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If Research and Tech Need To Marry, Who Should Propose?

Michael Edwards, one of the co-founders of Dig Insights, provides his point of view on how market research will change in 2020.

It’s undeniable that tech is disrupting the consumer insights industry just as it is disrupting all other industries.

We are seeing the increasing union of tech and research happen in two different ways:

1. Tech companies are launching research solutions

2. Research companies are launching tech solutions

Which is better?

While there is no effective blanket answer to this kind of question, our (perhaps biased) perspective is that option 2 is better, though imperfect.

We see a lot of option 1 offerings. When we go to tech conferences, we typically meet several companies who fully believe that they have invented market research. They usually say things like “you put a question on our platform and within minutes, thousands of people have answered your question”.

And we usually reply with research geeky questions like “who is answering the questions?”. 

Beyond replying that it’s users of their app, there is not a lot of information. This means no quota controls, no screening questions, and potentially huge self-selection bias. The question types are extremely limited. 

Add to those issues that the person writing the question may not have an insights background, and you end up with research that has a pretty high likelihood of going wrong.

Some tech companies do a better job of it, but we usually find the methodological rigor, or the intellectual rigor lacking.

Dig Insights has approached this from the other direction. We are a consultancy that is interested in tech. Reflective of the fact that we come at things from the other direction, we have the opposite challenges. 

The methodologies that we are building into tech offerings are rigorous (methodologically and intellectually). However, because we put so much time and effort into our tech offerings, we tend to innovate more slowly. 

We built an entire iOS app and then scrapped it when we realized that the quota controls and screening questions did not work. While that was valuable learning, it was also over a year of time, and a lot of money.

We are working in an industry that values “fail-fast” and “break things” and we are careful market researchers who don’t want to break anything or to fail.

So what is the right answer? 

While we still endorse option 2 as the right answer for us, we are learning to be more agile. Not to lose rigor, but instead to strip our tech offerings down to the things that really matter. 

Some of the things that we would like to see (e.g. “can we build in automatic testing of statistically significant differences and highlight those differences?”) do get cut, but the things that matter most to us (like controlling who we include in our research and asking them questions in creative ways with beautifully designed interfaces) stay. 

Want to keep reading? Check out our past predictions from the “How Will Market Research Change in 2019?” series:


Elsie FitzPatrick - January 4, 2020

Should be research you need to know about each other before you consolidate

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