Four Trends Spotted at The Market Research Event (TMRE) – Part 1: Beyond Statistics

In late October I had the opportunity to attend The Market Research Event in Nashville, a meeting of over 1500 global industry researchers, including both those working as brand strategists from within a company and those partnering with brands to provide external support and guidance. After three full days of engaging breakout sessions and keynote addresses, and one and a half notebooks worth of insights, I returned to the office with four trends that remain top of mind, several weeks after leaving Nashville.

Trend One: Move beyond statistics to engage decision makers in the research process

While market researchers may gain tremendous value from dense spreadsheets of analysis and book-length reports, it is essential for us to recognise that these formats are often daunting, mysterious, and off-putting for clients and key decision makers, whether internal or external. There is no faster way to lose an audience than to inundate them with statistics. Instead, researchers need to turn their data into a story, often relying on visuals, rather than pages of analysis, to add meaning to the numbers.

Several case studies presented at The Market Research Event demonstrated successful “show, not tell” approaches to engaging stakeholders and gaining their buy-in without overwhelming. In particular, the following tips emerged:

  1. Give your consumer segments a face and a name Consumer segmentation, whether by demographics, buying behaviour, or other set of factors, is nothing new for market researchers and brand strategists. However, gaining complete commitment to these types and implementing a firm-wide approach to identifying and serving customers requires more than just fancy PowerPoint charts.  Instead, several firms have had great success with giving their consumer segments actual faces, names, and backgrounds, making them much more tangible (and memorable) to sales teams and customer support staff than a bar on a chart.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use a simple visual in place of a long report While there may be an urge among many researchers to share as much information as possible, stakeholders and decision makers often respond better to simple visuals. Internal researchers who used a mobile-friendly infographic to communicate their key findings to other teams within their company found that they had higher open rates, better understanding, and an increased willingness among their coworkers to engage in the research process.
  3. Know your story and be able to tell it Ultimately, the use of visuals and streamlined communications are both components of a broader strategy that was emphasized by many presenters during The Market Research Event. Quite simply, this strategy is: tell a story. Numbers come to life when researchers are able to put them in context of actual customer experiences and clients are much more likely to remember a key finding when presented to them as a story, rather than a series of charts.


This will be a three part series.  Stay tuned for more trends.

Full 2013 Survey Results Report available here