Blockchain in MR: Savior or Curse?

Everyone is talking about Blockchain and how it will disrupt this industry or that market. Between 2017 and 2022, the global blockchain market is expected to be 20 times larger, to a $7.7 billion market. Investors have already put more than $1 billion into blockchain development projects. Marketing Research is no exception, with many applications already in development. Research experts are intrigued, but unsure whether blockchain will save the industry or be its complete demise.

It’s still early for this technology, so let’s learn a little bit about blockchain so we can decide where we Marketing Researchers want this to take us.

First, What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is best known as the technology that provides the foundational capabilities for cryptocurrencies. In short, blockchain is a technology that regulates the secure transfer of assets. Because of its ability to confirm identify and approval for each exchange, it is more secure from data breaches. Because data is not stored on a central site, but rather the technology of participating individuals, it prevents redundancy. And finally, it saves time and money because there is no one organization controlling the data management – each individual is “responsible” for updating their own data. (But since most of this is passive data that individuals would do anyway, it is not burdensome.)

What Does Blockchain Have to Do with Insights?

Think of the Marketing Research industry as an information marketplace. Individuals have information that marketing researchers want to access. Currently, we go to sample or panel providers who create the interface between individual respondents and marketing researchers? Then, the marketing researchers “pay” or deliver benefit to the respondents. What if we could go directly to the respondent? What if there were an open marketplace where individuals could decide how and when to share their information, and for what compensation? And what if marketing researchers could negotiate this process securely and safely? Think about the cost efficiencies and the improvement in data quality we could achieve.

That is what blockchain could do to the Marketing Research industry.

Is This the Real World? Or Just a Fantasy?

Frankly, it is too early to tell. Leonard Murphy writes in the Greenbook Blog that there are reasons to believe this may be an industry disruptor – eventually. The 2018 GRIT Report indicated that only about 40% of respondents were even familiar with blockchain and only 10% were willing to admit they thought it would be a game changer. The GRIT Report also found that of four potential areas where blockchain could impact the MR industry:

  • 23% saw the potential for blockchain to help with data privacy regulation compliance.
  • 20% thought blockchain could transform panels into personal data marketplaces.
  • 21% thought blockchain could provide a platform for new methodologies.
  • 14% thought blockchain could be used to provide a high-quality, verified sample source.
  • And 11% saw the potential for blockchain to create a universal basic income through personal data monetization.

So, are we all doomed? Or is there hope? The furor around blockchain feels very familiar. Didn’t the MR industry go through some similar with most new technologies, including the internet, online surveys, mobile, social media analytics, and so many others? The best advice for approaching blockchain is to keep thinking, keep researching, and keep an open mind. Only time will tell!

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