Editor’s note: April Turner is senior product marketing manager, custom market research, at San Francisco research firm MarketTools. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “Thoughts on market research for 2012.”
Every year ends with dozens of reflection/prediction pieces that look back on the past year and/or ahead to the next. While there are many possible themes for the market research world circa 2012, I’ll offer a single one instead: convergence.
Mathematically, convergence may signal the arrival of computational limits or even the irrelevance of sequence order. However, in market research “convergence” is more like what happened in the convergence of the telecommunications industry, where several services are available from the “same pipe.”
Here are some examples of areas in market research where we might see convergence in the year ahead:
• Mobile and shopper research will collide. A National Retail Federation poll recently found 41 percent of members were increasing investment in mobile retail and marketing. It’s crucial to continue to develop and test new mobile research programs to help us continue to progress.
• Mobile is no longer the “third screen.” Many households are moving to digital entertainment and away from traditional TV and the use of mobile streaming apps is on the rise. For brands, the ability to track advertising, image and sentiment will get more complex and the sheer volume of data will require creative new models to make sense of it. This is an area where research analysts can bring expertise to the conversation.
• Gamification of research will be extended to mobile devices. While there is still much investigation into the best implementations for game-based research, the movement to mobile devices will create pressure on game-like and game-based research. This will affect the validation of both gamification and mobile research.
• Economic issues in Europe will force brands to more closely manage pricing. The interconnected economies of North America and Europe create the need to have a global aspect for domestic price plans.
• Pricing and packaging will converge into a single study architecture. The trade-offs between changing or holding price points will drive new studies that collect attitudes on simultaneous changes to price, package size and quantities, all variables for pricing strategy.
• Social media drives statistical research and vice versa. Social media monitoring is being used to inform sentiment analysis across brands. However, the elements needed to make predictive assessments are still missing. Research analysts will increasingly experiment with adding social media metrics into time-tested models.
• Brands will begin using traditional methods to test and quantify social media trends. As the flexibility and speed of traditional studies increases, it’s harder to ignore the value of social media data in helping us better understand consumers. But what we need is the discipline of traditional MR methods to deliver predictive data necessary for business change. This will be especially useful in proving ROI for event sponsorships as well as understanding cause-marketing endeavors.
• The definition of actionable data will change to include visualization for the non-research stakeholders. Insights teams will partner with other organizations to deliver results to a wider audience. The need for storytelling calls for us to leverage research, business intelligence and analytics to create directive results that can be interpreted by a wide variety of audiences.
• Research analysts will increasingly utilize data from non-traditional sources to answer market problems, including customer databases, POS data and Web analytics. This may or may not be part of the “Big Data” evolution but multiple data sources will increasingly be found in study research.
• Traditional research methods will not die. Tried-and-true methods like surveys, ethnographies and the like will be combined in new ways, with yet-to-be-discovered methods to deliver actionable insights for business. There is no end to the opportunity for change.
2012 will be a transformative year for market research. We at MarketTools look forward to finding and developing new tools and partnerships in the months ahead. Happy new year!