Market insights are dead, long live…

Stephen Bairfelt, Purple Market Research

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to review the challenges and successes of the previous year and generally to take stock.

The challenges faced by the market intelligence industry are probably much the same as last year.  The economy in general and the research world in particular are proving stubbornly slow to show signs of recovery and the research industry is still giving off mixed signals.  Although the 2013 MRS Awards Dinner suggested a return of confidence and buoyancy, many traditional market research suppliers are feeling squeezed out by DIY research tools for quantitative and qualitative research, the growth in the use of communities, behavioural economics, social media monitoring and, of course, the emergence of Big Data (and the analysis thereof).

Meeting the challenges of today’s marketing mix

There is no doubt that the industry is having to reinvent itself to deal with these challenges. Buyers of market intelligence services claim that, in this brave new world, they need a combination of traditional research skills (synthesis/analysis of information and story-telling) and new analytical and technical skills.  To a great extent different kinds of people and different kinds of agencies are required. Even for those who choose the DIY route, coaching and mentoring is essential to help them navigate the plethora of options now out there to help us interpret our markets.

There is, in addition, a fundamental question which encapsulates these issues: what the hell is our industry called these days (or what should it be called)?  Many are convinced that ‘market research’ doesn’t do the job any more.  Are we now embarrassed by the term? Do we have an identity crisis on our hands?

Insight: An evolution

Over the last ten or so years the term ‘market research’ has tended to be replaced by ‘insight’ to reflect the fact that clients look at traditional research as just one of a number of sources of information and insight, including sales data, social media content, customer data, etc. etc.

However Big Data seems to have moved things on.  Last year WPP head Martin Sorrell announced that his Consumer Insight business would henceforth be known as “Data Investment Management” (although I suspect the acronym will be avoided!).  This reflects a new role for the researcher, analysing and synthesising the huge amount of data available to clients.  This actually seems like a natural evolution of insight.

There has been considerable discussion of the changing nature of market research and the name that might best suit the new role(s) of the research agency. The unfortunate acronym may prevent Data Investment Management being adopted more widely in the industry, however influential Sir Martin may be.  So what will the new market insight be?  Information Management?  Evidence-based Insight?  I’d wager that the word ‘data’ will figure in there somewhere.  Data Management? (too easily confused with Direct Marketing)  Big Data Management?  Business Intelligence?

Maybe 2014 will bring some clarity to this vexing issue.

Market research is moving on. If you’re confused about the options for your company, or you’re not finding what you want elsewhere talk to Stephen. With twenty years of expertise on his side, he is ideally placed to guide you in sourcing the market insights you need to move your business forward.