We are standing on the edge of a new ‘Golden Age’ for research and insights. The increasing volume of data, now the world’s most valuable resource, is undoubtedly a catalyst in this situation – but this new ‘Golden Age’ isn’t going to come in of its own volition. We first need to accept the changes in the landscape around us. Not least how workforces are hurriedly moving online due to the current Covid-19 crisis and the social distancing measures employed to combat its spread.

In this environment, what separates those that ‘sink or swim’ is how they adapt to change, from fluctuating environmental conditions to shifts in the fundamental nature of business.

We are no longer operating within a ‘market research’ ecosystem. The environmental conditions of our industry have changed, and, as such, we now operate within the much larger ‘data and insights’ ecosystem. To thrive in this new climate, this shift must firstly be recognised. We can then begin to understand the fundamental differences between the two before looking to maintain current principles of quality insights and metrics.

The revenue figures for traditional research have been flat for many years, whereas the data and analytics sub-segments have seen double digit growth. In fact, by the time the latest figures are released it would not at all be a surprise to see data and analytics surpass the value of traditional research. Figures released in 2018 estimate that the global datasphere will grow from 41ZB (1 zettabyte is equal to one trillion gigabytes) to 175ZB by 2025.

But what does this all mean for market research and how can businesses capitalise on the vital insights that data can bring?

Embrace the change

With any luck, we’ll have seen the end of league tables ranking the leading ‘survey based’ research companies. Market research has simply outgrown sole reliance on surveys, which are often times meaningless in a modern context. Instead, the new definition needs to be how we obtain and refine data, what is done with it, the decisions we make using it and, ultimately, the actions it leads us to take.

Stand by your principles

The values of our industry have long been aligned with quality, independence, data privacy and professionalism. When welcoming the new data and analytics world, we need to ensure that these tenets still stand and remain at the core. This will maintain marketplace diversity and allow you to bring added value to your clients, industries and governments. 

Support the new leaders

The rapid growth of data and analytics has brought its own challenges. As an anecdotal example, at Qualtrics, one client (prior to working with us) discovered that employees had created 58 active survey accounts using personal email addresses. Each account had access to sensitive and confidential information from clients and other sources.

Actions like this can lead to what is often called ‘ghost IT departments’, the term referring to individual business units or departments who act unilaterally, independently adopting tools and processes without consulting or learning from the experiences of other teams.

The relationship between these different experiences within an organisation is what we call Experience Management. Shaping this experience is the shared responsibility of your entire organisation, whether that be the CCO and chief product officer working to make product development more customer-centric, or the CMO and chief people officer working to foster an internal culture that aligns with corporate values.

However, this delicate structure quickly falls apart without the Chief Information Officer. It’s vital that all tools, platforms, data and insights are fully covered by governance and security protocols. That truly does mean everything, from the systems your customer services team use to interact with customers to the platforms that allow for data and insights to be shared between departments and accessed by the right people.

The role of the CIO has become vital to business success, breaking down data silos and ensuring that the right information gets to the right people in a secure and efficient manner. This enables the business to deliver world-class experiences and fully benefit from the vital role that data can play in modern business.

By adopting these three principals, and thinking in terms of integrated, experience management (rather than just surveys) researchers can thrive in the new climate. As comfortable as the old approach may be, we must look beyond our traditional ‘market research’ title, and towards a broader and more advanced, data and insights-based ecosystem. That will be the basis of the new Golden Age of research.

Tim Farmer

Tim Farmer