Self-service registers at the Grocery store. Build your own website. Do it yourself digital marketing. DIY accounting/payroll". Create your own online survey". It's beginning to feel like there's an app or some tech interface for EVERYTHING! Maybe we've even gone a bit too far with some ideas? No matter how you cut it, technology is exploding user empowerment in a variety of ways. But does this evolution have a line? Or are we evolving toward a truly robust post-human existence in every daily task, service, and responsibility?
In our world of Market Research, you'd have to be living in a cave to miss the trend of self-serve, DIY, enterprise software solutions for many tasks and aspects of the research process. Surveys, data visualization, sample procurement, mobile apps, etc. This surge in tools and solutions has been supported by investment deals that have grown significantly in recent years. While that alone isn't enough to validate the trend, enough companies have succeeded to conclude the demand for "DIY" tools is real.
But what about the solutions that have disappeared much quieter than they arrived? Or how about the companies who've abandoned the pure tech model for a service model in order to grow? Is the DIY trend something that will permanently disrupt our industry, or is it more an augment and streamlining trend when all is said and done? I think the answer is YES! to both"¦ with room for more in the middle. In my view, it's a matter of our market becoming technologically fragmented. Certain models fit better in various corners of our industry than others.
At OpinionRoute, we believe firmly that the Market Research, or "Insights" Industry is really built on experience and expertise in our field. Nuance of approaches to design, survey development, analysis and, yes, even data collection and sampling, make the competition for business robust. In one vantage point, automation, by definition, requires a streamlining of approaches into a single method or approach. This presents inherent conflict in our world of customization. MR isn't alone with this conundrum.
In a recent article for MarketingProfs.com, Carol O'Kelley, CEO of Salesfusion, argued the relevance of a Managed Services model in marketing automation areas as well. She noted, "Sometimes, if you want it done right, you should hire an expert to do the heavy lifting for you"”and then hold that expert accountable for the outcome." I couldn't agree more!!
In a similar article on TechCrunch referenced by O'Kelley, Anthony P. Lee, General Partner Altos Ventures, argued that a potential new frontier for a business model evolution (beyond DIY) is the "DIFM" (Do-It-For-Me) model where expert service companies can provide all the benefits available in the crowded world of software, but also adding a layer of knowledge with a human touch. This is particularly vital for small to mid-sized businesses who would whole-heartedly agree with Lee when he says "Yet to most end users, SaaS software requires just as much effort to learn and operate as the old PC and client-server analogs." It isn't really always as easy as flipping a switch or pressing a few buttons. As users of multiple tech platforms in our operation, we can attest to that fact. We cringe at the thought of what our data could turn into if we didn't apply our deep expertise while using the available DIY tools in our own work.
I think many MR firms will acknowledge they've been in a situation where they were selling their service/expertise against some off-the-shelf solution in the ultimate comparison of apples and oranges. I'll summarize what I've heard countless times when hearing those stories- Technology isn't a bad thing, in fact it can really help. But it's simply not replacement for actual experience and adding strategic value.