Is your research supplier methodology agnostic?

Joan Lewis is Procter & Gamble’s global consumer and market knowledge officer.  As a key representative of one of the largest research buyers in the world, if she feels that traditional surveys will dramatically decline in importance by 2020 – then we should sit up and listen.

Her comments were made during and after a panel discussion on "How Market Research Must Change" at the Advertising Research Foundation's Re:Think 2011 conference in New York.

Among the many very interesting observations she made, was that the research industry needs to move away from "believing a method, particularly survey research, will be the solution to anything. We need to be methodology agnostic".

These views are fuelled by the growth in importance of harnessing social media to gain consumer insight. While she acknowledges that representation is important and that P&G will continue to commission survey research, it is not something that we should dogmatically adhere to – “we need to get away from the notion that being representative of something is the only way to learn”.

Not surprisingly we agree with this sentiment, not least because it re-asserts a point made in our previous blog post on the Top 5 “hot vs not” issues for the future of market research:

“Let’s not just focus on what methodologies are used, but more on the quality of insights generated. No client really cares if something is qual or quant or somewhere in between. “Whatever it takes” to answer the business questions becomes the preferred methodology!”

Also the nature of social media is changing the way that potential respondents want to engage with companies and vice-versa. "The more people see two-way engagement and being able to interact with people all over the world, I think the less they want to be involved in structured research," commented Lewis. "If I have something to say to that company now, there are lots of ways to say it".

And if we want to engage with what people are saying, then that means harnessing social media: listening through social media monitoring, generating dialogue, engaging through online communities, discussion groups and bulletin boards.

We are still on a journey of discovery, gaining a deeper understanding of how accurate this kind of research is and what it is representative of. Two things we can be confident about is that social media research will continue to become more effective through ongoing use and improvement, and that demand for it will rise – probably at the expense of “traditional” research.

For the medium term however, we are not predicting the demise of traditional research just yet. It would be sensible to adopt a hybrid model that combines the strengths of both approaches. Successfully integrating social media research projects with other research programmes may well become the new norm over the next few years. And companies that build experience and expertise in this area will put themselves at the forefront of this new wave of research.




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