Editor’s note: John Bird is the executive vice president, client development, at research firm Infotools, North America. 

If home improvement TV shows are any indication, everyone should be able to do almost anything on their own. There’s a whole network devoted to the cause. This is part of an overarching cultural shift toward doing it yourself – possibly a response to the need for control and transparency. It is also a manifestation of technology’s ever-increasing role in our daily lives, allowing us to eliminate the middleman. 

In the market research space, DIY has generally looked like this: researchers turning to technology companies for the tools and platforms that provide the control they desire. Aside from control, DIY promises fast, low-cost solutions, such as self-service data collection platforms and visualization tools. Challenges have included poor design and lack of knowledge and/or support to run the solutions. This is changing with smart technology applications, better user interfaces and quality support, resulting in the dissipation of the “do-it-cheap-and-wrong” cloud that has hung over DIY in the past. In short, DIY may finally be reaching adulthood in market research. 

Using the right technology 

Market researchers believe in the power of new technology. Innovations that are predicted to transform – or at the very least be vital to – the industry include artificial intelligence, automation, AR/VR and blockchain. Technologies like these can be applied to create DIY solutions that give people the change they seek. But this level of control comes with the responsibility for researchers to seek out the right solution. 

By taking an active role in selection and evaluation, researchers can start to uncover the DIY solutions that will help fill the demands of today’s marketplace for speed, cost savings and control. There are a number of questions that anyone implementing a new solution should ask, some of which are detailed below:  

  • Was this solution developed with a firm foundation in market research? The best tools have been built by people who understand the research experience from the ground up and know what it takes to build essential trust with users. This mind-set will create tools that address key pain points because the experts behind them are already intimately aware of the challenges.
  • Is the solution using automation to address speed and accuracy? Machines just do some things better. Automation and machine learning can identify problems quickly and alert users so they can fix them. These technologies can complete tasks – such as data democratization – in minutes rather than days, meeting demands for quick turnaround and leaving you free to do your most valuable job of uncovering insights. By making this process accessible to the user, you can answer the feature of the trust economy – control.
  • How nimble is the vendor in making improvements? Solutions that are actively pursuing user feedback, the trust-building feedback loop, tracking the pulse of the industry and solving everyday problems can provide the most beneficial approach.
  • Is the solution backed by a responsive customer service team? No matter how advanced a DIY solution is, human expertise is needed to drive it. It is this marriage of market research experts and advanced use of technology that can create real success. 

Final thoughts

The historical shortfall in DIY has been the lack of support and expertise. It was sold to end users that were then left to their own devices, and this has often been the case in our industry as well. For researchers, the ideal balance may be found somewhere in the middle of DIY and a more traditional approach. The focus must start to shift away from DIY tools replacing clever people and instead view them as smart tools that enable clever people to do things quicker and more effectively. 

I believe that the beauty of any new technology is that it allows the researcher more time to be human, feeding natural curiosity and uncovering the insights that matter to business outcomes. After all, many of us entered this profession because of a desire to find out new things and investigate uncharted territory. There is some evidence that DIY can help us accomplish this goal. Technology that allows greater control and transparency into the research process simply makes sense.