In the years ahead, successful research suppliers will need to develop close cooperation with their research clients. It is likely that much of the day-to-day work formerly carried out by in-house market research departments will be outsourced to specialist research agencies. This will entail agencies having to have a much better understanding of their clients' problems and the manner in which research survey data can contribute towards the solution of such problems. Researchers are not primarily data gatherers, although data gathering is essential and the work must be properly organised and controlled. The specialist skill of researchers, however, is being able to spot how research can help resolve a problem and help a firm make better decisions. It is the skill and creativity that is part of knowing how to get worthwhile information, how to help clients understand what data are telling them and what decisions they should consider making as a result.
Substantial changes have occurred in the market research business over the past decade. In particular there has been considerable change in the way research is bought and sold and the manner in which research is conducted. During the 1980s there was a slimming down in the size of market research departments and research suppliers often found themselves dealing with brand and marketing management, rather than in-house market research managers. For a long time, research suppliers had bemoaned the fact that they seldom dealt directly with executives who used research data they supplied. The change in circumstances meant that researchers had to deal directly with brand and marketing managers and help them make the best use of research.
Unfortunately, things have not worked out as well as might have been anticipated. There have been practical difficulties, such as research needs not being anticipated early enough within research users' companies. Research suppliers have also had to acknowledge that brand and marketing managers make use of information of which market research data are only a part. Executives are not research specialists and do not have the same depth of interest in the research process. In practice, market research data are now bought more as a component input to a company's overall activity rather than to meet specific client needs for a particular project.
Data-collection methods are likely to change in the future, with an increasing use of computer assisted techniques, email and the Internet as a means of communicating with customers, retailers and consumers. The trend of the last ten years, in which many market research departments have been abolished or combined with marketing departments, is also likely to be reversed. The unique skills of the specialist market researcher will come to be better understood and appreciated. It is unlikely that large in-house market research departments will develop again, but the establishment of small, high-level specialist teams of researchers within medium-sized and major companies is likely. Such teams will have a specialist role to play in the development of research briefs that will enable information to be made available as and when it is required. They will also contribute significantly to the way information is used within a marketing organisation.
Need for more creativity in research
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