Convergent Technologies in Market Research

It was a hot and humid day in the bustling Rhine metropolis of Düsseldorf, Germany, on Thursday, June 7, 2007, when the first of AIMRI members gathered at the Intercontinental Hotel to check-in for the event, that was officially to begin on Friday, June 8. Hot and humid ' and we all wished for some cooling some even prayed for rain. Nevertheless as always, when AIMRI meets, the venue was superb. What a beautiful modern hotel. Service and food - just perfect.

And then we strolled along the mundane Königsallee with its glamorous boulevard buildings to down-town Düsseldorf, where we again gathered together in a typical brewery res-taurant, bearing the name 'Schlüssel', which mean'key' in Englis- and as such functioned well to initiate the AIMRI meeting.

As is not uncommon for such venues, the home-made beer brought us all closer together and enabled first contacts amongst friends, business partners and above all, members of the Alliance of International Market Research institutes.

Following the beer ' which seemed to flow endlessly came a variety of very typical Rhineland foods. And then more beer. A very big Thank you to Herbert Höckel, MD of mo'web! Close to the end of the night, even the last managed to leave the 'Schlüssel' and to head on to be 'where ever that was. Of course some ended up in the foyer of the Intercontinental to take another final drink - or two. Some time after - and beyond several delicious Mochitos - it did become quiet.

Then came morning. Still no rain and no real relief from the humid heat outside. Still we all managed to have breakfast and to find our way to the air-conditioned conference room in the basement.

In his welcoming speach, Joe Seydel brought all back to reality: Convergent technologies. The subsequent speakers then opened doors to the future world of the vast array of different types of technology by which one is enabled to perform similar tasks, fore mostly those of collecting data for marketing research purposes ' even if more from a techno-logical rather than from a content-oriented point of view.

Six presentations then introduced several different means of data collection and technical aspects related to the emer-gence of converging technologies, such as the utilization of Blue Tooth technology, the use of versatile PDA's and omnipotent mobile phones.

Speakers (where were the female colleagues?) introduced and explored the New World, which was to be more than merely supplementary and/or complementary to the existing modes of data collection, such as CATI, PAPI, CASI, CATI2Web, CAPI, Online, etc. In fact Nicholas Malcolm referred to this change process as 'cannibalising' on the traditional fieldwork methodologies.

Yes, indeed the world has changed and convergent technolo-gies have contributed significantly to this change. Thanks to Pat Molloy of Pulse Train, we enjoyed a distinguished interna-tional team of speakers to tackle this complex subject. And complex it is.

But unlike the AIMRI meeting in Porto ' which in its own right was a wonderful experience with numerous deep insights into consumers, brands and the threats of what was termed: disruptive technologies the sessions in Düsseldorf focused more on technical attributes and how the electronical means can be utilized to enable instantaneous data access and less on the impact these may have on qualitative aspects of market(ing) research, not to mention possible ethical implica-tions these technologies may have; an observation not uncommon to 'sales presentations', where we are lured into believing, what is technically feasible, is also sound. As Tim Snaith, PhD, pointed o - although possibly with a different connotation - we 'do it, because we can'.

Perceiving convergent technologies from a more distant perspective neither implies one being technophobe nor 'back-warded', but rather being concerned about th'cui bono' of technical solutions and their implementations. Convergent technologies of tomorrow indeed bear potential to becoming disruptive. Not so much with regard to eliminating yester-day's modes and means of acquiring information, but rather by leading us to accept that technological solutions will en-hance the quality of findings.

Whether or not will depend upon the researcher and the objectives of research. So indeed, as a chart in Tim's presen-tation pointed out, converging technology 'needs thought leadership, challenge and direction'. And, as Fred Broers assureds - a project manager for the implementation path will be at our serve ' at least with regard the technical aspects' the researcher and his client will have to develop questionnaires, which not only 'give answers to the questions researchers' have as Richard Alker and Wiggert de Haan from Mind World's cited, but bring forth all that consumers touch, see, taste, feel, love and hate.

Making a questionnaire sexy may enhance participation, but it must neither necessarily enhance the value of responses nor the quality of data. In the end it will be the questions we ask, which will determine the answers we get. And thus ' the very best of all technology will not help, if the questionnaire is poorly designed - with regard to its content. 

Raimund Fender & Annabell Köbberling

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