Editor’s note: Nina Nichols is the founder and president of Denver-based Resolution Research & Marketing.

At the inaugural Global Blockchain and Global Data Summits in October, attendees from across the country learned how blockchain is turning marketing research on its head. Blockchain is the distributed transaction ledger on which cryptocurrencies (a new asset class that enable decentralized applications) like Bitcoin are tracked. So why is it affecting MR?

As technologies advance, consumers are able to lock up their personal data warehouse and throw away (or more specifically, encode) the key. The future of marketing research lies in consumer control. Facilitating the transfer and decentralization of control is blockchain. As researchers, we will gain a 360-degree view of the consumer and a channel by which we can directly access the consumer’s knowledge warehouse.

Blockchain has the research world (and nearly every other industry) abuzz, with some experts likening its impact to that of the advent of the Internet. Here are a few session overviews from the event that may be of interest to marketing researchers:

  • Mike DiPetrillo, VMware, discussed increasing the throughput of permissioned blockchains, which essentially boils down to faster, more efficient transfer and storage of information within a blockchain system. As blockchain technology works its way into the research world and broader marketing world, the status quo of information transfer will change and will likely look much different in the coming years. Both researchers and marketers alike will have access to immutable and quantifiable records of information from which they can measure and distill insights.
  • Matej Michalko, Decent, shared how blockchain technology allows people and companies to distribute content in a way that ensures payment fairness, trust and security for content creators, contributors and consumers alike.
  • Manny Puentes, Rebel AI, talked about using blockchain technology to provide a fully transparent and validating process for digital advertising. Ultimately, this mitigates any fraudulent advertising delivery and/or reporting activities. Brands should ensure that any investment they make in digital advertising is executed properly and ultimately make better business decisions that reflect real results for every dollar of media spend.

Trusted transactions

Blockchain is becoming a go-to for conducting trusted, secure transactions, both financial and otherwise. In the future, for example, marketing researchers could see screeners becoming obsolete. We will no longer have to take a respondent’s word that he or she qualifies for a survey because their blockchain-authenticated data will speak for them. And each time that consumer provides data, that data will be stored on the blockchain, further enriching their profile for research. Think of a respondent who three years ago indicated via a survey that they used a particular brand of insulin. Now imagine being able to rapidly re-target that same person for a follow-up survey without having to re-screen.

Smart contracts, which perform contractual clauses in a fully self-executing way on the blockchain, will also play a role in research, enabling automatic cryptocurrency/token payments for participation in a study, as well as a means to incentivize participants to keep all of their personally identifiable information updated on a continuous basis.

More data

There’s going to be a lot of participant data on the blockchain as we have the increased ability to store every respondent answer for future reference. But how are we going to store and sift through all of this big data? As Stephen Brobst, CTO of Teradata, put it, “The digital universe will continue into the multiple zettabytes range.” That’s 21 zeros, folks. With the advances in artificial intelligence, combined with the ongoing reduction in the cost of storage, marketing researchers will soon be ready to store and access this data.

Interested in learning more about blockchain? I recommended reading Blockchain Revolution by Don Tapscott.