Last week I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at the joint APRC / KORA Conference in Seoul (APRC is the Asia Pacific Research Committee and KORA is the Korean national research association). Here is some feedback from the conference, the presentations and discussions with attendees.
To set the scene for the conference, we heard reports from seven nations in the region (Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, and Thailand). There were several themes in the reports that were common between all of the countries, including:
⦁ In a post-pandemic world, we are seeing a return to face-to-face qualitative for projects that need face-to-face approaches. The pandemic has also significantly improved the technology and skillsets for online qual.
⦁ Rising inflation and concerns about the local and global economic outlook are major concerns.
⦁ There is a shortage of research talent in most countries, for both clients and suppliers.
⦁ Training is a priority for all of the associations.
There were lots of positives at the conference, especially from the client-side presenters. Forward-looking companies are using research to gain customer insights to make better business decisions. These insights are often going beyond just the tactical to look at deeper trends and cultural phenomena. Mr Takahashi, from Nissan Motors in Japan, showed how he has been able to link a conceptual framework to real business processes to deliver insights at a senior level.
A presentation from Dave McCaughan and Grant Bertolli (both based in Thailand) highlighted the mismatch between the lives of most marketers and researchers and the lives of most customers. For example, professionals, such as marketers, brand managers and researchers, often talk as if nearly everybody worked from home during the pandemic and that hybrid working is now the norm. However, most people are not white-collar professionals; they have jobs like bus drivers, doctors, firefighters, shop workers, and builders – these people do not have the opportunity to work from home. To understand customers, organizations need research.
The next five years
My keynote presentation was built around a scenario analysis of the next five years. The key messages were:
1. The use of tech-enabled research is going to grow faster than any other form of research.
2. The global geopolitical and financial outlook for the next five years ranges from slightly bad to very bad – so your plans need to factor this range in.
3. Clients need to expect to change their platforms every couple of years because change is happening very fast.
4. Clients need to balance DIY with services. Services when they have too many projects to do them internally, or when they have complex problems to solve.
5. The amount of talent available is not going to dramatically expand, so we need to use AI and automation to make the people we do have more efficient.