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Market Research and Analytics: one single world?

Jul 22, 2020 7:30:00 AM

This is a guest blog written by Bruno Colin, CTO at Strategir, mentor in Market Research and Data for more than 30 years. Specialist in innovation and process optimization, he has worked at Nielsen, Mediametrie, Worldpanel, TNS y GfK. ESOMAR Council member for 4 years. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Since ages ago, the Market Research industry has claimed to be at the edge of the behavioural sciences. Both in terms of information collection, and analysis/treatment of this information, meaning transforming fact into insights.

At that period of time – recent in “absolute”, but far away digitally speaking – this pre-digital world was quite easy to track. Media were few and easy to pinpoint, purchases and sources of motivation (roughly speaking) measurable (even if the machine behind was money and time expensive, but feasible). The “consumption universe” was known, bounded. I am talking about the beginning of this century, max 15 years ago.

During this golden age, the analytics were dedicated to understanding, sometimes a bit to forecast with Simulated Market Tests. The ultimate grail was to prove some causal relationship between marketing actions and effects on sales.

Today, the situation is totally different. I will not describe it (as it is not the purpose of this article), but the monopolistic situation of the MR has fallen down in less than 5 years.

Tech companies have entered into the game, and massively enlarged the cake. Each new digital device/app or possibility has generated a potential unique solution for tracking the behaviour associated with their new facility. Every single week a new start-up is raising-up and claiming to be able to track this new connected object, or the digital journey on some part of the web, or the pedestrian traffic, or the individual eye blinking or…whatever.

Our “peaceful” environment has suddenly become a battlefield with hundreds of potential “ultimate” solutions. Today we are surrounded by data, of any kind, in real time. It is an earthquake, a nightmare for researchers.

In parallel, statistics have changed their vocabulary, Data Process has been renamed Data Scientist, Data Base transformed into Big Data or Data Lake, Forecast into Deep Learning or AI...and new companies were born. Claiming their truth, their knowledge, their capabilities (less their experience as very young).

These companies have developed themselves in parallel to traditional Market Research, even some have become Unicorns. One key attribute we can give them is their agility to re-invent and twist their business model, to re-shape, in real-time, their solution.

At the same time major MR companies did not change. They have integrated some (few) analysts, they have started to collect a bit differently, and finally they follow their route as a transatlantic liner. Some have suffered, but most of them survived. At that point we cannot say that they have drastically shifted their model into a more modern one, perhaps just a “chameleon-effect”.

From my point of view, these are important considerations:

  • The MR industry has its own legacy rules, which are the foundation of its credibility (its representativeness, even if I do not like this word, I prefer to say robust sample, or true in-depth knowledge of facts – what is the value of a number – and long legacy experience, some with Data Banks (I like this word as some information are currencies). And they know people, citizens, consumers. In depth.
  • These new players are far away from these considerations. They move fast, forwards, without looking to the past, not even the recent. I believe they are still perceived as “gimmick” or “toys” by MR clients, who are testing again and again without massive satisfaction. For example, how many are really satisfied with“pure” Social Media Listening, or neurological investigation. One big piece of the cake is missing.
  • MR companies are too rigid, as most of them (the biggest) stuck by centralised governance preventing them to adapt their offer to the new demand. This is a real weakness, for years I have believed that research should be managed locally (think global, BUT act local freely – meaning using potential local solutions, as adapted to the context).

The near future, and I see positive signs of it, will have arrived when:

  • These two players, MR agencies and new tech, will start to work together instead fighting each other, through partnership first.
  • Some important acquisitions or merge will be done, with a equal power given to legacy MR and to the new techs. In doing so, the “tradition” side will enrich the new one with the key rules, inaccessible to them until now, and the new “baby” will teach agility to his old “father”. I will be pleased to see it!

What about our clients?

  • By nature they are curious, and willing to explore. Many of them have also re-organized their teams towards having a new window actively open to this new data world.
  • Often they are pushing MR to have a look at new solutions they have tested (or willing to), as they have clearly understood that the “view” should be 360° and not fragmented.
  • They tend to prefer a “one stop shop” approach able to deliver this view. Integration will allow it.

Then, we will be able to say that the barriers among the research and analytics industries will have fallen away. , just integration and collaboration. An open world. At last.

Pic by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash.

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