The Evolution of Research Technology

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Research technology, or ‘ResTech', is a driving factor for business success today. Following in the footsteps of MarTech and AdTech, the term encapsulates the innovative collaboration between market research and technology. In our current, fast-paced digital world, efficiency is key, so it's no longer effective for researchers to sift through endless individual online surveys and reviews to garner and measure customer sentiment and behaviour. Such painstakingly slow processes also impact the agencies, brands, and/or advertisers that need these insights at a swift rate. ResTech is, however, changing this. Online market research platforms such as Lucid are bringing millions of global respondents to one place, using programmatic connections to help brands truly understand how their customers think, act, and feel. 

ResTech is radically changing how research is being conducted, gathered, and measured across the enterprise, and to further investigate its growth and impact, we interviewed Ben Hogg, Managing Director, EMEA & APAC at Lucid. Ben's career has spanned more than 20 years working across the online market research and passive measurement industries as a leader and entrepreneur. He is an expert in identifying new market opportunities and in laying the foundations for long-term business growth through his strategic direction, operational execution, and team management. In addition to this, Ben is a Fellow of the Market Research Society (MRS) and an MRS Award Winner.

Thank you for joining us Ben! We're excited to have your expertise on EM360. Let's start by delving into your role at Lucid. What's your favourite part of your job as a Managing Director at a ResTech company?

Thank you for inviting me.  My favourite part of the job bar none is working with a team that makes me want to give my best.  I've been pushed so far out of my comfort zone over the past 5 years that I feel that I've truly grown, learnt new skills and felt truly comfortable challenging the status quo.  ResTech is an umbrella that lets so many companies that previously would have been competing against each other work together for the benefit of our customers.  Ultimately, the beneficiaries won't just be researchers, agencies, brands and consultancies, but customers, who will have their voices heard.

Why do you think research technology is such an important innovation for the enterprise and how exactly is it impacting organisations and, especially, business success today?

We define Research Tech, or ResTech, as the technology that enables and amplifies online research across the globe through programmatic connections in digital marketplaces. Technology, and the cost and speed efficiency it creates, has always been the driver of innovation. Through each evolution of research; focus groups to phone surveys, to clipboard and later iPad-bearing researchers in malls, the ability to gain more insights at a lower cost has been the ultimate goal. This innovation has enabled a broader base of researchers. Each technology jump has lowered the barriers to the industry and allowed businesses that were previously unable to afford market research to better understand their audiences and customers.  

And that brings us to our piece of history. With the rise of online research, like many businesses, we saw the rise of marketplaces and their impact across industries. We applied those programmatic principles to market research and unified hundreds of global sample suppliers in one place. The best way to enable success is to know and understand the needs of your target audience, over time. Being able to bring them into the metaphorical room, at every crucial stage of your processes will allow for a more precise product. Your solutions and the target audiences' needs will be completely aligned because they should always be on parallel tracks.

ResTech is commonly grouped together with MarTech and AdTech. How does the programmatic technology that drives the research industry compare to that which governs the marketing and advertising sectors?  

The programmatic technology that drives ResTech was actually inspired by AdTech and MarTech. Over a decade ago, the survey sampling industry adopted the concept of DSPs, exchanges, and programmatic buying, which has evolved into the marketplace model that we see today. In fact, the research world's move toward a “tech” identity mirrors the evolution of both AdTech and MarTech. While similar, I feel that the most compelling story here is not how the different technologies compare to each other, but rather how they work together. As ResTech continues to evolve, many marketers and advertisers are finding it to be an invaluable addition to their tech stacks. I'm very excited to see how these technologies continue to work in unison to meet different audiences' needs. 

How did you come to be a Market Research Society (MRS) fellow and an MRS Award Winner and in what ways, if any, are they shaping the future of research technology? 

As with most people in the research industry, I fell into it rather than planned a career.  Being honest, I ended up working in research almost 20 years ago because I wasn't good enough at what I really wanted to do (which was acting or being a musician).  But I wouldn't change anything for the world.  I've met some of the most interesting, insightful and inspiring people that I could ever have hoped to work with over these last 20 years, and the MRS has been at the heart of that.  Becoming a Fellow of the MRS is one of the highlights of my career - being recognised by an industry body that I have so much respect and admiration for still feels me with pride.  And my MRS award sits proudly on my desk, although I do wish I had shown a little more decorum when I was presented with it - I couldn't hide my delight to the consternation/confusion of Richard Sheldrake and Phyllis Macfarlane who are in the photo with me at the presentation (it was for Best Contribution at a conference).  The MRS takes an active role in the future of our industry, and is a guiding light.  Members have to abide by a code of conduct to ensure that outputs are ethical, legal and to the highest standards, and that technology companies within the industry actually improve the ability to generate insights rather than cut corners or lead to a reduction in quality.  I'd advise everyone in our space to seek out MRS membership or training, and for companies to become Company Partners.  And their events, especially the Annual Conference and Awards Ceremony are a wonderful place to learn, network and grow.

The Founder and CEO of Lucid recently highlighted that ResTech platforms are dramatically outpacing more traditional Market Research Agencies and Data Collection Firms. Do you think ResTech will soon eliminate the need for such traditional market research and data companies? 

Absolutely not.  ResTech exists to enable researchers to focus more on what they love to do - uncover insights and make recommendations to their clients to enable them to grow and meet the demands of their customers.  Whilst it's true that ResTech to some extent democratises research and enables smaller companies who never thought they would be able to afford to conduct market research to enter the space, this does not replace the skill sets, curiosity and dedication of market research professionals.  If anything, ResTech will enable these traditional companies to thrive and grow.

Finally, ResTech is still in its prime. Where do you see the industry heading over the next decade? 

ResTech will allow people that never considered that market research was an option for them to learn more about their customers in a cost and time effective manner.  It will also allow researchers to spend more time analysing data, discovering insights and delivering actionable information to their clients, spending less time and energy worrying about survey design, data collection and charting, for example.  And the ResTech scape will continue to grow.  People will want a career in ResTech, they will want to start businesses in the space.  Hopefully you'll have me back in 10 years and we can discuss the developments!

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