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The NGMR Top-5-Hot vs. Top-5-Not: Communispace’s take

Today I’m pleased to join dozens, maybe even hundreds, of other Next Generation Market Research (NGMR) bloggers in a simultaneous post of our individual predictions about what will and won’t matter most to the market research industry in the next couple of years. So with no further ado:

What matters (or will, very soon)

NicheNography. I think I just made that term up, but as a believer in The Long Tail and an observer of the human tendency to surround oneself with like-minded individuals, I think the key to more actionable market research will be in going deep rather than broad, in understanding and providing relevant products and messaging to smaller, self-defined audiences.

Walking in your customers’ pockets. This is just a verbose way of saying “mobile matters,” not only because phone and tablet-based research applications generate many more opportunities for in-the-moment, in-context discovery and feedback, but because in most developing countries, mobile devices represent the only way to reach a broad cross-section of consumers.

Privacy, please. I realize that there’s no way I can expound the virtues of small, private insight communities without sounding self-serving, but 11 years and over 300 communities worth of MROC experience, our own upcoming research (“Like” Me: The Dynamics of Public vs. Private Social Media – stay tuned) and recent studies by Razorfish, Exact Target, iVillage and SSI) all speak to the importance of small, branded, private settings in promoting greater disclosure, intimacy and sharing. And that matters, because there’s only so much insight you can squeeze from LOL or WTF.

Procreation and co-creation. Okay, so the “procreation” was just to keep your attention (though it is important on the grand scale of things). But “co-creation” – by which I mean hardwiring consumer insight, ideation, feedback and refinement into every phase of the product/service development process and not just the home stretch – is what enables market research to move from the important but narrow role of “validation” to the leading role of innovation.

Non-textual expression. As market research becomes more global, smart phones and webcams become more ubiquitous, attention spans contract and storage capacity in the cloud expands, it becomes not only possible but essential for market researchers to actively solicit and support non-textual modes of communication. Feelings and aspirations are evoked and expressed not just through words, but through sights, scents and sounds. And while cyber-scratch ‘n sniff technology may still be a ways off, there’s no reason why we should wait to elicit more stories and feedback via color, tones, pictures and yes, songs.

What will (or should) go the way of the Mood Ring, the Eight-Track and Glenn Beck?

Well, for starters, the modern-day equivalent of mood rings. Neurometrics are all the rage, and honestly, I do understand the allure. But reading faces displaying Eckman’s six (or even newly expanded set of 11) basic emotions or measuring changes in body temperature can do little more than validate what common sense could already guess. Emotion certainly plays a big role in determining what product or candidate makes it into someone’s consideration set, but there’s a whole lot more feeding into a purchase decision, including cognition. As important as feelings are, taking out your wallet is generally not an unconscious act. There, I’ve said it.

Customer satisfaction surveys. Even before front-line sales and service people started handing out URLs for customer satisfaction surveys while telling you just how important a “very satisfied” rating would be to them, the smile sheet’s best days were over. There are too many other spontaneous, authentic modes of expression available, and too many opportunities for customers to vote with their feet. Companies do need to understand what delights and frustrates their customers, but need to rely on more organic and continuous methods to do so.

Syndicated research. It’s odd for me to write this, because I actually enjoy reading syndicated research. But it’s a little like watching the Weather Channel. I just don’t know how to act on it, and wonder if anyone else does either.

Putting lipstick on a suggestion box and calling it a “co-creation” platform. As a fan of open innovation, I also feel strange writing this. But perhaps it’s precisely because I’ve seen what highly engaged customers who feel they are heard can and will do to help brands innovate, that I’m skeptical about attempts to do it “on the cheap.” E-suggestion boxes are fine for capturing trends, maybe even for finding the occasional golden nugget, but more often than not, they’re highly visible ways of capturing lots and lots of me-too ideas. Consumer-driven innovation requires more reciprocity, long-term engagement and commitment than that.

Joyless prognostication. Writing these lists is fun. So is reading them. But for me, the joy in market research – hell, the joy in being human – is the utter unpredictability of it all. I’m not suggesting that we abandon planning for pure spontaneity. But let’s not forget that surprise often breeds delight, and embrace the unexpected (Glenn Beck notwithstanding).

And now the best part for you, readers – the chance to take aim at these wild-eyed predictions. What have you got to say?

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