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If you were to look at the market research industry as a whole, you’d see some interesting shifts occurring (note: requires providing info to download the Future of Research report), mostly in terms of technologies used for conducting market research. Respondent rates are decreasing, the use of panels to conduct surveys seems to be increasing, and new technologies are constantly being vetted for their use in market research. Innovation is becoming key in this industry, and small firms are where most feel the innovation is happening. But what about basic best practices? In all of this, are those best practices changing?

Answer: yes and no

What best practices are not changing? For starters, the need for respondent privacy, ethical use and capture of data, and even simple things like keeping surveys focused and short, and not using biased language in studies are all examples of best practices that, regardless the technologies being used to capture data, are not changing, and likely will not change dramatically.

However, some of these are becoming more complicated and nuanced.

Survey length is one area that is being affected by the use of new technologies to capture audience information. Asking someone to sit for 20 minutes to take a survey on their mobile device is just silly; asking that same person to sit for 20 minutes on the phone or on a laptop, though, is not considered so silly. Survey length best practice is moving from one standard for all methods of fielding to shifting depending on the way the audience will be taking the survey.

That said, micro-surveys, which may have seemed to be the direct answer to the call for shorter and shorter surveys, are not quite being adopted as much as one might think for all the concern over survey length. I personally think market researchers are looking for the happy medium, which seems to be a resounding, “First, tell me how you expect respondents to answer your survey – via laptop, smartphone, tablet, phone…?”

Respondent privacy is another one that is becoming more complicated to address. With the onset of big data, there has been more awareness from the general public that data is being collected – and used. And while this might not necessarily apply directly to surveys, it certainly applies to secondary data used to supplement survey results.

Additionally, facial recognition software is here, and with it, struggles to identify how consumer privacy should be handled by groups who want to use facial recognition software.

Virtual reality technology is also here – and gaining more popularity. Many groups are investigating the use of this technology, from training to market research. This may well open a whole new set of best practices around how, when, where, and why this technology should be used.

There is also a shift happening in the market research industry in the way data is being reported. While there are currently plenty of standard reports, including the well-known bar and pie charts, there is a push to move away from just reporting into storytelling, or at least taking the same information that has been in those word-heavy reports and using more visual methods for presenting the data.

What are the implications for me?

While the technologies for market research are shifting, the priority behind market research has stayed the same: wanting to understand an audience to make business decisions backed by data. And that means, that at its core, the best practices of yesterday and today will be the same core best practices of tomorrow, no matter how different and widespread the technologies may become that are used to collect that information.