What’s hot in market research?


One of the questions I get asked most often is “What’s hot in market research?”. The updated was broadcasted on Wednesday 20 August.

Access the slides and recordings from our Play Again page.

But here is a sneak peek into what is hot, still hot, bubbling under the surface, and not so hot.

Still Hot
It is important when looking at the ‘new stuff’ not to ignore stuff that has been around for a while, but which is still growing in market share, importance, and usage:

  • Mobiles in traditional research. Mobile is a big and growing part of CATI, online surveys, and F2F – this trend has a long way to go yet.
  • Communities. Communities (including Insight Communities and MROCs) have been the fastest growing major new research approach for a few years now, and this is going to continue.
  • DIY. We hear less about DIY these days, that is probably because it has become normal, this sector is growing, both in terms of part of being a key part of existing MR and partly because it is growing the scope of market research.

These are three of the items that I think are the hottest topics in MR, in terms of their growth and potential. All three of these are going to be game changers.

  • Beacons. For example iBeacons, which use geofencing and allow location-based services (including research) to be offered in much easier and more practical ways than is offered by methods such as GPS.
  • In the moment research. Research using mobiles and research using participants to capture information as people go about their normal day, including qual, quant, and passive, is making research more valid and sensitive.
  • Micro surveys. The most high profile micro (or nano or very short) provider is Google Consumer Surveys, but there are a variety of other providers, such as RIWI. Also, Beacons, In the Moment, and Communities are all leveraging Micro Surveys.

These three are going to make a major impact soon, but not quite yet.

  • Text analytics. The technology is not quite here yet, but when it clears the last few hurdles it will hit market research like a freight train – for example shifting the balance from closed questions to open questions, and finally driving more value out of social media discourses.
  • Web messaging. Apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, and Line are growing faster than anything else globally. A few people are looking at how to leverage these for market research, and more will follow.
  • Research bots. One of the key factors limiting the use of social media, communities, and the use of video is the requirement to use people to do the moderation and analysis. Bots (software applications short for robots) are going to change this and open a new, vast range of options.

Not So Hot
These three are all interesting niches, some people are making a good living from them, but they are not scaling in a way that makes a difference to most brands or researchers.

  • Facial Coding. It answers some questions, but is limited in terms of its range of uses, delays, scalability, and cost.
  • Webcam qual. The benefits are usually too small and the resistance from potential participants are too high to make this a generally useful approach.
  • Social Media Research. Whilst social media research, especially monitoring, has become essential, it has not grown into what was expected.

What about?

  • Big Data
  • Behavioural Economics
  • Gamification
  • Smartphone ethnography
  • Neuroscience
  • Geotracking
  • Wearbles
  • Quantified Self
  • Biometrics

Want to know where these items fit in this picture? Access the slides and recordings from our Play Again page.


10 thoughts on “What’s hot in market research?

  1. No mention of passive?

    You’re being a little harsh on text analytics to say the technology “isn’t quite here yet”. The technology is definitely here – but it needs to be used with a lot of caveats and footnotes, and it’s not as simple as just pressing a button and hoping for the best. But it is being used and used successfully – the barriers to overcome are more psychological than technical, for both clients and researchers.

    The real problem with neuroscience, biometrics, facial coding and the rest is that it’s very difficult to weed out the pseudoscience from the quality suppliers, as the average market researcher won’t know the first thing about how it works. There’s definitely room for agencies and clients to be exploited by sharks who mutter some mumbo-jumbo about emotional mapping, nerve impulses (I think I made those two up) and who knows what else. Even with good academic credentials there’s clearly a lot of disagreement in the field about what works and what is pseudoscience, so for non-technical clients it’s nigh-on impossible.

    Stuff like wearables, quantified self (I had to Google it) and passive may suffer more from the rather unsexy problem of getting enough quality respondents, rather than the technology or insights themselves perhaps?

    It is good that “mobile” is starting to be split into two – incorporating it into standard online surveys (with all the implications that involves) and CATI; and mobile-specific – using the still-rapidly-exploding growth in technological features in smartphones like GPS, cameras and so on.

  2. I’ll agree with Eoghan on one specific point – it’s very difficult to weed out the pseudoscience from the quality suppliers.

    But I think this is true with EVERY methodology. Surveys and focus groups have been around for quite a while so researchers are familiar with them and they’ve learned through experience what the pros and cons are. But when it comes to the newer methods, far fewer people have first hand experience and therefore far fewer people truly understand the pros and cons. Which means snake oil is rampant and people get burned. It’s only through time and experience that a ‘new’ method truly gets the credit it’s due.

  3. Survata offers “Micro surveys” for any topic in any country (disclosure, I work there). The major difference to Google Consumer Surveys (GCS) is that we offer it at a much lower price point, at $1 per respondent – http://www.survata.com. Check us out!

  4. Hi Ray:
    Your e-mail is a nice conversation starter but really misses so much it’s hard to know where to start. First of all, the leader in micro-surveys, and inventor in the space is Civic Science. You might want to get to know them. Secondly, the most important upcoming area in marketing research is to stop obsessing about “the survey” and find ways to harvest passively occurring digital data. Third (and this goes with #2), data science is the next big thing…not a “whatabout” I am happy to tell your audience more. Finally you seem to have a POV regarding social media listening that is at odds with industry evidence. About $500MM have been spent on social media company acquisitions. Twitter is now part of US TV ratings. The next generation is coming where we can organize conversations by audiences/segments. what more do you need to see as evidence of its impact? As a courtesy, if any of those viewing this comment would like a free copy of my book, “Brand Building in a Digital, Social, Mobile Age” I am happy to provide…just send me an e-mail request joelrubinson@gmail.com

  5. Well my broadcast is on Wednesday, if I read your stuff and you listen to what I have to say we might both learn something?

  6. Great article Ray – thanks for sharing. I’d like to add traditional qualitative recruitment services as hot right now…or perhaps this is unique to the Australian market? From the perspective of a recruitment agency, we have seen many new descriptions emerge for `focus groups` and `interviews` over the past 5 years or so. Groups are now collaborative workshops or co-creation sessions…one-on-one interviews are now ethnographies, accompanied shops and user experience sessions. From our perspective therefore, it’s business as usual. What I have found interesting though, is the change in who buys these services nowadays. 10 years ago, the clientele was primarily market researchers – small/local mrx agencies, multinationals or freelancers/independents – and planners within advertising agencies. These days, these services are just as likely to be end-clients (who are cutting out researchers), UX/CX experts, behavioural consultants, design/innovation consultants, brand strategists, etc – and none of them appear to consider themselves to be researchers. [Re-post from LinkedIn]

  7. Mine is a totally view,but relevant to the topic!.
    I am bit concerned about the multiplicity of new age M R methods, tools and technologies that jeopardize the market for mark research. I find two categories of evolutionary M R tools & methods.They are :1. Progressively refined traditional tools & methods ( legitimate ) and 2. tools & solutions that made their way into M R (adopted )as byproducts of evolving technologies. I feel that some of the new methods & tools are difficult to validate since they fail to comply with the standards and conventions of scientific research methodology . Moreover, when it comes to addressing the core and recurring research needs of majority of research users in the market, many of these adopted methods are not found indispensible.

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