We asked a wide variety of market research professionals, executives, and consultants to explain how technology is changing market research. As you may suspect, we encountered conflicting points of view on this topic. While most responded positively, using words like “exciting,” “faster,” “cheaper,” and “easier” to describe the effects of technology on market research, a few others fell on the opposite side of the spectrum, citing reliability and quality concerns.
For a range of diverse viewpoints, read through the 23 different quotes from leading industry commentators below, and be sure to share your own thoughts in the comments section at the end.
Doug Schorr, Chief Insights Officer, Schorr Creative Solutions, Inc.
I think technology is opening up options and making the world a smaller, more accessible place. As a researcher, technology has created the ability for me to access respondents globally, collect and process insights instantaneously, and peek inside the life of a respondents in real time whenever and wherever they happen to be. This gives me choice and options for when, where, and how I research different audiences for different clients with different requirements. At the same time, technology also has the ability to muddy the waters with all of the options available to us. Some clients and researchers are all about the latest and greatest tool (or toy), and sometimes we overcomplicate a simple research study by incorporating the latest bells and whistles. For the respondent, we need to keep things as simple, clear, and straightforward as possible.
Cathy Harrison, Project Director, Forbes Consulting, a division of Copernicus Marketing
Some of the most exciting technological advances in marketing research involve the integration of multiple data sources, permitting a holistic view of the person or situation. Unconscious motivational-emotional data can now be integrated with passively collected data, such as biometric measurements via wearable devices or smartphones, and social media or other digital data. Market research will continue to evolve as we shift toward creatively combining new data inputs and developing models that lead to more meaningful insights and practical applications.
Steve August, Chief Innovation Officer of FocusVision Worldwide
Technology is increasingly enabling integration of data collection and attendant analysis, letting researchers move fluidly between BI, quantitative to qualitative. The ultimate impact is being able to develop business insight faster and more comprehensively than previously possible.
Russ Klein, CEO, the American Marketing Association
Big data and marketing research are at a turning point and will converge to help businesses produce more meaningful insights. We will see more use of behavioral data, attitudinal data, and advanced analytics to help brands make more strategic decisions in a faster amount of time. Using data mining and visualization and predictive models can also help with with the different states of the customer lifecycle including acquisition, churn, retention, upsell/cross-sell, and collection effectiveness.
The combination of using big data and traditional marketing research can help businesses increase revenue, resources, and productivity. Ultimately, big data has to become little data to provide insights into the context of when a brand intersects with its customer. Contextual understanding is the holy grail of big data.
Mark Antonacci, EVP, Global Head of Sales, SERMO
Technology allows market research companies to create self-service platforms where clients can program their own short micro-surveys. It has also enabled market research to become more agile. Agile market research is an approach that takes its inspiration from agile software development which values: numerous small experiments over a few large bets, rapid iterations over big-bang campaigns, testing and data over opinions and conventions, and responding to change over following a plan. The true power for businesses today is the ability to be agile: to adapt to what’s rapidly happening around them. Businesses need relevant, actionable data and insights faster than ever. Consequently, technology assisted agile research is a test, measure, and learn approach enabling quick pivots.
Wale Omiyale, SVP, Market Research, Confirmit
Consumers – and therefore respondents — are constantly embracing new technologies. Market research businesses must harness these advances in order to fend off the ever-present issues of declining response rates and hard-to-reach demographics. By implementing the right technology, you can begin moving towards a frictionless market research approach that engages respondents and delivers real insight. There is a huge opportunity for forward-thinking MR agencies to become a true research partner to their customers by providing technologies such as fully mobile-enabled surveys (still an under-exploited opportunity despite years of data demanding it) to more cutting-edge solutions such as facial emotion recognition within the traditional survey.
Dan Womack, Senior Manager, Insights, Aflac
Technology is having a significant impact on MR, but I think we are just beginning to see what is (or needs) to come. There are many dimensions, but I think one of the more interesting changes is related to communication technology. Major advances in communication technology (like the move from orality to literacy) lead to much bigger changes by affecting how we think, behave, and structure our worlds — changes well beyond how we exchange information. I think we are just starting to see the impact of advances in modern communication technology, and MR must evolve rapidly if we are to have a chance at understanding the consumers of tomorrow.
Katie Clark, Social Media, Market Research, and Personal Branding Consultant, InsightsGal.com
Advances in technology have always had an impact on market research — think back to the movement from paper surveys to online surveys. Think about the impact of social media. Now we’re in an era of "data data everywhere!" Consumers are savvier, researchers are savvier, and there’s more ways (via tech) to capture someone’s thoughts, feelings — even purchases — ways that weren’t available even five years ago. Technology has also certainly impacted jobs within research, making some obsolete and creating others. I can’t think of a more exciting time (than say the last 10+ years) to be a witness to the changes in the research industry.
Linda Pophal, Owner/Consultant, Strategic Communications, LLC
Technology has had a significant impact on market research in both positive and, potentially, not so positive ways. The positive includes the ability to access a wide range of secondary research (research conducted by others) online, as well as to conduct qualitative research activities such as sentiment analysis and consumer perception analysis through social media monitoring. We can now also conduct focus groups online through technology allowing us to interact with people across wide geographic boundaries and, of course, we can also easily use research to conduct in-depth interviews. The downside, though, is that ‘online research’ can give the false impression that it is as statistically reliable as traditional research. It certainly can be, but much of what passes as statistically reliable, quantitative research, these days really isn't. Consumers of research need to understand how to tell what is, and isn't, reliable or valid. That's not to say that qualitative research can't be helpful. It can. You just need to know what you're dealing with.
Rob Volpe, Founder and CEO, Ignite 360
Technology is a double-edged sword slicing through the market research industry. Yes, you can run more projects, gather more data, and generally do more with less. But technology has also built a wall between our clients and the people they need to understand — the consumer. You can't build empathy to inform your intuition when looking at people on a spreadsheet or half-watching an online community. The demands on our clients, enabled by technology, are pulling them away from doing the real work of listening and thinking. Sometimes you have to turn off technology in order to truly tune in.
Robert Gray, President, Insightlink Communications
As a 30-year veteran of this industry, I despair over the proliferation of DIY survey tools and the lack of even simple quality controls over panel data to eliminate the large number of cheaters who corrupt our data. If we, as professional market researchers, can no longer provide thoughtful survey design and reliable findings to our clients, why are we even in business?
Elliot Simmonds, Director, Rippleout Marketing
Technology is changing MR in that it's forcing suppliers to focus more on the insight. Data is almost ubiquitous; if a client doesn't have a CRM anyway, panels are affordable and tools like Survey Monkey (or even Twitter polls potentially) allow clients to easily gather opinions. Suppliers have to be the added value — technology can't substitute good research design, or the skill of putting insights in to context.
Greg Timpany, Senior Competitive Intelligence Manager, Global Knowledge
Technology is indeed driving change in the market research process. For me, it began with the advent of data mining and the convergence of two rivers (transactional data and traditional MR data from quantitative surveys and qualitative). This trend has only amplified with the advent of social media data. Fortunately, technology has kept pace in providing the tools to collect and analyze these varied streams of data. We are at a nexus where market research is transforming from purely a data collection methodology to one that empowers us to provide decision makers with insights on multiple levels.
Tom H. C. Anderson, Founder, OdinText
Technology is changing market research in several ways. One important one is that technology is continuing to eliminate those items that are low on the value chain (fielding, tabbing, and coding, and a lot more). One second out of many is that, yes, we are moving towards bigger data because of technology. That doesn’t mean BIG data, it just means bigger data. For instance, why do qualitative any more, when you can get benefits of qualitative with larger data (while also knowing that the results are actually valid!)?
John Dick, CEO, CivicScience
I think we are finally seeing technologies that truly have the potential to democratize research. Web and mobile enabled tools are allowing researchers to engage even the busiest consumers, not just those with the time to participate in paid survey panels. And, advancements in automation and machine learning can produce polished, c-level-ready reporting in minutes — making even the most impromptu business decisions supportable with insights.
Katie Houser, Marketing Manager, iModerate
Technology has had a resounding impact on qualitative research, giving practitioners a level of accessibility that wasn’t previously possible. With the help of tech tools and practices, we’re now able to qualitatively analyze thousands of records using text tools, overcome the geographic limitations of in-person focus groups, and access more of a consumer’s personal life through the digital sharing of photos and videos. Qualitative still benefits from a human hand, but technology has made the processes markedly more efficient and the insights more actionable.
Parry Bedi, CEO, GlimpzIt
The first big wave of technology inspired change in MR was online panels and surveys. The second was moving qualitative techniques such as consumer diaries on to mobile platforms. Data collected through these means, however, still requires an inordinate amount of effort to analyze. We believe that the coming of age of AI technologies will change this paradigm completely. At GlimpzIt, for example, we analyze both pictures and videos through machine learning and reveal not only the contents of a visual, but its underlying human sentiment. In the not so distant future, this technology will enable us to understand audio, text, and any other form of unstructured and structured data to build a holistic picture of a consumer. The bottom line is that AI technology will enable brands to achieve instant insights at scale.
Rudy Nadilo, President North America, Dapresy
Technology has radically changed market research, and will continue to do so. Gone are the days of paper surveys, now replaced with robust, huge online samples that provide near instant feedback. And survey programming has been put into the hands of end users with the likes of SurveyMonkey. Management is now seeking ways to combine this survey data with other marketing data (sales, advertising, social media, etc.) with infographic storytelling dashboards that visually show the specific customer path to purchase to replace widget-based charts & tables — and provide full context to the entire marketing landscape.
Geoff Smith, CMO, CrowdTwist
Technology is constantly evolving and it is rapidly changing the way companies approach market research. By tracking the online and mobile actions of their consumers, marketers now have access to real-time, behavioral, and typographic data that is more powerful than any insight gleaned from focus groups or surveys. The key to unlocking this data is software technology that can track consumer actions across all channels, resulting in a full, nuanced profile of the consumer. Companies are leveraging these learnings to understand their customers better, develop more targeted marketing, and message and to develop more relevant products.
Marc Johnson, GM & CMO, Bombora
Technology is changing market research in several ways:
Condensing the plan/execute/measure cycle into one continuous process of test and learn via real-time feedback, and further collapsing the silos between those functions
Giving smaller companies the ability to understand their customer better via cheaper tools (online survey, data visualization)
Presenting larger companies with the challenge of combining traditional market research with machine-driven data sciences to gain competitive advantage
Hal Charnley, President and CEO, Mobee
The vast majority of commerce still takes place in brick and mortar stores — depending on the segment, over 90 percent. Market research has traditionally been the way for brands and retailers to have their thumb on the pulse of what’s happening inside the store. Emerging technologies and platform solutions that leverage crowdsourcing to deliver real-time insights about customer behavior are evolving traditional research methods to collect and analyze data faster, cheaper, and at greater scale. This technology and ensuing data will serve as the gateway to the ultimate shopping experience consumers are demanding (and expecting).
John Schiela, President, Phoenix Converged Technology & Media
Technological changes, especially in both primary and passive data collection, are changing the way that market researchers need to look at the world and how they solve business issues. In looking just at mobile devices, with the right platform, such as our MXP offering, one can combine primary survey data, tracked behavioral data, and location data with ease and speed. While technology enables a tremendous increase in the breadth and depth of data, it still requires experienced professionals to transform all of the information into insights that tell a story.
Robert Mattson, Director of Product Marketing for Sitefinity, Progress
A large change in 2016 for market research is the ability for organizations to approach their own customer base, either by traditional surveys or through a combination of behavioral analysis and data enrichment available through cloud services. For the first time, technology is being leveraged by many organizations to track interest in specific topics and deduce more from even anonymous web site visitors. These new technologies enable the collection of trends that prior to now could only be delivered through traditional surveys. However, like all market research, it resides on being able to gain access to a good volume to existing and potential customers, so most organizations will continue to require marketing survey partners with access to outside existing contacts for qualitative data.
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