The Market Research Middlemen
How to Add Value: Provide Insight and Understanding
In a provocative new book entitled What Would Google Do? author Jeff Jarvis claims that “Middlemen Are Doomed” because the Internet has made information so easy, accessible, and cheap. He argues that the Internet links buyers and sellers directly, and it allows buyers to get information and access to sellers instantaneously, rendering middlemen obsolete. Market researchers are middlemen who operate between businesses who need information about their customers, and the people (their customers and prospects) being interviewed about needs, attitudes, and behaviors. If Jarvis is right, what is the future for market research and public opinion polling?
The answer, it seems, will depend on how and whether we add value beyond collecting and delivering data. If we focus on our business being research we add a great deal of value, and while the tools of our trade may evolve, our essential work remains. Good researchers are experts in the entire process of how to formulate, collect, and analyze information to increase understanding. We analyze problems, help clients ask the right questions to solve problems, recommend and implement methods of data collection to produce information that will answer the right questions, use interpretive or statistical tools to untangle and interpret the data, and ultimately transform all of this into a story that clients can use to make good decisions. The Internet is not displacing the importance of these intermediary steps. On the contrary, new technologies will make the work faster, better, and less expensive, further enhancing the value of what we do as researchers.
However, there are those in the market research industry who, over the last thirty years, have built businesses around data collection and delivery. They make a lot of phone calls, send out lots of surveys, scan barcodes, collect data, tally it up, and send numbers and charts to clients. As Jarvis suggested, the problem for these firms is that online technology now links consumers and businesses directly, it lets businesses ask survey questions, it tallies up the data, and puts the results directly in the hands of clients. No doubt Jarvis is right that this world of market research middlemen is at its end.
Versta Research is committed to helping you deepen your understanding of the world. The Internet puts the world to your doorstep; smart research helps you make sense of it.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.