Day 0 From the ESOMAR Congress in Amsterdam

The following is a guest post by Steve Henke, 20|20 President, who is in Amsterdam this week for the ESOMAR Congress.

Like most of the events in our industry, the first day always seems to kick off with a cocktail reception in the exhibit hall. (By the way, that’s NOT a complaint!) But unlike many first days, today we’ve been very busy in our booth. Three things were very interesting to me.

1. There’s no question that ESOMAR is THE international event in our industry. I didn’t keep track of everyone who visited the booth, but here’s a sampling of the countries that did stop by – Romania, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Japan, India, Egypt, UK, US and Argentina.

2. Doing online qualitative research is still outside the norm for nearly everyone who visited us. And in many cases, they had virtually no knowledge of online qualitative and the various online research software platforms available. That tells me that there is still a lot of change to come to research outside of the states.

3. One of our platforms, QualBoard, has some international brand recognition. It was mentioned by several of our booth visitors as a product they had at least heard of, if not had it recommended by a colleague in the industry.

Isaac Rogers and I are excited for the full conference to start tomorrow – to see what topics become the real crowd favorites… and for the throngs (I hope!) that will drive to our booth.

Join the Debate on the Future of Mobile Research

Thursday’s Webinar on Mobile Research: Great Hope or False Dawn that was conceived by Leonard Murphy over at GreenBook Blog was a lively debate for the “soul of the future of research.”

The following participants were moderated by Roxana Strohmenger of Forrester Research:

Michael Alioto, Vice President, Marketing Sciences, Gongos Research
Reg Baker, COO, Market Strategies International
Leonard Murphy, Editor-in-Chief, GreenBook Blog
Ray Poynter, author of the Handbook of Online & Social Media Research

The Webinar grew out of the release of a survey by Alioto’s firm, Gongos Research, “Smartphone Surveys Prove Their Validity in Marketing Research.”

The key positions, according to Jeff Henning’s recap, were, either: “1. Smart phones are strategic enhancements to online,” or “2. Smart phones are a different methodology that could well be the next evolutionary platform of research and quantitative analysis.”

Murphy was expressing the view that research firms need to approach mobile differently, as it’s “radically different from how we think of research today.”

Poynter and Baker didn’t embrace the revolution that Murphy sees taking place. They were more in the camp that mobile was more of a “niche” part of qualititative research to date, and perhaps, will be for some time to come.

20|20’s own Jim Bryson notes that the bright predictions for mobile qualitative, for all it’s promises, has been disappointing up to this point. This perspective comes from 20|20’s experience of working on a number of innovative mobile qualitative projects in the past year.

Baker notes that it’s early yet to see the value of mobile qualitative, and much more research is required to see its value to marketers. Bryson tends to agree, noting that there is much still to be developed.

“We continue to look for ways to help researchers perform better research and gain deeper insights, wherever that means that mobile takes us,” says Bryson.

Where do you stand in the debate? We’d love to hear from you.

Made your fall MR conference plans yet?

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

With apologies to Peter, Paul & Mary… The Fall MR Conference season will be here before you know it. And it looks like another good one. Have you made your plans yet?

20|20 will be exhibiting at several this Fall… and attending even more.

The folks at Inside Research have put together the best annual conference calendar in the industry and made it available on their website.

You might want to bookmark this page, as I’m sure they’ll be updating it for the Spring in the not-too-distant future.

One note: the ESOMAR 3-D Digital Research Conference has been moved and is now scheduled for October 26-28 in Miami.

The taxi’s waiting, he’s blowin’ his horn…

Lessons My iPad Taught Me

I’m on vacation and learning to use my new iPad 2. My typing is slow and I make a lot of mistakes. I often wish I had a keyboard but that would defeat the purpose of this “mobile” device. If I don’t throw it into the ocean, I think I’m going to like it.

In addition to being mobile, my iPad is incredibly personal. I put the apps on it that I want. Some are work-related, many are not. It bridges my work and personal life so that neither is ever far away. After all, I’m writing a “work blog” while on vacation.

My guess is that my iPad2 is simply a bridge product itself. As a product it is neither a phone nor a computer. But it has tapped into something several fundamental changes that have significant implications for researchers.

1. People don’t compartmentalize their lives any more. The lines between work and play are blurred.
2. People want customization. It truly is all about me, not my generation or peer group.
3. People want to be constantly connected. Take away their wireless signals and watch ‘em squirm!

If I think about it much more, I could come up with more. However, I’m on vacation.

My iPad is a good teacher. What are your toys teaching you?

Positioning for the qualitative research industry of the future

Every conference, many blog posts and most conversations in the qualitative research industry center around the big question: what’s happening next?

Rapidly changing consumer behavior, technology advances and a horizon that is unclear to most marketers creates fear and opportunity. But the leaders in the qualitative research industry, and the future leaders of whatever this industry looks like, are focusing on accepting change and uncertainty, and creating their own future.

It’s about positioning. Listen to some leading voices and what they have to say:

In answer to the question that emerged from his appearance at the MRIA conference in British Columbia last week, “What is Next Gen Market research?,” Tom H.C. Anderson says the following at Next Gen Market Research:

” Importantly, the goal for all of us needs to be to resist further commoditization and cost cutting. Instead let’s increase the value of insights. I believe part of this will have to do with positioning. If you are on the qualitative side the goal will be greater creativity, more ‘marketing’ in both cases. We need to become more than traditional researchers while retaining the methodological principles which have served us well for many years.”

Says Ray Poynter, about the future of market research, in an interesting article from his blog, The Future Place:

“Although I think our business model is probably endangered, I think the future looks great for talented individuals. I think the opportunities for people who can understand a client’s needs, create a method of finding the answers, synthesise several streams of information, and produce feedback that allows the client to make a better decision has never looked rosier.

Jim Bryson adds his own thoughts, taken from some recent remarks:

“Marketing research is changing fundamentally. Survey’s will continue to be around for quite a while but they will be more limited than now because so much more data will be available from other sources. We saw a glimpse of this trend when companies started data mining of shopper data. That is expanding geometrically with huge new databases and the coming capabilities to gain true insights from social media. There are literally dozens of trends that all point to a more diminished role for the traditional survey.

With change comes opportunity. We can now engage consumers in a more complete way than 50 years ago. Compare current ethnography capabilities (visits, mobile qualitative, online journaling, webcam interviews, etc.) with the door-to-door methods of 50 years ago and you see that the industry has come light years and that there are more opportunities now in the industry than ever before. We will advance more in the next 10 years than in the last 50 and the opportunities will be accelerated as well…for those who are willing to change.”

Jim notes what he heard from a Senior EVP from Coca-Cola at the past Advertising Research Foundation conference, “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.”

MRA Conference Quotes: Bill Neal and Marshall Toplansky face off

The MRA Conference started Tuesday with a bang!  Industry veterans, icons really, Bill Neal and Marshall Toplansky, faced off on a debate about the future of the industry, specifically social media.  The debate was fun, opinionated and wide-ranging.  Some great quotes emerged.  Here are some of them that may make you stop and ponder.

“The (technology) train has left the station.  If the research industry does not get involved, it will relegate itself to the dustbin of history.” Marshall

What bothers me about our industry is that the answer to “It isn’t perfect” is I won’t bother with it.  In technology, the answer to “It isn’t perfect” is “I’ll work to fix it.” Marshall

On Corporate Trends:

“Corporate researchers are investing in ongoing, real-time information systems.  They started with financial systems and they are moving to marketing systems.  They are moving from a focus on strategic research and into performance indices.” Marshall

“Our role is to be the arbiter of the voice of the customer in the C-suite.  Unfortunately we do not have a voice in the C-suite today.” Bill

“Corporate researchers are not able to make judgments to understand what is good research and what is not.  They want the top numbers to pass up to those paying for it.” Bill

“Big M marketing is waning; Little m marketing is increasing.” Bill   (Big M = branding and long term positioning.  Little m = tactical marketing to result in short-term sales.)

“The fundamental flow of information to the decision makers is inadequate.” Marshall

On Social Media as a Research Tool:

“I don’t care how big the data set is, if its not representative then its not valid.  There are gobs of people that are not represented in social media…I’m not sure its ever going to get to the point where it is representative.” Bill

“It’s the “why” part of it that a lot of this new technology is not addressing.” Bill

“Despite what I have seen at this conference, social media research has not reached the point where you will bet the company on it.” Bill

“Gobs of data does not relieve us from conducting statistically reliable and trustworthy analyses…(and) relieve us from making reliable projections that can be defended in the court of reality” Bill

I remember when people stood up and said “Scanner data is going to end all research.” Bill

“I remember when people said that scanner data was no good because we didn’t know anything about the people that the data represents.  It wasn’t long until loyalty cards were invented to solve that problem.  We will solve these problems with social media.” Marshall

“I am concerned that this drive to use social media as quantitative information is going to lead too many people to drive off the cliff.  I guess that’s my major problem with it.”  Bill

“I want to address this idea of “representativeness.”  Do you realize that this whole idea of “representativeness” is a load of crap?…We are stuck in an old paradigm that even Proctor & Gamble is moving away from.” Marshall

“We have a herd instinct going on with social media and we have a lot more work to do to make it predictable.” Bill

“I don’t think you appreciate the scale difference between social media and traditional research.  To give you a sense of scale, just in consumer electronics we analyze and collect 120 million comments a month.  We are looking at this as the law of large numbers.  A lot of the comments we would normally delete in a typical research project get bled out in the millions of comments from social media.” Marshall

“So woman comes on and complains about diapers and more moms agree and add on.  Eventually the discussion cascades and the entire social media discussion is about a topic that may or may not be important to the majority of moms.  This is one of the problems I have with social media.” Bill

“Its (social media) not the end all, its just another tool.  Don’t oversell it.  Don’t overuse it.” Bill

Qualitative Research Needed to Understand Social Buying

Several interesting articles recently have focused on social media effects on purchasing. It’s an ongoing discussion among marketers, and qualitative research is a critical part of the discussion.

A recent post by Tony Zambito at his blog, Buyer Persona Insights, The Research Methods of Social Buyerology notes that understanding buyers who use social media requires “multiple qualitative approaches,” including field buyer research, ethnographic immersion, contextual buyer interviews and grounded theory interviews.

“What we do know today is that traditional methods of structured customer, buyer, and market research that are quantitative based cannot address the social and cultural changes taking place in our business society. This includes the severely hindering structured methods typically associated with focus groups and surveys. It is not to say that quantitative structured approaches are worse but to say that qualitative approaches are specifically needed to understand behavioral and interaction changes in situational settings, says Zambito in another article at Business to Community on the same topic.

At 20/20, we concur. qualitative approaches to understanding buyers and purchasing are specifically needed in our social media era.  Kathy Doyle of Doyle Research Associates as been particularly vocal about the need for qualitative research techniques in evaluating social media.  Her presentation to at the QRCA Conference last year served as a wake-up call to the industry that qualitative should be the analysis of choice if users are to get the most out of social media.

Twitter Can Enhance but not Replace Qualitative Research Efforts

As Twitter recently celebrated its 5th birthday, we’ve reviewed what we and others have said about Twitter and its impact on qualitative research. Said in 140 characters or fewer: the truth about Twitter sits between the idea that it will replace focus groups, and the idea that it doesn’t matter as a tool to researchers.

Last August, Jim blogged about comments in response to a BNET article doubting the value of social media to researchers.

As Twitter marches on, it bears watching how the story unfolds, but a recent The Times of India article, “Can Twitter be a potent research tool?,” continues the framing of the debate.

“Listening to Twitter is like only listening to the one loudmouth in the focus group,” said Justin Gibbons, founding partner of Work Research. “Twitter is a stage and Tweeters are often acting out roles on it. Qualitative research has come a long way. We use the latest neuroscience and behavioural economics to create new ways of asking questions and getting meaningful responses.”

Jim blogged in 2009 about the pros and cons of using Twitter as a component of qualitative research. It does skew to people posturing. And it won’t replace structured qualitative research. But ignore it at your peril. We believe Twitter (and other social media tools):

1. Add texture to structured research, by listening in on what consumers are already saying, and
2. Add a recruiting channel to existing efforts to attract feedback.

There are effective ways to add social tools to your online qualitative research. And as Twitter and online behaviour evolves, the story might change. But, for now, it can enhance your research efforts.

The Storyline at the QRCA Symposium

Thursday, QRCA hosted their biennial QRCA Symposium featuring researchers and their clients presenting actual research projects, complete with impact on the business.  It was a great “feel good” day for consultants who sometimes wonder if their work makes much of a difference at the decision-makers level.

The common thread running through the presentations was the need to develop the customer’s story.  From Patricia Martin’s story about the Renaissance Generation to AARPs presentation on reaching the Millennial Generation, presenters focused on the importance of the story.  To fully engage their customers, marketers must understand them holistically.  They must understand their “story,” not just their impression of the product.

Qualitative researchers and qualitative techniques are uniquely qualified to explore and reveal the customer’s story. We have more qualitative techniques than ever before.  Presenters uncovered stories using traditional focus group methodologies and online qualitative research methodologies.  The techniques are simply tools that we match to the need to provide the richest and most revealing stories.

Out of the story come the deep insights into the “why.”  In conference after conference, research buyers say they want insights.  They want more than just regurgitation of the facts or the research events.  They want insights that inform decisions.  These insights don’t come from a cursory glance; they come from a focused experience that reveals the customer’s story with all the twists, turns and inconsistencies that makes us human.

The 2011 QRCA Symposium told a lot of stories that informed a lot of decisions that improved a lot of products/services that improved a lot of lives.  It was a good day.

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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