The State of Marketing Research

Ray Poynter is the author of The Handbook of Mobile Market Research, The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research, the IPASOCIALWORKS’ The Guide to Measuring not Counting, Editor of ESOMAR’s Answers to Contemporary Market Research Questions and content provider for The University of Georgia’s MRII Mobile Market Research course and the GRIT report. Like Farmers Insurance, he knows a thing or two, because he’s seen a thing or two about marketing research. That experience – and his excellent perspective on our industry – makes his observations especially valuable.

Recently the #NewMR newsletter summarized some of the key Trends that Poynter has been talking about in various global marketing research conferences.

The first of Ray’s trends that we will be experiencing in the next 18 months are:

  • Increased use of video in all phases of marketing research projects. That means more video data collection, more video in analysis, and especially more video in reporting and communicating results.
  • Blended data sources will become more and more prominent in marketing research due to the impact they have on improving insights. (Check out the Infosurv Insider blog on blended data sources.)
  • Use of advanced qualitative techniques will grow (including ethnography and semiotics.)
  • And the growth of DIY 2.0, the high-speed, low-cost, easy to use approach of many marketing research providers.

An interesting observation that Poynter makes is that some of the techniques and technologies that are changing marketing research the most are not listed as “trends” because they have simply become so commonplace that we no longer think of them as new! Mobile, online communities, smartphones, video, automation, DIY, and advanced analytics have become so accepted as the way we do business, that they are no longer counted as new. However, they all are relatively new and continue to impact the marketing research community and challenge traditional marketing research thinking.

Another interesting Poynter observation is that research budgets globally are growing, which you would expect with a strong global economy. However, what you might not expect is that the number of marketing research projects completed is growing faster, meaning that the average price per project is decreasing. Cost pressures will continue to grow on both sides of the marketing industry, and clients as well as marketing research providers will have to find innovative ways to produce work at lower cost.

Poynter also observes that clients are driving changes in the marketing research industry. As clients demand more, marketing research providers respond with new ideas, and clients then decide which of these new ideas has merit. Marketing research clients value (in order of importance) speed, ease of use (including easy to get started, easy to put into action, and easy to communicate throughout the business), price, and finally, quality. (Quality only becomes more important “when clients feel that what they have now is so bad, they must pay more to improve it.)

It is important to keep in mind that, although neuromarketing research, IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and behavior economics (among others) get a lot of buzz, the amount they are actually used by marketing researchers is very small compared to other techniques. According to the GRIT Report, these trendy techniques have barely changed in usage over the last three years.

While we all need to stay abreast of trends in the marketing research industry, it is also important to keep in mind that the foundations of our industry – and the traditional techniques we use, such as surveys and focus groups – are still the dominant drivers of our work and take up most of clients’ budgets. Although the world is changing fast, it is changing more slowly than the news implies, and not always in the directions implied.