The future of market research

The online world is causing market researchers as much difficulty as marketers. Is online a threat to traditional methods of market research or an opportunity? This and much more was debated yesterday at the International Journal of Market Research Methods Forum.

Jo Roberts

Peter Mouncey, editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Market Research, put a provocative case study in front of the delegates. He suggested that when Pepsi in China asked consumers to write a TV script for its next ad and get consumers to select the winner, this effectively made the role of research redundant. Does this mean the end for research, he asked?

But many of you will be pleased to know that this forum was not organised to break it to the market research community that their roles are defunct. It did, however, raise many important challenges that the market research sector is facing.

Phyllis Macfarlane, chairman of GfK NOP, gave an excellent speech, walking the delegates through the number of challenges that her company and others are facing. Are traditional market research methods under threat from the online research gathering?

Macfarlane says the market research community should see online research as an opportunity, but if the larger companies aren’t careful, smaller, more entrepreneurial companies will capitalise on this, leaving more traditional agencies languishing in the corner.

Roy Langmaid, co-founder of Promise, made a particularly compelling case for the worth of co-creation in his address. He shared a video with the group that showed just how important it is for brands to take the right approach to market research.

The video showed a man speaking at a co-creation session about his experience of flying with BA. He told the group that the flight was fantastic; in fact he slept for the flight on his comfortable bed in executive class. However, when he landed at Gatwick, he wanted to change his shirt for the meeting and ended up in a cramped toilet trying to freshen up. This was his lasting memory of the flight. This insight led to BA developing its BA Arrivals lounges – there are now several around the world.

Just this little story illustrates the value of market research and how it is going to play an absolutely vital part of helping businesses to innovate in future. But like all sectors, the market research industry will have to innovate itself to ensure it remains relevant.

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