As mentioned in some earlier posts, in the past quarters, I have been looking into the role that Market Research professionals play (and can play) with regard to information management. I’ve had many enlightening conversations about this topic with both vendors and client-side market researchers.

Technology developments result in more and more information becoming available internally, and at different parts of the organization. Just think about all the data an average company collects or buys — media measurement data, advertising awareness, advertising spend, retail data, sales data, competitive intelligence, Web-tracking data (from listening tools), Web site tracking, marketing data (e.g., Nielsen Claritas), customer satisfaction surveys, brand trackers, and other primary research data, to name just a few. One vendor estimated that the average research department handles around 50 different research sources!

When I spoke with vendors about their relationship with clients, each and every one of them was looking for ways to increase the level of engagement. For one thing, they are working on best-in-class reporting tools to make it easier for clients to process their data and make it visually more interesting — and hopefully easier to use. However, not many vendors think further than their own set of data. When questioned, they mention that their systems don’t allow for third-party data. Yes, it’s possible to link to internal CRM systems, but that’s about as far as things go.

But that’s not good enough. For another report, I interviewed heads of market research (MR) departments about the data needs of their executive teams. It will come as no surprise that these needs have nothing to do with how fancy things look. What really makes or breaks the usage of MR results by executive team members is an easy-to-grasp overview combining the key indicators for the organization — such as, for example, brand awareness, advertising awareness, advertising spend, and sales (brand position). With the current standalone data setup and reporting tools, it requires a lot of work to create reports that appeal to the executive team’s needs.

A technology solution I was briefed about recently by a research vendor was a market research dashboard that forms part of its survey software: Not only does it allow clients to manage the surveys, databases, and deliverables from this vendor through the tool but it also offers the possibility of managing access to other vendors through the same platform — having it all in one place. Do you think this type of solution will work? Or should smaller or specialized data providers take things even further and develop plans to aggregate their data to serve clients' needs better? Because if they don’t, they ultimately run the risk of being replaced by companies like Nielsen or the Kantar Group that have multiple products in their tool set and are already working on delivering their data in one reporting tool.

Do you see the same thing happening? How does the ideal research offering look in the future? Do you agree that aggregation of multiple research sources will result in increased client engagement?