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ridges in sand

The New Reality: Blurring the Lines Between Marketing and Research

JD Deitch

ridges in sand

Amid evolving consumer behavior, there is a growing need for companies to align marketing and market research practices

Twenty years ago, the distinct buckets that held marketing and market research were clearly defined and crossover was easily avoided. “You have your role, I have mine” was the mantra of the day. But as with many business functions, these silos are disappearing and the bright lines between the disciplines are blurring.

Traditionally, marketing has encompassed the action or business of promoting and selling (or some would say providing the materials to sell) products or services. Market research gathered information about target audience preferences and needs in order to provide the foundation for marketing. While these basic functions remain true, the landscape is becoming more homogeneous for several reasons.

Aiding and Abetting the Breakdown: Digital Ecosystem

The propagation of connected portable devices, the diversions available through them and the numerous networks that enable immediate personal interactions across the globe are keeping consumers busy. For market researchers, this reality has made engaging with a potential research respondent difficult. They are distracted, and the value must be extremely high in order to entice engagement. This is changing our ability to perform our most basic task: recruit respondents to give marketing the insights they need.

This same digital connectivity means that people are sharing their data—actively and passively—across multiple platforms and in various venues. This takes away another traditional core value proposition of the market researcher, who was once the sole provider of consumer insights. Now this data is being collected constantly with every interaction online, and the appeal of “give us your data, we’ll give you an incentive” is quickly declining. Marketers can get insights from a vast number of sources.

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Integration Meets Demands for Speed

Another characteristic of the digitally driven consumer landscape is the need for speed. No longer will the linear process of research, delivery of findings, development of campaigns and outreach to consumers suffice. Brands need the information quickly and have to execute on it immediately in order to reach an increasingly fickle and distracted target audience. A message, promotion or product that resonates today may lose relevance by tomorrow.

Changes to accommodate this reality are already underway. The
horizontally integrated survey research business can program questionnaires, connect samples, and deliver data in a single system. The usability and flexibility of these systems is improving rapidly. Companies that lack an integrated platform will be at a competitive disadvantage on speed and cost.

This integrated approach is spilling over into our discipline, further blurring the lines between marketing and market research. Both disciplines are implementing technology like automation and other intelligent solutions at a rapid pace, making great strides toward efficiencies and speed. The decreasing difference between these technologies is one reason (even market research is looking outside the industry for solutions)—alongside the need for a broader scope, big-picture thinking and quick delivery—that is logically bringing these functions together.

Seeking New Opportunities for Revenue

These changes mean that online research is growing only modestly, causing research suppliers to pursue new avenues for growth. Quite naturally, many are now looking toward the broader advertising and marketing ecosystem for new opportunities. One of the most promising opportunities is the use of first-party data for targeting and activation. The revenue potential here is significant and highly alluring. Instead of handing off their massive data sets to a marketing firm, these companies may now be looking to use that data for direct promotion to consumers.

This sort of seamless integration means they will be delivering on clients’ total needs, thus closing the traditional gap between market research and marketing functions. But in doing so, research companies will be able to achieve their highest goal: delivering actionable insight that helps their clients make money.

JD Deitch is a 20-year veteran of the market research industry who currently serves as CRO of P2Sample.