Last week a group of UK Market Research leaders (mostly C-level execs) gathered to workshop the future of market research. Earlier posts covered “Are Surveys a Thing of the Past?” and “Is the Market Research SWOT mostly wrong?” This final post covers what these leaders thought about the next big thing in market research.
Whilst there was some interest in topics such as research through gaming, quant surveys via smartphones, mass ethnography, social media monitoring, community panels and MROCs, none of these were identified as key candidates for being the next ‘big thing’.
The general consensus in the room was that Big Data is the most important trend, albeit one with some real challenges for market researchers. By Big Data the leaders were talking about integrating behavioural data (who does what, when, with whom) with market researcher’s ability to understand people and in particular the question ‘Why?’
The brainstorming produced two versions of Big Data, one focused on brands and one focused at the societal level – although there was a degree of overlap between these two visions.
The brand focused view looked to integrate CRM data and Voice of the Customer data. Some brands are making great progress with integrating and utilising their data, for example Tesco and its loyalty card data, but there is scope to go much further. This field already has many players, it includes analytics, network analysis, direct marketing, business information, and market research. The key thing that market researchers can add to this mix is a focus on why people do things, rather than just be observational and experimental. This route would require a major shift in market researchers’ codes as much of this work would relate to identified individuals. For example, putting procedures in place to talk to people in identified circumstances to find out why, to assess their likely responses to changes, and to co-create new ideas.
The societal level version of Big Data can perhaps best be thought of as the merger of very detailed panels with third-party data systems, with one portent being WPP’s Xaxis with its plan to create a panel of half a billion people for behavioural and ad targeting purposes. This view of Big Data would combine all of the publicly available information (including that part of social media that is public) along with opt-in data from multiple sources, along with relevant other data, such as geodemographics.
With both models of Big Data, one of the cornerstones would have to be informed consent, and even then regulators are likely to be a major issue. Traditional market research techniques, such as questions, interviews, choice tasks etc would be the final 5% that turned data into consumer insight. The feeling, amongst our thought leaders, was that most of the data companies were very bad at understanding people and very bad at addressing the ‘Why?’ question, and this represents the opportunity for market research.
To paraphrase the thinking, there are opportunities to make millions of dollars through approaches such as behavioural economics, netnography, research through gaming, and smartphone anthropology, and neuroscience. But, the Big Data opportunity is going to be measured in billions of dollars. Market research has an opportunity to be involved in Big Data, if we change, if broaden our boundaries, if we develop new skills, if we review our codes, and if we really understand our core skills. Our core skills relate to understanding people and understanding how to get business insights through understanding people.
One subsidiary topic, to the Big Data theme, was the role of mobile. The consensus was that if big data is the future, then mobile is becoming the primary door to the collecting and accessing of that information. The future of mobile looks very exciting, but not necessarily as a replacement for collecting standard quant surveys, rather its role could be the portal through which new methods of gaining insight are developed and delivered.
There was a consensus in the room that the 30 minute brand tracking survey was not going to be ported to mobiles in any large scale way. In order to use the ubiquitous mobile, the methods as well as the medium have to change.