By: Morten Strand

As a relative newcomer to the market research arena, I wanted to offer my initial views of the industry with a set of technology glasses on. The industry is highly competent, deeply skilled, enthusiastic and very global. The industry has grasped the internet early in phase 1 of the web evolution, moving surveying or field work onto electronic platforms, predominantly through the use of e-mails. The survey analytics technology portfolio is also impressive, and the industry is an early adopter of software like SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), clearly able to see how modern technology can be used to deliver quality and increased analytic depth. I hope not too many disagree so far.

The fact that, in the late 90’s and early 00’s, the industry became an early adopter of tech that used the internet for the gathering of consumer insights, still make me wonder if the backend of Market Research (the actual running of projects and their fieldwork components) has taken the opportunity to grasp the second and third wave of the internet technology. Most industries have seen both opportunities and threats coming from this.

To exemplify; most people practice self-service internet banking today, unthinkable 15 years ago and a huge game changer for the cost base and competitiveness of Financial Institutions. It has changed the financial service market.

A second example; today we book most of our trips and holidays online, often through aggregation provider sites, and the traditional travel agency business has become just a fraction of what it was 15 years ago.

I could go on forever with similar cases, but to close the examples list: Traditional job recruitment has also gone online with a large portion of new employments now being brokered through large bulletin board web portals, where employers and potential employees can be matched up. Traditional recruiters have seen their market shrink and had reposition to only focus on qualifying and maybe doing a background search on their candidates.

So the big questions that follow, and that compare to the job posting example above, are these:

  • “Is the market research industry heading for a similar evolution?”
  • “Has it started?”
  • And if so, “how far down the road are we as an industry?”

My observations are that many players in the Consumer Insights field are still working the old fashion way, trying to sell their “goods” through finding buyers manually with large sales and service teams to support and hide the complexity and loads of manual work. We, as an end to end industry, need to use technology to integrate across the supply chain, all the way to the end customer. By doing this, we can collectively deliver more value, faster and with defined quality.

So back to technology, as individuals, professionals or leaders, we all expect answers to our questions in minutes, not days. We have to ask ourselves, how can we work together to deliver the same speed to our end-customers.

At the end, the winners of tomorrow are the ones that are willing to change today, before change is forced upon them.

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