The more virtual we go, the more real we’ll like to be. Or why companies are still looking for face2
I’m a market researcher,
a qualitative market researcher. Being more than 20 years in the field now. I’ve seen thousands and thousands of individuals, women, men, children… passing by, telling their secrets, trying to fool me, not knowing what to say, surprising me… and I always learned and I always got inspired.
Started in the very early 90’s I’ve seen market research and for sure qualitative research transforming (or evolving is probably a better word). For the better. Taking my first baby steps in market research, there were the in-depth interview and the focus group as the main methods to approach, explore and understand the consumer. Sometimes we ended up with flat, obvious … outcomes. And sometimes we had great insights. It was quite often difficult to put the finger on what determined the nature of the results: the topic guide, the moderator, the setting, the participants, the analysis plan, the interpretation skills…?
We challenged ourselves,
driven by the search for better and more natural connections, also driven by efficiency (time, money and reach) and facilitated by the technology we didn’t have in the 90’s. We did succeed, I think. My first online groups, virtual interviews, research communities, bulletin boards, text analysis… it was so exciting. We are pretty experienced today in those new ways of market research (not forgetting all those methods I did not mention (VR, nethnography…)). Sometimes we have great insights. And sometimes we end up with flat, obvious … outcomes. It is still not that easy to put the finger on what determines the nature of the results: the topic guide, the moderator, the technology, the participants the analysis plan, the interpretation skills…
Today there is AI.
Thanks to the massive availability of big data (past and real-time), the super smartness of our technology, the high speed implicit and explicit connections our AI is able to make, the capability of continuously aggregating data… it seems we’re coming closer to a world in which systems can easily forecast what we will like, do or think. Or from a market research perspective: research that will be both more predictable and more accurate.
And now the cat’s out of the bag.
What I like most about the increased usage of technology, the digital and virtual connectivity, is that in goes hand in hand with the increased need for human contact. In an era in which we seem to have more faith in data than in humans it is good to also stay connected with the real world. From a market research perspective It sometimes feels strange there is less doubt about what we read and see passing by on social media, communities, cold data and stats… then when we are talking and discussing with people face2face.
It seems the more virtual we go, the more real we’ll like to be. I observe it in my own market research practice. Companies still need and really want/ask for seeing and meeting the customer ‘live’. Even though I sometimes suggest we would be better off with an online solution. Drowned by numbers they sometimes just want to hear and to meet their customers in the flesh. You see the same trend in our society too. The more technology we have to more we are looking for neighbourhood parties, open park events, play streets, initiatives like tables des amis…
We need data and smart technology.
But I’m convinced that off-line market research - also in new probably more playful formats, more informal e.g. meet & greets, info parties with customers - will always be valuable too.
I was just thinking out load, why not organizing something like Research Hikes. Give our client and his customer a road map, invite them to walk and talk together for a couple of hours. A healthy and instructive experience it will be.
Look forward to hear what you think.
MaResCon Consulting was founded by Frank Geers in January 2012. After an active career of 21 years in marketing and market research, becoming an independent research consultant was the next logical step.
Qualitative Market Research is our core business. From a market research perspective our promise is to think about the best possible research solution in a method independent way. All research approaches (online, offline, mobile,…) have their strengths and weaknesses. With every new project, we challenge ourselves to select the most appropriate and effective method.
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