Do Companies Still Benefit From Having a Market Research Department?

What’s your gut response to the title question about Market Research Departments? Yes? No? Being Swiss I would say it depends!

I am probably in the third camp. Yes, if it is a department that integrates and analyses information from multiple sources, and then delivers actionable insights and recommendations to the organisation. No, if it is the traditional market research department, whatever that is.

I first asked this question a few years ago and it generated a lot of – sometimes heated – discussions. Now after so many changes in the past couple of years, I thought it was worth revisiting. Please add your own perspective into the comments below and let’s get those discussions started again.

Thanks to social media and websites, the IoT (Internet of Things) and smart products, companies are inundated with information these days. Who better than market research to help in its analysis? But in order to become this new business decision support group, new skills are required.

Insights 2020 by Kantar-Vermeer ran some interesting research into the future of market research and insights. In their report, they spoke about the need for researchers to have five critical capabilities:

  • Research & analytics mastery
  • Business acumen
  • Creative solution thinking
  • Storytelling
  • Direction setting

The fieldwork is now a few years old but I still think it makes good background reading to make companies think about their own needs in terms of data analysis. Also, the world and business environment has changed dramatically in the last eighteen months.

Another study by BCG and GRBN resulted in an Invest in Insights Handbook to help organisations report on the ROI of the insights function. They reported that those who measure the ROI of their information have found a seat at the decision table, increased budgets, and more control. Those are the department objectives that the FMCG world in particular desires today, be they in a manufacturing or retail environment.

As the handbook mentions:

“Architecting a world-class Insights organization requires executive, cross-functional commitment/engagement”

To do this, the report mentions the following six points:

  • Vision & Pace
  • Seat-at-the-table and leadership
  • Functional talent blueprint
  • Ways of working with the Line
  • Self-determination
  • Impact and truth culture

The analysis concludes that:

“The biggest barriers to experimenting with innovation in CI are resources, both time and money. A lot of times there’ll be [a need for] an innovation project but it can’t find a home.”

Invest in InsightsThis seems to suggest, at least to me, a chicken and egg situation. Resources are insufficient because the business doesn’t see the benefit of investing in market research and insight development. But the Market Research Department is struggling with insufficient budget and personnel to provide the support that they should – and often could – provide.

In the GRBN report, they mention the largest barriers to the measurement of the ROI of market research and insight. These were found to be:

  • Difficult to do – studies are used in many different ways
  • Difficulty in isolating impact of consumer insights
  • Time lag between insight delivery and business results

The secondary concerns are:

  • Consumer insights distant from business decision-makers
  • Business objectives not clearly defined
  • Insufficient staff to measure
  • Lack of alignment on important metrics

Looking at this list, it is clear that the market research profession is in need of a significant overhaul. Continue Reading

You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are! (How to Find Out)

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Many of you know my 7-step CatSight™ Process for Insight Development. The first step is to identify the category in which you are competing. I get so many questions about this step that I decided to dedicate a whole post to this important topic.

But before I start, I suggest you first read the post (“Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor, Insights its Foundation”) as background. You will also find the description of the seven steps of the CATSIGHT™ process included. In the article, I summarise the very first step of Insight development, that of category definition, like this:

C = Category

Whenever you want to develop insight, the first task is to decide on the category you want to study. This may seem obvious to you, but in many cases, it isn’t as clear as you might think.

Identify the category by zooming inFor instance, suppose you are planning on launching a new fruit-flavoured soft drink. You may think that you are competing with other juices or perhaps other soft drinks. But rather than just assuming the category in which you are competing, I highly recommend that you check; you may be very surprised.

In working with one client in just such a situation, we actually found that their main competitor was an energy drink!

The reason was that this category is seen as being for lively, energetic, fun-loving people who need a boost. Whether this comes from the caffeine of an energy drink, or from the added vitamins and minerals which was my client’s offer, it didn’t seem to matter.
If we’d only looked at other fruit-flavoured soft drinks, we would have missed a whole – and much larger – segment of category consumers. By starting our analysis by looking at all beverages and then slowly zooming in as we learnt more, we were quickly able to discover this perhaps surprising positioning for the new drink.
This shows the power of taking the consumers’ perspective, especially when segmenting a market. But more about that in a moment. 
The above example is a great start. But so many clients ask me to help them with their own category definitions, I decided to share the five most important steps so you can do it for yourself:

 

Step 1. What is the category definition you are currently using? 

In any process, we should always start by identifying where we are today. In the case of your category definition, it should be the one you think you are competing in at the moment. Depending upon whether you are offering a product or service, you might define it as:

All hot beverage consumers …….. or …….. users of a particular insurance service.

All consumers of coffee …….. or …….. people who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

All consumers of instant coffee powder …….. or …….. house owners in Florida who have bought insurance for natural disasters. Continue Reading

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