There are lots of different answers to this question of course, several were even listed in a recent Research Live Article. If you were to ask Kirsty Fuller of Flamingo she’d say that:
“The single biggest issue facing our industry has to be commoditisation. If we are pigeon-holed as ‘data providers’ we are at risk of being overtaken by technology companies who deliver data more quickly, with a wider geographical spread, processed and packaged in a neat visual format.”
Tech companies running social media and lifestyle apps have access to unprecedented amounts of data; which is relevant and up-to-date and rich with potential. Because, social media and apps don’t just harvest data in bulk once a year, it’s non-stop, day by day, second by second. Many researchers are also concerned about DIY survey providers and their ability to provide data, cutting out a great deal of work and margins for data providers. Of course there are challenges posed by both of these things, but not ones that necessarily make them ‘bad guys’. As we all should know by now, it’s time to adapt!
Most peoples’ opinions on this matter however, are clouded by quite natural bias and some general assumptions we work to as professional researchers. Not unjustly so.
Well you only have to look at the websites of a few of agencies and the client lists, testimonials and case studies to see that we all like to work with the big boys. We love our chips blue. By and large, Market Research projects, of the scale and the sort that provide us with margins we’re happy to go to town with, do not come from SMEs or independents. But it’s your vintage shop, your favourite independent bistro, these ‘do it yourself’ research tools and modern applications can be so useful.
Research and market intelligence can be vital for SME’s, providing it’s cost effective and easy to access and analyse. Of course, just as with any research, the business owners utilising them have to know what they’re dealing with; recognising the potential and the limits of the tools they use. Beyond even surveys there are plenty of new tools, not built specifically for research purposes that are springing up for business owners to get to grips with.
One such example is fledgling tech company “Voucher Squirrel”. The mobile and online app on a basic level aims to help people live for less by offering them regular deals and discounts in their area, a totally new approach steering well clear of the much maligned Groupon Model. Rather than offering the service solely to big companies like Pizza Express etc. The Squirrel is accessible to small, local businesses. Beyond simply helping get bums on seats, The Squirrel seeks to provide its business members with valuable information on its users, information beyond just contact details. For creative director, Guy Wallace, marketing is all about personalisation and data is the key to getting there:
“For us it’s not about handing over email addresses. Firstly we don’t believe in SPAM, not just because it’s annoying, but because we think we’d be selling a poor product if it encouraged SPAM. The fact is that for many businesses the scattergun approach isn’t nearly effective enough. Small businesses with tight margins need to feel they can put their trust in the reliability of the marketing tools they choose.”
“The Squirrel app allows our users, to search for deals, in their area, or where they’re going to be, by time and date, and importantly by their interests. This way our member businesses, who use our program to manage their deals, get hold of truly valuable information on their customers; their likes, their interests, whether they’re local or not. All these things help them tailor their approach and give them an insight into who really connects with their style, services and delivery.”
So while we as professional researchers may have some quibbles with DIY surveys and feel threatened by tech companies, we need to respect their place. They too are businesses trying to make a buck, subject to similar pressures, who in time will have to come to terms with challengers that spring seemingly from nowhere. Already Twitter has had to adapt, as seen through its recently established relationship with Nielsen; a clear move to provide more valuable feedback on brand interaction. Similarly the mighty Facebook is often questioned, as arguably its advertising becomes less and less useful, and finds itself trying to drive up the value of its offering.
As Researchers this has only ever been about how we respond to the challenge. We can’t just hope that companies are going to turn round and say “Oh sorry, is our innovation and expertise stepping on your toes?” The important thing is balance. We have to innovate, but also tighten up on the basics, and finally I truly believe that we need to get better at communicating! Those of you who have witnessed our pal @Angry_MR_Client will know only too well of her (justified) hatred for bad reporting. We need to follow the lead of companies like Northstar, who focus heavily on the lasting impact of their insights; by presenting in dynamic formats (they once made a Mockumentary!).
So to summarise. We need to increase the value of our offering, by tightening up and innovating, and importantly listening to our end clients. Finally we return to them with our offering and remind them of why our insights might be more expensive than quick fixes, but you sure do get some bang for your buck.
What do you think of the tech challenge? How about DIY surveying? Connect with Face Facts Research and join in the conversation: