Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Unless You're a Online Market Researcher, Get Your Resume in Order

Once upon a time, I overlooked the importance and value of market research. That was before my brief tenure at the Marketing Research Association, where I spent an intensive six months trying to increase the organization's exposure in the hyper-competitive and hyper-segmented market research field.

During my time at MRA, I grew to embrace the value of market research, which most marketing communications professionals either eschew or simply don't understand. I've since closely followed the market research industry, staying current with emerging trends in the field and keeping in touch with some of the professionals I met.

When it comes to the future of market research, every sign--be it from authoritative trade publications, long-term industry professionals, or from a general marketing perspective--indicates that the future of market research is online.

The fact is that consumer behavior changes far faster than lead times for new products and services, and the gap is widening. Traditional market research (focus groups, paper surveys, etc.) will therefore be increasingly irrelevant, rendering obsolete data.

Regardless of what the focus group facility owners say, regardless of how much the mall interceptors protest, effective and affordable futurecasting can only come from online market research (despite its inherent flaws upon which the traditionalists have planted their flag).

In the age of immediate information, traditional market research has blown a lot of calls. Take banking. In 1996 most CEOs of large banks dismissed the Internet as irrelevant, a toy of enthusiasts with no real impact on future profitability. Traditional market research strongly confirmed their skepticism: Their results indicated that the overwhelming majority of customers said they weren't interested in using the Internet to run their bank accounts.


That's just one example of why the future of market research is online. For more reasons, check out this article by Martin Day of SurveyBounty. His piece really hits the nail on the head; coincidentally sounding the death knell for most traditional market research firms. Sadly, for the most part their heads are stuck so deeply in the sand they won't hear this alarm, as they have missed numerous others.

Market research traditionalists are in for a rude awakening. The companies that survive the inevitable shakeout will be the future-thinkers: Those who see six months to two years further than their competitors. This kind of foresight requires almost instantaneous, actionable data--even if that data isn't 100% "pure." The companies that survive will need to become adept at parallel planning and able to prepare for quick response to various potential outcomes.

As for the others, well, their employees would be wise to get their resumes in order.

No comments: