Six Take-Aways From This Year’s Market Research Event

Last month I attended The Market Research Event, my favorite market research conference of the year. It lived up to expectations once again and six things keep bouncing around my head as I reflect back on it.


1. The innovation conversation is focused on qualitative and distribution: Judging by session attendance and the nominations for the EXPLOR and NGMR Disruptive Innovator awards, the vast majority of innovation is coming in the form of qualitative research methodologies and information distribution. This is being driven by the continuing emergence of technology first companies into the market research space, as opposed to new entries using traditional ideas and techniques. This new life in the industry is a good thing for sure, but getting from cool technology to useful insights is easier said than done and those who don’t understand the end goal of what researchers are trying to accomplish will likely fail.

2. Quantitative topics aren’t sexy: There was not much talk of advancements in quantitative research, and most quantitative topics focused on the simplification of surveys and necessary analytical trade-offs associated with them. Particularly jarring for any quant. researchers in attendance was a keynote session that centered around the fact that stated importance is no longer a good metric and that MaxDiff was a better choice. This was jarring simply because many firms have long since adopted this methodology and, at least at CMB, moved on to things like Anchored MaxDiff and Adaptive Discrete Choice to increase the reliability of results.

3. Selling insights internally and empowering employees is key to success: There was a lot of interesting talk of broader use of technology to share insights within and beyond the corporate office. Smart companies are using insights to enable a wide array of decisions at the corporate level and empower employees at all levels. CMB’s client from Avis Budget Group, Becky Alseth, showed how they are using the Voice of the Customer program to empower local managers to make improvements and Bill Hoffman from Best Buy showed how they gather insights from employees on the front lines and drive better one to one service at retail.

4. Facebook is changing the game, and they aren’t even the ones doing lots of the changing. The Facebook platform allows companies to interact with their customer and prospects in different ways and smart companies are figuring out the best way to leverage it for insights and engagement. For example, Linda Ashbrook from Taco Bell shared how they have been creating private pages to essentially build temporary research panels that last 2-3 months and focus on a particular part of their target market. This allows them to run what I would call an online bulletin board on steroids that provides daily insight and when they are done with the topic, close it down instead of keeping an MROC alive indefinitely. And as long as the experience is good, Facebook is all for it. Smart, innovative, cost effective. I love it.

5. Media measurement is evolving beyond only Nielsen. Jim Multari from Sprout, PBS’ network focused on providing great content via multiple platforms for kids ages 2-4, shared how they used a variety of methods to prove their value to advertisers prior to signing on as Nielsen tracked entity. Combing Omniture, set-top box data, TiVo data, their own community, and more allowed them to paint a picture that focused on the extent to which they were engaging kids and parents and sell based on value not volume as they grew. Even now, as a Nielsen tracked company, they rely on this mix of data sources to sell against competitors with broader reach in the market. Again, very smart way prove value beyond the traditional industry currency.

6. Engaging the internal organization is still the key to research success. CMB client, Bob Biancamano from Ameriprise Financial focused his strategic segmentation story on the internal challenges he faced and how to attack them in a way that builds buy in, not dismissal. From embracing past segmentations to making the results obviously valuable to different areas of the organization, Bob showed how they overcame key challenges with some thoughtful planning to provide both a practical and holistic view that enabled Ameriprise to change their focus from their agents to their customers. Not revolutionary, but effective. Even with all of the evolutionary approaches, it is more important than ever to understand and engage the users of market research insights.

All in all, The Market Research Event was a hit and it is clear that an evolution is happening in our industry. And as clients and providers get younger and more nimble (and less reliant on traditional methods) we are sure to see more changes by this time next year and into the future.

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