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The market research industry has change immensely in the past decade or so with the arrival of the internet and its subsequent advances – and few would argue that the industry has not benefited tremendously from this digital revolution. Yet does this mean ‘traditional’ market research no longer has a place?

In an article featuring in the latest issue of Quirk’s, Stephen Turner argues that a hybrid approach is always the best when it comes to a well-rounded market research project. It’s hard to disagree with his reasoning:

Of course, all research methodologies have their respective pros and cons; nor is this the first time that advancements in the industry have caused people to sit back and reassess things. Back in the day, face-to-face, house-to-house opinion polling went into decline as postal and telephone surveys gained in popularity. Both of these ‘new’ methodologies had distinct advantages but also a number of drawbacks – it’s difficult, for example, to provide visual stimuli during a telephone interview. It’s probably fair to say that every approach has advantages but leaves something out in the process.

There is no doubting that the internet is an extraordinary tool which has redefined our ability to reach diverse segments of people. However, like all of the new techniques before it, there is still an important body of information left on the table, even as technology brings us ever closer to the experience of face-to-face communications. Non-verbal communication (body-language, posturing, etc.) forms an important part of our understanding, and simply goes undetected when interviewing does not take place face to face.

The problem is, of course, that face-to-face work is expensive and time-consuming. It is especially difficult when you need to talk to people who are geographically dispersed. Yet, Turner argues that, in spite of the huge amount of reliable and valid information garnered elsewhere, face-to-face interviews are essential in order to truly understand peoples’ thoughts, feelings and dispositions toward the products, services and communications that we research.

Turner concludes by advocating the development of hybrid approaches to research which include various components. In essence, this is what we at B2B International do each time a client comes to us with a market research ‘problem’ they need help in solving. We look at all the different ways we could go about gathering the required intelligence, weigh up the pros and cons of each methodology and (taking into account any additional budgetary and time constraints) propose the most suitable combination of methodologies to best fit the bill.

Find out more about the techniques and tools we use here.

You can read the article in full here.

One thought on “Appreciating The Value Of Traditional Research

  1. John Clay says:

    In B2B, and especially in industrial B2B markets face to face interviews are the single most important method of research. I have spent the last week driving around the UK interviewing customers and non customers who manufacture switchgear and control panels. These companies are typically located on industrial estates in small, old, dirty, untidy units, so it isn’t the most glamorous of jobs, but it is certainly one of my favourites. The project is an NPD project and we are testing acceptance of a new concept. I could of asked the questions over the phone, sent the concept descriptions by email and knocked off the whole process in 15-20 minutes per respondent. However, I would have missed so much insight into their working practices, their needs, their priorities and their aspirations that I might as well not have conducted the interview at all. I would have missed the opportunity to take photographs, to speak with other members of the team on the shop floor and take away samples of competing products they currently use. In B2B research you do need to consider new methods and there is a place for on-line surveys, but there is still no substitute for clocking up the mileage and getting upfront and personal with your respondents. So how do we get around this issue of Face to face being so expensive? I would like to see an agency come up with a service which enables the client to share the leg work. By this I mean letting the client do some of the interviews themselves so it becomes a collaborative approach where the agency oils the wheels recruiting, confirming, rescheduling, reporting and generally making the project run smoothly. B2B Marketing teams need to get out more and see first hand what the sales teams see everyday. It is only through this approach that companies can really develop propositions that meet their customers needs.

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