In spite of its long history, there is increasing chatter about what the future for MR will hold and whether it will be subsumed or superseded by non-traditional research methodologies or approaches.

It’s true to say that traditional MR provides statistically reliable data that can be aggregated to provide a macro level view of market trends but it doesn’t necessarily provide the ‘micro’ level detail about a customer’s experience that can make a difference to future sales or repeat business. No wonder then that businesses are increasingly suggesting that traditional MR is missing a trick because it doesn’t help businesses engage with the customers providing the feedback.

MR has tended to steer well away from direct contact with respondents, citing impartiality and anonymity as vital to best practice. And it’s quite rightly not wanted to make any link to direct marketing or to ‘sugging’ (selling under the guise).

However, the world is changing and there is a growing need for MR to evolve to include one-to-one interactions, embrace social media and master the issues around big data. Instead of being known for its large studies, pages of computer output and PowerPoint presentations, MR needs to demonstrate its value to the customer experience, the brand and business success overall.

This necessary evolution may mean that the leading suppliers of research in 2020 may include any of the existing providers. The move to adopt new approaches – mobile, DIY, social media monitoring, big data analysis – is something that clients are increasingly calling for, and there are plenty of new entrants, such as Google, looking to out-manoeuvre “old” MR.

The challenge is how best to marry the old and the new to create something more responsive, more agile, more direct and more relevant.

This is where Voice of the Customer (VoC) is making its presence felt. Instead of relying on periodic panels with long surveys to produce strategic reports that take three months to complete, it has been proven that the ‘plugged in’ consumer responds more effectively to shorter and more frequent enquiries, especially if their views are requested immediately after an interaction.

This ‘moment of truth’ feedback might not provide the same strategic insight as that of a compressive panel but it does provide valuable insight that can be used immediately to generate demonstrable ROI. When such insight is also combined with other data; operational, financial, and information from wider MR studies, insight really shows its value.

Tapping into mobile as a new MR tool also has the potential to dramatically increase the immediacy of the survey design, delivery and data collection process. Changes can be made centrally and then synchronised across the entire network of researchers. Respondents are far more likely to take a survey and enjoy the experience if it’s available on a mobile, which is vital when there is so much demand on consumer’s attention and time.

Surveys are increasingly completed during “cracks in the day”, such as during commuting time, and MR activities should capitalise on this. A multi-media mobile interaction with a brand via a ‘mobile diary’, for example, offers an immediate opportunity to provide positive or negative feedback to a supplier which radically improves the chances of real-time correction or problem resolution. Traditional surveys simply can’t offer this kind of value-added benefit.

It’s also worth noting that whilst traditional surveys, random samples and statistical rigour will not go away, they will decrease in importance as we become more practised at incorporating ‘indirect’ data from social media and ‘inferred’ data from behavioural tracking into the overall MR mix.

MR always aimed to deliver insight, but the next step has to be the ability to deliver real understanding that businesses can act upon. Insight has to become a driver for change which means it’s highly likely that MR suppliers will become more like ‘client-side researchers’ in the future; focused on the business issue not the method.

In order to create a holistic view of the customer, traditional and non-traditional technologies must work alongside each other. Market Research must integrate seamlessly with CRM, HR and sales to get to the ‘why’ of customer sentiment and behaviour. Surely this is where the evolutionary path will lead us and where the balance between MR and VoC can be achieved!

By Dave King, Executive Vice President of Mobile Solutions, Confirmit

DaveDave King joined Confirmit through the September 2011 acquisition of Canadian-based Techneos Systems where he held the position of CEO. He leads Confirmit’s mobile solutions division and is in the process of establishing a Canadian Centre of Excellence for the development of mobile solutions. His background as an entrepreneur in the technology industry has allowed him to assist a number of companies to achieve rapid growth and ultimately, a merger or acquisition with industry leaders. He has held CEO positions at Metrobridge Networks, a publicly listed company that provides ultra-high speed wireless internet service, and WYSIWYG Graphics, a provider of design and print-related services. Dave has also held sales management positions at Hewlett Packard and Sequent Computers (IBM) and is on the advisory board of a number of Canadian technology companies.

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