The symptoms that traditional market research are facing its inevitable death are already evident. With shortening attention spans, increase in tech savvy yet time poor individuals and issues pertaining to receiving feedback from customers would suggest that the tendency to move towards online tools and platforms is more likely. Thus, in order to survive in an unknown territory the role of the researcher will have to be redefined. While developing insightful consumer research will continue to be the focal point , the role of the researcher will shift from a passive collector of information/data to an active researcher who forms a comprehensive understanding of the customer from data collected from different range of sources (i.e. through online and offline platforms)

The fact that we are currently living in the digital era is old news. However, the interesting question that one should ask is whether industries and companies today have kept pace with the technological revolution. The availability of computer assisted research tools at the tip of your fingers have threatened the existence of traditional research methods like survey designs.  While certain online tools and platforms are in the development stage, there is no doubt that such research tools will pose a considerable threat to traditional research professionals in the future.

The data speaks for itself! The internet penetration in the Middle East, as of November 2015 was 52.2%. What is more alarming is that the internet penetration in the Middle East is higher than the world average! (46.4%). In addition to this total Facebook users in the Middle East as of November 2015 was 49,400,000 (Source- Internet world Stats). The growing use of internet and social platforms would suggest that the data trails we leave could be captured and analyzed with ease on a real time basis. Thus, without a shred of doubt it is clear that we are moving into an era where behaviours, attitudes, lifestyles and values, can be captured by information systems, rather than through traditional research methods like surveys.

To make matters worse for traditional researchers, offline platforms like wearable technology and virtual reality are changing the game completely. Virtual reality platforms for instance would enable marketers and other business professionals to truly understand the customers by “putting oneself in the other person’s shoes.” Thus, creating the emotion of empathy that researchers so desire to practice and inculcate. Thus, why would corporates rely on traditional research companies, if free DIY (Do it yourself) tools are already available in the market!

As the old adage goes “if you can’t beat them, then join them!” Thus, it is time that market researchers get on to the bandwagon of digital disruption before it is too late!
(The author is MTI’s Bangalore-based Country Rep and Regional Marketing Consultant, specializing in on-line ventures and on-line marketing. He also serves on the board of MTI Sri Lanka as a Non-Executive Director)