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  • Market research as an industry is dying…true or false?

  • I recently posted this question on a public forum and was quite intrigued by the answers. The question further addressed the issue that online surveys may be impacting the answer because it encourages a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) approach to research. Like anything, differing views provide tremendous insight that one can learn from and adapt. Here are just some of the comments – see what you think:

    “Having DIY survey tools means that researchers must strive harder to analyze information creatively and add value to pure survey data. Plus having good tools to administer surveys does not guarantee a good questionnaire design, which is absolutely key too, and for which you need expertise”.

    “We have always had DIY surveys. The internet simply made it easier, quicker and cheaper. Historically it has been good for the industry because it made companies research aware and it also makes them realize it is only good for the simple stuff that they probably wouldn’t get a budget for anyway. As an industry we must stop lumping internet and DIY together or even worse internet and access panels. The internet is one of our best media but its association with access panels has undermined its reputation”.

    “Yeah it’s being destroyed, just like the automobile destroyed the bike. Guess again…DIY research has a place, it’s a quick, cheap, easy entry opportunity that individuals and organizations would be foolish not to take advantage. But those are projects that in the past probably would not have reached our channel anyways. DIY online research is like painting your house…yes everyone can do it, but can everyone do it well? Then again, some people are destined to live in trailers”.

    “I don’t think the arrival of DIY represents the all-encompassing business model shift one would fear. As such the resulting implication of this trend on the overall MR industry would be minimal because the expertise and knowledge of a trained and experienced MR professional cannot be replaced by DIY tool, but only be complemented”.

    “The large MR firms may be in trouble. I remember trying to engage with (name witheld) for a project and their response back to me was “we only do long-term engagements.” I’ve since met with a friend who went to work for them and noted that to her. Her response was “No wonder they’ve been doing so poorly”. At the same time, firms with proprietary processes have a solid niche because they have something different to offer that justifies their price point.”.

    “I disagree. Sure there are fringes of the research world that are suitable for DIY, however there will always be the need for the size and scale projects that cannot be done in-house”.

    “I preferred firms when I knew all of the people working on my projects, their strengths and limitations. One of the major distinctions among research companies is whether they separate sales and operations. Some don’t, and the people with whom you’ve talked are the people doing the work. Most do, and the person writing the questionnaire and report is someone totally invisible to you. I prefer the former model, although it can be difficult, since you have to do what the professional sales people do, plus questionnaires, analysis and reports”.

    “I think what the MR world is seeing is exactly what the traditional Ad Agency world has been seeing. When these big companies forget where their profits are coming from and get stuck in the “when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail” mindset, there is bound to be some kickback”.

    “The Market Research that we knew – pen/paper, face to face – is disappearing, convenience sampling is replacing probability sampling, technology is changing the way e.g. we do concept research, in-store….lots is changing. Dying? No – a rebirth”.

    “DIY survey tools do have their place – however to gain the best insights and to receive the best value for money, employing the services of an experienced research agency to guide you through the process can give the research far more depth and accuracy – not to mention further analysis capabilities”.

    “Q. Heard the one about the lawyer who hired himself to represent him? A. He had a fool as a client. DIY has a role in most anything: Interior design, landscaping, plumping, car maintenance, etc etc. Surely it has a place in marketing research as well, even more so with the overwhelming # of DIY MR tools available. However, serious business decisions made my responsible decision makers will always lean heavily on MR experts with robust tools”.

    “Massively disagree. Whether you hire a research company or do the research yourself, you still need people who are skilled researchers to do the work. Researchers are researchers wherever they sit. Now, if you want to talk about crap research vs quality research, that’s completely different question”.

    “New technologies often have a disruptive impact – the widespread availability of low/ no cost survey software plus the easy access to “the consumer” via online panels, social media makes it an exciting time to be in MR. Things are opening up – great! MR can extend its reach, entrenched survey costs are challenged – I think it’s immensely healthy for MR. Why on earth should DIY kill the industry? I’d say it’s like a wake-up call, a shot in the arm – it expands the market, and some bits of it may be challenged”.

    “What I believe we will see if a combination or opportunity and luck from start-ups and SMBs who try the DIY approach and come reasonably close to asking the right questions or the right people (other will botch the job and vanish in a puff of insolvency). Larger companies will supplement rigorous research with crowdsourced info and spot surveys”.

    “The ability to collect data IS becoming easier through the DIY approach of online surveys. That doesn’t mean the results are actionable or representative. Research will always have a place in the interpretation of collected data. Market research, like any other industry, is evolving. We see more reference to “insights” versus research”.

    “Market research is one of the most misunderstood practices in marketing. In today’s environment, anybody (literally anybody) can gather information using any channel they wish. The real market research skill is not related to gathering this information. It is rather about what one really can make out of this information, what it really means, what perspectives they can develop and most importantly how gutsy one can become in predicting the future based on this information. This is not an easy task and the underlying prerequisite for successful activity in this area relates to how well a marketing person knows the targets and their environment, so I do not believe market research is dying”.

    “Will a C level exec really make a decision that truly influences the business and impacts the bottom line, either through revenue streams or expenditures, through some half-ass survey completed online by research want-to-be’s? Probably not…. they would want a consultant that understands their business, using statistical models to support the findings and probably some qualitative info. So… in the end, it depend on what decisions are being made and/or how much money is at stake to determine the resource needs for research and insights”.

    “I doubt formal market research will ever die specifically because precision in targeting (at least in B2B) is essential. B2C plays can learn through market experimentation, which is ad hoc research”.

    “I think the answer’s the same. We’ve lost the need for quality. Based on an incomplete understanding of the value of the process of the sale (and in fact a devaluation of the consumer and their needs), we (or our clients) simply take the money and run. Personally, I think we’ve got to adapt our minds to our machines and try to get back to 80-90% of the quality of information we used to get”.

    “The tool has caused a disruptive change/innovation. Expectations for what the new social and digital tools will do for us are high. But in many ways, one can see the parallel increase in demand for quality marketing research in new areas and domains where it was not cost effective or otherwise not possible to do until now. This in turn increases the demand for the professional people that know how to do this. The tools don’t replace the people that know the science”.

    “No matter what tools you choose to use, they still must be used properly, the vehicle for gathering information appropriate to the project’s goals. There have always been poorly designed studies, that yield erroneous research data, that lead to bad decisions, that lead to waste – that won’t change whether you use social media, web analytics or paper questionnaires. Bad use of tools doesn’t signal the death knell of marketing research, just the prevalence of amateur practitioners”.

    Thanks to all those that contributed. I certainly appreciate the time and intensity that you provided.

    Neville Pokroy consults in the areas of strategic marketing planning, as well as in the development and execution of marketing strategies and plans. He assists companies who require marketing expertise to plan and fully execute marketing programs. If you want to have more choice in marketing your business and in setting yourself apart, and increase the odds of improving company performance, visit our website.