FEATURE13 January 2010

Market research in 2010: In a word...


We asked Phyllis Macfarlane, Niels Schillewaert, Stan Sthanunathan and other voices from the industry to pick one word that they believe will sum up market research in 2010.


Phyllis Macfarlane
Chairman, GfK NOP


“2010 should prove to be the year when we transform our businesses to be fit for the new decade”

“For some years now the market research industry has been struggling with change: the new digital world presents new measurement requirements, the client requirement for consultancy and ‘value-add’ is ever increasing and we are expected to integrate multiple data sources as a matter of course. The financial crisis has simply intensified the requirement for change. 2010 should prove to be a transformational year for market research – the year when we transform our businesses to be fit for the new decade. The technology exists, client demand exists, we only need to innovate, invent the new metrics and adopt the new technologies. Recession is the mother of invention, as they say.”


Stan Sthanunathan
VP, marketing strategy and insights, Coca-Cola


“Agencies will rewind some developmental work and ask fundamental questions about what tools are going to be needed”

“Clients have already been rewinding their spend, and they will assess the impact of cuts they made in 2009 to see if it actually affected the quality of insight delivered. If you used to do comprehensive monthly tracking in a small country, why not just do that every six months? Then look at the business performance to see if you need to go back to monthly tracking, even if the economy improve. Meanwhile agencies are going to stop and think about what it means to do research in this rapidly changing world – they will rewind some of their developmental work and ask some fundamental questions about what tools are going to be needed.”


Ray Poynter
Owner, The Future Place


“Most of the changes happening right now are taking us towards qualitative research”

“Most of the changes happening right now are taking us towards qualitative research, such as online communities, blogs, ethnography, semiotics, and neuroscience. We’re shifting away from questioning and towards listening, which is a shift towards a qualitative epistemology. This will be a major challenge for market researchers. At the moment most research (by value) is quantitative and many people will need to brush up their skills in 2010, for example grounded theory analysis. Since the industry has largely abandoned random probability sampling they’ll need to get their heads around concepts such as triangulation and confirmatory, disconfirming, and maximum variation samples.”


Jeffrey Henning
Founder, Vovici


“However affordable it may be, a survey done in an access panel is representative of its respondents only”

“What ‘subprime lending’ was to the financial industry, ‘access panel’ was to the market research industry. Last year’s study by David Yeager and Jon Krosnick reminded us all of something we knew but chose to ignore. The laws of mathematics have not been repealed: a convenience sample cannot be used to extrapolate to any target audience. However affordable it may be, a survey done in an access panel is representative of its respondents only. Let’s be forthright and describe such surveys as qualitative. As a result, I think it is probable that 2010 will see a renewed emphasis on probability sampling.”


Reineke Reitsma
Research director, Forrester Research


“Most market research is still about ‘asking’ – using questions to understand consumers’ needs and wants”

“The market research toolkit needs to include more qualitative ‘listening’ in 2010 to uncover the story behind the numbers. Most market research is still about ‘asking’ – using questions to understand consumers’ needs and wants. But some in the industry are collecting a lot of data on customers by listening: they’re analysing web statistics, online brand-tracking information, marketing campaigns, and insights from CRM. Consumers interact with companies via different channels and platforms and they expect companies to understand that – they don’t want to be asked about things they already shared and they will not accept this disconnect in the future.”


Chloë Fowler
Co-founder, Razor Research


“We must strive to be the lever that drives change and results for our clients”

“Research will work harder to be at the centre of client, media, advertising, design and digital agency relationships. We can and should be pivotal to decision making and we should be ensuring that our results reflect the needs of all parties. There is so much crossover between what our clients demand of all their agencies, and with our unique knowledge of their end consumer and perceptive understanding of business, brands and marketing, we must strive to be the lever that drives change and results for our clients.”


Niels Schillewaert
Founder, InSites Consulting


“While consumers participate less in traditional surveys, they generate more information than ever before”

“Research will be more ethnographical and holistic. While consumers participate less in traditional surveys, they generate more information than ever before. Consumers cache their lives online and are ubiquitously available via mobile devices. We can take advantage of this by observing consumers’ actions by becoming friends online, scraping publicly available content and text-analysing it, and prompt people to feed information while they are ‘on the go’. Traditional research will persist, but market research will have a more multi-media and ethnographical flavour. We will fuse methods and generate more insights without actually asking questions to come to a more full understanding of consumers.”


Lorenz Gräf
CEO, Globalpark


“The challenging economy in 2009 forced research organisations to focus on the core of what they do and what clients want”

“The challenging economy in 2009 forced research organisations to focus on the core of what they do and what clients want. Through cutting back, companies had to differentiate the ‘need to have’ from the ‘nice to have’ and find creative ways to do more with less. I expect to see more of this focus on the essential in 2010. This means exploiting new technologies to enable clients to reach consumers in their preferred environments; expanding customer relationships into product and service innovation and last but not least, ensuring new insights are applied appropriately, both in strategic decision-making and on an individual level.”


Alistair Leathwood
Managing director, FreshMinds Research


“Troubled companies will be snapped up by bigger fish, but there’s more – 2010 will be the year when ideas get consolidated”

“As the recovery starts (and it is starting), troubled companies will be snapped up by bigger fish. The marketing communication and media sectors will continue their gobbling up of research companies (attracted by the stability in revenues and healthy profit margins). But that’s just rearranging the furniture. There’s more. 2010 will be the year when ideas get consolidated. It’s the year when the dust settles and we all find out where the industry is going. It’s time for new technologies to enter the mainstream – buzz tracking, MROCs, crowd-sourcing and co-creation. If they can – great. If not, oh well. It was fun while it lasted.”


14 years ago

MUTINY I hope to see a revolt against the long suffered debates on quality & access panels (convenience samples). Enough is enough, it’s time to fix it – we’ve speculated, experimented, analyzed & some have even pointed fingers. Now it’s time to put this baby to bed and move on with a solution. The expert comments showcased in this article share a common theme that correlates to what I’ve been calling “Confessions of an Ostrich” – an era in Market Research, where all constituents (large, small, end client, consultant, supplier, buyer and all that’s in between), have been handcuffed to ignoring critical issues that are compromising the value of this industry. I especially agree with Macfarlane, Poynter & Jennings predictions. How can this industry re-trace its origins of probability theory? Certainly not thru online access panels – but phone just keeps getting worse. So – we need to better understand the inferior alternatives, put your online access vendors (panels) in check. Our governing bodies are too chicken to endorse the idea of online panel audits, let alone mandate them. This leaves us to make better use of methodologies that we can trust and project results with – qualitative techniques in nature…. We have been on the fence for years, paradigm shift, breaking point – cliché, cliché, cliché… 2010 will be the final straw that broke the camel’s back (my favorite cliché, so fitting). Either go qual/community or go mobile/mixed mode or force the panel companies to share all….. or GO HOME!

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14 years ago

(Almost) all of the above, AND …. Consumer-Centric was the first (compound) word that came to mind for me. Understanding today’s consumers requires that we know them as people, not just numbers. The industry has long relied on quantitative, experimental, and survey-driven methods. But becoming more consumer centric means focusing on insight, meaning, discovery and a greater reliance on some of the new qualitative methods that have emerged in recent years. In fact, an online, humanistic, consumer-centric approach mitigates against some of the risks and challenges of conventional market research and uncovers relevant insights quickly in a way that is fun and authentic for real people. Private online communities and other secured forms of social media allow members to participate when, where, and how they want (in a convenient, representative context). They generate insights quickly. Quality is strengthened because results are not out-of-date but are current and relevant. And intimate circles of online friends or in private online communities, members are motivated, interested, and authentically open with one another, which translates into high quality responses. But then I thought about “Generative” (as opposed to predictive). The whole quant/qual, directional vs. projectable debate is meaningful only if we limit the role of market research to prediction, but in 2010, for products and services to be relevant, market research must be as much about Creation as Prediction Creating (i.e. insights and co-innovation upstream in the development process) in an agile way (short time frames; focus on niche markets as they emerge) will be how we keep pace with customers and “go where they go.”

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14 years ago

FRAGILE - as companies have cut back on research budgets and survived with less or found other ways to get their decision making support, MR will find it even harder to prove value in 2010. Are researchers up to the challenge?

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14 years ago

GROWING UP! About time too.

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14 years ago

ACCOUNTABLE While the emphasis on costs continue, client-side research teams will systematically collect and collate information from their internal clients that show how research is actually benefiting the business. Key findings across multiple projects will be used to create new insights, and to pro-actively identify knowledge gaps and untested assumptions. These knowledge gaps will be used as the basis to determine next year’s projects and project budgets. Internal clients will happily allocate funds to these projects because they can see the cumulative benefit to their brands from past research. ..and then I woke up

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14 years ago

MADE FOOLISH Yes, yes. Two words I know. But our profession is increasingly liable to suffer a few enormous "Dewey Wins!" moments thanks to our collective bet on using social media (most of us don't understand its dynamics - so careful!) and our collective devaluation of the basics (sampling really matters - I'm with Jeffrey Henning on this one) and as the world itself becomes increasingly volatile. By the time we get those poll results/research reports/hot predictions published we're going to run increasing risks of being made to look foolish. It takes the occasional Dewey Wins imbroglio to clean up our act perhaps.

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14 years ago

SIMILAR To both 2009 and 2011

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14 years ago

I do not believe there is a compelling need to summarize to one word. Besides it goes against the very science of marketing and marketing research (i,e., the needs are different segments are different) That said, my one word is - Insights. Insights that will enable the brands achieve profitable and defensible growth by serving the stated and unstated needs of customers. Everything else stated above are really means to deliver Insights. -rags http://twitter.com/pricingright

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14 years ago

Probability sampling? Yes, sure, when clients are willing to invest time and money. Something they have been unwilling to do for some time now...let's get real. Corporations are squeezing suppliers for every nickel...it gets harder every day to do a quality project, the right way, because corporations are essentially CHEAP. But, they are very quick to complain later when the corner cutting backfires. And, going door to door or calling people on the phone won't fly anymore..we need to enhance the online sampling methods, period.

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14 years ago

Navel Gazing

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