Opportunities and Threats faced by Market Research – Peter Harris

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By Peter Harris, Managing Director, Vision Critical Asia Pacific.

I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few MR and Marketing Industry conferences in Australia, North America and Asia over the past 12 months. As always, these conferences are designed to scare the living daylights out of marketing and research professionals. They are highlighting how much things are changing, that consumers are more empowered than ever, that technology is the driving force, that clients are demanding more, faster, for less, and the fast flowing giant river of information (big data). In short, they are driving home the fact that the Revolution is on, i.e. “If you don’t like change, you will like relevance less”. In general I think this is right. But each of us has a chance to make a difference.

As a global profession, our biggest opportunity and biggest threat will be defined and determined by how much we ourselves are willing to be flexible in a digital driven world. We need to find ways to keep up with change and feel comfortable in a land where we don’t know what is around the corner. It’s hard for many MR professionals to do this (as we love to be in control and understand) but we need to try.

It’s cliché now to say the world is changing quickly, but it is. MR is driven by speed, agility, ROI, obtaining answers using multiple data sources and real time reporting. The biggest threats I see for MR in this world include:

  • Ignoring or not letting new players/experts into our tent so we can learn and collaborate from and with them. We also need to co create the new privacy world, convince governments of the benefits and ensure all players follow the rules otherwise we all risk being shut out in a world where customers do want a say in how things are.
  • If we continue to be obsessed with representative samples in a world where this is virtually impossible to achieve and do not take advantage and find ways of using new sample sources that are well profiled.
  • If companies continually try and make all of their money on fieldwork, surely with b2b sample sources like LinkedIn, improving customer databases and the growth of insight communities the days of high margin fieldwork are short-lived.
  • If we don’t change our approaches to contacting people so that we fit more into their lives, vs. interrupting them. Our contact with customers, consumers, citizens needs to be shorter, more engaging and we need to give back once they share with us.
  • If we fail to highlight and monetise our real expertise which is organising and analysing customer or consumer responses (however they are collected) and uncovering real answers to business problems and this doesn’t mean simply what was stated. We know it is about understanding what was meant.
  • If we don’t take advantage of the benefits that technology solutions can bring to MR.

There are however many exciting opportunities to balance out the threats including:

  • Making the most of mobile and new forms of sample to understand in the moment and how people live.
  • Leverage technology to understand the unconscious, reduce time, be able to deliver more for less and more frequently and develop longitudinal sight of customers over time that helps us put the pieces together as to why things happen.
  • Find ways to tell more stories that highlight ROI of MR investment and the impact of getting a customer voice into the organisation.
  • Work more cooperatively and develop trust between clients/agency and between agencies that can complement each other.

I’m extremely positive about our profession’s future and most global studies say that MR professionals want to change. Consumer empowerment and putting the customer at the centre of decision making is a shift, not a fad, so in simple terms the market is heading towards us, and we need to be flexible as we continue to evolve.

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