If 2015 is any indication, 2016 will be a continuation of changes and shifts for those on all sides of the market research equation: software vendors, market research clients, and market research suppliers. But how quickly will the market research world shift?
Major shifts taken one step at a time
One of my favorite market research professionals, Ray Poynter, published his predictions for 2016 on the Greenbook blog. Among the predictions made was a refrain I’ve seen from him before about surveys continuing to be threatened as a result of changes in our understanding of the human brain, the actual accuracy (or lack thereof) of our survey results, and the continued drop in response rates for surveys in general.
I agree with his prediction for the most part. However, I’ve also argued that some organizations just aren’t ready for that shift yet, in part based on their size and inability to pivot quickly to adopt a new methodology. I still believe that to be the case.
While progress has been made on fronts such as telemetry, the reality is that we still aren’t doing it well enough to convince any of the larger companies to replace the part of their trackers that asks about usage with telemetry alone. Social media tracking is all fine and well, but it also has its limitations still (such as being able to narrow social data by segmented audiences, for example). These limitations relegate social media listening to something akin to secondary research, as opposed to a replacement for primary research. It can support findings, but I have yet to see it be used to really draw the same types of insights that can be gathered from a good study. Market researchers are still trying to find efficient ways to combine all of these various types of research to generate good insights for clients. Heck, some market research companies are even still trying to cut down the length of the surveys their clients want them to field! Not only that, some clients are fielding their surveys in tandem with the newer market research methods to try to see how the results compare, then pointing to the gaps from the newer methods as reason why they should continue their trackers.
On the flip side, I do believe there are significant strides being made in the technologies used to gather market research information. As yes, some organizations are truly putting the trackers aside and replacing them with newer market research methods. But much like the slowness on the part of the public to adopt more fuel-efficient vehicles over the gas guzzlers, I think it will still be some time before we reach critical mass and see organizations of all sizes truly discarding their surveys and replacing them with new market research methods. Perhaps response rates will drop to a point (even using panels) that companies will be forced to abandon their tracking surveys. Until then, while it will be exciting to continue watching market research methods evolve, I am inclined to think surveys will still be under threat of extinction for at least a few more years.
Maybe at least until 2034.