Live From Day One of the MRMW Conference

Isaac Rogers, our director of innovation, is in Kennesaw, Ga., this week for the 2011 Market Research in the Mobile World (MRMW) Conference. Here are his thoughts on day one:

The format so far has been really stimulating; each presenter gets 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes of Q&A. I’m impressed not only by the quality of the presentations, but also the breadth of viewpoints; tech vendors, researchers, end-clients all have a place at the podium.

It seems that everyone in the audience has some experience with mobile research, so most of the conversations are leaning away from “Is it possible?” and more towards “How do we ensure we’re best utilizing mobile research methods?” But nobody has a great answer yet. It seems the consensus is that we simply haven’t arrived at the point where we can see where mobile research is going to end up. But I think everyone in the room agrees we should all commit to figuring this out—quickly—or the market research industry will be left as dumbfounded as we were when the Internet first emerged.

As a company with an existing mobile qualitative research platform already in the marketplace (QualAnywhere), I couldn’t agree more. All of us (both quant and qual) are figuring out where to go next, and we feel we’ve only taken the first timid steps on this new path.

There were actually several heated exchanges over one issue: Are we, as an industry, moving fast enough to survive? Some in the room (most maybe?) felt we just aren’t pushing new methods fast enough, and that we didn’t learn the lessons from the first wave of online methods and are doomed to repeat them.

On this side of the argument, many researchers voiced an opinion that we didn’t put enough energy into adoption (especially in online qualitative), and that it put us behind our potential for the better part of a decade. I think several times it was mentioned that online qualitative “just caught up.” and here we are, easily 5-7 years behind the needs of our client base. The fear is that if we don’t react quickly enough to mobile methods, and we don’t put enough effort into discovering and understanding this new medium then we’ll again be struggling to keep up with the demands of tomorrow.

The group on the other side of the argument believe we should push forward on mobile, but cautiously. These folks seem to think that, in our rush to adopt new methods, we actually make early missteps that slow the overall adoption of new methods. Instead, we should thorough in when and how we adopt new research methods.

I can see both sides of the argument, but I have to agree with the “more innovation, faster” side of the discussion. I don’t think we need to be sloppy in our adoption of mobile, but we do need to develop a culture that allows new methods to be tested, evaluated and understood much faster than we have in the past. This means there will be some messiness, some mis-steps, but we need to see this as part of the process and learn from it. Otherwise, let’s just hide in our offices and let the world pass us by.

All in all, congrats to Leonard Murphy and crew for a great kickoff to this conference.

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