Posted by Tiina Raikko, Director, Fuel, Australia.
These are some of the opportunities. And in many ways have been what clients have wanted since way back when. The only difference is that technology and the digital age has made achieving this more real. It is fair to say that the research industry has been responding. Compared to 20 years ago we can get quality research faster and cheaper – the holy trinity which seemed so impossible back then. Simply moving many traditional tools and methodologies online has achieved this. The opportunity remains to look at our methodologies and approaches and ask “how do we do this even faster and more cost effectively?”
Speaking from an FMCG perspective, the pressure on the research space is continuing to increase. There is less and less budget and less time to turn work around. We can’t create time so sometimes a quick and if not dirty but a little bit grubby method is better than nothing. Doing it right is best but if we don’t have the time then it’s academic.
With less money to spend we need to pick the most important projects and we need to be clever about how we use the budget for greatest effect. Faster, cheaper, less perfect solutions are sometimes the answer. We are an industry that has always prided itself on trying to do high quality work. We should never lose sight of that because the skill and rigour we bring will always be important. Increasingly though we need research that is ‘fit for purpose’, of an acceptable quality rather than necessarily the highest quality, more collaborative with consumers than rigorous in design. We know when we can’t have ‘perfect’ in design, we can get ‘good enough’ faster and cheaper which are often the overriding drivers. Hence the emergence of the Survey Monkey’s, robo-callers, Field Agents…
Obviously not everything can be done in the blink of an eye. Some research will continue to require greater rigour and thinking time which is only right. I don’t want my U&A or my strategic shopper qualitative work done overnight because I recognise it can’t be done well enough.
The good news is of course that some of this represents incremental work. These new methods have allowed us to test and check where money but particularly time simply didn’t allow in the past.
In a world with less budget there is also more focus on return. How did we use the last piece we did? What decisions did we make as a result? Did it predict our success/share accurately? When we get to the bigger, more complex research when we commit the budget and the time we didn’t really feel we had there is more demand for ‘quality’ in terms of our ability to predict success/behaviour and ensure ‘stickiness’ in the business. ‘We spent quite a bit on some research but we didn’t really use it’ or ‘it didn’t really perform in the market like they said’ doesn’t bode well for the next project of its type.
In many ways the opportunities for the industry are the same as they have always been… be faster, cheaper, better predictors but recognise that not all needs require the same ‘standard of finish’. Research doesn’t always need to be perfect, it needs to be fit for purpose.
What has changed more significantly are the threats. The online world, technology, social media have offered up new opportunities for us to connect more directly with our consumers without necessarily working through researchers. New competitors have emerged outside of traditional research to offer ‘fit for purpose’ solutions that don’t necessarily conform to our traditional ideas of good research. The opportunity for the industry is to continue to embrace all the new technology, be open to less perfect approaches, bring what rigour you can to it (which is more than some offering the services currently can do) and manage our expectations and understanding of what we are getting and not…and keep doing the ‘proper’ stuff well☺
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