Monthly Archives: March 2011

PMRG: Current Research Methods Will Not Meet Needs

Current marketing research techniques are not sufficient to meet future research trends according to PMRG’s “State of the Industry Survey.” At its annual conference in Phoenix, the Pharmaceutical Market Research Group (PMRG) released findings from its first annual industry survey. The survey of pharma manufacturers and research suppliers revealed that both groups have little confidence that the research methods being used today will help solve the problems of tomorrow.

Other findings indicate that new methods will have to be more cost-efficient, easier to use and applicable in emerging markets. The survey showed that most respondents did not expect pharma spending to increase dramatically, but that they did anticipate an increase in global research spending, especially in emerging markets.  Added to this is the finding that the dollar volume of research managed by the typical pharma market researcher has increased by 50 percent.

Implications are huge. First, new methods that are more efficient must be found. Online research will likely be one solution. Second, data mining and social media monitoring will become a bigger part of marketing research plans.  Third, mobile research will have to be further developed to reach the emerging markets where few consumers are online but most have mobile phones. This will require further development of mobile platforms, such as 20/20 Research’s QualAnywhere mobile qualitative research platform, that do not require a smart phone.

In my experience, pharma has been slow to adopt online qualitative research and mobile research solutions.  However, the sessions today indicate that they are beginning to look for new solutions that will better meet their needs. Online qualitative research will undoubtedly be a significant part of the solution.

Don’t Blame Focus Groups for Corporate Management Shortcomings

In a recent guest post for Greenbook, two qualitative researchers explain why they’re fed up with the all-too-common notion that the focus group is dead. Susan Abbott of Abbott Research + Consulting and Chris Shields Kann of CSK Marketing Inc., write at length about how it’s not the focus group’s fault, but the corporate management behind all the bad marketing decisions. They point to a 2009 article in the Social Media Insider that references several examples of “high profile reversals resulting from not listening” to customers, including the Tropicana packaging change, the Motrin ad that offended mommy bloggers and the 2009 Facebook redesign.

“Pity the poor focus group, a multi-function tool being blamed for the mistakes of its users,” they argue. “It’s like blaming the chairs at a dinner party for the quality of the food.

The author of this particular article lambasted marketing research for not doing its job, but it’s not so simple, say Abbott and Kann. “Pity the poor focus group, a multi-function tool being blamed for the mistakes of its users,” they argue. “It’s like blaming the chairs at a dinner party for the quality of the food. When you look closely at most of the articles so critical of the focus group, the writer is usually trying to make quite a different point — they are usually trying to expose management cowardice or poor leadership that relies too much on research and those who won’t take a position of their own.”

They go on to argue that, “research does not set strategic direction — managers do that. Your outside researcher, who spent many hours poring over the fieldwork, can give you an informed, independent and often very valuable viewpoint. But they should not make your management decisions.”

Well said.

Respondents as Researchers – A New Role for Consumers

One of the themes emerging from today’s ARF Conference is the use of “normal people” as researchers. Social media appears to be driving a new look at the role that consumers can play. Previously, consumers were “respondents.”  As recently as October, 2010, we talked about the evolving perception of respondents as interactive participants in Are They Respondents or Participants?.  Now that research participation is being taken to a whole new level, consumers are being asked to predict, observe and analyze the behavior of their fellow consumers. Essentially, consumers are becoming researchers.

Online research tools such as prediction markets rely on consumers to predict winners and losers among new products and even elections. Essentially, prediction markets rely on individual consumers to “bet” on winners and losers. The ones who “bet” correctly win prizes; others don’t. There are several different executions of this technique but all draw upon the wisdom of crowds theory that many people make better choices than a few.

A very interesting application of consumers as researchers is “Mass Ethnography.”  John Kearon of BrainJuicer described this as asking 40 consumers to attend an event with the intent of reporting back on the behavior and motivations they observed. These temporary researchers receive a short document up front that serves as training and are then turned loose to observe and report back. According to Mr. Kearon, consumers provided insights never before understood in the category.  Apparently, the volume of observations and the closeness of the consumer/researcher to the behavior more than made up for the lack of training in ethnography.

This “Mass Ethnography” seems extremely interesting for online qualitative research. Why couldn’t a moderator use a bulletin board focus group to manage a group of consumer/researchers?  The bulletin board would be a great platform for managing the project, distributing assignments and collecting observations and insights.  It’s yet another application for the bulletin board focus group that holds tremendous promise.

Respondents as researchers? Why not.

2011 ARF Conference Delivers Quotable Speakers

The ARF Conference kicked off this morning in NYC. The conference is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Once the program advanced past the first hour of the obligatory ARF history, it has been interesting and provocative in a “big picture” sort of way.

I was especially interested in several quotes from the morning sessions.  Here are quotes as best I could record them along with a few comments from the cheap seats.

“The researcher’s role is to provide provocation and inspiration that drive the transformation and actions that generate growth” – Stan Stanaunathan, VP Marketing Research & Insights, The Coca-Cola Company. How many researchers consider themselves provacateurs or drivers of any transformation? Not many, in my experience.

“In 2020, companies that define themselves as ‘fieldwork’ will no longer exist.” – Joan Lewis, Global Consumer and Market Knowledge Officer, The Procter & Gamble Company. Hmmmm….I wonder what the MRA has to say about this?

“If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance a helluva lot less.” Joe Tripodi, EVP and Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer, The Coca Cola Company. Researchers are notiously slow to change.  End-user companies like Coca-Cola are pushing research companies to find new business models that embrace new technologies and new realities. Those that embrace these challenges have a chance to thrive. Others run the risk of following the dinosaurs.

“In our qualitative side and ethnographic side of our business, we are developing people who can understand our customers more deeply and provide value to clients.” – Eric Salama, Chairman and CEO, Kantar. There is a definite theme that the true value will be placed on people who can understand various types of data and relate the story of the customer back to the decision-maker.  Analytics are fine, but the true value will be transformational insights, however they are attained.

“Researchers need to be able to tell stories to motivate organizational change.” – Joan Lewis, Global Consumer and Market Knowledge Officer, The Procter & Gamble Company. Ms. Lewis went on to pan researchers as focused on methodology and findings that bore people and have little impact on decisions. Subtlety, throughout presentations, the value of qualitative continues to come through as presenter after presenter stresses the need for stories, understanding, understanding motivations, etc. 

 

Mobile Research Fastest Growing Segment, Says New Survey

The results are in from the 2010 Globalpark MR Software Survey by meaning, and all signs point toward mobile qualitative research as having a bright future. For the first time in the survey’s seven-year history, respondents, who comprise a sample of 200 market research companies from North America, Europe and Asia, do not believe web will be the fastest growing segment. This year, it is self-completion using mobile devices. Text-based (or SMS) research also also saw a boost this year, with 6 percent of firms using it in 2010, up from 3 percent in 2006. It’s most common at large firms, where usage tops 20 percent. The survey did not distinguish between quantitative and mobile qualitative research, but since we introduced QualAnywhere 1.5, our mobile qualitative research platform, we’ve definitely seen an uptick in interest.

Other interesting findings from the survey include:

  • Two-thirds of companies see social media research as an entirely new research method, with 17 percent of companies currently providing social media research and 63 percent experimenting with it or considering it for the future.
  • Web remains the dominant mode of research with nearly all (92 percent) of companies providing it.
  • Since 2008, the revenues derived from Web research have increased by 7 percentage points, whereas paper has declined by 8 percentage points.
  • A quarter of respondents say they’ll be changing their research software this year, while 23 percent are undecided. The rest are keeping their research software the same.

The full report is available from Globalpark. Also, check out this blog post from MRGA.

3 More Reasons You Should Be Doing Online Qualitative Research

Haven’t done your first online qualitative research project? That doesn’t surprise Kathy Doyle, a qualitative research veteran who recently talked to us about her experience with online qualitative at her Chicago-based research firm, Doyle Research. She says she experienced a “slow adoption process” of online qualitative research, particularly among clients. “I think it has a lot to do with their comfort level. They just don’t see how you can do qualitative research online because they think it’s all about ‘seeing’ customers and watching their facial expressions.” Clients can be skeptical about online qualitative research, but so can researchers. “I’m surprised by the people who insist that it can’t add value to their qualitative toolbox,” Kathy says.

Her advice? Try it out. Here are three reasons she’s sure will make you a convert:

1. Access to participants: Kathy says this is online qualitative research’s biggest benefit. “With online, you can easily talk to people from different parts of the country without having to travel,” she says. It’s also the perfect solution for hard-to-reach demographics, whether that’s busy physicians, tech-crazed teens or even house-bound seniors.

2. Anonymity: “In a lot of cases, it gives us better responses,” she says. “People say things they might not be comfortable revealing in front of an in-person focus group.”

3. It really is the future: “Our communication in general is moving online,” says the mom of a tech-savvy teenage son. “Ten years ago, the thought of talking to people online was weird. But 10 years from now, the idea of going to a focus group facility to talk to a group of strangers will seem even weirder.”

Check out more of what Kathy had to say about online qualitative research.

Making the Case for Free Research

In last month’s edition of Research, Chloe Fowler of Razor Research shares a big, crazy idea—giving away free research.

Her argument boils down to this: A lot of startup companies can’t afford to conduct qualitative research before launching a product or service—but they should. Or maybe they don’t even know that qualitative research exists—but they should. That’s where you come in. She’s not suggesting you give away free research to anyone who asks for it. (Besides, if they don’t know it exists, how will they know to ask for it?) But she does make a case for occasionally extending freebies to startups a few times a year. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Good karma. What goes around comes around? By offering a freebie, you’re likely to make a new friend or partner out of that startup. So when that company makes it big, they’ll remember you and want to pay you for gobs and gobs of online qualitative research.
  • Good experience for you. As Chloe says, “With a lot of clients it’s not always possible to get right up close to the top-level business realities that are driving research objectives, let alone briefings with the chief executive.” That’s not the case at startups, where you’ll probably be working directly with the “people who have germinated their brand idea and made it happen. They’re honest, assertive and have as much to teach us about business as we have to show them about consumers.”

Plus, she says the cost isn’t going to break the bank. “If you’ve got the time, can afford a little generosity and know you’re really helping a great startup, there’s nothing to lose,” she says. As part of our “Doing Good” program, 20|20 Technology provides free use of our online research software for anyone doing pure pro bono work for a charity.

What do you think? Do you give away free research to startups or nonprofits? Any pitfalls associated with this? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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