I just came across this site the other day, AskYourTargetMarket.com – it’s basically a one-stop shop for companies looking to do small-scale market research. You can set the parameters of your target demographic, create a simple survey, and get results from their panelists within a couple hours to a couple days. I know there are other sites out there like this, but I was really impressed by AskYourTargetMarket’s simplicity and fair prices. And I couldn’t help being charmed by their cutesy tag line – “Serious Market Research at silly prices.”

And before you ask, no, I am in no way affiliated with or being compensated by this company. I just thought it was a cool business model and it got me thinking….

As a company who deals with researchers, it’s interesting to see how the market is changing as technology becomes cheaper and data becomes more readily available. Are we at the end of the era when elite market research firms hold all the cards in market research? Are we losing anything by making technology and data more accessible? Are we dumbing down market research by making it affordable to almost anyone?

In answer to those questions, I’d say yes, sort of.  I do think that the affordability and availability of feedback and data collection tools has created a bit of a monster, to some extent. It’s somehow given businesses (even Fortune 500 companies) permission to be sloppy. I can’t tell you how many poorly written, horrible looking surveys I get from companies that I would have expected a lot more from. It’s like there’s this attitude of “This product was cheap so it’s not worth me putting in a lot of time to produce something of high quality.”

That being said, I do think we’re moving in the right direction with regards to the ‘opening up’ of data, overall. It’s pretty thrilling to think about the technology we have for data collection, the social platforms we have to help us collect that data, and the possibilities of what we can do with that information. Then there’s the integration options – you can get an API for almost anything these days. I’m really excited to be part of an industry that’s giving almost universal access to information that was previously coveted by an elite few.

That’s my two sense – I’d love to get the conversation going on this topic. Should market research be left to the experts? Are we sacrificing quality for quantity by conducting more frequent, less formal surveys? Where is the research industry headed and how is social media going to continue to play a part?