Jonatan Hedin

The market research industry’s major customers have undergone nothing less than a revolution over the past years. Global competition, digitalisation and a financial crisis have pushed actors from FMCG to Automotive, Telecom, Media and Pharmaceuticals to cut costs, push innovation, and bring the new products and services to more loyal customers ever faster. So much for those industries. But is the market research industry itself going through a revolution, or barely adapting to a new market situation?

The same trends that apply to the major customers seem to apply to market researchers innovation. And just like Just In Time production brought transmission suppliers factories to the car manufacturers’ backyard, innovation and speed pressure seem to have brought market researchers and their customers closer together.

As consumer electric appliances’ product development cycles need to speed up to keep the competition at bay, so must the inspiration and testing work from market research. Gabriele Stahl of Procter & Gamble and Volker Bilgram of HYVE Innovation Research, Germany, displayed a platform that was used by Braun (a Procter & Gamble subsidiary) to make product development faster and more user-centric. In the platform that resembled the common configuration applications for automobiles, a recruited forum of potential hairdryer buyers were asked to spend a few days putting together hairdryers within three price ranges, given a range of features. The models put together were then commented by other forum members, a social behaviour that constitutes an ever more important part of online shopping behaviour. In the end one of the hairdryers created was put to production, with a rich set of “professional” attributes but adapted for domestic use.

In the era of integrity issues between companies and consumers, participants are hesitant to give some secrets away to market researchers. Nina Keller and Sebastian Prassek of Happy Thinking Germany, found a way to work around this by making up and playing games with participants in interview situations. By letting consumers in the sensitive area of household economics play and act, they unlocked secrets ranging from how married spouses want to hide a “private spending account” from their partner, to conservative Germans’ secret to credit card adaptation.

Digitalisation is profoundly changing the society, and many aspects of everyday life. For ‘Generation Y’ or ‘Millennials’, that is consumers born after the mid-1980s, there is no other known world than the digitally integrated. This led inSites consulting and Viacom Germany with its subsidiary MTV to carry out a comprehensive 2014 update on Millennials’ values, motivations and culture in a fully digital environment, using interactive web forums with social media integration.

The market research industry’s customers are in the midst of a revolution, driven by global mega trends. To create value under the new economic, technological and social rules, market researchers need to adapt quickly to their clients’ new challenges. Consequently, by following its customers ever more closely, the market research industry is also taking part in the revolution.

Jonatan Hedin is an Analyst at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise