The Challenge of Traditional Market Research

Anna Raventós

Key Aspects of the New Market

“The challenges for traditional market research: new data, stakeholders and methods” by Jordi Ferrer, co-founder of Zinklar, was voted as the best article of 2016 in Research and Marketing, in AEDEMO’s Annual Gala, celebrated on 30/03/2017. We reproduce the article here in full.

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The main challenge of companies in Market Research is, precisely, to understand and take note of the fact that the definition and environment of the market in which they operate have changed radically in the last few years – and will continue to do so at the same rate that technology and society advances.

“Traditional market research” competes within a new market in which different types of information, data, technologies, and business models collide and are pushed to progress by disruptors (new or outside companies), that make traditional companies fall short. To guarantee their success, they need to adapt and integrate new measures fast.

The 3 main aspects that are innovating markets can be summarized by the following key perspectives.

1. New technologies, data, and information

Massive adoption of new technologies has generated a trove of new data sources that represent the consumer in systematic ways. Not only is this data recording “passive” activities, but it allows for direct contact and communication. Understanding the consumers’ attitudes and habits has never been easier.

These technologies and platforms allow us to record new types of data points and include mobile tools, location-based data, cookies and measures of online behavior, social media, online communication, sensors, neuroscience, Machine Learning, AI, and a long, etc. A lot of this information can be included within the label of Big Data.

2. New Consumers

With the adoption of digital technologies, mobile and social, the consumer shares a large part of the information (more or less consciously accepting a trade-off between their privacy and access to free or relevant content).

On the other side, consumers also adapt their expectations, especially in terms of their interaction with brands and companies. The expectation that these interactions will be adapted to their daily habits is a new way in which marketing needs to satisfy its target audience. By using mobile systems based on gamification, apps that offer a specific value when sharing their opinions or behavior with different brands, the consumer sets higher benchmarks for their interaction with brands. All this should be considered and reflected on when adapting systems of data collection among companies carrying out “traditional research”.

Finally, market research companies can’t continue to analyze and segment the consumer solely according to their socio-demographic or shopping profile, in the way that’s been done for 50 years. We must incorporate the social and digital dimensions of a person into market research, not just in order to help brands define their digital strategies, but also in order to inform overarching marketing and communication plans.

3. New needs

In this changing and competitive environment, brands, like their customers, also adopt new strategies and information systems to take decisions.

They require, increasingly so, more and more information; made accessible faster. Continuous information, that is cheaply and easily accessible and interpretable, will be essential in creating in-market strategies that can quickly read results and readapt accordingly. Large, longitudinal studies that take weeks to identify the failures of a strategy are now obsolete.
Brands need to realize that technology makes the consumer the ultimate resource, that can quite literally take “a seat at the table”, even in everyday, tactical decisions.

In this context, the normal value chain is quickly expiring. Technology facilitates a radical shift, and consumers demand and will continue to require it. Traditional research models will slowly fade out to serve only specific, niche needs of the client.

We’re currently experiencing a radical change from a traditional market research system, with long, slow cycles and where the data gathering, analysis, and action stages are clearly defined within a timeline, to a new and accelerated run-through of these processes. The traditionally stiff system means research conclusions are handled by brands months or weeks after they were requested, at which point they repeat the cycle.

This burdened model is becoming reduced to practically simultaneous and quick-paced stages of data collection, analysis, action, and measurement. Essentially, the industry is doing and requiring real-time research.


Traditional market research companies don’t need to take a step back and play a secondary role in a shifting industry by, for example, providing information to DPMs (Data Management Platforms). They must take a step forward to take a central role in this change of paradigm within information industries.

It’s not an easy challenge, as both culture and having the skills to compete in this environment pose different issues from those that market research companies are usually accustomed to. A strong, lean start-up, innovative culture, and a solid comprehension and vision of tech and advanced analytics are all essential to finding a place within a shifting market. But most importantly, we need to encourage the capacity to think outside the box and put into question existing models of success in our environments.

The good news is that market research companies have, despite everything, the advantage of having the expertise required to face such challenges. Having in-depth knowledge of consumers and their attitudes, culture, and experience of culture, as well as the understanding of how far this information can be represented within a dataset and encoded in a survey, will continue to be one of the most prized talents of market research.

This advantageous starting point, combined with the recognition and acceptance of new trends and markets, will give market research companies the skill and drive to successfully adopt and define this change of paradigm.

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