Is Market Research Slowly Getting Out of Our Control?

In the past, customers struggled to evaluate potential
products that they wanted to purchase. The only information we as customers had
was what the seller was giving us. We were all vulnerable to great advertising
and marketing, which meant big name brands had the resources and the reputation
to continue to sell, despite potentially there being better products by lesser
known entities.
Back then, predicting consumer preferences and gaining
customer loyalty was a lot easier. I, myself and I’m sure the majority of
people reading this, will have in the past chosen a product simply because we
had something from that brand already and liked it. However in today’s socially
intensive environment everything has changed.
Now, there is such a multitude of information available to
customers, so purchasing new items is no longer solely reliant on what the
brand advertises. Consumers are now far more dependent on what has been dubbed
‘other’ information. Today, people purchasing new items or goods get knowledge
on the different products available from user reviews, friend’s thoughts on
social media, expert opinions, price comparison sites and other in time
information. The influence of ‘other’ is very unpredictable; factors such as
‘coolness’ are very reliant on current fashion and social trends. And, aids
such as Yelp or Google reviews get a lot of traffic and so people can look at
the feedback in order to make a decision.
This has its advantages for small startup companies as they may
not have the finances or resources to embark on large advertising campaigns and
so word of mouth is vital for the growth of their products. However, for market
research purposes, the rise of ‘other’ information means that traditional forms
of marketing such as positioning and persuasion techniques are less effective.
Market research needs to evolve with the change in
information that is available as prediction and forecasting methods are
steadily becoming more difficult to do. Consumers are becoming less loyal as if
they see a poor review or if a product is not following current trends then
they are more likely to move to a new brand. There needs to be a higher
understanding of the new sources of knowledge that are available to customers.
By tracking the readily available customer preferences, reviews and trends on
forums, social media sites and review sites can give an opportunity to respond
quickly to market changes.
The question for the future is how will companies evolve
with the times and develop market research strategies that are more customer-focused?
There needs to be much more awareness of what consumers are
interested in at that exact moment in time. This could be at a huge corporate
level where the research has to focus on the exact aim and goal of a large
client. Or it could focus individual reviews from day to day consumers that
could shape and influence future products. Market research could get out of
control to businesses who continue to live in the past instead of modernizing
strategies and keeping up with what the customer wants and needs.

About the Author:
Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the
industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent
graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as
a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World
Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at hkempe@IIRUSA.com