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How Shift in Research Methodology impacts Supplier Selection?

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by Seenivasa Balaji , Senior Research Analyst, Marketing Services
19 September 2017

Abstract/Business Case

1    Introduction

Market Research is one of the high spending categories for Fortune 500 buyers. With the advent of new technologies, connected devices, digital marketing and internet penetration, consumer purchase decisions have changed radically. Traditional research approaches such as telephonic research would no longer help companies in understanding the modern day consumer behavior to take informed decisions.

2    Main

This whitepaper focuses on the significance of modern research methodologies in gaining real-world and real-time consumer insights to address daily business problems. In addition, it highlights how the shift in research methodology will impact the supplier selection criteria and the supply market?

3    Recommendation

Buyers can engage with suppliers who follow traditional research methods such as face to face, and telephonic interviews. However, in the present day changing business environment, it is important for buyers to consider suppliers who adopt modern methodologies such as mobile surveys, mobile ethnography and online communities to gauge consumer interests. This helps buyers to gain valuable insights faster and better. In addition, these modern methodologies can be used to supplement traditional research insights.

Problem Statement / Introduction

Business environment has changed with the advent of internet, wearable devices, connected devices, and social media. These along with other external factors are now influencing consumers’ purchase decisions. This phenomenon has eventually reduced the effectiveness of traditional research insights to address modern day consumers faster. Hence, the need for innovative insights is vital to understand modern day consumer behavior.

Though traditional market research companies are making investments in both organic and inorganic ways to satisfy buyers’ needs, it is the new entrants or specialized agencies that match buyers’ expectations better. This is due to their innovative research methodologies and technological capabilities that help to address the needs of market research buyers and consumers.

Some of the top methodologies that are increasingly preferred by both buyers and suppliers are mobile surveys, online communities and mobile ethnography.

This shift in preference of research methodologies has affected buyers’ supplier selection criteria and also their engagement model.

Proposed Solution(s) /Implication(s)

Over the years, survey-based research has evolved along with the rise of technology from face to face and telephonic research to online surveys and mobile ethnographic surveys. This has also complicated the choice of research methodologies for different needs.  Participation in research surveys is also moving from traditional web-based to mobile platform.

These sweeping changes have made buyers more inclined towards suppliers with innovative methodologies to reach more respondents and yield rich valuable insights.

In order to understand the reason behind buyers’ change in supplier selection criteria, it is necessary to understand the significance of top modern research methods and areas where it is helpful.

1. Mobile Surveys

The term mobile includes both smartphones and tablet devices. Increase in mobile penetration across the globe has increased the pool of potential respondents for market research surveys.

Why mobile surveys are important?

Better Response Rate

Since smartphones have become an essential part of human life in both developed and developing markets, respondents view notifications immediately. In addition, mobile-friendly surveys further fuels the response rate better.


Mobile surveys allow respondents to respond anytime and from anywhere they want resulting in better completion rate.

Better Cost

Mobile surveys are considered to be cheap when compared to other traditional surveys as they require only optimizing web surveys’ design to appropriate mobile devices.

1.1 How mobile surveys are different from traditional surveys?

Traditional Approach: Researchers framed questions about respondents’ location, their time of purchase, the reason for purchase and other emotions in the form of a complex questionnaire. However, understanding the responses was challenging and it affected the quality of insights and time.

Modern Approach: Mobile surveys enable buyers to get faster and real-time insights. This is possible due to the presence of various sensors which simplify the task for respondents and reduce the survey time.

Thus mobile surveys help buyers to gain consumer insights along with their emotions to take better decisions.

2. Mobile Ethnographic Research

This type of research helps buyers to understand consumers’ needs, desires, attitudes, behaviors, product tests and feedback for product designs.

2.1 Why Mobile Ethnographic Research?

Cheaper than traditional ethnography

Earlier, ethnographic research was considered as a time consuming and a costly way to get qualitative insights. However, the spread of internet and mobile phones across the globe have changed the scenario whereby consumers can record their behaviours in their environment and send it back to researchers with the help of mobile phones. As a result, the cost of ethnographic research has been reduced by eliminating the need for a moderator or observer.

Greater Geographic Reach

Ethnographic research enables buyers to reach wider geographies due to its ability to provide insights on differences that exist within a culture and also between different cultures.

Greater Visibility

Since it allows researchers to observe consumers’ real-world experience closely, it gives buyers greater visibility to understand consumers’ key needs, attractive price points, effective communication channels to reach, etc.

2.2 How it is different from traditional Qualitative Methods?

Traditional Approach: Though qualitative research methods such as focus groups, in-depth interviews help buyers to get valuable insights, the results sometimes tend to be distorted due to the custom environment. In addition, the observed insights are not projectable and cannot be taken as a representation of large group since the insights are influenced by one or two dominant respondents during the research.

Modern Approach: Observing consumers in their natural environment allows buyers to gather rich insights in addition to the focus group insights. For instance, there are chances that consumers may forget about their product usage when questioned during focus group studies. Mobile ethnography paves way for new product development to improve their products and packages in a better way to attract more customers as the responses are from real-world.

In order to create effective consumer diaries, mobile ethnographic research is increasingly preferred as a supplement to other qualitative insights due to real-world feedback.

3. Online Communities

Online communities are the second top preferred methodology by researchers next to mobile surveys. One of the primary reasons for the growth in online communities is the rate of internet penetration across the globe.  Building an online community will enable buyers to engage with their target group anytime, anywhere to get real-time insights.

3.1 Why Online Communities are important?

Wider Reach

Since online communities connect members across the globe, buyers can reach and engage with wider audience for a longer period of time. It enables marketers to market their business to wider audience easily and also to educate their business better to target audience.

Suitable for both Real-time and In-depth Insights

With the help of polls and discussion topics, online communities help buyers to get faster and rich insights while focus group methodology allows members to share their ideas over a period of time in an asynchronous way.

Greater Flexibility

Online communities not only offer chance to interact with other members but also enable researchers to remain silent and monitor conversations between community members. This feature enables buyers to learn from other members. In addition, online communities are highly customizable whereby buyers can select target audience based on their preference for either short or long term purposes.

3.2 How it is different from traditional methods and online forums?

Traditional Approach: Traditional research methodologies often take longer time to collect data and are costly. With the emergence of online research, online forums are preferred by buyers to collect insights directly from target group. However, it has limitations in terms of providing valuable insights and flexibility it offers to community members. For instance, a forum offers only a discussion board where members can share their opinions on the topic. In addition, there are chances that discussion forums can be empty with no posts. Due to such limitations, the adoption of online forums has reduced.

Modern Approach: In contrast, online communities offer a lot of features for members to share their ideas, information, etc. through blogs, chats, asynchronous feeds, and numerous other ways to engage members. It is a mixture of online forums, online portals and knowledge base where buyers can get valuable insights either by monitoring or interacting with members. Although building an online community is expensive, it is a one-time investment for achieving quality insights for a period of time.

4. Change in Supply Market Scenario

Despite traditional market research agencies providing quality insights, the time and cost associated to achieve such insights fail to match buyers’ expectations. New suppliers have made of this opportunity to build capabilities through modern methodologies to address the growing demand of buyers to gain key insights at a lower cost and lesser time.    


Modern research methodologies that incorporate online communities, mobile surveys and mobile ethnography help buyers in understanding the new age consumer behavior.

While considering agencies, buyers may look for those who understand current trends and implement modern research techniques. However, most of the buyers would prefer to engage with both boutique firms and traditional research agencies to leverage on their specialized expertise and achieve valuable insights at a faster rate. 

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