Is market research still relevant in a fast moving digital world?

The world is changing. You have to adapt or die. Fine, but let’s make sure we change the right things and don’t unlearn things that are actually quite useful to us, like market research for instance.

The speed of change and the empowerment provided by digital and social media, of course, has great benefits for businesses. It allows people to do things that they wouldn’t previously have been able to do without significant outside help. For me, this provides an even greater imperative to actually get the business fundamentals right.

So, the issues that the researcher is seeking to address are still the same.

The answer to the question ‘Is research still important?’ could also be put as ‘How would we like to make strategic decisions?’ Our options include:

  • Follow the trends
  • Follow the competitors
  • Go with your instinct
  • Ask your customers / ask your non-customers
  • Any combination of these.

The answer also depends on the extent to which we believe the world has changed. Digital and social media are game changing at the operational level but the nature and purpose of strategy are actually still the same.

Almost all of the criticisms I’ve heard about market research are actually criticisms of bad research, not good research. Probably the only valid one is that the industry has been too concerned with process rather than outcome. Another that I would add is the reluctance of the researcher to interpret results. I can’t see how an objective third party who is well briefed, knowledgeable about company objectives and has immersed themselves in the current market conditions could be the wrong person to advise on what the results mean.

For me, it’s a case of doing the research, doing it in an affordable way, but still doing it well.

Instinct or evidence … You decide!

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