MRIA 2013 Annual Conference — Keynote Speech, Day One

Don Gloeckler, EVP and Chief Research Officer of The Advertising Research Foundation gave the morning keynote on day one of the MRIA 2013 Annual Conference.  Here are my notes:

Don looked at what he considered three gaps that had developed to posed threats to market research.  He considered the three gaps:

  1. Between the market research industry and respondents
  2. Between market research suppliers and clients
  3. Between clients side researchers and management using the data

Gap 1:  Between research industry and respondents:

Don traced an evolution over the past approximately 45 years of the different ways in which research has been conducted, impacting the relationship between the research industry and respondents.  He gave the following examples:

  • 1965s:  Door-to-door a prominently used method.  Researcher spoke to respondents in person, developing a rapport between the two.  At the end of the interview the respondent was left feeling that the experience had been enjoyable.
  • 1985s:  Due to dual income household and cost savings most quantitative research had moved online.  The rapport that came with in person research was decreased, as well the interviewer was more likely to be disengaged during the course of the interview, and respondent was quite likely to be trying to end the interview as soon as possible.
  • 2005:  Majority of interviews have moved online, largely due to cost and speed.  Removal of interviewer means there is no longer a personal connection, and often surveys can be long, frustrating respondents.

Don offered the following suggestions to bridge this gap:

  • Make surveys more non-intrusive
  • Make surveys engaging
  • Keep surveys short
  • Format surveys for all devices
  • Make people feel special
  • Tell them what’s in it for them:  specifically what their answers can do to help the client of the survey
  • Share information — perhaps “Sixty-five per cent of respondents have listed chocolate as their favourite flavour as well”
  • Feedback — could provide them with a gift card if their feedback is used

Ultimate problem:  The research ecosystem cannot afford for this problem not to be fixed, as everyone is conducting surveys with the same pool of respondents.

Gap 2:  Between research vendors and clients:

Overall relationship has become less personal:

  • Often contact between vendors and clients becomes reduced to names in emails, or conversations over the phone
  • Contact is standard and automated
  • Conversation between unbalanced experts — suppliers experts in research, clients experts in their industry
  • Research reduced to more of a commodity
  • Budget pressures on clients impact suppliers
  • As a result the relationship is often virtual, long distance, sometimes with language barriers, dealing with suppliers who switch roles frequently

How to rebuild this relationship:

  • Collaborate more on projects
  • Honesty — each side needs to know what is happening in the other’s organization
  • Suppliers need to have the right people in the research role
  • Both sides need to be accessible when necessary
  • Need to have real-time communication
  • Need to work on building personal relationships.  If there is a distance to bridge use tools like Skype, Facetime or Google Hangouts
  • Both sides need to respect each other
  • Have appropriate research rigour in projects

Gap 3:  Between client researchers and organizational decision makers:

  • Often key decision makers may not pay attention to research reports, or in some cases may only use specific parts they need, and do not necessarily care how research was conducted.
  • As a result client researchers do not get a seat at the table when decisions are made.

How to get a seat at the table?

  • Take more ownership of projects
  • Be brave:  kill ideas that need to be killed

Role:  Researchers need to be integrators, translators and storytellers, not just data providers.



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