I attended the Governor’s Colorado Tourism Conference in Beaver Creek. It was a fun three days and we ran into several people we’ve worked with and met several more that we hope to.  The conference started off with Daniel Levine from the Avant-Guide speaking about “The Five Social Trends that will propel Colorado Tourism into the Next Decade.”

It got me thinking – these trends aren’t necessarily specific to the travel industry – so how do these trends relate to market research?  Below I list each trend discussed and a few top-of-mind ways it could impact our industry.

1. Experiential

It’s more than just about physical goods, but the experience those goods can provide.  In travel this is adventure travel, getting a close encounter of your destination, and essentially “doing” instead of just “seeing.”  Beyond travel we see this in everyday life with our choices for where we eat, how we spend our freetime, and even what we do for a living.

As researchers, we’ve seen the impact of this trend.  Not only is what we are measuring changing, but how we measure it as well.  Survey questions and focus group topics must take this into account of course, but this also ties in with a larger trend in research – ethnographic research.  What better way to learn about a target audience’s experiences than to observe them and/or interview them while they are engaging in the particular activity that we are interested in as researchers?

2. Personalization

We see personalization everywhere today.  From those jewels that you put on Crocs, engraving your iPod, and the skins you put on your laptop, mass customization has allowed for greater personalization.

With reserch too, we see greater personalization on two different levels.  First, with our clients.  At Corona, for example, I don’t think I’ve ever done the same project twice (unless it was a follow up for the same client); every project is custom to the exact goals for that client.  Second, with our research subjects.  People don’t want to respond to bland, generic surveys (or any other mode of data collection).  People want to tell you about their specific experience.  By designing better surveys with relevant, specific questions, skip patterns and piping (i.e. taking answers in one question to create another question), and by correctly sampling the right population, we can make the research experience significanly more relevant, and in the process, ensure that findings are the most revealing and actionable for our clients.

3. Transparency

We all have seen this one with travel.  This is the customers’ reviews of hotels, airlines, and so on.  This is also services like Farecast that provide information on airfare trends and whether you are getting a good deal or not.

Initially, this one stumped me.  How can this apply to the professional services sector, and especially market research?  This is the knee-jerk reaction many industries or companies have – “this trend can’t or doesn’t apply to me”.  Of course, that’s wrong.  They’re trends for a reason.  And obviously it does impact market research.  While the information may not be as readily available or organized (yet) like it is on travel sites, the information is out there.  The important thing here is how we participate.  Several months ago I set upGoogle Alerts to alert me anytime “Corona Research” is mentioned in news, blogs, or other sites on the web, so we can be aware of conversations about us.  But that’s still passive, and while we may not set up a “rate this product” quite yet on our site, we are looking at ways we facilitate feedback from our past clients to our future clients beyond just listing our references.

4. Mobile

Mobile technology is allowing travelers to react quicker and change their plans on a dime.  All sorts of new apps are being created, from truly paperless checkin to buying tickets and making reservations over your phone.

To see our recent thoughts on mobile research in a previous post, click here.

5. Marketing sustainability

Finally, marketing sustainability.  You don’t even have to look hard anymore to see companies promoting how “green” they are (though I would argue more often than not its more hype than substance, but maybe I’ll discuss that in another post).  The argument here is that you not only have to be green, but you have to communicate it to your customers too.

Similar to mobile, we’ve talked about green efforts in a previous post and newsletter.  But whereas the travel market has proven that people will pay more to stay at green resorts, would research customers do the same?  Sure, its nice that we’re “greener” but is that a reason a company would hire us?  Would they be willing to pay to offset the carbon footprint of their project (paying would be the easy part, calculating the footprint of a research project would the fun part)?  Love to hear what you think about this.

Image:  Beaver Creek from the chairlift.