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mra market research conference 2012Spent a good bit of last week at the MRA conference in San Diego. The weather was overcast and cloudy for the first couple days, a perfect metaphor for the general mood of the industry and uncertain outlook the future holds for us. But as always, I saw a lot to be optimistic about. In particular the first and second to last presentation I watched featured experience researchers who are enthusiastically embracing the opportunities that exist today.

Hal Bloom of Sage Software talked about their satisfaction research using a standard likelihood to recommend approach. They attempt to survey every customer every year and succeed in getting 20% of them to respond. This means tens of thousands of surveys with a multiple of that in terms of open ended responses. Sage makes extensive use of text recognition software to determine sentiment and help sort out who their most vocal promoters and detractors are. A great use of new technology, but what struck me even more was what they do next.

market research conference 2012Well, another conference is over, perhaps our best ever. A great roster of speakers, a room full of engaged attendees and a great location was a terrific formula for a memorable conference. Some highlights from the various sessions:

Lenny Murphy, Editor-in-Chief of the Greenbook blog opened with a wide sweep discussing the waves of changes rocking the market research world. Pulling from the GRIT survey, his discussion with emerging and established players, as well as his itinerant investigation, he was able to convincingly make the case that change in the MR industry is happening. Now. He talked about emerging technologies such as mobile, social media and text analytics and how academic expertise was a key to unlocking a future of new ideas. It was a perfect set-up for the group of academic presentations that were to follow.

market research conferenceOver the past year I’ve blogged about the things that I think will drive the future of Market Research and I’m pleased to announce that for our Frontiers of Research annual conference (May 8th, in NYC, view full agenda or register) we have assembled speakers who will drive that conversation forward. The conference will cover the full spectrum of buzz-worthy topics (Behavioral Economics, Neuroscience, Gamification, Predictive Analytics). And the focus, as always, will be on ideas presented in an easy to understand way (no math!). With speakers from four Ivy League schools, and presentations that range from poker to motion picture box office, this should be an informative and enjoyable day.

Leonard Murphy will set the table by calling on his extensive knowledge of the industry to illuminate how academia can and is driving us forward. Anyone who follows his blog knows that he is not only one of the most knowledgeable industry leaders around, but that he has a provocative view of where we are heading.

webcamAs researchers it is critical that we ensure our data accurately reflect the thinking of the market....in other words, getting to the truth. This is complicated by several factors including limitations of a questionnaire, respondent's lack of attention and the fact that people don't always know what they really want or need. While careful design and methodology can help to minimize these issues (at TRC we believe in using choice questions and shorter surveys) and the use of other data (which can establish the facts), it is impossible to eliminate them.

Technology such as eye tracking, bio metrics and facial recognition software can be applied to neuroscience to help us understand more about what respondents are thinking. The trouble is they are often expensive (sometimes getting the whole truth isn't worth the price) and slow down the research process (sometimes a faster less complete answer is better than a slow one). The limited data available also make it difficult to draw good conclusions. An outstanding presentation at the ARF's 75th Annual Conference showed this quite well.

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