Is primary research evolving away from projects designed and conducted to solve tactical problems? The tea leaves all point that way.
Here are the trends:
DIY research is growing because research is easier and cheaper than ever. Research, marketing and even human resource departments can deploy surveys faster and cheaper than they can procure them through the bureaucratic corporate procurement process. We in the research industry can argue
all day about the wisdom of this trend but it is happening and destined to grow.
Companies have discovered that communities (MROCs) can provide faster turnaround on ad hoc studies and, when the cost is distributed
over many studies, the research can be cheaper than an ad hoc study.
Web crawlers that search the Internet and social media can provide a constant flow of information that continually updates marketing
managers on the buzz around their brand and alerts them when their brand is threatened by a negative event and/or a destructive rumor.
The recession accelerated these trends because it pushed research departments to find ways to do more with less. They discovered that these
methods work. They may or may not have the same level of validity, but they were useful for decision-making. Therefore, the methods will continue to be used.
Most research firms have simply not evolved to meet these needs. In the qualitative world,
projects require 2-6 weeks as they always have and the cost structure has changed little. In the
quantitative world, the Internet has caused data collection costs and turnaround to tumble in spite of industry-wide concern over panel
validity. Online qualitative has yet to achieve significant the cost and time savings.
Regardless, the trend is that the future for research firms appears to be in the consulting and strategy arena rather than research
projects that solve tactical problems. The information age crashed into the recession and birthed a new era in market research. If a research firm cannot bring
brains to the table, it won’t be invited to dinner.