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Measuring the Future of Market Research

Robert Moran over at FutureofInsight has posted a provocative blog entry where he ties together the projections of multiple thought leaders on what MR is going to look like in the next few years.

Robert Moran over at FutureofInsight has posted a provocative blog entry where he ties together the projections of multiple thought leaders on what MR is going to look like in the next few years. As always, Robert and I are perfectly aligned in our vision of what’s to come, and with the added input of others to the mix, he makes a compelling case for where we are headed.

In the first part of his post, he outlines the current clients demands for MR suppliers:

I believe that clients now have 8 demands of market research:

1. Strategic Recommendations
2. Concise Deliverables
3. Deeper Insight into the Whole Consumer
4. Speed
5. An Integrated Understanding of the “Infoverse”
6. Truly Understanding the Role of Emotion in Human Behavior
7. Insights Management
8. Value

This list is certainly in line with the findings of The Research Industry Trends Monitoring Group (of which Robert is also a member) and the anecdotal info we’ve been hearing from clients and providers. The question is: are we as an industry, particularly the market leading firms, up to the challenge of meeting these needs?

Robert then goes on to discuss what the future may look like as part of a classification system for the history of the MR industry. His thoughts bear repeating:

In my thinking on the futures (thanks to Peter Bishop at the University of Houston) of market research I have segmented market research into historical and evolving eras and epochs. The “Data Collection Epoch” which we are now exiting, began with face-to-face interviewing, advanced to telephone and then advanced again to online. I have also named this epoch the “Asking Epoch” because it was defined by the utilization of the structured survey instrument. But, there are now two epochs on the market research horizon. The first is what I call the “Listening Epoch” and the next I have termed the “Simulation Epoch.” The “Listening Epoch” is defined by observational analytics, a movement away from the survey instrument as the primary research vehicle and a significant shift to social media analytics and other observational technologies (such as fMRI, eye tracking ,etc.). The “Simulation Epoch” is defined by anticipatory research. It is this market research epoch that I am most excited about. I see the “Simulation Epoch” as one defined by mass simulation gaming, predictions markets like those designed by Inkling, MROC Delphi panels and strategic foresight. In fact, when market research enters this era, I believe that the survey instrument will be replaced by the online game and that market research game designers will replace today’s survey writers. This may sound a bit strange, but consider that this would mesh with the gaming behaviors of younger people today and would be more observational and less intrusive. One company that may epitomize this new Simulation Epoch is Simulex.

In essence, the “Asking Epoch” was about the survey instrument. The “Listening Epoch” is about real-time observation, and the “Simulation Epoch” is about modeling future behavior. One could argue that this progression takes us from a focus on the past (reported behavior in surveys) to the present (observed behavior and social media sentiment in real-time) and on to the future (gaming, prediction markets and scenario building).

Several companies are now working to combine elements of all three epochs into service offerings available today. Where these firms fit into Robert’s classification system may be up in the air, but what is beyond a doubt is that the days of traditional MR suppliers as the key drivers in the industry are waning. The game has changed, and the future will belong to those companies that can best embrace the promise of new techniques and drive innovation to create new methods to holistically understand consumers.

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