Podcast: Geoff Lowe talks about "data enlightenment" in market research

Geoff shares how he believes market research can deliver greater value and generate actionable understanding by leaving behind fragmented processes and taking a more collaborative approach.

We welcomed our own Geoff Lowe to our market research podcast, Now That's Significant. Geoff, the head of sales at Infotools, has been involved in consumer insights in various ways since 1986. He is driven by the vision to help researchers realize the potential in the data they're collecting. He believes knowledge is power, but shared knowledge is super power! During our conversation, Geoff covered some of knowledge he’s acquired over the years surrounding the age of data enlightenment we're moving into, and what that means in the world of market research.

Geoff believes that market researchers are leaving a tremendous amount of value on the table because the way we tend to work in the research industry is fragmented and sequential rather than integrated and iterative. He says that  the more insights professionals can collaborate with each other and with their clients, and the more this is done in real time, the more value we will create as an industry.

Where does this fragmentation come into play? Geoff gave an "over simplified" example of a typical market research project playbook:

  1. A client needs to understand something;
  2. The researcher designs some research to help them gain that understanding;
  3. The research is implemented, data is sorted and findings are analyzed;
  4. Results are reported to the client. 

The problem is that each step of the sequence of events is undertaken by different people or teams, making the entire process inherently fragmented. This is costly in terms of efficiency, and it slows the process down. Poor results can also ensue because you don't have one overarching view of the project in its entirety. This traditional approach is just not fit for purpose, and doesn't meet the fast turnaround that we all expect now.

Geoff says that there is a solution, but widespread adoption has been "frustratingly slow." First of all, researchers should enter a project by setting the client expectations that they will have an active role in generating understanding, not simply acting as the "book ends" where they've been relegated in the typical sequential process. We need to create an environment where the clients are part of the discovery of new understanding, rather than recipients of someone else’s work. We also need to reduce the hand-offs from team to team within insights functions.

Because the purpose of market research is to grow understanding, when the end-user of that research is involved they will have a direct hand in this growth. They'll be better equipped to do better things within their companies and ultimately their customers – all of us – will be better served. When that happens, the total value created is greater and consequently, the value of market research is greater. 

Unfortunately, Geoff says that moving toward this type of inclusive model has been slow, due mainly to the inertia of existing systems and expectations. Research companies are structured into teams with specialist skills suited to each part of the sequential process. In the past, that was a sensible way to organize things, because the knowledge needed, and the tools used were highly specialized. Modern research data platforms have democratized the process to the point where competent individuals can credibly take a project from data to delivery, obviating the need for inefficient handoffs.

During the podcast, Geoff issues a call to the industry to shift the mindset and the expectations, and start focusing on  the ultimate purpose of what market research does: generates and shares understanding so everyone can be better served. Then we need to constantly ask ourselves if what we’re currently doing is the most effective way to achieve that goal.

Tune in to hear more, and see how Geoff thinks the market research process will change in the near future to accommodate new pressures and deliver more value. 

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