I am at the ESOMAR World Research Forum: Online Evolution. The last two days I have been at the ESOMAR Panels Conference in Dublin. I have meant to blog on that each day but it's proven to be very difficult to find the time. It's the sort of conference with little downtime and my posts are still stuck in word. Today I am going to try doing this in real time. This is my first experience in "live blogging."
9:00AM – This conference is mostly client-side, "business people." It has about 50 attendees. Right now the president of ESOMAR is talking about the Celtic Tiger which is the story of Ireland's rise from the poorest country in the EU when it joined 25 years ago to now its richest. (This is the same intro he gave to the Panels Conference). I am sitting next to and sharing the power connection of a reporter from MR Web and he is typing a lot faster than I am.
9:05 AM – Marc Drüner, CEO of trommsdorff+drüner, is doing and overview of the program and now transitioning to a discussion of Web 2.0, social networks, communities, etc. In other words, picking up where the Panels Conference left off. When we think of communities we think of things like Facebook but there also are special interest communities that are growing up like weeds in a garden. What all of these have in common are the constant streams of communication and updating of information. More and more people on the Web communicate less with email and more with exchanges within and among communities. The challenge for marketers is to figure out how to get their messages into these communication streams. Classical marketing was all about banners and ads, but that doesn't work for communities. Click through rates on Facebook are miniscule. People are in a social mode, not a buying mode. Marketers need to get into the conversation not try to interrupt it. The master at this has been Barack Obama who has set all kinds of records with 2.2 million friends on Facebook.
Now he's talking about "the Googlesation of the World." So not only do we have things like Chrome, the Android operating system, and software as a service, but the digitalization of all print/content. And now they are moving into TV with access to set-top boxes that make it possible to sell advertising to "long tail" companies. Now for the scary part. Imagine you are watching TV with a set top box that Google controls. A friend calls you on your iPhone or you are using your laptop, surfing the Web with Chrome. Google now knows exactly what you are doing at every second.
I'm not sure (yet) what this has to do with MR but it is fascinating!
9:35AM – Next speaker is Susan Wegner from Deutsche Telekom. She is talking about the evolution of mobile phones/devices. The story is not just about increasing penetration but the expanding functionality and migration of applications from PCs to mobile phones. She is doing a somewhat technical overview of the software architectures of PCs and phones and the gradual drift toward consistency between the two so that users have a common experience regardless of platform. There are a number of challenges. One is for providers to continually expand the bandwidth needed to support it. Another is improvements in the networks so that services can be delivered consistently no matter where the user is. In other words, an end to "dead zones." It's all somewhat technical but a good sense of where mobile is headed.
Now she is shifting from retrieving content to inputting content. She notes that mobile phones make it tough to input because the keyboards don't work as well as they do on PCs. So there need to be other ways to input content—cameras, text scanners with OCR capabilities, sound files, tools that help us to snip content from online sources, etc. GPS creates a location for a user and possibly even context that can control the delivery of information in a very focused way.
9:55AM – Unfortunately, the third speaker in this session had air travel challenges and so he is not here. Here topic: "Web 2.0's influence on social change." I would have loved to hear that.
So we are now wrapping up the first session whose general topic was, "The Online Evolution."
10:00 – Refreshment break and I am feeling very smart. In 1996 I wrote:
In 1987, to commemorate its 50th anniversary, The Public Opinion Quarterly asked 16 well-known scholars and survey practitioners to offer their visions of the future of public opinion research (Bogart, 1987). In his response, Harold Mendelsohn described how ". . . the eventual 'computerizing' of the American home undoubtedly will contribute significantly to the speed, accuracy, and economy with which data will be gathered, analyzed, and readied for dissemination." James Beniger wrote that "a host of new technologies will . . . make possible the real-time mass monitoring of individual behavior . . . Survey research will increasingly give way to more direct measures of behavior made possible by new computer-based technologies." In a particularly chilling vision, and perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Robert Worcester described how ". . . market researchers are close to their tactical ideal, the comprehensively wired micro model of segmented household 'norms' which can be conceptualized, pressurized, test marketed to, weighted (up and down), copy tested, product tested, studied, and, yes, manipulated by cables, satellites, and sensors (worn in rings, necklaces, earrings, or even—shades of George Orwell—implanted!)."
The foundation for these visions of the future is one that is increasingly popular among futurists such as Nicholas Negraponte, Don Tapscott, Michael Dertouzos (1997), Gregory J.E. Rawlins (1997), and William J. Mitchell (1995). It has as its beginnings in Norbert Weiner's seminal book, Cybernetics (1948). The vision is one of a technological utopia, a vision of a completely digital world in which everything is smart--home appliances, automobiles, clothes, money, buildings, highways. In this utopia, computers will be omnipresent, and everything we use and touch as we go about our daily lives will be busy collecting, processing, and transmitting information. The implications for survey research are extraordinary.
I admit that when I wrote it I believed it but had trouble really imagining how it would happen. Now it's clear. I went on to try to explain those extraordinary implications for survey research but in rereading that I don't feel so smart.
10:30AM – The chair is now introducing the next section which is titled, "Business Applications." The first speaker is Keith Bailey from Nokia Consumer and Customer Insights. His topic is: "The Future of Work." His job is all about developing mobile products for business users. They have been doing research on the needs of workers at various levels inside an organization. Some societal drives that need to be considered include the changing demographics of work (diversity and generational change), globalization, environmental engagement (energy costs, reduced travel and greening of the workplace), growth of the knowledge economy, the interplay of human instincts and business needs, and the technological watershed we are now experiencing. Now he has moved on to emerging business models, a key one of which is new methods of collaboration that includes virtual teams, nomad workers (sort of like me right now), work-life balance, and knowledge management. Interesting stuff but not clear how to leverage for research. That's promised for this afternoon.
11:00AM – Next speaker is Patrick Eikelenboom, Director of Digital Marketing at Mars in Germany. His topic is fostering best WOM practices in FMCG (a.k.a CPG in North American). Even though Mars is best known for its candies he is going to talk about—are you ready—pet foods. Worse yet, for cats. I feel like I am experiencing a new low. My darkest fear when I came into MR. We'll see. He starts from the premise that communication is changing. It used to be that only mass communication (like TV) had high reach, but more and more one-to-one communication has high reach as well. Basically the whole talk seems to be about how to exploit social media to get out their marketing messages. A lot of cute tricks but nothing very impressive so far. And it never really got all that interesting. I don't think WOM every really came up.
11:25AM –Next up is Ted Speroni from HP/France who is going to talk about building online B2B communities. He runs the European version of hp.com. Initial thrust seems to be setting up Web sites that encourage people to print stuff. Like a site where you can access project software that helps you to make banners, greeting cards, etc. They also have tried various sorts of YouTube related things to promote their products. But the main thrust of this prez has been to set up IT support sites on use of their products. It's a place where people can go and ask questions. In the beginning, experts answer the questions but the goal is to migrate to where visitors answer one another's questions. They seem to have reached critical mass where there is enough traffic and activity to sustain itself. They harvest the commentary for marketing messages back to the IT community.
11:45AM – The last speaker of the morning is Malte Friedrich-Freksa by YOC, Germany. He is going to talk about using mobile technology in the context of digital market research. He describes himself as a market researcher for a marketing company focused on mobile. They tried some research by SMS in 2003 and it flopped. Next step was to develop a panel. The model was downloading of an application through which panel members could report on shopping. It flopped, too. Now they are focused on exploiting the mobile Web for research. Now right away I am remembering that yesterday at the Panels conference I learned that while about 60 percent of Germans have Internet access from their mobile phones only about 13 percent actually do it because it's expensive, a bit slow, and browsing can be clumsy. Despite that they continue to explore feasibility. Their initial work has focused on understanding whether people will participate in this kind of work, why, and to understand their experience. They are using standard Web survey software from Globalpark. Results were not encouraging. Only about 16 percent of their panel completed the survey. The single biggest reason for not doing it was the cost of mobile Internet access. They also asked people whether they preferred online or mobile surveys and online was heavily favored, although for short surveys (6-7 minutes) about a third said they would prefer the mobile platform.
So that's the morning. Now for lunch.