An upfront confession: I am writing this post while attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, a feast of consumer technology. So, surrounded by high-tech and all its related hypes, my aim is to distill the essence of what we experienced at the IIEX Conference in Amsterdam last week.
The IIEX forum has always focused its programme on showcasing the latest technology applicable to market research. Technology and innovation are the two underlying concepts throughout the event. After some years of mind-blowing technology fever, my conclusion of this year’s edition is that market research professionals have learnt to naturally digest it. Automation has already been acquired in the industry. Under the “agile” mantra, all market researchers are aware that efficiency and speed matter. So, automation is already bought and put in the basket.
The second biggest mantra is the combo formed by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. My understanding is that we are getting into it. AI and ML are already being incorporated in the market research toolset. Different solutions were presented or exhibited during the show. Interestingly, an innovative approach to AI was presented: The “Intelligence Augmentation” (IA). Using Florian Tress’ definition, “the general idea is that IA-technology can help teams to find answers to their own questions of interest, to share their knowledge with others, to act upon their insights and ultimately to create a business impact. As IA is empowering human capabilities and easing cooperation, it is the perfect answer to our fear of losing control in an overly technological world”.
The third biggest topic was the DIY culture and the in-house/insourcing policies many end clients are adopting. This process is relevant for the industry and creates many challenges for agencies, providers and the own end client. In essence, the biggest challenge is to know where research value stands and to know who creates this value.
These three main subjects (Automation, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning and DIY/in-housing) have been at the centre for a while and a source of thoughtful discussions in past events, magazines, webinars and blogs. The industry is already tackling them, and new agents are emerging.
However, the real novelty was the entrance of Blockchain in the scene. Blockchain commonly linked to Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency, has a potential role for market research. A role linked to the GDPR/Privacy sphere, openness and security of transactions, and as an enabler for people around the world to own and monetize their data. An intriguing thought came to my mind: Shall we start shifting the term consumer for the concept data-generator?
My personal perception is that market researchers are cleansing the hype mist and getting back to the essence: The consumer or, as mentioned, the data generator. Our profession will always be impacted by technology. It will allow us to collect information as never before. This is certain. However, technology without the essence of the purpose of research is nothing. The real value is to count the people’s willingness to participate in surveys or their consent to share their behavioral data or to be observed. People understanding people is the essence of market research. And technology is the enabler. This was the conclusion of my presentation, “The Travel Agent, The Retailer and The Governor” and my summary of the IIEX Conference.
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