Driving Innovation in MRX – IIEX North America 2017

By Daniel Evans

The annual IIEX North America recently took place in Atlanta. IIEX is an important event to the market research industry. As GreenBook’s Lenny Murphy said in his opening remarks:

“Participation in and attendance of IIEX drives innovation in of itself”

Lenny went on to say that at the first IIEX event in Atlanta there were around 400 people. Come 2017 it has more than doubled with over 900 attendees. This really shows how important emerging technology has become in addressing market research client needs – which is certainly something we recognise. Since our first participation in the Insights Innovation Competition, we have witnessed the growth and impact of automation on both clients and agencies, a perspective echoed by Simon Chadwick during the ‘Next Generation of Market Research & Insights Creation” panel where he stated that “automation is now the dominant form of new technology in insights”.

And automation was well represented at this year’s event. The new areas in which automation is now moving into, albeit in some cases gingerly, illustrates Simon Chadwick’s point:

  • Automation and AI are being put to use in real time qualitative studies, as shown by the teams at Remesh and NASCAR
  • Behavioural scientist Dr Aaron Reid discussed how regression analysis and eye tracking will be automated in the future (unfortunately the technology is not quite there, but is improving fast

During the panel The GRIT Report & Future Impacts; Lenny Murphy (GreenBook), Aaron Reid, Ph.D (Sentient Decision Science), Patricia Chapin-Bayley (Toluna) Rick Kelly (Fuel Cycle) and Isaac Rogers (20|20 Research), discussed how automation can be used to free up vital budget for higher value endeavours. And that once research buyers can properly differentiate between automation and DIY services, the industry will become fully automated, or as automated as it can be.

One of the other key themes at this year’s conference, whether intentional or not, was research in the c-suite. It was a key element in the Iconic Brands Pane, moderated by Ryan Barry who was joined by Michelle Gansle of Wrigley, June West Holland of Verizon, Thomas Grayman of Viacom, and Kristen Griffith of Clorax. The four panellists all said they are in the enviable position of working in companies where research is considered a vital part of the business. So they have had no problems themselves in ensuring that research is considered by the C-Suite. However they did have recommendations for those that are having difficulty. Michelle takes inspiration from marketing, by ensuring her team are targeting the insights story to individual profiles, looking at what format will resonate with particular profiles within the boardroom.

This theme was also a key discussion point in the final day panel The Next Generation of Market Research & Insights Creation, with Lenny Murphy, Chris Enger and Tamara Char of McKinsey and Simon Chadwick of Cambiar. The panel discussed the need to for the industry to prioritize the quality and consistency of data so that the c-suite is not getting three answers to the same question. There is a need for strategic consultancy rather than just providing data points. Chris Engar also talked about the need for agencies and suppliers to find champions of research within the c-suite. These need to be individuals that have a long tenure in the organisation, not CMOs who have the tendency to move around a lot.

Elsewhere at IIEX it seems that VR and augmented reality are starting to pick up the pace, with a number of demonstrations in the Future Tech Showcase. Combined with fascinating presentations from Ari Popper of SciFutures who discussed the immediate future benefits of VR and AR, and the team at Lowe’s who shared how they are using AR and VR for shopper insights. It certainly seems a technological arm of market research that is going from strength to strength, particularly in the retail category.

IIEX continues to be a platform that pushes the boundaries of how emerging technology can be applied to the research industry, but the event also does a great job of providing clients a unique platform to talk about their needs, whether that’s through panel discussion or brand showcase streams. And both those elements are vital for an event like this, as Simon Chadwick told us:

“Technology is not the driver of change, client needs and circumstances are the drivers of change”

So, as long technology and the client can meet at IIEX it will remain an essential conference.

By Daniel Evans, Content Marketing Strategist, ZappiStore