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Technology won't render us obsolete (but watch out for irrelevance)

What are the three things you can do to make a profound impact on how market research is viewed within your organization? The future of this industry will depend on more than just how well we use new technologies.

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While we can all speculate about the impact that blockchain, VR, and AI will have on market research, there's one thing I'm certain of: the future of this industry will depend on more than just how well we use new technologies. Our fate will also rest on our ability to make ourselves relevant; to be seen as indispensable players when it comes to setting strategy and making critical business decisions.

A blindingly obvious assertion? Perhaps. But just because it's obvious doesn't mean we're all succeeding at it. All to often, I still encounter researchers who are so caught up in the methodology, the data, and the numbers that they forget that this stuff only matters if they're using it to deliver insights that help business leaders make better decisions. Trust me when I say they don't want to know about things like sample size and weightings; they just want you to answer their burning questions about what new product to develop, how to get a foothold in an emerging new market, which competitors are eating their lunch.

So how can we get better at giving them what they want – and in the process make ourselves essential?

Bring insights to the table early and often

You know that saying "A bird in the hand..."? The same goes for market research outputs. Up-to-the-minute insights that are at your fingertips when decisions are being made are worth infinitely more than data gathering dust in three ring binders. So invest in technology that makes new data available as quickly as possible and enables you to dive into the numbers and answer questions on the spot. If you have ready access to the data that will answer their questions, you will have a seat at the table.

Make it easy for people to focus on the metrics that matter to them

One size does not fit all when it comes to how stakeholders will explore and use research. A brand manager needs to know everything about their brand and what drives it. The CEO needs a view of the overall health of the business. Sales needs to know about significant changes so they can act on them. Add to this the fact that stakeholders will have varying levels of technical ability, and you can easily see why it's important to be able to tailor outputs to different users. Whether it's six key metrics delivered via a smartphone app or a dynamic dashboard that is consulted multiple times a day, a tailored approach democratizes your data and helps everyone focus on what matters: growing the business. The data should drive positive business outcomes, not more time staring at a screen.

Get stakeholders actively engaged with the data

Here's another proverb to contemplate as you think about your future: "Give someone a fish and feed them for a day; teach them to fish and feed them them for life". What's this got to do with market research? Simple: If you keep the data to yourself, doling it out only as necessary, don't be surprised if your stakeholders quickly disengage and lose interest. But make it easy for them to explore the data themselves and experience those thrilling 'a-ha' moments and you will have budding research evangelists on your hands.

Three simple shifts that can have a profound impact

These are three simple shifts in approach that can have a profound impact on how market research is viewed in your organization. I know because I've seen it first-hand. Someone else who knows all about this is the Market Research Team at Orange. Read their story and find out how they revolutionized their approach and brought consumer insights firmly into the heart of their business.


This article first appeared in GRBN News on September 24, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

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