It now seems ages ago but the end of the 90s, early 2000, were for some of us the early start of a new way to run market research, or for the ones that already got it, a new way, in fact to better connect with consumers.
I think I run my first my first online research project back in 1997 if I well recall, I am probably a "dinosaur" of online research for some, still I quickly figured that the medium, the Internet, was bringing more than an alternative way to run faster and cheaper research. As most of you know now, online research is getting more and more main stream and represent a large and growing portion of market research expenditure worldwide (up to a third of expenditure in certain countries such as US, 20% of the 2005 total expenditure worldwide according to the Esomar Global Market Research Report).
Still, researchers are ONLY starting now to truly see the upside opportunity of online research beyond timing and cost, and start to really understand the downside of online research when it comes to the development of the Web 2.0 :
- the ability to use true "interactions" with respondents and conduct inductive rather than deductive type of interviews (where stimuli change on other respondents' inputs). This ability brings unparallel insights that traditional research can not deliver. A good example of this type of solution is brandDelphi (am a bit biased here, as I developed brandDelphi, still it directly speaks to the point).
- As I qualify brandDelphi as an "active listening" solution, online research should also push researchers to better listen, as I believe they don't... Researchers ask questions, they are not really good still at capturing the right "signals" that drive winning insights.
- The ability to listen is as its best when you do not ask questions and simply observe and listen to conversations. Academic researchers refer to this method as "Netography", it clearly represents not only a growing trend on the market but part of the future of market research, look at companies such Nielsen Buzzmetrics for example.
- Listening is certainly the future, as researchers finally realize than their "raw materials" to produce data and insights: "Respondents" are getting more power, and as such the old traditional model of "forced questions" to get answers will soon die. It is clearly that the reseach indutsry starts realizing this as they will soon run a summit "on respondents' collaboration". Still, although this is great, it is not enough to really embrace the web to re-invent research. I believe the answer lies with an intimate and true understanding of the Web 2.0... its implications, challenges and opportunities.
Overall, although the market research industry sees more and more consolidated (still less than most industries) I think that there is room for small, innovative experts shops that will help brands find the holy grail...why? Because Research 2.0 can help find it and more than ever, Brands need it, because they are in trouble, at a turning point in fact. Times are exciting!
What do you think?