Does Market Research Need Reinventing?

Mar 07 2014

Many market researchers lack the ability to integrate information, fail to connect research results with business outcomes and have not learnt the skill of turning complex data into clear narratives.  The lack of these skills means that senior business leaders don’t take us seriously enough.

It’s a sobering fact that the majority of CEOs consider market research to be less useful than finance, marketing, information services and human resources. Moreover, many market researchers are in denial about their lack of relevance. The users of research do not believe that market researchers understand business issues, provide clear recommendations or answer “so what?” At the same time, market researchers believe that they do! We have a credibility gap!

Why has nothing changed? I’ve been running training on report writing skills for four years now. One thing has remained the same, and that is client’s views of market research reports. One thing has changed over those four years. The proportion of clients attending the training has increased and the proportion of research agencies has decreased. That is, clients are taking the problem into their own hands.

However, market research should have a place in the boardroom as the voice of the customer. Many business leaders talk about being customer centric, so why aren’t there Chief Insight Officers?

This can only happen when market researchers learn the value of integrating our understanding of customers, linking research results to business outcomes and creating meaning from the complexity of human behavior. That means reinventing the ways in which we communicate and activate our understanding of people, beyond boring presentations and reams of data.

There is still time to change, but is the industry ready for the challenge?

[This is a version of a brief presentation at MRMW in Singapore on 5th March 2014 for the the Special Court Case convened by Dan Foreman, ESOMAR President & Lumi Mobile, "The market research industry is boring, out of date, and needs reinvention!". Other witnesses from Unilever, TNS, Hall & Partners, McKinsey, Zappistore all testified in support of the motion.]

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