Predicting the Market: Researchers Crowdsource Themselves

Two months ago, as we said goodbye to 2010, Kathryn Korostoff of Research Rockstar LLC created an IdeaScale site to collect and rank the various market research predictions that are always so abundant at the end of the year. In total, 748 votes from 93 visitors – many of whom identified themselves as working for agencies, market research software companies, or client-side researchers – resulted in 35 predictions about the future of market research. Korostoff’s market research predictions site, as the crowdsourcing endeavor was called, not only collected predictions and compared them side-by-side, but also facilitated a dialogue within the research community via comments and votes.

In Korostoff’s analysis, several of the highest ranked predictions suggested that developing technologies are expected to dictate the future of market research, though no one seems quite sure how exactly. For example, the second highest ranked prediction, “Market research reports will move online”, instigated a debate which ultimately came down to the development of new technologies. As Korostoff explained, “We really don’t know what kind of online tools we’ll see brought to market over the next few years, especially given some of the other trends taking shape. What will reporting look like in 2015, when combined data collection modes and research methods are more commonly integrated?” The 6th ranked prediction addressed technology even more directly: “New technologies will drastically alter how we conduct market research.” To this prediction, market research blogger Lenny Murphy commented, “The emergence of research robots, broad-based micro-surveys, serious games, and location-based mobile services will transform how research is done.”  Though the highest ranked prediction did not relate to new technologies specifically, it did suggest an expanded use of current technologies: “Research using multimodal and alternative modes of collection will actually gain some traction” in 2011. An idea that, according to Korostoff, has been in the air for awhile, this prediction won by 32 votes.

Some of the lowest ranked predictions were voted against because they seemed too drastic.  Korostoff submitted the controversial “Survey marketing will be dead by 2015”, a prediction made in response to the recent book Consumer.ology which suggests the uselessness of surveys. Even if new technologies are expected to turn the world of market research on its head, survey marketing is a tried and true tool no one seems ready to say goodbye to. This prediction lost by a landslide of -16 votes. Predictions that had weighty percentages attached also gave participants pause. For example, the prediction “Social media research will be 25 percent of market research budgets by 2012” received -12 votes. Participants didn’t dispute that social media would continue to be a widely used tool; they simply thought it would be cheaper, Korostoff pointed out, sustaining itself on much less than a quarter of the total research budget.

Through Korostoff’s prediction market, the research community expressed what it saw as the most dynamic elements in their industry. Korostoff’s analysis made it clear that most researchers have their eye on social media, new technologies, and the move to in-house market research – expecting these three to be the major industry game-changers. In the end, though, the real winner will be the “community owner,” Korostoff explained. “He who controls access to good respondent populations, controls market research.”

No doubt Korostoff’s prediction market and analysis was far more useful than the barrage of predictions made and forgotten as quickly as New Year’s resolutions at the end of December. The real question is, now that the predictions are laid out in black and white, how do market researchers respond? Do they wait for the predictions to come true before taking action? Or do market predictions naturally lead to a re-positioning of oneself in the industry? If so, how?

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