Mark Harrington has an interesting note under the title, "Is Surveying Obsolete?" I have a knee-jerk reaction to these articles about the inherent biases of survey research and the folly of asking consumers what they want. Of course consumers can't always articulate what they want. Their answers can be perfectly sincere, as well as misleading, incomplete, and self-serving. It is the job of analysis, not the consumer, to illuminate their wants and needs.
Harrington continues that in an era of big data, what marketers need to do is observe their customers to assess their true desires. I will leave the question of whether consumer behavior is any more true or accurate than their pronouncements for another day. It is true that we now have an unprecedented opportunity to "observe" a large number of consumers in a variety of "locations," engaged in multiple relationships with products and friends. And, what many marketers have always wanted to do is immerse themselves in this reality.
But, marketers have also been concerned about the cost of research, and this has resulted in the Rise of D-I-Y research and the tools that make it possible. Yesterday, someone passed on to me a nugget of information he had gleaned from a few questions he had asked using Survey Monkey. And, there are much more sophisticated tools available. But, the question is, "if surveying is obsolete, why isn't D-I-Y research obsolete?" They have at their core the same "problem"; they both rely on consumers to report their wants and needs.
True D-I-Y research, the D-I-Y of the future, will be a set of tools and services that lets the marketer truly get up to his or her elbows in the lives of consumers.
- It will aggregate data from multiple sources.
- And, it will be able to aggregate and make connections within this data stream over time.
- It will provide tools that allow the marketer to enter the stream and test hypotheses.
- It will provide tools to analyze the stream of consumer behavior and identify trends and themes.
- It will correlate behaviors and make predictions based on these correlations. Ultimately, this kind of research will look more like Moneyball than social science research.
Old-fashioned D-I-Y research is comparatively simple and straightforward. This new D-I-Y is not. Old-fashioned D-I-Y seemed to write the traditional MR industry out of the script. This new vision of D-I-Y, which I prefer to call I-Y (Immerse Yourself), will have plenty of room for the Industry.
- Data streams will need to be aggregated and curated.
- The appropriate tools will need to be assembled into a usable arsenal that can distinguish the signal from the noise.
- The ultimate needs of the marketer need to be synthesized into the functioning of those tools. They will need to be tuned and tweaked.
- Since the immersion is on-going, there will need to be a kind of institution memory that makes sense of the insights and correlations over time.
In the future, the industry will be less involved in the realm of the craftsman, finely honing designs, data, and results and more in the area of event management. The researcher will be an impresario, a director, managing and coordinating all the pieces the marketer will need to be fully immersed in the consumer experience.