As one year draws to a close, and another begins, the marketing research industry turns introspective and tries to make sense of the chaos by identifying major trends that we have seen in the year past, or that we will see more of in the coming year. These major trends are supposed to help us plan for and better manage uncertainty by prioritizing what’s important, and what is just a flash in the pan.
While we agree that these trends are important, we also believe that you can learn a lot from trends that are not being mentioned. Whether because they didn’t develop into big industry-shaking forces, or because we’re still scratching our heads over them and their impact on our industry.
Here are three marketing research trends in the past that you will not hear anyone talking about in 2016 – and what you can learn from them:
- Single-Source Data. If you’ve been reading the Marketing Research pundits over the years, you find that every new technique or tool is lauded as the ONLY tool or technique you will ever need in the future. Online surveys? The ONLY methodology you will ever need. Panel sampling? The ONLY way to conduct marketing research efficiently. Social media analytics? The only information you need to run your business. Net Promotor Score? The only number you need to manage your business. Big Data? The ONLY… you get the idea. Thankfully, we seem to be getting away from such simplistic thinking. Business is complex, and getting more complex every day. Good, effective marketing researchers will keep their tool chest filled with a variety of tools, techniques, and data sources. After all, just because you’ve got a great hammer doesn’t make every challenge a nail. Keep that in mind the next time someone tells you that something is the ONLY…
- The Disappearing Representative Sample. In the olden days, when telephone penetration was 97%, you could feel pretty confident that your RDD sample was representative of the population as a whole. However, with the growing proportion of cell-only households, online surveys, river sampling, and the preponderance of panel samples, our samples are not representative. A lot of us are working with convenience samples – whether we know it or not, and whether we should be or not! And yet, we still have marketing researchers asking vendors for a “representative sample.” Sample must be strategically matched to the research objectives. There is no one-size fits all representative sample source anymore. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have excellent, practical, and cost-effective sample resources available to us! It just means we have to be realistic about the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of our sample source, and how that might impact the end result of the project.
- DIY Will Replace Research Professionals. The arrival of DIY research tools has put the power of research into the hands of many marketers and other businesspeople. And that is a great thing. By lowering the cost of the research, more business decisions are made with timely information. However, DIY does not always equal DI-right. If you have taken any surveys lately, you know many are amateurish at best and dangerously biased at their worst. This is a concern because respondents become exposed to long, boring surveys with badly worded questions and confusing responses, they become reluctant to participate in any marketing research. An even greater concern is decision makers working with data, rather than insights, which may be unreliable and inaccurate, hence, losing confidence in our industry, and making weak or even bad decisions. DIY and professional researchers serve customers best when they co-exist to produce reliable and cos-effective research.
As the American Economist Emily Greene Balch said, “The future will be determined in part by happenings that it is impossible to foresee; it will also be influenced by trends that are now existent and observable.” As researchers, trends give us a heads-up in terms of what’s coming down the pike, but we should never rely solely on trends to make decisions about what’s right for our industry. Use your intuition, creativity and expertise to balance the trendy, the smart, and the dangerous in finding what will work for you.