"A Mkt Research Geek" posted an interesting question to my post about the Research Magazine article. He/she asks:
"Can't we do away with the Panel/Survey mentality and think about interacting in new forms where-
A) No Sampling
B) NO "Forced" participation
C) Actual users of product/service rather than avg panelist..".
I think the simple answer is yes, in many cases. I think panels are undoubtedly to future of conventional market research. But I think most of the interesting developments will be in the development of research as part of the CRM discourse between brands and customers. In many cases we avoid asking some of the customers in favour of asking all of the customers. In the UK the MRS Category 6 code allows market researchers to work with customer databases in a way that makes sense to customers and brands - and which puts customers in charge of their data. The new proposed ESOMAR rules move into the same territory by saying that market reseasrchers are only constrained by the anonymity assumption when the project is "market research", if the project is not called market research (i.e. does not claim to be in conformity with ESOMAR rules) then the agency and the researcher are free to do other, more useful work.
Some projects will always require samples, such as testing confidential ideas, or concepts for advertising. Some research will always need forced questions, such as Conjoint where the insight is created by making people choose between competing offers. But I am quite sure that within 5 years most research conducted by market researchers will be on the customer bases and most of the questions will not be forced. At this stage we will have the anomoly that most market researchers will be running projects that are not technically called market research - but hey nothing's perfect!
BTW, some people say that if we only ask customers what they want we will never make quantum improvements. The work I have done with customers tells me this assumption is not true. However, it is important to remember that research is not a democracy. The most popular idea may not be the best idea - that is why market researchers are needed to design the research, word the questions, and interpret the answers.