No, I do not want to make a prediction about the death of market research as such, but rather some of its forms that have traditionally been the “cash cows” of large market research companies.
Take, for example, panel research. The very essence of retail panel research is being ruined by the growth of e-commerce. Measuring at the point of sales is becoming more complicated now. Who can possibly register the flow of goods from numerous on-line shops, especially those outside the country? There is a missing link there, and the gap is growing.
Another area which is unlikely to survive very long is test market with measuring advertising response. As online marketing budgets are growing and the advertising shifts from TV and radio to the Internet, the companies feel more empowered to track their own advertising campaigns and optimize them as they please.
Even in qualitative research, traditional focus groups may, to a large extent, be replaced by scanning online forums and social media for new ideas or suggestions for improvement. Moreover, the data are available globally and in real time at no extra cost!
And last but not least, desk research has become increasingly simplified through the use online search engines and other digital data mining tools. Possibly, in some years, complete market research reports which normally took months to create and used to cost thousands of dollars will be created in a few mouse-clicks using special software.
Think of the new World 2.0 as an interlaced, data-overflown place, where the consumers and whole markets are getting more and more transparent, with or without professional market research as we know it. Shifting strategic weights and entering new fields of play will probably be the biggest challenge for market research companies in the years to come.