Since this book first appeared in 1984, the marketing research industry has undergone a transformation. The industry has consolidated and concentrated. The turnover of the leading research organizations mirrors that of the largest marketing services organizations. These organizations have internationalized, largely following their client base, so that in almost every country in the world there is access to professional, locally sensitive but internationally aware, research companies.
Progress in computing technology has changed the way the world does business. The cost of processing power and data storage has plummeted. The wholesale introduction of computers and their application in survey design, analysis and reporting has changed the skills required of the researcher. Surveys can be designed, administered, analysed and reported upon using integrated survey management systems that take some of the laborious data processing work out of marketing research.
In addition, the businesses served by marketing research have changed. In the second edition, in 1996, we talked for the first time about the move towards a global economy, and highlighted the skills required to administer pan-national research. We mentioned the word 'online' about five times! Today the global economy is bound together by the Internet and its graphical interface the World Wide Web. Online business, despite the hiccups of the dotcom boom and bust, is now a significant part of the global economy and marketing research has had to develop new techniques to deliver the same quality of intelligence to support the integration of online marketing within business strategy. This edition devotes a whole chapter to research in online businesses, in addition to numerous references throughout the text.
These developments have coincided with introduction of customer relationship management (CRM) systems and the use of databases to store data generated by these systems. The development of interactive relationships with prospects and customers means that organizations have access to more information than ever before. Tesco is now able to produce thousands of viable segmentation models from the vast amount of data that it captures on its customers. If a Clubcard user starts buying nappies, Tesco knows that the customer has undergone a profound, life-changing event. The volume of transactional data gathered by most customer-facing organizations is incredible. It has even been said that marketing research is under threat because of it. Of course, nothing is further from the truth. Data gathered in this way is incomplete, in that it does not record all customer transactions. These systems gather data only from a self-selecting sample. This data simply records what, in a self-selected situation, people have done: not why they behaved in the way they did, nor what the market as a whole may be doing. The transactional data gathered supports (and only in part) the tactical management of the business. It does not contribute fully to corporate strategy and the overall direction of the business.
The codes of conduct that have underpinned the marketing research industry become more and more important. People realize the value of their personal data and are becoming reluctant to give up this data unless they are reassured of the ethical position of the organizations they are talking to. Trust lies at the heart of any relationship and the giving up of personal data demands a great deal of trust on behalf of the respondent and equally a great deal of integrity on behalf of the recipient of this data. Since the second edition this has become enshrined in law as a result of the implementation of the 1998 Data Protection Act.
The knowledge economy cannot be based simply upon data. It must be based upon intelligent and methodologically sound data capture and analysis. These are the skills that marketing research is built upon and that Marketing Research for Managers introduces to its readers.
Sunny Crouch Matthew Housden
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