Tim Farmer
Tim Farmer 16 April 2020
Categories Data & Analytics

The New ‘Golden Age’ of Research and Insights

Data is now the world’s most valuable resource and, as such, we are on the verge of a new ‘Golden Age’ for research and insights. However, to get there, we need to embrace the changes that have been happening around us – not least how our working lives are being transformed in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With this last point, in particular, I am hugely sympathetic to those field managers who have had their modus operandi thrown into chaos, with the inability to interview people in homes, in the street or elsewhere.

What differentiates those that survive and thrive is how they embrace change, whether in terms of the environmental conditions, or the changing nature of business and the ecosystems that serve it.

 This brings me to my major point: we no longer function within a ‘market research’ ecosystem. We are part of a much larger ‘data and insights’ ecosystem. We have to recognise this change, understand what is fundamentally different about it and maintain our current principles of quality metrics and insights.

The latest ESOMAR Global Market Research Report (2019) described data, analytics and traditional market research as different sides of the same coin “devoted to the same basic activity: analyzing data to ultimately bring insight”. Traditional research revenues have been flat for many years, whereas the data and analytics sub-segments have achieved double-digit growth. 

In 2018, the split between data & analytics and traditional research was nearly 50:50. However, this balance is set to shift significantly. Most likely by the time we see the latest figures, data and analytics will have surpassed the value of traditional research and we can expect this to continue growing rapidly. Figures[1] published in November 2018 estimated that the global datasphere will grow from 41 ZB (1 zettabyte is one trillion gigabytes) to 175 ZB in 2025.

So, what does this mean for market research and what must businesses do to benefit from the invaluable insights that data can provide?

Broaden your worldview

We firstly need to recognise that market research doesn’t just mean surveys. Hopefully, gone are the days where we see league tables listing the leading ‘survey-based’ research companies, as this is meaningless in a modern context. Instead, the new definition needs to be how we obtain and cultivate data, what we do with it, what decisions we make and what actions we take. 

Embed your principles

Market research has long stood for quality, independence, data privacy and professionalism. In embracing the data and analytics world, we need to ensure that these values and principles still stand and remain at the core. This will maintain your differentiation and the value you deliver to your clients, industries and governments.

Embrace the new decision-makers

With the growth of data and analytics comes new challenges. For example, at Qualtrics, one client discovered 58 active survey accounts created using freebie tools. Employees had created these using personal emails and each of the accounts had access to client and other confidential information.

This behaviour leads to what is often described as ‘ghost IT departments’, where individual business units act unilaterally and independently, without building upon what others have already learned.

Experience Management is all about the interplay between the different core experiences of an organisation. It’s the shared responsibility of everyone, whether that’s the CCO and the Chief Product Officer working together to put customers at the heart of product development, or the CMO and the Chief People Officer working to foster an internal culture that matches the brand.

However, none of that happens without the Chief Information Officer. Responsible for the technology infrastructure within the entire organisation, it’s crucial that data and insights, tools and platforms, are fully covered by governance and security protocols.

That’s everything from the systems customer service teams use to gather customer feedback and close the loop with customers, to systems and platforms that allow key customer, employee, product and brand data to be shared and accessed by the right people across the organisation.

It’s their role to help break down data silos and enable the business to deliver world-class experiences and fully benefit from the vital role of data in modern business.

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