Category Archives: NewMR

It’s time everybody understood mobile research

In 2012 there has been a massive growth in conferences focused on mobile research, and on mobile sessions in regular conferences. Mobile research has been the next big thing for about fifteen years, but the number of people who feel it has arrived is growing.

One of the reasons that people feel mobile has arrived is that respondents are voting with their fingers. A growing number of respondents are using smartphones to complete our surveys, even when we haven’t asked them.

As a share of all market research, mobile is smaller than postal. But, the spread of postal and mobile is very different. Postal is restricted to a small sub-set of agencies and research problems, most modern researcher won’t come across a postal study in a normal year, and may never come across one. By contrast, most researchers will find some of their respondents are using mobile devices to complete their surveys, and I suspect many researchers will be involved in research that specifically seeks to utilise mobile devices in 2013.

If most researchers are going to encounter mobile research they need to get up to speed with the basics and the best practices. Luckily there are two online training sessions in a couple of weeks, as part of the Festival of NewMR’s Training Day, Monday December 3rd.

The first session is at 3pm, Sydney time (midday in Singapore) and will see Lachlan Stokoe provide insight into mobile research best practices. A few hours later, at 3pm GMT (10am in New York) Kam Sidhu of Lumi Technologies will share an introduction into mobile research.

Click here to see the NewMR Training Day.

NewMR launches a Training Day

Last year NewMR created a new approach to market research conferences by launching the Festival of NewMR. This year the Festival has been expanded in several ways, including for example an Innovation Challenge with a cash prize of $20,000. But perhaps the most needed addition was the Training Day, which will be on 31 October 2011.

The Training Day is targeted at newer researchers and researchers looking to expand their skills into new areas. The Training Day is also targeted at Asia, a region that has fewer resources for face-to-face training. In a virtual conference targeting means the time of day, and the Training day is going to run from 6:00am GMT to 9:40am GMT (in terms of other time zones the Training day starts at: Sydney 5pm, Singapore 2pm, New Delhi 11:30am, and Moscow 10:00am).

In order to maximise the number of people who can attend the event, the Training Day does not have a fixed charge. If you are a student, if you can’t persuade you employer to pay, or if you live in a country where PayPal does not work, just register and attend. If you can afford to pay we like to invite you to make a donation towards the costs of the event.

Speakers on the day include sessions on Mobile Research, Ethnography, Online Communities, Conjoint Analysis, Segmentation, Online Questionnaire Design, and the use of Storytelling in market research presentation.

If you would like to find out more visit the NewMR Training Day page.

If you would like to find out more about the Festival visit the Festival Website.

NewMR, a view of the next two years

Want to know what I think will be changing over the next two years, what the hits and misses will be? Tune in on November 3rd and catch my presentation on the Main Stage of the Festival of NewMR (it’s all virtual, so you can do it from your desk).

Topics I’ll be covering

  1. Gamification, are they just playing at it?
  2. Mobile, when will it ever get moving?
  3. MROCs, are they a strategy or a tactic?
  4. Why social media monitoring is at most only 10% of the answer
  5. Where are community panels going next?
  6. Has collaboration gone away?
  7. What are the limits of DIY?
  8. How some NewMR companies will get into Big Data

Between now and November 3rd, please shout our your questions and ideas, and I’ll work them into the presentation.

And, if you want to see the presentation, you’ll need to get yourself a ticket, from the NewMR website.

Communities in 2017

I have just submitted a synopsis for the MRS Conference (get yours in quick if you want a chance to be selected). In the synopsis I suggest that research communities are going to change and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Below is a copy of my synopsis.

Communities seem to be the most commercially successful of all new tools that have entered the research arena. From short-term ad-hoc MROCs which focus on qual, through to the large-scale, ongoing community panels that can offer quant and qual, communities have dominated conferences agendas and have been the subject of key company purchases (e.g. Communispace, GlobalPark, and Vovic). Most major brands have at least one community for research and many have multiple communities. It is fair to say that communities have become a mainstream research technique.

However, nothing stands still in the world of online research and I predict that by 2017 the landscape will be very different.

The drivers of change, in ascending order of importance will be:

  1. The need to be cheaper and faster.
  2. The need for clients to be able to ‘DIY’ more of the process, which will mean non-researchers on the client-side being able to run projects.
  3. The need to integrate communities (and other forms of research) with Big Data.

If we look at Big Data from the client’s view, we see CRM data, loyalty card data, web analytics, account information, social media activity, and much more. The community of the future (perhaps the near future) will be the entire customer base.

The future research community will not be based on a group of customers all doing some similar task. The future community will be an extension of the community panel model, where different sub-groups of customers participate in very different tasks, including auto-ethnography, ideation, online qual, face-to-face qual, quant surveys, and even MROCs. The difference is that, subject to appropriate permissions, all the interactions and information are fed back into the system and the learnings generalised to the wider customer base.

Although communities have become mainstream; my prediction is that they will become the dominant form of research, or rather the dominant environment for research. Before online research there was not a truly dominant method, there was a mixture of telephone, door-to-door, and central location, all supported by a myth of representivity. Online access panels changed all of that, the research industry moved over to ‘non-rep’ convenience samples. Online access panels are a sort of community, but they are not brand or client focused, so they will find it hard to integrate with Big Data. The extended community panel model, where the entire customer base is seen as the community, delivers the opportunity for Big Data integration and a better reason for respondents to participate, they are making their brand better, better for them.

Where does social media fit in the research mix?

One of the questions I am often asked is where does social media fit in the research mix and over the last couple of years I have developed the following four point response:

  1. What is market research? It is what you do when you can’t get customer/user information in a cheaper better way. This means that over time MR changes, some new things become possible, but some new alternatives are developed, making some aspects of MR redundant.
  2. Social Media gives us the chance to listen to real conversations, and sometimes that will replace market research, on other occasions it will add something. Listening to social media is now a necessary action for brands.
  3. However, people are not always talking about you, so the answers to your current questions may not exist in social media, so social media is necessary but not sufficient.
  4. If people are not talking about you, then you need to ask questions or create discussions. In the old days this meant surveys and focus groups, but now it includes creating ongoing discussion via communities (and I think it will also include creating conversations in social media).

The key point is that there is no single and permanent answer to the question about where social media fits in the research picture. In some ways it is as odd a question as where do pens fit in the research process, or words, or pictures. Sometimes, social media is the message (to misquote Marshall McLuhan) but for researchers social media is usually just the medium.

Is the MRS courting doom with its privacy proposals?

The MRS has been consulting on new guidelines for online privacy, particularly with a focus on the issues arising out of social media. Some of the ideas being floated by the MRS have caused a shocked and angry response from market researchers, some of which were reported by Research-Live.

Earlier this week I met a wide range of UK researchers at the ESOMAR Congress in Amsterdam and was amazed by the anger that many researchers expressed about the some of the ideas that the MRS appeared to be promoting. Indeed, several researchers said that if the ‘worst’ of the ideas in the consultation ended up in the code they would leave the MRS and they would encourage their employers to stop funding MRS membership.

If this convenience sample turns out to be representative (and there is no statistical reason why it should) the MRS could be in real trouble if it continues with its current direction.

My position is more nuanced. I think the ideas in the consultation are crazy in places and harmful to our industry without being good for anybody. However, I will still be in the MRS, even if they are adopted. But, I will be describing most of what I do as “not market research”, which is a shame.

I’m Joining Vision Critical

This is an unusual post as it all about me and my new role with Vision Critical, but hopefully it will be of some interest to readers.

I am excited to announce that I have been appointed by Vision Critical as Executive Vice President with responsibility for the UK, joining an established team in Vision Critical’s London office. Along with the current leadership team of Kris Hartvigsen and Mike Stevens, I will be working with clients and research partners to utilise community panels to bring the ‘magic of listening’ to more products and services.

Several people will probably be wondering why I have chosen to move from a consulting life-style to a corporate role and I think there are four main reasons:

  1. Advising businesses and thought leaders has been stimulating, but I feel it is time to roll up my sleeves and help create something tangible.
  2. I feel that brands in the UK, indeed across Europe, are missing a major chance by not adopting community panels more rapidly and more completely.
  3. Vision Critical are the global brand leader in community panels and I think they are well placed to help the European market move to the next level
  4. I like the Vision Critical people (both the senior people and the local people) and the position they have created for me.

I have been saying that community panels were shaping up to change the face of brand/customer research and relations, for some time. Indeed, one of the key interviews in the Handbook of Online and Social Media Research was with Angus Reid (CEO of Vision Critical), exploring the benefits of community panels. However, although community panels have expanded massively in North America and Australia, their growth in UK and Europe has been patchy. In my view this represents a missed opportunity for European clients, who could be benefiting from faster, cheaper, and more flexible research.

There is growing support for the idea that every brand needs a community to keep in touch with its customers and to help it co-create its future. Some people believe these communities could or should be small and qualitative, such as the MROCs of 200-300 members. However, I think the future is going to be dominated by the community panel, which can be configured to provide both qual and quant, intense communities and wider advocacy groups, ad hoc studies and longitudinal analysis, and most excitingly of all a link between the voice of the consumer and the growing petabytes of BI (Business Information) data.

If you have enjoyed my writings, webinars, workshops, and conference presentations, do not worry, I won’t be disappearing from view. Vision Critical were attracted to me because of my immersion in the discourse of new market research, they are not about to lose that insight now I am part of their team. Expect to see me at a wide variety of meetings, talking about a wide variety of topics, and taking polemical positions.

Over the next few weeks, my appearances in my new Vision Critical role include a keynote presentation and workshop for the Australian AMSRS, workshops for the UK’s MRS, a workshop and presentations at ESOMAR events (including the Congress in Amsterdam and the 3D Online Conference in Miami), and of course chairing the Festival of NewMR.

Plenty of changes!

This new role will result in several changes, including:

  1. I am going to be living in London, Monday to Friday.
  2. The Future Place is going to largely close down its consulting role and concentrate on supporting, running and facilitating NewMR.
  3. I will be standing down from The Future Place and Helen Bartlett has been promoted to Managing Director of The Future Place.
  4. I am standing down as the Organiser of NewMR and Sue York, one of the founders of NewMR, will be stepping into the role. I will be returning in the unpaid positions of Chair of the Festival of NewMR and co-host of Radio NewMR.

What Next?

For the next few weeks I will be tidying up loose ends, receiving some intensive training on Vision Critical’s systems, completing a 30 mile sponsored run (see, taking a two-week holiday, and appearing at conferences and workshops in Sydney, London, and Amsterdam.

After that I will be visiting as many people as possible to share with them my vision of how community panels can give clients faster, cheaper, and more flexible research, and how partnering with Vision Critical can enable market research agencies to profitably provide global brand leader solutions to their clients.

If you would like to have a chat about community panels contact me and we’ll set up a chat.

As part of the changes I will be stopping blogging at The Future Place and will instead by blogging at:

  • Vision Critical’s website – watch out for my personal blog shortly
  • – for my extracurricular thoughts and comments
  • And as a guest blogger at sites like and GreenBook

It’s time for market research to join 21st Century

There are a large number of discussions and consultations going on at the moment about initiatives from ESOMAR, CASRO, the MRS and others to try to regulate how social media research should be conducted, especially social media monitoring. The general thrust of the new guidelines is to try and fit the new world into the traditional values and ideas of market research. I think this is the wrong way to go about the change.
I think we need to change the whole of commercial market research to match the 21st Century, rather than try to keep shoehorning the new world into the old constructs.
My feeling is that there will soon be a schism in market research, between those trying to hang onto the past and those embracing the new.
The benefits of traditional market research ethics were that they allowed some exemptions to laws (e.g. data protections laws, laws about multiple contacts, laws about phoning people who were on ‘no call’ lists), increased public trust, and allowed market research to get close to a scientific model – for example to use concepts such as random probability sampling and statistical significance. Complying with codes of ethics incurred extra costs, but they also brought commercial benefits. The ‘proper’ market research companies could do things the non-research companies could not- so there was a commercial argument in favour of self-regulation, codes of conduct, and professional conduct bodies.
However, in several areas, ‘new’ market research is at odds with the traditional guidelines. Examples of where NewMR is at odds with the traditional ethics includes: the brand-related incentives for members of communities, the brand advocacy of community members, the changes wrought by deliberative research, and most of social media monitoring research. Other areas where research is drifting away from the classic model of anonymity include a growing amount of customer satisfaction and most of enterprise feedback systems.
Traditional market research is based on a) anonymity and b) informed consent. Large parts of new market research cannot deliver anonymity and in the area of social media research (and behavioural data integration) informed consent cannot be reliably assumed either.
If market research companies abide by the old ethics, in particular anonymity and informed consent, they will not be able to compete for business in most areas where market research is growing. This is because there will be no commercial benefits that will accrue to sticking to rules and ideas that nobody else does. To stick to out-dated rules simply provides a worse service for clients. Rules have costs, they only work when they also confer benefits.
The view of people like the UK’s MRS is that all of the ‘stuff’ that does not match the traditional view of market research should be done as “NOT market research”. The problem with this solution is that it will soon classify the majority of market research as “NOT market research” which is clearly nonsense.
My remedy is that commercial market research should be split from genuine social research (by social research I mean the stuff that is not done principally for commercial reasons, such as some of the research by Governments, academics, and NGOs). Social research should keep the traditional values of ethics and commercial market research should fully embrace the new world. The ethics of NewMR should be based on:
  1. The law
  2. Not doing things likely to outrage the public
  3. Creating high standards (and that can include charter marks and ISOs for those interested)
  4. Emphasising the need to be open and honest
Note the case for charter marks and ISOs should not be based on theoretical arguments, but simply on whether they confer commercial benefits. If signing up to an ISO means that market research companies are able to win more work, then the ISO is s a good thing. If the ISO simply makes the industry feel better about itself, the ISO is a bad thing.
These four principles would, for example, mean that if a company told respondents that the study was anonymous and that they would not be contacted, then it would have to be anonymous and there would have to be no follow-up contact – that would be the law in many countries (because a contract has been entered into) and failing to stick to a promise would outrage the public.
Similarly, the four principles would outlaw using a false identity to access a closed community (for example PatientsLikeMe) and surreptitiously scraping comments to be sold to a third party – i.e. the Nielsen scrape-gate case. I suspect that not only would this outrage the public and damage the value of the company, but it could easily fall foul of civil suits, where members of the community could sue for damages.
This model of market research ethics changes the balance of who determines what can and should be done. In the traditional market research model the rules were set by the wise market researchers, to protect respondents and brands. My suggestion is that respondents should determine what can and should be done with their data, and that citizens should set the framework.
What do you think?