MRII and the Next Generation of Market Researchers

By Scott Beck, Xavier University and MRII Board Director, and Paul Hunter, Miami University (Ohio) and MRII Board President

MRII and our educational partner University of Georgia are dedicated to helping you achieve market research success by enabling you to master the fundamentals so you can better realize the full potential and value of market research and drive innovation within it. Courses are all taken online and primarily by research professionals already in the workforce. At the same time, we are very aware of the market research education that takes place in colleges and universities. In this post, MRII Board members Scott Beck and Paul Hunter, who serve on college faculties, share their observations.

The past few years have been challenging in academia due to the pandemic forcing students to go online versus in-person.  Further, technology has and continues to evolve how we do things today and in the future.  We thought it would be interesting to assess these impacts, and others, to gain a perspective on the future of the “next generation of market researchers”.

Each of us has spent over 25+ years in business on both the client and supplier sides in marketing research.  We brought these experiences to academia nearly 10-years ago given our passion to train and help educate others.  

To assist us in our thoughts, we also interviewed multiple undergraduate students from Xavier University and Miami University, both in Ohio.  However, the students originate from states on the east and west coasts, as well as the heartland.  Further, some have recently graduated with jobs, while others are still matriculating in their higher education.

Our principal findings are as follows:

  •  Careers in marketing / marketing research are often discovered in our classes.  Students have confirmed they learn about the exciting opportunities presented in our industry through discipline introduction and discussion with faculty.
  •  Marketing / marketing research is more fun than you might realize.  For a variety of reasons, but key is it provides for them an intersection of multiple areas: creativity and design, technical and statistical skills, communication (advertising, specifically digital) and the psychology around decision making.
  •  Online learning is here to stay.  While most undergraduates prefer in-person, some appreciate the flexibility to learn at their own pace when it comes to online education.  Those graduating recognize online learning in the business world is something they will be further exposed to.  Graduate students and professionals often seek out the online environment due to flexibility but still seek out experiential learning and opportunities to collaborate together.
  •  Comfort levels with activities vary.  Almost all are confident in helping companies with their marketing.  However, when it comes to marketing research activities, most are more confident they can help with qualitative work whereas fewer feel that way with regard to quantitative work.  Those more confident with quantitative work tend to be much stronger in their technical skills.  
  •  All realize technical skills are a must.  While all are not comfortable, they recognize marketing is very technical today and is changing.  Hence, technical skills are essential.  Top in their minds to have a combination of skills are in Python, Excel, Tableau, SQL, data mining (e.g., R, SAS JMP, etc.) and survey research (e.g., Qualtrics, Google surveys, etc.) along with others.  Further supplementing these learning’s through partnerships with Circana/IRI, Mintel, and others, provides them with the skills and experiences companies are seeking and knowingly provide them with a point of differentiation from their peers.
  •  Real learning is key for them.  Theoretical discussions are OK, but experiential learning is better.  Students expressed increased satisfaction and relevance when they’re able to work with real data, real clients and ideally internships is ideal.  And delivering their work to clients enables them to demonstrate what they’ve learned and receive valuable feedback from industry leaders and subject matter experts.

Thus, a “persona” for the next generation of market researchers may not be all that different from previous ones; here are our observations:

  •  Undergrads prefer in-person growth but recognize an online balance will be required
  •  Some will migrate more to qualitative matters and want to embrace story-telling, networking and ensuring client successes
  •  While others will migrate more to quantitative matters recognizing they require very strong technical skills and will need to continually evolve them, particularly with AI’s growth
  •  However, all will want to work on real problems with real data and make a difference, while having some fun with it along the way

Based on our observations, we believe the future of our industry is bright, based on the next generation of marketers and market researchers we have encountered along the way.

To learn more about MRII and our online market research courses with University of Georgia, click here.

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