Robots will replace market researchers, Google Glass is the best thing since sliced bread, forget asking questions, implicit research is the way to go - these were just some of the highlights from the Market Research in the Mobile World (MRMW) conference that took place last week in London.
I come from the consumer startup space and sometimes market research conferences and online discussions can feel quite protective. Yes, sound methodology and science behind projects is necessary but so is moving fast and breaking things to keep up, and ahead of our clients.
Jan Hofmeyr kicked the whole event off with a proper bang putting a big question mark above the heads of market researchers. He painted a picture of the near future where most tasks can and should be automated and outsourced to artificial intelligence.
Judging by the comments on Twitter then "provocative" would be the right word to describe his ideas.
Scary - Jan Hofmeyr "can you beat the machine? Because if you can't, your job is soon going to be redundant." Agree! #MRMW— Gerard Loosschilder (@GLoosschilder) October 9, 2013
Predictions about large scale automation aren't limited to market research, of course. Gartner Research predicts that the pace of job destruction by smart machines will happen faster than CEOs today belive: The CEOs Are Wrong: Smart Machines Will Replace Millions of Jobs"
It's likely that mr. Hofmeyr had dialled his arguments to the extreme on purpose and the reality of what he and TNS will deliver to their clients will be "more limited and more practical" as Ray Poynter put in his excellent recap and critique of this presentation.
Another presentation that stirred a lot of discussion was by David Zakariaie, the CEO of Glassic. What Glassic is trying to do is to make Google Glass fit for market research by analysing what the respondent sees, how long they look at certain objects (in-store, for example), and what actions they take.
It's no news that wherever Glass show up they create quite a stir but as many in the audience quickly pointed out - the presentation was thin on proof. Edward Appleton said it best in his overview of the conference:
There was no data to back this claim up (the artificial intelligence built into the Glass technology could instantly figure out which one or two questions were worth asking in-store), however, no proof of concept presented. No doubt Google will impact on MR, but from this presentation it seems like it's early days.
#mrmw google glass, google+ and google consumer surveys. More than ever, MR industry must create value + insight on data to stay in game.— James Sallows (@SallowsSI) October 9, 2013
We're keen on the Glass becoming publicly available ("next summer", says Glassic) to test a few ideas ourselves.
The very last presentation from Dan Foreman and Andy Lees of Lumi Mobile focused on future trends and one of the point they made was very relevant to our company. No matter the methodologies, technology or solutions - there's always need for a scalable mobile panel. It's a hard problem and good challenge for us to be solving.
Finally, when I asked Alistair, our CEO, what for him was the highlight then instead of pointing out any particular technique or presentation he said this:
It's exciting to see mobile market research becoming mainstream. It's about real use cases and client stories now, not opportunities and maybes.
On that note, Alistair was on stage himself sharing our experience working with SoundCloud to help the music startup enrich their Big Data with user research. Full recording and slides below for your viewing pleasure.