Glenn Gow brought to my attention a post he wrote a few weeks back that should get us all thinking. In it, he summarizes a recent MITSloan Management Review piece that upbraids most marketers for doing the easiest kind of market research: Listening to our existing customers. Instead, we need to hear what the entire market wants, not just those people that already buy from us.
The prescription given is for full market panels, which makes sense. Market research has always operated based on customer panels and ensuring that you cover your entire target market rather than just the folks you know makes perfect sense. In the past, I’ve written about online panels that might get you lots of coverage for very little cost.
And I agree with that, up to a point. It’s critically important that we keep in mind what online panels are good for. They’re good for getting to the “why” behind behavior. But they are not always accurate.
My problem with market researchers is that they are sometimes too wedded to the tried and true survey techniques they are familiar with. Market researchers need to get involved with Web metrics so that they can help analyze the treasure trove of information we get every day from our Web sites.
Market research needs to embrace all methods of learning about customers. Online panels are great, but let’s also analyze what customers actually do in real-life situations.