We immensely enjoyed being part of Impact 2016 at Grange Tower Bridge Hotel last week. This year the Market Research Society (MRS) is seventy years old! The conference, therefore, focused on the evolution of the research, data and insight sector. According to Jane Frost, CEO of MRS ‘Curiosity, Insight and Revolution’ are words to describe the market research sector in 2016.
Over two jam-packed days the flagship MRS event brought together some 700 executives from across research and business spectrum showcasing ground-breaking papers and allowing for discussions and networking. The delegates were inspired by the current debate how, as market research professionals, we are at the centre of shaping the future. We learned that there has been a definite shift towards so called big data rather than survey data. Social Media analysis, data mining and predictive analytics are emerging as key skills but the problem is that the average company doesn’t the staff who are au fait with those techniques. Christina Jenkins, Global Research and Insight Director at LinkedIn, highlighted that the real challenge for researchers in this new era of growing mountains of ‘big data’ is to orchestrate the market intelligence process: identifying, sourcing, integrating analysis and delivering ‘smart data’. According to Jenkins, Data Science roles on LI have been growing 10 times a speed of Market Research jobs. It’s time to polish on your SQL, R or Python skills if you want to remain the leader of the pack and land a lucrative career in the ‘new world of big data’ market research!
The idea of ‘whole brain thinking’ was also propagated by an interesting talk from Rachel Lawes – the leading UK commercial Semiotician. Lawes very passionately talked about the real need for the MR sector to ‘produce Graduates who are good in both disciplines: Business and Social Sciences’. For those Graduates who want a job in market research the message is clear: you need to embrace learning technical and social science skills combined with core business abilities. Lawes has recently helped to design a new postgraduate degree course at Regent’s University that marries both disciplines, equipping graduates of the future with the skills to tackle large data streams.
We thoroughly enjoyed listening to Chris Sinclair’s discourse on ‘Curate or be curated – Insights in an Uber World’. The Head of Ipsos Marketing, EMEA challenged us to consider the following scenario: ‘What will happen if the world’s largest market research firms collect no data?”. Sinclair highlighted that our industry needs to be the source of new ideas and that we must enter ‘the inspiration world’ by moving away from doing survey based projects to synthesising information already available to us. As ‘Curators of Data’ the researchers need to move well beyond the story telling by uncovering, interpreting and contextualising data already available to us. The debate attracted some excited comments and questions from the delegates before we all broke off for the networking lunch.
In the afternoon of Conference Day One we learned about the power of story –telling from ‘the king of British drama’ (Skins, Shameless, The White Queen and Wolf Hall) – John Yorke. Yorke delighted the crowds sharing his knowledge not only about how story is built, but also how to enrich our understanding of other people and even our own daily communications. ‘Stories provide purpose and meaning’ said Yorke. The delegated nodded in a collective agreement when Yorke concluded that ‘The function of the story is to reduce chaos to order’ and ‘A story is a problem to be solved’.
The message from Impact 2016 is clear – the market research industry is evolving. The researchers of the future must be business savvy, good communicators and story tellers with strong data and interpretation skills. The key words to describe a successful market research candidate of the future are: flexible, agile and early adopter. Telephone surveys are expected to decline and new research methods involving wearables, behavioural economics and neuroscience are on the increase. Key areas of growth are data analytics, qualitative research, social media/web monitoring and online/mobile surveys.
The conference has certainly fed our minds and imagination. It was a must-attend event for anyone who creates, manages and investigates the very future of brands.
See you all next year at Impact 2017!