FEATURE3 March 2011

MROCs promise an end to ‘death by PowerPoint', says Harris’s Reiman

Features People

Online communities herald ‘a new paradigm of delivery’ in market research, says former 02 insight manager Steve Reiman, now head of qualitative at Harris Interactive UK.

Reiman joined the firm in February, ahead of a “substantial repositioning” of the business. We put him in the spotllight. Here’s what he had to say:

There are big changes afoot at Harris Interactive in the UK. Wat sort of things can we expect to see?
Harris Interactive made its reputation as an innovator by being among the first major research companies to embrace online methods. Now we are taking the next step by re-establishing innovation at the heart of the business, with new initiatives in areas such as social media, mobile research and online communities.

What was your reaction to Omnicom’s recent acquisition of Communispace?
It is interesting to see Omnicom getting into this space and is indicative of how the market research industry has shifted towards embracing market research online communities (MROCs). Communities are a refreshingly new mode of customer engagement, and they are definitely here to stay. Having just been clientside, the opportunities for delivering insights into the hands of senior stakeholders in novel and exciting ways is massive. There is a new paradigm of delivery – and the old one of ‘death by PowerPoint’ is out. It doesn’t suit all companies, of course, and embracing MROCs depends on the company culture – its openness to customer?stakeholder engagement, for example. Having said that, make no mistake, MROCs are going to have an increasing impact on the market research landscape.

Thinking back on your time as a research buyer, how did you see clients react to new products, such as the type Harris are proposing? Are they willing to spend or cautious about what they’ll get in return?
In my experience clients will always consider new products if they can show their value in solving their business issues, even if budgets are tight. For example our ‘Pathways to Purchase’ research allows clients to understand and leverage the total customer experience, and help integrate different channels to optimise that experience. We are also developing new, more fluid and exciting ways of using communities on a short-term basis for co-creation and problem solving.

In general, how do you see the mood among clients and consumers in the aftermath of the recession?
I could sum it up in one word: transparency. Consumers see through so much that we attempt to do. They want organisations to be more honest and deliver on their promises. This has come about through much greater empowerment, a by-product of the internet against a backdrop of disillusionment with established pillars of society. And for clients this transparency translates into increased accountability – a greater expectation that we understand the commercial context of a project, that we can be a strategic partner.

We often hear that the industry needs to do more to attract youngsters, both as respondents and as researchers. What would you recommend?
Using communities and social media in research would be a good start. The mobile phone and internet is their modus operandi, so we should make sure they engage in research in this way – we won’t capture them otherwise. If they see its value, that’s got to be a good thing.  I would also advocate more apprenticeships ahead of university – capture them younger (and cheaper).

Looking back on your career, is there anything you’d do differently given the chance?
Not really – but then maybe I’m a fatalist. I have been a voyager through the world of research – I have seen it from all angles; from the clientside through to advertising planning and even running my own business. Maybe I should have lived abroad, though.