Without wanting to point fingers, I was recently invited to attend a research conference, with a keynote speaker exclaiming in their synopsis that they will be explaining why <INSERT NEW METHODOLOGY> is the future of market research. The thing is. It won’t be.
For years now we have all been invited to various conferences exclaiming that market research is changing forever. First it was how online surveys would stop interviewers from standing on street corners; then it was how mobile will kill off all PC-based online surveys and now it is how big data is the solution to all our troubles. Amazing! We can do research without actually speaking to people! The thing is, we can’t.
There seems to be a morbid fascination within the research industry that we have to keep pushing the latest ‘in’ approach. That focus groups, face to face interviews and online interviews can never stand up to scrutiny and be representative of what people want. But, why not?
Firstly, the commercial reality of conducting research in Asia is that the infrastructure is not there yet for a number of the current en vogue methodologies. Face to face is still the dominant methodology for nat-rep studies in most SEA markets. Why? Because it is the best (and often cheapest) way to speak to the right people. Granted clipboards have been replaced with iPads. The approach is the same, we have added a modern twist.
We have seen this is other industries. Think of the recently announced top 50 restaurants in Asia of 2016. Just look within the top 5 restaurants; Gaggan (Bangkok) ‘balances the soulfulness of Indian street food with hyper-modern cooking techniques to unrivalled effect’; Narisawa (Tokyo) ‘is a trail blazer in the world of Japanese cooking, taking a cuisine baked in tradition and applying new techniques learned through experience and years working with top chefs across Europe’; and our very own Andre (Singapore) ‘brings to his work the intriguing perspective of Taiwanese heritage, Japanese childhood, French training and a Singaporean setting’. What makes these some of the best restaurants in the region? Taking their own experiences, creativity & innovations and applying them to traditional ideas. This is something that the research industry should take note of.
Why can’t we apply the same logic – blending new with old; innovative with traditional – to research. After all there is a reason why some of these methods have stood the test of time for so long. At Kadence, whilst we embrace big data; mobile surveys and social listening when relevant, we also haven’t let go of our heritage. But have modernised it. Taking focus groups online; having respondents complete sox pops (selfie vox pops) of their life or background as pre-tasks before a group; using smart boards and iPads to capture information real-time during the groups are just some of the ways that we are taking – in the words of The Top 50 Restaurants – ‘a methodology baked in tradition and applying new techniques learned through experience and years of working with’ top professionals across the world.
And this blending of new and old we apply to all of our methodologies – surveys; intercepts; IDIs; workshops and so on.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there is some fascinating insights to be taken from Big Data. Recently, Channel News Asia wrote an article highlighting the actionable insights that can be found from Big Data for public transport in Singapore. By no means am I suggesting that Big Data – or any other new methodology for that matter – is not worthwhile, what I am suggesting is that the old ‘classics’ are not dead. We should take the lead from our pioneering chefs in the region – by ensuring that traditional means, methods, and ingredients are kept relevant by looking to deliver them with an innovative twist.
By looking for innovative ways to utilise tried and tested methodologies, market research can still remain relevant without having to constantly fall over itself looking for the next new hype. The real challenge for the industry – and where conference papers should focus in the future – is how to blend together different sources, different methodologies and different ideas into a single cohesive point of view. Thankfully this is Kadence’s signature dish!