Editor’s note: Bradley Honan is a CEO and president of Honan Strategy Group, a public opinion and data analytics firm, New York City. 

It’s worth a pause to take stock of where the market research and polling industry is today and consider the challenges, as well as the opportunities, facing our profession. 

In many ways the term big data is redundant for those of us working in the market research profession. As an example, a quantitative research study of 45-60 questions with several banners of crosstabs is enough to keep the most proficient data junkie among us up to their eyeballs in numbers for several weeks.

But the big data era, which should present an enormous opportunity for the market research industry, is actually creating strong headwinds. Ironically as data – and the data profession – becomes sexier and sexier, the challenges facing our industry grow more profound. Today, significant disruption is staring us all straight in the face. But we all have the opportunities as people invested in our industry to help enact overdue change.

The current headwinds exist in five main areas.

Our industry has not done nearly enough to contain costs, by failing to more quickly integrate technology and automation. This is most notable in terms of data collection, presentation-making and on the analytics side. At the same time, clients are increasingly being pitched – and are buying – automated social media sentiment analysis tools that cost a fraction of what a customized research study would cost.  

While many could argue the benefits of a custom study deliver far greater strategic insights than automated sentiment analysis, many clients are voting with their wallets and purchasing far cheaper sentiment tools.

I don’t see this choice as an either, or. Rather, in an era with costs constraints, our studies need to become far more cost effective – and technology needs to play an eve...