After years of suffering from a bad reputation in the enterprise, market research is poised for a comeback. That's the main message from Andrew Reid, founder and president of Vision Critical, in his latest article in Entrepreneur.
So what's driving the rebirth of market research? It's all about the empowered consumer.
"Now more than ever, consumers are poised to collaborate with companies, help inform them and provide direction for future innovations," Andrew writes in the article. "Market research can become the most important part of a business and customer opinion can increasingly drive product outcomes."
With more CEOs realizing the need to collaborate with customers, the time is ripe for market research's evolution for the industry to shine once again. For that to happen, however, the industry needs to do some work.
In his article, Andrew outlines a number of things the research industry can implement to do just that. One of them is by staying ahead of the technological curve:
For quite some time, market research firms relied heavily on consultants with sociology and economics degrees. Even with the growth of technology over the last two decades, market research firms continued to do all the work themselves, rather than teaching companies how to gather customer feedback on their own. Indeed a whole new slew of customer-intelligence software companies, including my own, now provide proprietary software platforms so that companies can engage with tens of thousands of customers at once on an ongoing basis for feedback on products, services and ads.
This is how it works: A company recruits customers who have agreed to be contacted on a regular basis for their feedback in what is called a "customer community." What results is customers talking via text in response to questions posed by the company -- with company staff able to listen in. It's an online forum, resembling a chat room. Sometimes the customer will just answer the company's question; other times customers converse with one another as they respond to the question posed. They can ask people, for example, to share photos of clothing they like or how they like to wear a specific retailer's clothing.
Companies can even target certain demographic clusters within that community of customers for feedback on specific topics. It's a lot more than the old-fashioned polling or conducting focus groups on onetime basis in a physical room -- or even one-off online surveys -- because thousands of people are involved and for months or years.
Andrew also encourages market-research professionals to adjust their approach to be more relevant in what he calls the "Twitter-powered universe" of today:
Contemporary society is overloaded with information: The proliferation of articles, blogs, social media networks and apps have contributed to today's extremely low attention spans. In 1998, attention spans were on average 12 minutes long. In 2008, they were five minutes. Now they're even shorter. Time is money and if it's possible to say the same thing in four words rather than five, opt for the quickest option.
In a 140-character Twitter-powered universe, the data compiled by market researchers has to be to the point, easily understood by all staff, whether they're customer-facing or on the board of directors. Instead of creating another lengthy report, researchers should present their results using infographics, availing themselves of designers that can be hired through a service like Visual.ly, a data visualization marketplace. Or they can develop creative, concise presentations using Pecha Kucha, a simple visual style with 20 images shown, each for 20 seconds. They could also leverage Slideshare to share presentations with broader audiences. The possibilities to leverage cool new tools -- and share new insights -- are endless.
To read Andrew's article, please visit entrepreneur.com.