Self-service marketing research: blessing or nightmare for users?

Almost any marketing research agency of some size offers one or has one in the making: self-service research platforms. The promise: the most comprehensive consumer insights on one platform, fast and accurate at a fraction of the normal cost with an unprecedented speed. Access to millions of consumers in one click.

It provides a clear answer to the paradigm of our era : “better – faster – cheaper“. The world is becoming increasingly complex and technology is entering the lives of consumers at an unprecedented pace. It presents companies with major challenges in which the speed of innovation or (re) action is becoming increasingly important. In this context, a self-service research platform seems to be a blessing to many a marketing or innovation director, but do they deliver?

I recently spoke to an Insights manager at an international company. Using such a platform he quickly gathered a multitude of “insights” on. Unfortunately, many real questions remained unanswered: What should I do with this, where does this fit into our knowledge base and what does it mean for our business? That I get this question more often than ever seems to be indicative of the emergence of self-service research platforms. As it becomes ever more easy and cheaper to launch marketing research, it becomes more and more difficult to come to relevant insights, let alone to reach decisions.

What should I do with this, what does this teach me and what does this mean for our business?

All too often we forget that technology is only a means to an end. In other words, the platform should be subordinate to a sharp and clearly defined goal. All too often this is lacking. As a result, unnecessary research is used. This does not alter the fact that these platforms can certainly be useful. Even if the question is how to deal with it and with which analytical and critical spirit the results are taken up. Moreover, garbage in garbage out also applies here; the technology must be used for the right purposes and all practical aspects of research must be respected (correct question, a good concept description, correct target group, etc.).

It seems that self-service research platforms can rather be a nightmare in which the user often does not even know that he or she is living in it. Although they can be a real blessing when in the right context, for the right problems and with the right critical mind.

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