The Challenge for Traditional Research

“The challenges of traditional research: new data, stakeholders and methods” by Jordi Ferrer, co-founder of Snappy Research, was voted as the best article of 2016 in “Research and Marketing”, in AEDEMO’s* Annual Gala, celebrated on the 30.03.2017. We reproduce the article here in full.   *AEDEMO (Asociación Española de Estudios de Mercado, Marketing y Opinión) Spanish association for the study of markets, marketing and public opinion.      

The main challenge of companies in Market Research is, precisely, to understand and take note of the fact that the definition and environment of the market in which they operate has changed radically in the last few years – and will continue to do so at the same rate that technology and society advances.

“Traditional research” competes within a new market in which different types of information, data, technologies and business models collide and are pushed to progress by disruptors (new or outside companies), that make traditional companies fall short. To guarantee their success, these need to adapt and integrate new measures fast.

Key Aspects of the new market

The three main aspects that are innovating markets can be summarised by these three key perspectives:

New technologies, data and information
  • Massive adoption of new technologies has generated a trove of new data sources that represent the consumer in systematic ways. Not only is this data recording “passive” activities, but it allows for direct contact and communication. Understanding the consumers’ attitudes and habits has never been easier.
  • These technologies and platforms allow us to record new types of data-points and include mobile tools, location based data, cookies and measures of online behaviour, social media, online communication, sensors, neuroscience, Machine Learning, AI and a long etc. A lot of this information can be included within the label of Big Data.
New Consumers
  • With the adoption of the digital technologies, mobile and social, the consumer shares a large part of information (more or less consciously accepting a trade off between their privacy and free or relevant content).
  • On the other side, the consumers also adapt their expectations, especially in terms of their interaction with brands and companies. The expectation that these interactions will be adapted to their daily habits is a new way in which marketing needs to satisfy its target audience. By using mobile systems based on gamification, apps that offer a specific value when sharing their opinions or behaviour with different brands, the consumer sets higher benchmarks for their interaction with brands. All this should be considered and reflected on when adapting systems of data collection among companies carrying out ‘traditional research’.
  • Finally, market research companies cannot continue to analyse and segment the consumer solely according to their socio-demographic or shopping profile, in the way that has been done for 50 years. We must incorporate the social and digital dimension of a person into research, not just in order to help brands define their digital strategies, but also in order to inform overarching marketing and communication plans.

New needs

  • In this changing and competitive environment, brands, like their customers, also adopt new strategies and information systems to take decisions.
  • The require, increasingly so, more and more information; faster. Continuous information, that is cheaply and easily accessible and interpretable, will be essential in creating in-market strategies that can quickly read results and readapt accordingly. Large, longitudinal studies that take weeks to identify the failures of a strategy are now obsolete.
  • Brands need to realise that technology makes the consumer the ultimate resource, that can quite literally take “a seat at the table”, even in everyday, tactical decisions.

In this context, the normal value chain is quickly expiring. Technology facilitates a radical shift, and consumers demand now and will continue to require this radical shift. Traditional research models will slowly faze out to  serve only specific, niche needs of the client.


We’re currently experiencing a radical change from a traditional system, with long, slow cycles and where the data gathering, analysis and action stages are clearly defined within a timeline, to the handing in of results, at which points brands can make the relevant decisions and implement the necessary actions, referring to the research teams to measure results again after.


This burdened model is becoming reduced to practically simultaneous and quick paced stages of data collection, analysis, action and measurement. Essentially, the industry is carrying out real-time research.


Traditional companies don’t need to take a step back and play a secondary role in a shifting industry by for example providing information to DPMs (Data Management Platforms). They must take a step forward to take a central role in this change of paradigm within information industries.


It’s not an easy challenge, as culture and the capacity to compete in this environment poses different issues to those that they’re usually accustomed to. A strong lean start-up, innovative culture, a solid comprehension and vision of tech and advanced analytics, are all essential to finding a place within a shifting market. Most importantly, the capacity to think outside the box and so put to question existing models of success in our environments.


The good news is that market research companies have, despite everything, the advantage of having the expertise required to face such challenges. Having indepth knowledge of consumers and their attitudes, culture and experience of culture, as well as the understanding of how far this information can be represented within a dataset and encoded in a survey.


This advantageous start point, combined with the acceptance of the new trends and markets, will give market research companies the skill and drive to successfully adopt and define this change of paradigm.     

  Jordi Ferrer

Co-founder and President of Snappy Research. Before, he was global Director General of Strategy, Fusion and Acquisition at TNS Digital and committee member of the group. He also teaches at IESE and gives talks and conferences throughout the world about digital technology, consumer impact and media. Economist, with an MBA from IESE and executive formation at London Business School.