Research in 2012: new methods, stronger structures and less PowerPoint
Forrester Research’s Reineke Reitsma looks back on 2011 and sets out what research professionals should watch out for in 2012.
For the fourth year in a row, members of the market insights team at Forrester have come up with their predictions for the industry for the year ahead. It’s hard to describe just how much we enjoy this activity: generating ideas, commenting on each other’s drafts, finding examples and building a unified view. Some ideas didn’t make it into the final report (and when one of those is yours, it hurts) but we agreed on many others. Here’s a summary of our thinking.
Looking back at 2011
Part of the exercise is to look back at last year’s predictions and see what we got right – and where we missed out, of course. In 2011, we expected market researchers to embrace social media as an information source, feel a greater need to show the value of market research, explore innovative methodologies, and look for ways to implement technology effectively.
• The uptake of social market research was mixed
Looking back, we did see a lot of interest in social tools and social media for market research purposes, especially market research online communities (MROCs). However, we expected that by this point, more market insight professionals would be listening to their customers through social media or directly engaging with them on social media platforms, but those still show very limited uptake.
• There is more pressure to show ROI
Given the tough economic climate, we predicted that showing the contribution of market insights was going to be important in 2011 – and we were right. In early 2011 we conducted a survey in which one third of market insights professionals said that they already had to prove their value to executives. More than half expected this to be the case in 2012 as well, with an emphasis on showing how they are improving key performance indicators and return on investment.
• Emerging methodologies saw limited interest
We expected to see an increase in interest in innovative methodologies in 2011, but we predicted that market researchers wouldn’t spend a lot of money on them during the year. Conference presentations showed that companies such as Insites Consulting, BrainJuicer, Vision Critical, and Mesh Planning are undertaking very interesting projects, using techniques like gamification, prediction markets, eyetracking, and mobile research. But uptake is still low across the industry, and it continues to be mostly vendor-driven.
• Market insight professionals don’t know what to do with big data
One of the big challenges that market insight professionals deal with is figuring out how to analyse large amounts of disparate data in meaningful ways. We imagined that 2011 would be the year in which people started thinking about building a central knowledge house and using technology tools like enterprise feedback management (EFM) for data integration. Although there has been lots of activity among EFM vendors, with platform enhancements and mergers and acquisitions, clients haven’t shown much interest yet. Expect interest to grow in the years to come – it’s too important to ignore.
What’s in store for 2012?
In the past couple of years, it has been challenging for market insight professionals to balance timeliness, quality, depth of insights, and innovation – all while keeping costs down and not running themselves and their employees ragged. In 2012 things aren’t likely to get any better.
Forrester has had a large number of conversations with both vendor- and clientside market researchers over the course of the year. Based on these conversations, we believe that the key themes for 2012 are new research methods, organisational structure and collaboration across the information supply chain, as well as innovative ways to deliver deeper and more aligned insights.
These are a few of the highlights.
• Mobile research showing uptake – finally
We identified the opportunities for mobile research back in 2009. Uptake has been slower than expected, but we saw it getting some traction in 2011. Until now mobile research has primarily been driven by vendors; they’ve rolled out mobile offerings to show clientside researchers how they can capture consumers’ ‘in the moment’ experiences. In 2012 more market insights professionals will start to think about how mobile tools can solve their research challenges, and will try out mobile research. However, as mobile research gets more integrated, look for debates on the “right” mobile research methodology and how to manage surveys across multiple platforms and devices.
• Optimising the information supply chain
The research world has become much more complex, with many intertwined suppliers, stakeholders, and projects. In 2011, Forrester saw more market insights professionals realising that their core business was not delivering reports but optimising information supply and delivery. In 2012 we believe an increased number of organisations will look at the supply of data and research, as well as its delivery, to find new ways to efficiently manage the flow of and ensure timely access to needed information. Similarly, they will look for ways to generate value through better integration and analysis across vendors and data sources – and will want to optimise insights by elevating their suppliers to the role of partner.
• Engaging stakeholders with research outputs
The world around us has evolved from static, one-dimensional information to interactive, visually stimulating graphics. Your audience quickly tires of looking at yet another deck of PowerPoint charts. With other departments in the organisation starting to present their information in more visually exciting formats, your stakeholders’ expectations are going to soar. We expect research vendors to be the first to take steps to create competitive differentiation here: Watch out for job openings at market insights vendors for designers and requests for proposals going out to design agencies.
In 2011 we have seen market insight professionals take their first steps on the path to adding social to their research mix, measuring their contribution to the organisation, fostering internal collaboration, and building influence. In 2012 it’s time to deliver on all of this.
Market insight professionals who want to be successful in 2012 and beyond need to embrace new research methods, change their research process to deliver deeper and more aligned insights, and build out collaborative relationships across the information supply chain. The challenge will be to find the time and resources to make this happen while handling the increased pressure on the market insights team to deliver faster, better, more insightful, and less costly results.
Forrester clients can read the full report via www.forrester.com. Reineke Reitsma is VP and research director, data at Forrester Research. She contributes to the Forrester blog for market insight professionals.