Over the last couple of months I have read blogs and articles proclaiming that research is either dead or dying. I don’t believe this. There is no doubt that the game is changing significantly but from where I sit, it’s far from over.
For research suppliers and corporate researchers alike, the mix of tools has changed with the introduction of social networks and new DIY and data-gathering solutions (e.g., mobile research, crowdsourcing, social media mining, etc.). New data sources are coming faster than ever before. And more than likely, over the past few years both suppliers and corporate researchers have seen increasing pressure to prove ROI at the same time as their budgets and staff have dwindled.
While some might see only gloom in all of this, I see great opportunity – if you are willing to embrace change and change yourself, that is. Mobile technology, neuromarketing, predictive markets and behavioral economics are just a few new options in the vast sea of tools available to researchers. Researchers should be swimming (or even drowning!) in data – which gives them a chance to become experts at sorting through and managing this data and providing real insights to clients, perhaps earning them that ever-elusive seat at the table.
Some of my hope for the future of our industry has been fueled by a reading of Leading Edge Marketing Research (Sage Publications), which does a great job addressing the skills and tools a researcher will need in the 21st century. Chapter one, written by Ian Lewis and Simon Chadwick of Cambiar, and the epilogue, written by Robert Moran of StrategyOne US, are particularly effective in explaining the future role of the researcher.
There is no doubt that this transition will be fraught with challenges. Change is never easy. But I truly believe that researchers can and will have a more visible position in the future if they can adapt to the changing requirements of their job function. Instead of accepting that the industry is dead, we need to embrace and encourage the change that surrounds us.