It’s perennial. Corporate insights professionals worry that they face a diminished role—if not outright elimination as a team—driven in part by new technology. It’s reflected in annual barometers of the market insights business on whether and why professionals feel they do not have a seat at the table among leadership teams: 62% of respondents report that their organizations lack awareness of what the insights function does, while 38% report that stakeholders feel the insights process is too slow.1 It’s the topic of blog posts and water cooler talk.
Considering the proliferation of alternative sources available to internal constituencies and automation of insights professionals’ own work, one can understand the sentiment.
- Do-it-yourself survey capabilities give every brand manager ready access to qualitative tools, and 26% of insights professionals say their internal stakeholders prefer to use them as opposed to the insights department.
- Big Data, business intelligence and predictive analytics investments mean that more data is already internal to the organization, lessening the need for custom research.
- Flourishing online communities are supplementing social media as a ready wellspring of insights direct from targeted sources.
- Ubiquitous internet and mobile device access means it’s even easier to sample from dedicated communities, sample quality concerns notwithstanding.
- There are outsourced market research firms for just about any sector, deliverable and business model.
Conventional wisdom says that market researchers tend to have a conservative attitude toward technology—sticking to known approaches and methodologies until new ones are entirely “proven”—even while the world at large explodes with new technologies to automate, analyze and visualize. The industry has not moved quickly toward more expedient mobile research solutions and has demonstrated a relatively slow embrace of technologies that have been well-proven in other domains, such as cloud computing.
Yet there are signs that even in risk-averse sectors, the number of insights professionals who are embracing a tech-savvy focus and seeking technology innovation is growing. They’re investing in a diversified mix of new technologies, and jumping in to test innovations seems commonplace.
New data obtained by InCrowd show that in pharmaceutical and life science market research—a bellwether vertical market where important regulatory filings and peer-reviewed publication heightens concern over data methodology—more respondents now characterize their approach to market research as “tech savvy” and “resourceful.”
When asked about their attitudes toward emerging research approaches, investments, desired innovations and challenges, nearly 50% of the 100 life science market research executives surveyed this summer characterized their approach to market research as “tech savvy” and “resourceful.” These respondents outnumbered the approximately one-third who agreed or strongly agreed that “traditional” best described their approach.
An equal percent of respondents (31% for each) described their approach as “nimble” as well as “conservative”—perhaps reflecting this new embrace.
For a sector that is often seen as near-phobic on perceived risk surrounding insights approaches, this receptivity is a critical first sign that the perceived benefits of new technology for delivering faster, data-driven business decisions are gaining credence.
What’s more, these marketing insights professionals and their organizations are putting their money where their priorities are, and they want more. Here’re the top four ways that this community is investing:
- Big Data analytics topped the list of technologies in which respondents’ organizations had currently invested, followed by:
- Social media analysis.
- Shorter and more focused microsurveys.
- Wearable-based research.
Conversely, at the bottom of the list, mobile ethnography and facial analysis represented lowest areas of investment.
Here’re the top three in wished-for new market insights technologies:
- Big Data analytics still lead the lineup.
- Predictive markets ranked second.
- Behavior economic models ranked third respectively.
Some challenges are universal however, as with the top three barriers to achieving market research goals:
- Reaching the right respondents.
- Getting information fast enough.
- Funding projects.
What’s this mean to market insights professionals, regardless of sector, and how should they put this to use in their own organizations?
- 1. Organizations should recognize that there’s a new imperative for speed in an increasingly competitive business environment, and that it is driving more technology experimentation, even among risk-averse markets and leadership.
- 2. Market insights teams should “watch where the smart money is going” in their profession, in terms of technology investment, and consider if their own approaches are keeping pace.
- 3. Lastly, today’s explosion in market research automation, data integration and visualization technologies that streamline some of the most repetitive tasks of insights (such as longitudinal tracking studies) demand a seasoned expert to implement them. Rather than automating away the need for the insights professional, these solutions fittingly showcase the insights team’s invaluable role in structuring qualitative research that achieves its goal while saving time, hassle and costs.
Janet Kosloff is CEO and co-founder of InCrowd, provider of an on-demand market intelligence platform for the life sciences.
1 Quirks Corporate Researcher Report 2015