The market research industry needs to change. Here’s why.

Last week I spoke at the Market Research Summit in London about where I see the industry heading. I’ll be as honest with you here as I was on the day – the market research industry needs a fundamental shake-up. Why? Because business is changing at a dramatic rate and if we want to help our clients achieve growth both they, and we as an industry, need to think about doing things differently.

What’s changed?

1) The business landscape is being disrupted for even the biggest brands
In the ten years to 2013, 70% of the firms in the Fortune 1000 have changed; a rate of new entrants that far exceeds anything we have seen before. Brands that ruled the roost for years are being challenged by a new breed of businesses. By being agile and living life in beta, this new breed of business can take new products and services to market, test concepts and iterate based on customer feedback at super-fast speed. These businesses cannot be dismissed as ‘just small start-ups’. They are taking down firms that have existed for years. This new business landscape cannot be ignored by brands or by agencies.

2) The consumers of today look very different from the consumers of yesterday
It’s not just the business landscape that’s changing, consumers are too:

  • 91% of people keep their phones within 3 feet of them 24 hours a day
  • the number of people using wearable tech devices like the Nike Fuel Band have doubled month-on-month in the last year
  • and the Internet of Things isn’t just nigh, it’s well and truly here

We’re seeing the rise of smart consumers – individuals who are constantly connected, using sensors to track their behaviour and leaving a whole lot of data in their wake.

In this world of change, market research can’t stand still

Traditional ways of doing research don’t make sense anymore. They’re retrospective and too focused on reported data sources alone. They’re expensive and much too slow.

If we’re to be trusted advisors, helping our clients to compete with this new breed of businesses, we need a shake-up of the industry.

  1. We need to be data hackers. Merging multiple data sources to get not just at the ‘what’ but also at the ‘why’ of consumer behaviour
  2. We need to be agile. If lean principles are proving so successful for the likes of Dropbox and Airbnb, why aren’t we following suit? A leaner and more iterative approach to research is not only more cost-effective and much lower-risk than traditional methodologies but it also enables us to test consumers’ reactions to new products and communications in a real-time, real-life environment
  3. We need to be where decisions are made. With more and more people within an organisation gathering and managing data, the insight department needs to get closer to other functions across the business. And the skill sets of those we hire need to change too, incorporating people with the ability to analyse the vast amounts of data that consumers’ are leaving behind to make rapid decisions for their businesses

Am I wrong? I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment here on the blog or get in touch.