Several LinkedIn Groups have been discussing the effect of the various Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tools now available to those who want to create online surveys. Many of those tools are either very inexpensive or in some cases, free. Because the barriers to entry are now so low, some client-side researchers (and non-researchers) are taking advantage of their ability to field studies without hiring external MR experts.
Does this trend signal the decline or demise of the MR industry? From our standpoint, the answer is no.
DIY tools certainly have their place and can be efficient ways to get the job done, provided their users clearly understand the limitations – both those of the tool and those of their own knowledge. When I can look above my desk and see thick tomes discussing various marketing scales and their proper survey applications, I have to believe that the average DIY tool user is less than optimally educated in survey design. As my family will gleefully testify, my ability to purchase the requisite tools and “How-To” books does not make me a carpenter, or a plumber (don’t ask). If the task is simple enough, though, I have a good chance of saving myself real money and time by tackling it myself. Therein lies the first challenge: learn how to tactfully advise clients on when and when not to exercise their own “carpentry” skills.
The rise in DIY tool use also ties into another significant trend: the commoditization of quantitative data collection. Only in the past decade has technology allowed almost anyone this kind of access to tools, platforms, and processes to reach an audience. We now compete with clients and prospects on a playing field we once owned. Our response should not be to compete directly with the low or no cost options. Instead, we must face our second challenge: continue to emphasize delivering value to clients by providing sound study design, accurate and thoughtful analysis, actionable insights, and insight-driven consulting services. That is where the market still sees value.
The market research industry is certainly not doomed. But it is changing, and quickly. For a profession based on expanding knowledge and uncovering insights, change should be a good thing.