What We Learned From IIEX: How Tech is Changing Market Research

Maggie and I had the pleasure of attending the IIeX conference in Atlanta last month.  As usual IIeX was packed with innovative researchers looking to socialize and stay abreast of the latest industry trends.  Maggie and I had a cup of (iced) coffee on the way out the door and made a list of our key takeaways for the week.

A hammer in search of a nail

There seem to be more research companies than ever entering market research and almost all of them are focused on technology.  Many of these young companies have developed really cool and interesting tools for researchers to use.  They are also hyper-focused on their key offering and tend to be specialists in more narrow applications of research.  This is great for the industry and has resulted in a lot of really cool innovation, but it will require researchers to learn more tools than ever and understand the best application for these tools.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

While there are more conferences than ever in our industry, there also seems to be a continuing movement towards less transparency at these conferences and more guarding of information than ever.  I don't know if this is just my perception, or if it is a real trend, but it seems to be the case to me.  This seems to lead to a less collegial environment at conferences nowadays than in years past…Do I sound old yet?

Old Man Partying

The machines are coming

There continues to be a lot of fear in our industry over AI and machine learning.  AI talk is reaching a crescendo now in much the same way big data talk was peaking 3 or 4 years ago.  While the true impact of AI is really not going to impact most people in our industry for years, interest in it and fear of it are rising rapidly.  Many young companies are focusing on finding ways to streamline research using AI and areas such as text interpretation, prescribed analyses, and other building blocks of our field are seeing a lot of interesting innovation using AI.  Most of the fears being expressed are unfounded, as AI is still very early, and even basic tasks like coding are only now seeing benefits from AI.

Your role is going to change

The increased role of analytics and data in companies of all types is going to have an impact on the role of researchers inside corporate organizations.  Corporate researchers are going to have to collaborate more effectively with other areas of the organization involved in managing or interpreting data.  More cross-functional teams are going to be organized around the end-goal rather than the function (think the growth teams in Silicon Valley rather than the traditional marketing/sales functions).  While many fear this shift, we actually think it is going to be a tremendous opportunity for our field.  As leadership grows accustomed to seeing data supporting most decisions, the role of insights and analytics experts will continue to expand.

Bueller, Bueller, Bueller

Aside from those speaking at the event, there were very few client-side researchers at IIeX.  I am not sure why this was the case, and if it points to a larger trend, but the imbalance between corporate researchers and suppliers was pretty extreme.  It would have been nice to see more client-side researchers in attendance.

Overall, IIeX was fun this year.  Atlanta is always a fun city to visit and the conference energy was really cool. Thanks IIeX!