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You Are Now Leaving Your Comfort Zone: 21st Century Market Research

Tell a traditional market-research audience that you propose to talk with the same group of 300-500 “respondents” on a weekly, even daily, basis over the course of many months, and half the group will react in horror, voicing legitimate concerns about bias, practice effect, and unblinded studies and posing the inevitable question: “Is it qual or is it quant?”

But the other half faces the prospect of an ongoing, long-term relationship between researcher and consumers with excitement about the possibilities — for speed, iteration, longitudinal work, more naturalistic contexts and a collaborative relationship with consumers. They are more interested in actionable insights than in irrefutable data, and recognize when it’s appropriate to trade anonymity for transparency, distance for relationship, control for collaboration and randomness for shared purpose.

Drawing on both our own work and on research done by others in a new position paper, 21st Century Market Research, Manila Austin and I have tried to systematically address both the challenges to data validity posed by online communities, and the unique ways in which communities can actually enhance research quality. Most importantly, we’ve tried to formulate a new framework that transcends the “qual vs. quant” paradigm, in favor of an approach that more accurately reflects the new realities.

We hope this paper will serve to advance the healthy discussion and debate already swirling about the industry. Please fuel the conversation by sharing this position paper with your peers, and join it with your comments below.

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