Market research industry – get your act together

Market research industry is going through a phase of soul searching. There’s been a lot of “Will we still be relevant in 2/5/10 years time?” type of introspection at conferences, in LinkedIn groups, in blog posts.

Edward Appleton at the Warc Next Generation Research, January 2014
Edward Appleton at the Warc Next Generation Research touching on the topic

Being relatively new to the field I found this lack of confidence surprising. Consumer startup world where I come from has much more of a “let’s move fast, build stuff, break things along the way, learn and improve” attitude. The belief is that if you put client first, focus on a few things, and execute fast then eventually you will win.

Emergence of new approaches to market research – mobile, Big Data, neuromarketing, behavioural economics, wearable technology, predictive analytics etc – have shaken up an industry that is used to innovation at a slightly slower pace, I guess. In fact, some of these methodologies aren’t that new per se, they’ve simply now become feasible as technology has matured and become cheaper.

Nothing new under the sun

Reading Benedict Evan’s completely unrelated “Ignorance: the limits of knowledge” post during the weekend made me look for parallels with tech, media and telecoms businesses.

My brain started replacing certain industry names with market research stuff in Benedict’s story. Media companies became market research agencies, telcos became panel providers and tech… tech stayed tech as recent years have seen an explosion of new technology providers for the market research industry. (On Device Research where I work is a mix of a mobile panel provider and tech company.)

Let’s borrowing text from Benedict, switch around a few words and here are the results:

  • Market research agencies look at panel and tech and say “we’ll they’re just respondents and technical solutions for our stuff
  • Panel companies look at market research and tech and say “they’re access our panels / respondents so we should control everything”
  • Tech companies look at market research companies and panel providers and say “a little disruptive technology would change everything”

Which leads to a direct quote from the original post:

Part of the fun is that people in each of TM&T [tech, media, telecoms] tend to think that they do understand the other two (and that the other two are run by idiots). But they see each other in terms of their own preoccupations, rather than looking at the real drivers in a quite different industry:

Change is the only constant

On Device Research offices in London
Are we moving fast enough at On Device Research? I dearly hope so :)

Each part of the market research industry brings its strengths (and needs to shed its legacy bits) and should play on them. Stop thinking how <insert new upcoming methodology or technical solution> is going to kill your business and decide how you add value to your clients, then focus all efforts on that.

Change is constant. It’s also speeding up. “The fast will beat the slow” as we used to say at Skype (who is now having its own challenges with speed).

Glad to see that industry insiders believe the gloomy years are past us – Peter Harris: 2014 is Market research’s time to shine

Go read Benedict Evan’s post in full, it’s a great piece.

PS. I realise the whole thing is a somewhat forced comparison :)

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