A Reflection: Five Things I Wish I Had Learned in University About Market Research
Lakshmi Priya Ravichandran, shares five core lessons in market research that she wishes she had learned about in the course of her formal graduate studies.
At the crux of it, market research is an expansive field that helps businesses make data-driven decisions. Like most other fields, there is a huge divide between what is taught in a classroom and the real world. It is important for a student venturing into the industry to remember the following things:
1. Fancy tools and software are only accessories to your research, not the lifeline of it
There are innumerable tools and platforms that help you conduct effective market research. More often than not, universities affiliated with certain tools and software packages such as R, Stata, and SPSS tend to overhype their importance and use cases in industry. Although it is a harmless practice intended to give the student exposure to as many tools as possible, it is imperative as a beginner to understand that these tools are mere aids to your research project and not the backbone of it. It is highly likely that your workplace will use one software package, and you must be ready to adapt and customize basic research principles learned to new research tools and software on the fly.
2. Academic practices are vastly different from what is practiced in real business situations
It is in the nature of academia to standardize concepts and tighten the rules on scientific processes. While these “rules” are important for conducting research with integrity, it is essential to understand the business context in which you find yourself and augment these theories accordingly. Just because your professor says that NPS is as sophisticated a metric as a doorknob, it is probably not wise to parrot that thought to a client who takes pride in having a great NPS score year over year. This highlights the importance of harnessing critical thinking to inform the application and deployment of research techniques in the context of your work.
3. Data sets don't come to you all tidy and put together
Any seasoned market researcher will agree with the above statement. Unlike the prim & proper data sets that professors hand over to you for your class projects, the real world’s data collection practices add a layer of complexity requiring active processing. One of the core duties you will have as a market researcher is to process data that comes from different sources in a clean and meaningful fashion. So, before you take on the research world with your statistical genius, you might want to spend some time learning how to efficiently clean and arrange your data.
4. Groundbreaking insights don't magically appear on your slides- they stem from hours of data analysis
As an aspiring market researcher, you probably find a lot of joy in delivering insights that make a real impact. However, these ground-breaking insights stem from hours of data analysis. It is common for a student to have a rose-tinted view of the industry and just focus on the end results that get published in case studies. It is good to keep in mind that any recommendation that you want to give your client needs to be backed up by data and this evidence can be found only by analyzing the data with care.
5. There isn't a stonewall separating Quant and Qual into two different fields. More often than not, they are enmeshed
It is so common to hear the words Quantitative and Qualitative pitted against each other in the classroom. One of the first things that most market research programs provide is a clear definition of these two terms and the differences between them. Although these two are vastly different methodologies, there aren’t too many research projects where both of these methodologies aren’t leveraged in one form or another. The relationship is more symbiotic than you might have been led to believe and it is good to embrace both of them with equal fervor.
There it is! The five misconceptions about the marketing research industry you might come across in your classroom or anywhere else. It is essential to keep in mind that this industry is extremely dynamic. In order to thrive in it, you must be as agile and multifaceted as the industry itself.