Humber College hosted their Annual Research Forum on November 23rd, (two days after MRIA's sixteenth birthday!), inviting us among other industry guests to their very thoughtfully curated event drawing from their top alumni, teams, and other talent. We had a great time connecting with the audience of students, faculty, and staff and sharing our career insights with the Forum. The theme for the session was rather fitting: "Equity and Technology in Research: Multiplying Benefits or Creating Divisions".
No better time than now to spark these conversations on the role of equity in technology-enabled marketing research, the major catalyst for growth in this just under US$90 billion global sector, according ESOMAR's Global Market Research Report 2020. The latest IBISWorld Report on Market Research in Canada reveals that locally we have experienced a turnover of C$823 million or US $616 million in the past year. This indicates a steady growth of 2.3% in the past 5 years, but lower in value than what was experienced a decade ago (2010) when we were reaping about C$924 million or US $691 million annually.
Every research company worth their salt has been rushing out COVID-impact reports, to make sense of and communicate symptoms of this changed marketplace along with implications on consumer and citizen behaviour. In true spirit we at MRIA have been discussing the pandemic's impact on research in monthly webinars and business recovery talks as well as in other engagements and lectures.
The RAPP Research Forum's three keynote speakers showcased the geographic, sociological, physiological and political diversity of our industry and its resilience in moving operations online and adapting to new needs of stakeholders, consumers and clients locally and globally. They answered questions ranging from data privacy issues impacting online qualitative research, fieldwork roadblocks and breakthroughs, growth curves and scope for improving inclusivity in research design and execution particularly as we move to a more tech-enabled sector.
Deborah Klotz of Forum Research, Kate Baker of the Ontario Ministry of Labour and Busola Akin-Olawore of Versa Research, discussed the unique issues that arose from the pandemic but also the state of industry and perceptions towards research among internal and external stakeholders. The ability to adapt and relearn quickly remain central to the researcher's toolkit as technology gains a stronger foothold in our daily research work no matter which part of the value chain we are steering. It was also agreed that "soft skills" are no more just soft skills but rather hard and fast skills that allow researchers to bring accessibility, equity, user-experience and customer-centricity to the forefront of all our work, in order to be truly empowered by technology in research.
The student projects on showcase reflected the versatility and range of intellect and ambition that really captured their grasp of the big and small problems of the day -- this is an ability that will increasingly see them win in the real world as well -- being well-versed with the range, scope and nuance of problems that need to be solved short-term, long-term and ongoing. This "problems-focused mindset" (as opposed to a "solutions-for- sale" focussed one) is probably a child of the pandemic, accelerated by the pace of technological advancement, creating new opportunities and problems. Issues in app or interface usability, financial services access, newcomer mental health, generational differences in habits/preferences, healthcare services, media consumption habits and optimum pricing, opioid policy response strategy, and so much more spanned the gamut of topics from a multi-faceted and thoughtful cohort of student researchers raring to meet the "real world" and conquer in their realms.
Big thank you to Humber College and the RAPP program for inviting us to share our insights at their annual research forum as we sought to break the "five misconceptions in marketing research" in our talk. Congratulations again to the students for showcasing their research excellence to industry and to all those who made the event a success. We couldn't be prouder nor more hopeful of the lights that will lead us onwards.
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