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Market Research Lessons from 2016: 5 Things MRX Buyers Need to Know

Jeff Hecker

Buying Market Research in 2017? Here – based on our annual client and research agency survey – are 5 tips to make your 2017 research more efficient, successful, and insightful.

1. Beware of “Big Data” in Isolation

2016 was the year that the notion that a focus on Big Data analytics would replace mixed-methods research was fully debunked. World events like the Brexit vote and the US election have demonstrated that

Vector : BIG DATA word on cloud with big data feature word inside blue shadow, Doodle style.

– in isolation – no volume of number crunching is sufficient to guide decision-making. And – further – the “precision” that Big Data supposedly provides has been vastly oversold.

Now, the pendulum is swinging back toward the value of the “Deep Data” that qualitative inquiry provides.  Articles like Edward Appleton’s piece on The Silent Rise and Blossoming of Qualitative Research and this NY Times piece on the limits of big data are now commonplace.

For research buyers, the opportunity in 2017 is to ask research consultants how research designs can make Big Data and Deep Data work together.

2. Customer Journey Mapping is coming of age – so you can demand these emergent best practices


As a relatively new discipline, Customer Journey Mapping has been… all over the map. But in 2016, the market research industry – in combination with the UX community – did a lot of work to codify the mapping process and best practices around Customer Journey Mapping. If you’re commissioning a Journey Mapping project in 2017, look to ensure that:
– The mapping process will integrate analytics data (calls, web visits, etc.) with data from qualitative and observational research
– The mapping process will include what consumers are doing BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER their touch-points with your brand
– Your Journey Maps are developed in tandem with Personas. Trying to force all your potential customer segments into one map will leave you with a map that describes everyone – but no-one well enough.

3. The ascendency of UX Research


It’s clear – from emergent Customer Experience and VoC thinking – that customers today want to shop when  they want to. Products in virtually every category are being researched and purchased online, with willingness to convert online increasing daily. Consequently, UX and website research are more critical than ever. Many companies have neglected UX research and therefore have the opportunity to make enormous improvements to their online CX through only a small investment in UX research. Market research buyers seeking high value-for-money research investments will benefit from considering a UX research study.

4. Remember the Importance of Cultural Context

USA and Canada on the outline map of North America. The Map is in vintage summer style and sunny mood. The map has a soft grunge and vintage atmosphere, which acts as watercolor painting on old paper.

Perhaps because of the emphasis that UX research places on observation and context, we saw in 2016 continued growth for research methods that focus on understanding cultural context, such as semiotics, ethnography, and trend analysis.  In our increasingly multicultural societies, the need for deep understanding of cultures and subcultures is multiplied.  Interest in marketing semiotics is showing sharp growth, and represents a relatively high-leverage opportunity for many marketers.  As it happens, we are organizing 2017’s global conference on marketing semiotics, Semiofest, in Toronto in July 2017.

5. Insist on Impact Planning From Your Marketing Research Partners


One new approach among innovative MRX firms is the addition of an “impact planning” phase at the start of a project. This adjusted process has grown out of recognition that:

1. There is a need – and tremendous value – around understanding the organizational context for a market research report, and typically uncovering this context requires more “discovery” than a single briefing meeting
2. Research is significantly more impactful when the research design and report are crafted with a nuanced understanding stakeholder perspectives and decision-making styles.

A report that is delivered in a company’s own language, and which takes into account the corporate culture and stakeholder priorities, is significantly more likely to create lasting impact – and deliver more value.

Impact Planning typically consists of stakeholder interviews or internal focus groups at the project initiation.

Happy researching in 2017!