that we transitioned from telephone surveys to online panels as the modus operandi of quantitative research. Now, the relevance of online surveys is being tested as well. We can’t ignore the fact that consumers are increasingly relying on their mobile devices for their media, entertainment and communication needs. Adapting research to the mobile world is not just a question of reconfiguring online survey for the small screen. It requires a wholly new approach to research design and fielding. Automation of many market research functionalities is another technology-driven trend that is making fast (if not real-time) and cheap data collection a reality.
Big Data is all the rage nowadays although very few people have a clear idea of what it means and how it can be used to solve real business problems. The promise of one-size-fits-all, real-time predictive analytics has not yet been realized but the thought of terabytes of data accumulating in some humongous data servers is thrilling to many a researcher and marketer. Still, without human judgment no amount of large data is of much use in the real world. As Gary Marcus of The New Yorker put it, “Big Data is a powerful tool for inferring correlations, not a magic wand for inferring causality.”
Social Media provides an invaluable source of unsolicited opinions about brands, products and companies. Social listening has become an important customer intelligence and customer engagement tool.
Getting too intimate with respondents used to be a taboo in the research world concerned foremost with objectivity but in recent years the blurring of lines between respondents and brand advocates has become a new normal. Consumers are increasingly viewed as co-creators of products and marketing campaigns, and key influencers are actively cultivated for brand promotions.
Have a perplexing question? Simply putting it online for everyone to see can be the best way to find an answer. People seem to love a puzzle and are willing to offer their time and input – often for free. Even universities are turning to crowdsourcing when their researchers reach an impasse or need help with a particularly tough problem. On the consumer side, Amazon Mechanical Turk is one example of a tool for accessing input from the online population to help with everything from package design to simple surveys.
Gamification of research is still a relatively fresh phenomenon but one that is likely to take hold in a race to hold consumers’ attention.
Consumer research has long borrowed methods and insights from social psychology, but it has now begun to look to the neurosciences and to artificial intelligence for new techniques and technologies. New emotion-sensing technology is probably the most recent — derived from research on how humans display emotion. Face-scanning software allows users to read emotional responses in consumers and respondents in real time — responses that would otherwise go unnoticed or left unarticulated. The possible applications are vast: Ad and show testing; measuring user frustration or contentment; creating mood-targeted advertising; aggregating and mining emotional data; varying prices based on emotional response.
Another technology which has been increasingly used for consumer research is brain scanning through MRIs. While this is currently too costly for widespread use or application across large samples, as the technology develops and becomes cheaper and more accessible, we can expect to see major inroads into consumer research.
Who could have thought that data can be sexy? These days you will be hard pressed to find a website that doesn’t feature an infographic with statistics that hitherto had no relevance to you whatsoever but which you still feel compelled to check out. Research reports have evolved from boring bullet-point documents to state-of-the-art multimedia presentations.
We have moved away from information-is-power to sharing-of-information-is-power or, at the very least, a good way to market your expertise. Content marketing is now part and parcel of brand strategy in a variety of industries but is particularly well suited for the market research industry. I wouldn’t be writing this blog otherwise!
All of these changes in the industry have also affected our internal structure. Research teams now comprise not only researchers with traditional qualifications but a mix of talent, including programming engineers, coders, graphic designers, and copywriters – just to name a few.
We will be exploring these and other trends and developments in our industry in more depth in our future postings. You might also see some observations about the client industries, company news, and general meanderings of the mind. Let us know if there is a specific issue or question that you’d like us to address in this forum.
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