Positioning for the qualitative research industry of the future

Every conference, many blog posts and most conversations in the qualitative research industry center around the big question: what’s happening next?

Rapidly changing consumer behavior, technology advances and a horizon that is unclear to most marketers creates fear and opportunity. But the leaders in the qualitative research industry, and the future leaders of whatever this industry looks like, are focusing on accepting change and uncertainty, and creating their own future.

It’s about positioning. Listen to some leading voices and what they have to say:

In answer to the question that emerged from his appearance at the MRIA conference in British Columbia last week, “What is Next Gen Market research?,” Tom H.C. Anderson says the following at Next Gen Market Research:

” Importantly, the goal for all of us needs to be to resist further commoditization and cost cutting. Instead let’s increase the value of insights. I believe part of this will have to do with positioning. If you are on the qualitative side the goal will be greater creativity, more ‘marketing’ in both cases. We need to become more than traditional researchers while retaining the methodological principles which have served us well for many years.”

Says Ray Poynter, about the future of market research, in an interesting article from his blog, The Future Place:

“Although I think our business model is probably endangered, I think the future looks great for talented individuals. I think the opportunities for people who can understand a client’s needs, create a method of finding the answers, synthesise several streams of information, and produce feedback that allows the client to make a better decision has never looked rosier.

Jim Bryson adds his own thoughts, taken from some recent remarks:

“Marketing research is changing fundamentally. Survey’s will continue to be around for quite a while but they will be more limited than now because so much more data will be available from other sources. We saw a glimpse of this trend when companies started data mining of shopper data. That is expanding geometrically with huge new databases and the coming capabilities to gain true insights from social media. There are literally dozens of trends that all point to a more diminished role for the traditional survey.

With change comes opportunity. We can now engage consumers in a more complete way than 50 years ago. Compare current ethnography capabilities (visits, mobile qualitative, online journaling, webcam interviews, etc.) with the door-to-door methods of 50 years ago and you see that the industry has come light years and that there are more opportunities now in the industry than ever before. We will advance more in the next 10 years than in the last 50 and the opportunities will be accelerated as well…for those who are willing to change.”

Jim notes what he heard from a Senior EVP from Coca-Cola at the past Advertising Research Foundation conference, “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.”

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