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A New Day for Market Research

It feels a little different now, something is in the air. Now, people can’t get enough of customer insights, it’s the connective tissue in the body of business growth. It used to be that market research was this staid, project thing—have a question? Do a study! That just doesn’t work in today’s marketplace where customer attitudes and behaviors quickly become outdated, as markets and needs move at the speed of light.

Last week, I saw two things that made me really excited to be in the customer insights business. First, colleagues who attended the ARF Research Transformation initiative meeting in early November relayed some quotes from a speech made by ARF CRO Joel Rubinson, like this one:

“…marketers must become fast learning organizations. Researchers need to become agents of change to help the organizations they serve transform in this way. Such organizations realize that great ideas can come from anywhere and that there is shared control with consumers. To serve such organizations, the researcher’s role, must expand beyond measurement to also listening for the unexpected in order to inspire the organization.” (My emphasis was added.)

Inspiration!! Yes!! Inspiring takes things to a whole new level, and really, if businesses are serious about customer centricity, shouldn’t the customer be the muse? Isn’t this the way for insights to be strategic and game-changing—not just gathering dust in a binder on the shelf?

Then, to further add to this feeling there’s something big happening… BCG published a study stating that nearly 90% of blue-chip companies aren’t fully leveraging their market research functions because they are simply order takers instead of strategic partners generating breakthrough insights. In the best companies, researchers can answer the “so what” in a meaningful way and provide senior executives with perspective critical to their decision making. Wake up people! It’s time to seize the day!

Given the rapid growth of online market research, especially customer communities, (which according Forrester Research analyst Tamara Barber, is only going to continue to gather steam), there is a huge opportunity for customer insights professionals to get a seat at the C-table. They can have a connection to the voice of their customer (or non customer as the case may be) at all times. They have a listening channel to hear the unexpected—new, fresh, ever-changing perspective, to impact their business decisions both large and small. They can “bring it” every day.

I think we are at an inflection point in our industry; it’s time for transformation to take hold and bring about this new order for market research—customer insights are going to be the lifeblood for organizations that want to thrive in continuous change. (We recently did a webinar which talked about the change in thinking that’s needed for 21st century market research, and how insight communities can meet these needs; listen to the full session here.) Are you seeing this too? What do you think needs to happen to make researchers the “agents of change” in this new business order?

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