How is the digital revolution shaping our industry?

On 24 February 2012 I chaired a conference, organised by AIMRI (Alliance for International Market Research Institutes) on this subject in Limassol Cyprus. Turnout was excellent, from 6 different countries, and we enjoyed some sunny weather while it lasted (by the way, it snowed here a few days later – yes, here in Nicosia!). Cypriot meze among Carnival revelers was an added bonus. My lead presentation posed the question: Is our industry at a strategic inflection point? It was somewhat rhetorical as I firmly believe that we are at a transformational juncture (call it inflection point, paradigm change…..whatever), and as a consequence we need to adapt quickly to the new realities if we want to survive let alone be successful. The papers that followed looked at the ongoing transformation in our prevailing paradigm through a variety of perspectives, attempting to address, among others, the following key questions:

In which ways is our industry changing?

Are the changes evolutionary or revolutionary?

What are the implications for how we do business and whom we recruit?

Here is a quick overview of some of the key points from the presentations, all of which reinforced the main themes, but with almost no overlap or redundancy.

Tariq Mirza (Kinesis): “Five year horizon: Market Research Evolution”

Tariq kicked off the delegate presentations with the challenging assertion that mobile will be the dominant change agent in the market research industry in the next 5 years. Among other things, mobile will both further drive down data collection costs and provide easier access to previously difficult respondent groups. Within this mobile trend the development of geolocation technology will have significant research implications, especially for shopper research.

Herbert Hoeckel (mo’web research): “Online research revolution: status quo and beyond”

Herbert felt that if social media can topple dictatorships (Tunisia and Egypt), then its influence on marketing and research is surely enormous. The explosion of new media has increased the complexity of the CMO’s job, and this challenges the ability of research and its leadership to react to the new situation. Herbert also echoed Tariq’s point that the traditional surveys will have to become shorter – smaller data snippets from each survey – but more frequent and from broader universes.

Michael Stanat (SIS international Research): “Generation Y: Their part in the digital revolution”

The habits and attitudes of Generation Y – essentially those born 1982 to 1995 – was examined by Michael and revealed a rich vein of fascinating information on their role as key framers of the digital world we now live in. They need a more engaging customer experience, and when this occurs demonstrate their engagement by using the “like button” in social media sites to voice their endorsements. The new digital environment, together with the very turbulent economic times, leads the generation Y to display such traits as more online (and physical) window shopping, online deal seeking, and a different usage of media (e.g. offline TV) than previous generations exhibit.

Lefkos Phylactides (Cyprus Tourism Organisation): “Social media and travel planning: a Cyprus Tourism Organisation Perspective.”

Closer to home in Cyprus, Mr Phylactides, CTO’s Acting Director General, described his organisation’s activities in promoting Cyprus through social media channels. He suggested that these channels are much more efficient as the focus moves from mass low cost tourism to specialist tourist sectors such as rural, cultural and sports tourism. Social media and other diigital tools also allow the organisation to monitor more effectively all the tourist touch points in what is a complex system, from initial choice of destination through to the selection of activities while there, and finally through to post-holiday word of mouth.

Pieter Paul Verheggen (Motivaction): “Segmenting Social Media Activities: Wording varies by consumer group”.

Reporting on a fascinating ongoing study, Pieter demonstrated how an analysis just of words people use can allow us to predict with a fair degree of certainty many of their characteristics such as gender, their broader demographic profile and even key types of behaviour. This linguistic analysis can also help identify which social mentality segments people fall into, and consequently how good a “fit” they will be as research partners or respondents

John Attfield (Attfield Dysktra & Partners) & Dr Philip Rhodes (Consultant): “Digital Ethnology & Biometrics: involving sociological imagination”.

John and Philip wound up the conference using a number of case studies, including Dell, Nokia and Heathrow Airport, to demonstrate how digital tools such as online communities and co-creation were helping organisations to develop better relationships with consumers and better products and services for their customers. But in a conclusion which resonated with what other speakers had articulated, they cautioned that whilst digital technology has come of age, and certainly cannot be ignored in our industry, it is just another tool and not the whole answer to the challenges which lie ahead for market research. 

Nicos Rossides

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