NetGain 8 Recap (Jan 2014)


Advanis was thrilled to join another large crowd for the MRIA (Canadian Market Research Industry Association) Net Gain conference. This was likely the largest audience ever for this event, as the live audience was augmented by live streaming events held at MRIA chapters across the country and at RAP college classes throughout Ontario.

The theme for the 2014 conference was Transformation. The goal was to ask the question - "Market Research is changing rapidly but into what?"

And although the theme of the day was Transformation, there was a definite push/pull in the presentations between a desire to use new tools and techniques, and a reminder that even the new should be approached with the scientific rigour and grounding of the tried and true methods that have brought us to where we are today.  Two speakers (the first and last of the day), Jeffrey Henning and Bernie Malinoff, both touched on our need as market researchers not to fear new tools, methods or technologies but to embrace it. Indeed, in order to best serve our clients in an era of new tools, DIY software, and increased automation, insights researchers need to become "agnostics", selecting the best tools for the project at hand.  To do that, researchers of the future will need to embrace curiosity and be storytellers.

Another theme that was apparent through the day was a desire to move away from the artificial construct of recruiting "participants" to an awkward survey completed on the telephone or computer, but rather to find ways to engage with "people" in more natural ways that are relevant to the audiences. This can be as simple as capturing feedback or contacting people on mobile devices (increasingly the device of choice, especially for the young and more affluent), combining survey and ethnographic techniques, or monitoring social conversations to gain rich contextual information.

Each speaker of the day posed some interesting questions or challenges to the audience, and we thought that these would be a good way to review the day.

  • Jeffrey Henning (@JHenning) opened the conference with an overview of the potential future trends in the consumer insights industry. As more tools and off the shelf products emerge to automate many of the tasks of research, Jeffrey challenged the audience to think of themselves as not being in the "car industry", but rather being in the "transportation industry". In other words, don't fear the change in the tools and methods we've used in the past - rather embrace what is available to us to best help uncover insights that are going to be valuable to our client's business needs. At the end of the day, sellers will always need to understand buyers, and insights research helps them to do just that.
  • Mark Michelson (@MarkMichelson) reviewed the best practices for mobile research, both quantitative and qualitative. He informed the crowd that the current technology on smartphones have 25 sensors (everything from GPS to ability to read pulse in a finger). How can we use these tools to collect a rich feed of data for insights and make the experience more enjoyable for the survey participants?
  • Chris Long, (@ChrisLongOne) showed how SAS could be used for analytics, specifically for social media analytics and monitoring. Kudos to the audience for asking about the next steps in social media monitoring - how can social media streams be harnessed as leading indicators of brand sentiment, or used to drive forward thinking in survey design?
  • Annie Pettit (@LoveStats) reviewed the long history of a new trend - behavioural economics. She didn't ask a question, but made a rather emphatic plea to researchers to abandon their love of asking consumers to give their opinion. There were two reasons for this 1) past behaviour, which can be accurately tracked or recalled, is a great predictor of future behaviour and 2) people are irrational, and have great difficultly explaining 'why'.
  • Tom De Ruyck (@tomderuyck) spoke of the potential for insights communities (which he dubbed the consumer consulting board) to help organizations design products/services that consumers want and need. He asked - how open and agile companies are to their consumer needs? If they are not, they will not grow.
  • A glimpse into the bright future of market research was apparent as RAP Students Vincent, Samantha,  & Melissa gave a poised and entertaining presentation of their ethnographic study into student understanding of campus safety issues. Great work.
  • Do you know how many countries there are in the world? Eric Meerkamper & Grant Miller (@RIWIData) reviewed their very unique (patented) approach to collecting online data worldwide, by placing surveys in the error pages that appear if a person types in an incorrect web URL address. With clients like the World Bank, they have been able to conduct research in nearly all of the 196 countries around the globe.
  • Rudy Nadilo, (@Dapresy) asked the audience to imagine what they would invent, if PowerPoint disappeared from our computers today. What would you do? What MR information sharing would you like to implement at your organization?
  • Ethnography, particularly using audio and video, can allow researchers access to private and personal moments in the lives of many Caroline Fletcher (@TheSoundHQ) asked us not to shed a tear as she shared the impactful research results collected with new fathers.
  • Can your research program be successful if your sample plan is not a random-probability based sample? Frank Graves (@VoiceOfFranky) & Anne Crassweller (@AnneCrassweller) shared the challenges of measuring newspaper readership in Canada in an era of cord cutting and lower response rates. They have attempted to overcome these challenges with an IVR survey that included CPO households. We couldn't agree more that it is far superior to adjust your data collection to include cell phones (increasing your chances of finding young people who may not have a landline) than to under-collect and attempt to weight your data.
  • Bernie Malinoff (@BernieMalinoff) ended the day by helping to develop a skill set for the researcher of the future. He asked us to hold on to our disciplined approach, while being continually curious about emerging methods of gathering insights.

NetGain 2014 created thought provoking discussion, looked in to the future of research and our role, as market researchers. The industry is definitely transforming itself with new technology and tools, a need to be creative, and new ways to reach into our toolboxes in order to reach representative audiences in the face of declining response rates and landline cord cutting. The ability to integrate new technology, approaches, and methodologies to reach audiences combined with the ability to distill the data in to stories is an exciting challenge to our industry. But, as we have found at Advanis, disruption creates innovation and we enjoy being part of the transformation in our industry.


Lori ReiserLori Reiser is a Principal Consultant at Advanis. Her consulting engagements focus on ensuring that the consumer is heard at the strategic table - reducing risk in marketing decision making.  Lori can be reached by calling 888-944-9212, via e-mail, or on twitter @LoriReiser.