Andrew Reid, son of Market Research luminary Angus Reid, says Market Research has “lost its mojo.”
In a new article published in Entrepreneur Magazine, Reid states, “In the early 2000s, with the increased use of email, the internet, mobile phones and social media, many companies transformed their way of doing business, but market research companies did not.” Reid himself is the President of Vision Critical, a well-known provider of market research software and services.
Reid makes some excellent points in a brutally honest way. He asks, “Why do some market researchers still use 15-minute surveys and deliver 60-page reports that companies, their clients, have trouble digesting?” Hard to hear, but so-so-true. He advocates for short reports, infographics and the Pecha Kucha-style presentation. I could not agree more: indeed, I think it would be amazing have a panel at one of the market research conferences where, say, 3 market researchers do Pecha Kucha presentations of research results—just so the audience can see that it can be done (warning: it takes more time to prepare this style presentation than to prepare a standard 45 minute one. Really).
So while I applaud his boldness, one of his points about the lost mojo is only partially correct. He says we missed the technology boat in the early 2000’s, stating, “(market researchers) should have worked with early tech adopters to gain insight. And market research companies could have launched products in beta and made some risky decisions. Yet, all they did was undertake the same paper-and-pen surveys.” Intentional hyperbole? Probably. But still factually incorrect. SurveyMonkey was founded in 1999, and they report completing 2 million survey responses a day. And even if SurveyMonkey is the 800 pound gorilla in online survey research, it is still one of more than 50 such companies. Online surveys took off years ago. That is not the issue.
The issue wasn’t technology, it’s what we as researchers did with it. We took the fabulous new technology and applied it to tired old methodologies.
Market researchers remained overly-focused on surveys and focus groups—no matter if done online, or other modes. In fact, as an industry, to this day we allow our profession to be defined by these two methods. Markets research should be defined by our deliverables, not our methods. Our deliverables are discovering and measuring customer attitudes and behaviors. Our methods are surveys (whether paper, online, phone, etc.), focus groups (in-person or online), and these days at least ten other options. Yet we continue to be perceived as “surveys and focus groups.” Ask even a group of market researchers what comes to mind first when they think of the phrase “market research”, and most will say “surveys” or “focus groups.” I know, I have asked this question at public speaking venues.
So kudos to Reid for A) getting an article about market research in a business magazine and for B) being bold in his assessments. But if we really want to get market research’s mojo back, we have to make sure we are offering more than surveys and focus groups.
Read Reid’s article here.
Written by Kathryn Korostoff