Sep 052014
 

It’s that exciting time of the year again – ESOMAR Congress is on its way and the team at ESOMAR HQ are hard at work making sure the 67th annual ESOMAR Congress will once again provide the very best in content and business opportunities.

As ESOMAR President, for me Congress is a highlight, not only because of the opportunity to meet and greet researchers and clients from all over the globe. Congress is the highpoint of our industry’s event calendar and offers the perfect platform for bringing the ESOMAR community together by holding the Annual Global Meeting (AGM). During the AGM, we report on the successes of the organisation, hear feedback from our members, and vote on any important changes to the Society.

This will be my last AGM as ESOMAR President. And even though it is tinged with sadness in that respect, I am looking forward to communicating the great advances ESOMAR has made throughout the year.

And here are some of the biggest updates… ESOMAR Corporate membership continues to grow steadily, and while I am writing this post we have 282 organisations that have joined the ESOMAR community. It has been a great pleasure to welcome companies such as GfK, Tetra Pak, Hall & Partners, Kadence International, Electrolux, Confirmit, and of course many more, into the fold of Corporate Membership. Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we, as a profession, can be represented as a single united voice to legislators and lawmakers around the world. Corporate Membership is a key element in ensuring the industry can carry on self-regulating, always pushing to do the very best work with a strong commitment to ethical practice.

The ESOMAR Foundation also continues its successful journey. For those unaware, the ESOMAR Foundation was set up in October last year with the aim of channelling the strength and resources of the market research industry towards social good. Its projects aim at helping local charities and supporting researchers in need, local education initiatives, and research for the non-profit sector. In its first 12 months, the Foundation has provided over €60,000 to local charities. This year we have also launched a training programme in Myanmar to help deal with the lack of training opportunities in the county. I urge you to find out more about this wonderful initiative and how you can help by visiting the ESOMAR Foundation site.

ESOMAR and our fellow market research associations all have similar mandates, despite sometimes wording them differently. We all strive for promoting and supporting the industry, determined for it to be as strong as it can be. That’s why for ESOMAR it is incredibly important to reinforce and maintain strong relationships with associations across the globe. In the past 12 months, we have had the opportunity to present global updates at local association meetings in Australia, Japan and Korea, sponsor events in Thailand and Singapore, and hold joint events in Bulgaria, Belgium, Spain and Finland.

Working closely with local associations helps us better understand the needs of researchers in those regions. Combined with a greater use of live streaming ESOMAR events, we are now also able to share knowledge and important industry discussions to more professionals than ever before, regardless of location and circumstance.

Last but not least, one of the most important aspects of this year’s AGM will be the announcement of nominations for the ESOMAR Council and Presidential elections. Serving as President for an organisation with such rich heritage has been an honour. My fellow council members and I have been give an unique opportunity to assist the association in its good work, and influence the future of our industry by shaping the strategic direction of the Society. My term has also provided me with an insight into the breadth, depth and range of the activities ESOMAR conducts daily and the opportunity to contribute to business, philosophical and social debates both inside and outside the industry. So although my term is ending, I am looking forward to continuing the work and supporting the new President as the ex-officio Council member.

And so, the old guard must make way for new blood. I hope I’ll see some of the younger generation of researchers and research clients apply for nomination this year. In my travels over the last two years I’ve been staggered and delighted at the passion and integrity of the younger generation of this profession. Having a representative and diverse ESOMAR Council can only be an asset to the industry.

If you decided that running for Council wasn’t for you, then please don’t forget to vote In October. ESOMAR is only as strong as the Council and the members that vote for them. So make sure you engage with the nominees, ask them questions, understand what they can do for you and the industry as a whole. Every vote strengthens the organisation and, consequentially, our profession.

If you are at Congress this year, don’t be shy, come say hello to any of us at the Council or any of the ESOMAR team and give us your opinions on ESOMAR, the Congress, or your thoughts in general on the industry. If you are unable to attend, then please also feel free to e-mail me directly at d.foreman@council.esomar.org.


 

Sep 032014
 

Last week I posted an article looking at the decline in survey research, which included some data from ESOMAR and some predictions.

This week, ESOMAR posted the latest Global Market Research Report and it includes some interesting figures on data collection modes. Figures which are broadly in line with my predictions.

The table below is mostly a repeat of the one I included in my previous post. It shows the data from the ESOMAR reports for 2007, 2010, and 2013, along with my forecasts for 2016 and 2019.

In this version, I have added the data from the 2014 ESOMAR Global Market Research report at the bottom.

Surveys 2014
Note, the ESOMAR data refer to the final figures for the previous year, so the 2014 report is based on the completed returns for the whole of 2013.

The decline in research spending on projects where the data was collected via surveys, from 53% in the 2013 report to 48% in 2014, is a very large drop and is even faster than implied by my predictions. The ESOMAR Pricing Study would suggest that some of the drop is due to falling costs for online research and a continued switch to online from face-to-face and CATI. However, the ESOMAR Global Market Research report also highlights the growth of non-survey alternatives.

The change in other quant is broadly in line with my predictions, and the 1% change in qual could be more wobble than message. The climb in Other is, however, large, and larger than my prediction, and is one of the drivers of the fall in survey research as a proportion of the total. The key elements in Other are desk research and secondary analysis and are an indication of the move away from data collection to analysis.

BTW, if you are interested in this topic you might want to read Jeffrey Henning’s riposte, Surveys A Century From Now.


 

Sep 022014
 
Coloured Rhino

One of the most frequent lamentations at market research conferences relates to the boardroom. Market researchers are not well represented in the boardroom and many seem to think this is proof of our weakness as a profession/industry. However, I think this is mistaken, I think that market research should only rarely be involved in boardroom decisions, and indeed that majority of what we do should be tactical not strategic.

Boardrooms are not places where many decisions are taken, and those decisions tend to be about issues such as mergers and acquisitions, accounts related issues, strategic decisions about estate management, strategic decisions about issues such as outsourcing etc.

The management of companies is not, typically, achieved at the boardroom level; it is provided by the managers and the specialists. Market research is at its most powerful when it is integrated into the wider knowledge base and information system of the organisation, and this integration happens best when done by the people working with the information, not externally, and not at a level too senior to understand the complexity.

Similarly, most companies make 1000s of tactical decisions for every strategic decision. If a company is making a large number of strategic decisions, they are not actually strategic, they are more likely to be panic. Market researchers certainly want to be involved in the strategic decisions, we have a lot to add and they tend to be interesting projects. But the bulk of the industry should be focused on the tactical if it is going to grow and be profitable.

If we look at the ESOMAR Global Market Research report we can see that the continuous projects account for the bulk of market research spending by clients, including audits, market measurement, customer satisfaction, brand and advertising tracking, usage data. All of this data is used strategically occasionally, but it is principally used to manage the delivery of services and products – i.e. it is used tactically. Ad hoc research such as product testing and ad testing are, in most cases, tactical. A company makes a strategic decision to launch X new products a year, the NPD, the pre-testing, the testing, the comms testing, the monitoring of sales and advertising are all (mostly) tactical. Of course, we would encourage a company to review its tactical data to gain inputs to its strategic thinking, but that is in addition to using the data tactically.

Am I talking about me or about the industry?
One of the reasons I think the MR industry gets confused about whether its core target should be the boardroom or senior management, and about whether its bread and butter should be strategic or tactical, is down to the opinion leaders in market research. Most of the opinion leaders are more strategic than tactical, they personally do more big picture work, and they do less testing whether the font on the pack should be serif or sans serif.

I worry that too many people who do the big thinking (or who try to do the big thinking) are generalising from their own particular. If the market research industry were to focus on the strategic and the boardroom, to the exclusion of the tactical and the everyday, the market research industry would be much, much smaller, many people would have to lose their jobs, and another business sector would need to do the tactical research that clients need.

The importance of the tactical and practical
The ability of some market researchers to focus on the strategic, to offer consultancy services, rests on the scale of the market research industry and its reputation for measurement, independence, and relative objectivity. The stars in our industry are there because of the field managers, the interviewers, the programmers, the operations staff, the coders, and research executives that facilitate the scale of the MR industry.

Yes, let’s keep developing the consultancy services, let’s keep trying to garner a bigger role in strategic decision making, let’s embrace insight management, but let us also keep developing the tactical, the practical, the everyday. We need a parity of respect for all aspects of the market research profession.


 

Aug 262014
 
No More Surveys

Back in March 2010, I caused quite a stir with a prediction, at the UK’s MRS Conference, when I said that in 20 years we would not be conducting market research surveys. I followed my conference contribution with a more nuanced description of my prediction on my blog.

At the time the fuss was mostly from people rejecting my prediction. More recently there have been people saying the MR industry is too fixated on surveys, and my predictions are thought by some to be too cautious. So, here is my updated view on why I think we won’t be conducting ‘surveys’ in 2034.

What did I say in 2010?
The first thing I did was clarify what I meant by market research surveys:

  • I was talking about questionnaires that lasted ten minutes or more.
  • I excluded large parts of social research; some parts of which I think will continue to use questionnaires.

Why no more surveys?
In essence there are three key reasons that I think surveys will disappear

  1. The decline in response rates means that most survey research is being conducted with an ever smaller proportion of the population, who are taking very large numbers of surveys (in many cases several per week). This raises a growing number of concerns that the research is going to become increasingly unrepresentative.
  2. There are a growing number of areas where researchers feel that survey responses are poor indicators of true feelings, beliefs, priorities, and intentions.
  3. There are a growing number of options that can, in some cases, provide information that is faster, better, cheaper – or some combination of all three. Examples of these options include: passive data, big data, neuro-stuff, biometrics, micro-surveys, text processing of open-ended questions and comments, communities, and social media monitoring.

Surveys are the most important thing in market research!
There is a paradox, in market research, about surveys, and this paradox is highlighted by the following statements both being true:

  1. The most important data collection method in market research is surveys (this is because over half of all research conducted, in terms of dollars spent) is conducted via surveys.
  2. The most important change in market research data collection is the move away from surveys.
Because surveys are currently so important to market research there is a vast amount of work going on to improve them, so that they can continue to deliver value, even whilst their share of MR declines. The steps being taken to improve the efficiency and efficacy of surveys include:
  • Mobile surveys
  • Device agnostic surveys
  • Chunking the survey into modules
  • Implicit association
  • Eye-tracking
  • Gamification
  • Behavioural economics
  • Biometrics
  • In the moment research
  • Plus a vast rage of initiatives to merge other data, such as passive data, with surveys.

How quickly will surveys disappear?
When assessing how quickly something will disappear we need to assess where it is now and how quickly it could change.

It is hard to know exactly how many surveys are being conducted, especially with the growth of DIY options. So, as a proxy I have taken ESOMAR’s figures on market research spend.

The table below shows the proportion of global, total market research spend that is allocated to: Quant via surveys, Quant via other routes (e.g. people meters, traffic, passive data etc), Qual, and Other (including secondary data, consultancy and some proportion of communities).

The first three rows show the data reported in the ESOMAR Global Market Research reports. Each year reflects the previous year’s data. The data show that surveys grew as a proportion of research from 2007 to 2010. This was despite a reduction in the cost of surveys as F2F and CATI moved to online. From 2010 to 2013 there was indeed a drop in the proportion of all research spend that was devoted to surveys. However, given the falling cost of surveys and the continued growth of DIY, it is likely that the absolute number of surveys may have grown from 2010 to 2013.

Other quant, which covers many of the things that we think will replace surveys, fell from 2007 to 2010. In many cases this was because passive collection techniques became much cheaper. For example the shift from expensive services to Google Analytics.

The numbers in red are my guess as to what will happen over the next few years. My guess best on 35 years in the industry, talking to the key players, and applying what I see around me.

I think surveys could lose 9 percentage points in 3 years – which is a massive change. Does anybody seriously think it will be much faster? If surveys lose 9 percentage points they will fall below 50% of all research, but still be the largest single method.

I am also forecasting that they will fall another 11 percentage points by 2019 – trends often accelerate – but again, does anybody really think it will be faster? If that forecast is true, by 2019 about one-third of paid for research will still be using surveys. Other quant will be bigger than surveys, but will not be a single approach; there will be many forms of non-survey research.

I also think that Other (which will increasingly mean communities and integrated approaches) and qual will both grow.

What do you think?
OK, I have nailed my flag to the mast, what do you think about this issue? Are my forecasts too high, about right, or too low? Do you agree that the single most important thing about existing data collection methods is the survey process? And, that the most important change is the movement away from surveys?


 

Aug 192014
 
NodeXL

Back in July I asked ‘Who are the most influential market research people on Twitter?’ After some banter we narrowed the question to the #MRX tag and mid-July. I asked for nominations, Jeffrey Henning prepared a special version of his #MRX tweeted links report, and we have had input from ColourText, Texifter, and NodeXL.

You can read the full report by clicking here, and the full report includes several links back to much fuller and interactive information form some of the people who have made this report possible.

But here is a meta-analysis of the findings. To produce the list I tabulated who made the top ten of at least one of the lists, counted how often they made the top ten, and ranked them by that.

So this meta list is a follows:

Account

Score

euromonitor

5

lennyism

5

mramrx

5

raypoynter

5

researchlive

5

jhenning

4

thomasjohne

4

ipsosmori

3

kristofdewulf

3

tomderuyck

3

darrenmarknoyce

2

djsresearch

2

gavinspavin

2

lovestats

2

1sue3

1

colinstrong

1

edward04

1

effectiveresrch

1

erica_dfirst

1

joelrubinson

1

jonpuleston

1

lrwonline

1

mdmktingsource

1

tomewing

1

tomhcanderson

1

tweetmrs

1

visioncritical

1

A five means the account was identified as ‘influential’ or widely linked or widely reacted to or linked to popular links by most of the routes used in the report. A 1 means the account made one of the top ten lists.

Of course, this does not mean these 27 are the most influential, nor does it mean the people at the top are the most influential, and it does not mean that influence exists in the way it is often assumed to (see this great TED talk by Sinan Aral on this topic).

Read the full report by clicking here.

I’d like to give my thanks to NodeXL, Jeffrey Henning, Texifter, and ColourText for helping produce this report, and to @lennyism for his support in getting the idea off the ground and for helping share the results.


 

Aug 142014
 
Godzilla

One of the questions I get asked most often is “What’s hot in market research?”. I will be broadcasting my update as NewMR lecture next Wednesday, August 20, (you can register for it here).

But here is a sneak peek into what is hot, still hot, bubbling under the surface, and not so hot.

Still Hot
It is important when looking at the ‘new stuff’ not to ignore stuff that has been around for a while, but which is still growing in market share, importance, and usage:

  • Mobiles in traditional research. Mobile is a big and growing part of CATI, online surveys, and F2F – this trend has a long way to go yet.
  • Communities. Communities (including Insight Communities and MROCs) have been the fastest growing major new research approach for a few years now, and this is going to continue.
  • DIY. We hear less about DIY these days, that is probably because it has become normal, this sector is growing, both in terms of part of being a key part of existing MR and partly because it is growing the scope of market research.

Hot!
These are three of the items that I think are the hottest topics in MR, in terms of their growth and potential. All three of these are going to be game changers.

  • Beacons. For example iBeacons, which use geofencing and allow location-based services (including research) to be offered in much easier and more practical ways than is offered by methods such as GPS.
  • In the moment research. Research using mobiles and research using participants to capture information as people go about their normal day, including qual, quant, and passive, is making research more valid and sensitive.
  • Micro surveys. The most high profile micro (or nano or very short) provider is Google Consumer Surveys, but there are a variety of other providers, such as RIWI. Also, Beacons, In the Moment, and Communities are all leveraging Micro Surveys.

Bubbling
These three are going to make a major impact soon, but not quite yet.

  • Text analytics. The technology is not quite here yet, but when it clears the last few hurdles it will hit market research like a freight train – for example shifting the balance from closed questions to open questions, and finally driving more value out of social media discourses.
  • Web messaging. Apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, and Line are growing faster than anything else globally. A few people are looking at how to leverage these for market research, and more will follow.
  • Research bots. One of the key factors limiting the use of social media, communities, and the use of video is the requirement to use people to do the moderation and analysis. Bots (software applications short for robots) are going to change this and open a new, vast range of options.

Not So Hot
These three are all interesting niches, some people are making a good living from them, but they are not scaling in a way that makes a difference to most brands or researchers.

  • Facial Coding. It answers some questions, but is limited in terms of its range of uses, delays, scalability, and cost.
  • Webcam qual. The benefits are usually too small and the resistance from potential participants are too high to make this a generally useful approach.
  • Social Media Research. Whilst social media research, especially monitoring, has become essential, it has not grown into what was expected.

What about?

  • Big Data
  • Behavioural Economics
  • Gamification
  • Smartphone ethnography
  • Neuroscience
  • Geotracking
  • Wearbles
  • Quantified Self
  • Biometrics

Want to know where these items fit in this picture? Tune in to our webinar next Wednesday, 10am New York time, which is 3pm London time. Click here to register.


 

Jul 282014
 

During the last week I have made three separate presentations in Tokyo on the topic of the key trends in mobile market research and I have found that creating a big picture has helped get my message across. I use the big picture as the first and last slide of the presentation to show where I am heading and to sum up the message. The audience seem to feel that a big picture makes the ideas clearer and helps provided an integrated understanding of what is happening and why.

So, in this post I share my Big Picture of the Key Trends in Mobile Market Research.

Why is mobile so interesting?
The key reasons are all shown inside the phone. Ubiquity refers to the fact that about 70%-80% of the world’s adults have a mobile phone, and the penetration is growing. Mobile phones are the most widely owned device on the planet, and they are changing the way humans communicate.

Because people have their phone with them all the time, 24/7, they provide a better way of contacting people. Better than waiting for people to answer the phone, open their email, or answer the door. The phone is with people ‘in the moment’, i.e. when they are actually doing things.

Increasingly phones are smartphones and connected to the internet. In 2014 we can’t assume that enough people have smartphones connected to the internet to ignore other methods and options, but the trend is towards most of the people that we tend to research being fully smartphone and tablet connected.

Mobile devices can do so much more than just surveys, passive data, push notification, and location based services are just the start. The phone is becoming a window into people’s lives.

Mobile is already a major part of ‘traditional’ research
Marketers, insight professionals, and market researchers need to be aware that mobile is already a major part of existing research methods. In terms of CATI, the amount that is conducted via mobile phone has been rising in most developed markets and is currently around 40%-60% in many markets. In the emerging markets, such as most of Africa, the mobile percentage is much HIGHER. In countries where incomes are lower, it tends to be just the well-off who have a fixed-line telephone, most people have just mobile phones.

20%-30% of online surveys are being attempted by people using mobile devices (phones, phablets, and tablets), so most people doing online are already doing mobile.

In terms of face-to-face and qual research, mobile devices are increasingly being used, for example in mCAPI where the interviewer has a tablet or phone instead of a clipboard.

Mobile is creating/expanding other forms of market research
Participative, or WE-research, is enlisting the person previously known as the respondent to be an active player in the research process. Participants are seeking out experiences, capturing photos and videos, and suggesting commentary. This reaches places that researchers could not reach and empowers customers and citizens.

Passive data collection adds objective information to the subjective picture the participant can supply, and with no effort required by the participant, and no reliance on their memory. Passive data is telling us what people do, when then do, how long they do it, and in many cases where and with whom they do it.

In the moment research is reminding us of how bad our memories are. Collecting fresh insights, in the moment when products and services are being experienced is opening the door to much more accurate, detailed, and relevant research. Location based services are allowing us to follow people through their day and ‘push’ requests to them based on where they are and what they are doing – giving us the best possible in the moment data.

Want more?
Of course, whilst a big picture is all some people need, a detailed picture is what others want. For mobile market research the detailed picture is going to be available in about a month with the release of our new book, “The Handbook of Mobile Market Research”, which is being published by Wiley and is available from Amazon. You can download a free chapter from the NewMR website, click here.


 

Jul 252014
 
The customer relationship

Most companies claim to be customer centric, but when you look at what they do you will see that the customer is all too often treated as a cross between an outsider and an enemy – someone to be persuaded, entrapped, or smooched, not somebody in true partnership with the brand or organisation.

I think there are two reasons why so many brands talk about being close to customer while at the same time failing to achieve it:

  • They don’t realise that doing it right can make the business more profitable and more sustainable – so they just talk-the-talk.
     
  • They don’t know how to operationalise a relationship with tens of millions of customers – so they don’t try.

I think both of these positions are wrong and I have set out my observations and findings about how some companies are truly putting the customer into the decision making process in a new (short) book. In the book I highlight cases and show the tools they are using and the rewards they are achieving.

The four main points I make are:

  1. 1. Customer engagement comes in three layers, Listening, Crowdsourcing, and Co-creation – and the best companies do all three, using a variety of tools and approaches. Companies as diverse as Molson Coors, Kimberley-Clarke, SingTel, and Avianca are all using multiple strategies to sit side-by-side with customers.
  2. 2. Research from the likes of IBM, Aberdeen, and Forrester show that customer involvement can increase revenue and profits.
  3. 3. With the rise of the collaborative economy, for example Uber, AirBNB, and Kickstarter brands cannot sit above the fray, they need to be part of the answer or they will be part of the problem.
  4. 4. In the past brands and companies had product differences, but in most cases these have been eroded. The final competitive advantage for a company lies with its customers – not with the product or the service, but with what customers can help create and sustain. However, the overarching message from all these cases and examples is that brands have to mean it, they can’t just talk about involving customers, they have to believe in it and they have to make it happen.

If you’d like to read the full book you can download it from the Vision Critical website (in exchange for handing over a few details about who you are).
 

Jul 162014
 

Sometimes when I run a workshop or training session people want detail, they want practical information about how to do stuff. However, there are times when what people want is a big picture, a method of orientating themselves in the context of the changing landscape around them. Tomorrow I am running a workshop for #JMRX in Tokyo and we are looking at emerging techniques, communities, and social media research – so a big picture is going to be really useful to help give an overview of the detail, and to help people see where things like gamification, big data, and communities all fit.

So, here is my Big Picture of NewMR (click on it to see it full size), and I’d love to hear your thought and suggestions.

Big Picture

The Big Picture has five elements

The heart of the message is that we have reached an understanding that surveys won’t/can’t give us the answers to many of the things we are interested in. People’s memories are not good enough, many decision are automatic and opposed to thought through, and most decision are more emotion that fact. Change is needed, and the case for this has been growing over the last few years.

The four shapes around the centre are different strands that seek to address the survey problem.

In the top left we have big data and social media data, moving away from working with respondents, collecting observations of what people say and do, and using that to build analyses and predictive models.

In the top right we have a battery of new ways of working with respondents to find out why they do things, going beyond asking them survey questions.

In the bottom left we have communities, which I take as a metaphor for working with customers, co-creating, crowdsourcing, treating customers and insiders, not just users.

The bottom right combines elements from the other three. ‘In the moment’ is perhaps, currently, the hottest thing in market research. Combining the ability to watch and record what people do, with interacting with them to explore why and what they would do the options changed.

Thoughts?
So, that is my big picture. Does it work for you? What would you add, change, delete, or tweak?