OPINION8 May 2012

A new role for market researchers?


Our first Linkedin Debate Hub co-creation challenge seeks to fashion a new role for researchers to act as the bridge between marketers and technologists.

Last week’s interview with Coca-Cola’s Stan Sthanunathan rocketed to the top of our list of most popular articles – for good reason. Fresh from The Market Research Technology Event, Sthanunathan warned that technology alone will soon be able to provide much of what researchers currently offer their clients – specifically, the collection, analysis and reporting of consumer and market information.

“The role researchers are playing today might not be there tomorrow,” he said. But the question is, What role do researchers want to play in the future, and what skills will they need to get there?

It’s a question to be answered by those best placed to fashion this new role: our readers.

We’ve setup a group on Linkedin, already 150-strong, to debate this topic. It’s a private group, so participants are free to share their honest opinions, and in reporting the outcome of the discussion we will adhere to the Chatham House Rule.

Kicking off the debate is Adriana Rocha, co-founder and CEO of eCGlobal Solutions, who foresees the creation of a new enterprise role, that of the chief research technology officer.

Adriana Rocha writes…

Yahoo Answers, Facebook Questions, SurveyMonkey and MarketTools. IBM and SPSS, mobile, social media and big data. And now Google Consumer Surveys. Do we need any more proof that technology has invaded the MR space?

The ‘techonomy’ has affected almost all business areas and industries – marketing and market research among them. Technology enables marketers to become part of daily life, with brands offering unique consumer experiences on numerous devices, at any time. Likewise, researchers can interact with consumers at any moment, through many different touchpoints.

Multi-tasking consumers have the world at their fingertips and the purchase process has changed dramatically. The challenge we face now is about engaging people wherever they are. Brands have more options than ever to connect with consumers providing them with relevant messages and offers, while researchers have the opportunity to gather consumer insights, opinions and experiences at any time during the purchase journey.

As a consequence of this, on the corporate side the lines between technology and marketing are blurring. Marketing departments need to view technology as both a delivery tool and as an analytics/measurement tool. Technology departments need to think about building big data and analytics capabilities to support marketing. Consumer insights and market data are now generated from multiple sources, channels and formats – both structured and non-structured – which risks overloading organisations.

In this corporate scenario, I see a big opportunity for market researchers to create value by becoming the bridge between marketers and technologists.

My take is that we will see the rise of a new generation of tech-savvy researchers, and with it the birth of a new enterprise role – the chief research technology officer (CRTO) – whose mission will be to help organisations evolve and meet the challenges of the data-driven economy.

It will require a mix of strong consultancy and business skills, and a person who is driven by data-insight and who has a deep understanding of the tech ecosystem.

Can market researchers get there? Do we have the necessary skillset or will we be beaten to it by those in related industries: business intelligence, marketing or technology professionals, maybe?

Click here to join the Research-live.com Debate Hub and have your say.