Thursday, September 22, 2016

Extinction or Revolution? How Market Research Can Excel in this New World

The Research Insighter caught up with David Boyle, the BBC's EVP of Insights at our last TMRE event, you can watch the video here. Their lively discussion addressed the seemingly insurmountable difficulties the market research industry is facing right now, and offered some pretty concrete solutions.

The Research Insighter: "At TMRE 2015 there were some pretty big words thrown around, revolution, extinction... what do you make of all this with regard to the state of the market research industry today?"

The market research industry is certainly dealing with some scary stuff right now.
 
David Boyle: "Some big scary words... I think there are some serious challenges (for market researchers) from a number of different directions: New data sources resulting from digital engagement competing for business leaders’ attention, and people are doing research themselves with new tools such as: Survey Monkey, Google forms, social media analytics and data. The core work you’ve been doing for years is being competed against with all these new supposedly insightful data sources. Everyone's talking about big data or data science, it’s the topic of investment and where the future lies. So that’s what’s getting managers’ attention. There are very real risks for market researchers and the market research community."
 


The Research Insighter: "How is this manifesting itself in your world at the BBC? Obviously media is the probably first and hardest hit by all of the disruptive technologies to date."

Step one to "overcoming the peril"? Ask the business question you are trying to solve for.
 
David Boyle: "I think the 1st step is to ask what the business question is that you are trying to solve for? This is key to overcoming the peril. Let’s get really clear. If you trying to monetize TV consumption, sure the Nielsen ratings are 'the currency'. If you are trying to understand the reach of a brand in broader terms, it is not the data you should be using, it’s only part of the puzzle. You have to define what you mean by 'brand engagement' and therefore which are the data sets you want. If you’re trying to understand interest in the show that is not monetized – who’s interested in the show but not watching it. We see piracy for example, in some countries, it’s a pretty clear signal of interest in the show. We don’t see that interest reflected in TV ratings. We have to find an alternate business model by which we get the show to those people in a monetized way. That demand is by definition not in the ratings. It depends on what business question you are trying to ask. Starting from a business question and saying ’what data is available to help me answer that question?’ ‘What’s the best data I should use?’ not ‘what data do I have handy?’ and then solving the business problem carefully.
 
The Research Insighter: "How has this surplus of information affected how you operate as a market researcher?"
 
David Boyle: "You need people with skills and time to pull together multiple data sources and tell a story across that data source. Piracy, research, social media engagement and TV ratings for example. In the old world, market researchers would have a product they worked on, maybe the brand tracker, that was their expertise. They’d report the brand tracker results with great pride and then they’d run the next brand tracker. It’s no longer the world we live in.

That person now has to also take into account consumption, unmonetized consumption, social media engagement. That person has to tell a rounded story about what’s going on with that brand. Telling a story data source by data source is no longer useful to us as a business. That’s a slightly different skill set. The question for market researchers is: do people who run brand trackers have the skills, permission, encouragement and time to do rounded storytelling instead of being product focused. My opinion is yes, but they’re not always given the permission or time."
 

Key things for the market researcher to be successful: Time and Permission

The Research Insighter: "Has your department adjusted to this change with relative ease or has it been painful?"
 
David Boyle: "I don’t think it’s been easy for anybody to adapt to, least of all me. The instinct is to pull out a relevant data source to answer a question but you’re only giving part of the answer, you probably don’t have all the data sources you need at your fingertips. If I am doing research I need to reach out to the measurement person and coordinate delivery of the right data, the financial person to tell if the revenues match, the social media analytics person to see what’s going on in that world...

Suddenly I need five or six people in the room before I can answer the question, and I probably need to have a discussion or debate to tease out the different stories coming from the different data sets. The coordination and teasing out the answer is really tough but it can be done, it must be done. Therein lies for me a big part of the reason why this jeopardy, this peril that market researchers face can be overcome. Market researchers by nature have the skills. Given permission, time and the confidence to say ‘I am not going to answer this with the brand tracker, I am going to gather the right people, and pull the right data together and tell you a more rounded story’. Market research can excel and excite people even in this new world." 
 
We're excited to say that David Boyle will be speaking at the 2016 The Market Research event, his talk is entitled: The Client Vendor Tug of War: How to Handle the Balance.
 
If you're interested in hearing more from Boyle and other technological innovators in the market research industry, don't miss the world's leading market research event TMRE happening in beautiful Boca Raton, Florida October 17-20. Got any comments on this blog? Make yourself heard - Tweet to us at @TMRE!

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