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How the Market Research Industry is Changing

In this article the authors of Market Research in Practice, 3rd edition, discuss the recent changes in market research and the impact they are having on the industry.

The pace of change has increased in every industry and, in the market research industry, it has moved like a whirlwind. The two biggest impacts on the market research world in the last few years have been the continued move towards globalization and the digital revolution. Both these events have transformed the market research industry.

With the recent advances in computing, communications and data storage, there has been a mushrooming of ‘big data’. This wealth of information at researchers’ fingertips has resulted in an increase in ‘passive’ or ‘inferred’ research techniques. Passive research information is gained without asking questions and includes techniques such as internet tracking using cookies and mobile research.

Social media monitoring mines data ‘of the moment’. This new source of data is growing at an exponential rate. It is real-time information that allows businesses to watch customer trends and behaviours. We can expect to see more specialist software designed to sort out the wheat from the chaff in social media with the result that it is sure to become an important and standard tool in the researcher’s tool kit.

The shift in trends is not just towards more quantitative techniques; qualitative research has also seen a number of changes.

Online communities have developed in the last decade. These are groups of people specially recruited to share their views in a continuous fashion rather than in an ad-hoc way. Communities are a means of keeping an ear fixed on a market to pick up the very latest trends by listening to the conversations that take place between members.

Traditionally, market research has been a structured process in which questions are asked and answers are garnered, whether in a qualitative or quantitative setting. As it becomes more difficult to engage with respondents, it becomes increasingly important to make market research interviews more interesting and exciting.

Gamification is the application of game design to questionnaire design to do just that. In its simplest form, gamification could simply be a change in wording. Most people are familiar with the Dragons’ Den in the UK or Shark Tank in the United States, in which would-be entrepreneurs present their ideas for business to a panel of rich and successful people who are prepared to put money into a scheme they think is viable. Imagine now a question in an online survey that shows a cartoon panel depicting rich and successful people who are judging an idea and you are invited to be one of the panel. Presenting a question in this way could generate additional interest and a new dimension to the way a respondent looks at the subject.

The relative cost of carrying out market research has fallen considerably over the last few decades. Efficiencies in faster and cheaper methods of data collection and analysis mean that market research is now accessible to smaller companies. In line with this trend we can also expect to see more and more people within companies having an appreciation of market research so that it is commissioned directly by the person requiring the study rather than through a specialized market research manager. A few years ago large companies had sizeable market research departments that managed the commissioning of market research surveys. As market research has become a commonplace business activity, there is no need for internal specialists to design and manage the relationship with external market research specialists.

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