Part of the whole – why market research doesn’t look at everything



From a conversation with Pauline Williams of incite2action yesterday. We were talking about the rise of big data and the dream pitched to clients that every data source can be fused with every other. It is going to be the starting point for the debate I am chairing at the MRS conference in March. And I was vividly reminded that market research predominantly works with samples. Representative portions of the whole. Historically we did this because it was too expensive and frankly impossible to research the entire group. But now larger and larger data sets are becoming available we are being asked to "do" market research with entire groups. And its a problem. Database marketing aims for universality not only of the sample but the data that is captured about them. But market research doesn't.

The discipline of NOT having the entire dataset is that it forces the researcher to abstract the thing which she wants to study. And to separate it out from the related elements to better understand it. Decision support as the analysis and interpretation of everything is database marketing but not marketing research. We are going to have to make interesting choices the bigger the datasets we are given.  



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