Last year, Gartner released its Emerging Technology Hype Cycle for 2014. It’s an interesting way to foresee how an industry tends to adopt new technologies.
The 4 Stages of the Hype Cycle
When technological innovation hits, it’s common to see a repeating structure of these four stages happen:
- Peaks of Inflated Expectations
- Trough of Disillusionment
- Slope of Enlightenment
- Plateau of Productivity
The pattern and definition of the cycle phases is just as interesting to observe as the technologies themselves, so we thought we would mention them here as they relate to Market Research.
It’s very helpful to look at innovations at various stages in the Hype Cycle to get an understanding of how to surf the waves of technological shift. So we’ve chosen a few recent innovations that have disrupted Market Research:
When social media hit, it hit BIG. The big players at MR conferences regularly waxed poetic about the huge benefits and potential of social media at a theory and best practices level (Stage 1: Peaks of Inflated Expectations).
Then researchers had to go to work in real life, shifting a big part of their methodology to social media in an attempt to solve problems and answer questions. It quickly became very difficult to make reality match the sky-high expectations and the industry sunk into Stage 2: the Trough of Disillusionment.
Now, researchers are beginning to discover the specific ways that social media can help and support as a part of a larger plan (Stage 3: Slope of Enlightenment). Using social media to recruit respondents, answer simple one-off questions, and as a quantitative social media listening tool is helping the overall big-picture research methodology. The key is that unlike early in the Hype Cycle, there’s no undue pressure on social media to be the be-all-end-all solution for market research. Now that we’ve found its place, social media is quickly on its way to Stage 4: Plateau of Productivity.
In the last few years, we’ve been watching mobile research following the same Hype Cycle stages. Mobile’s great on-paper promise (‘reach anybody anywhere!’) was quickly faced with the difficult reality of mobile execution. We gradually had to alter the research mindset because of smaller screen size, shortened user attention spans, and more.
Appropriate and beneficial mobile research solutions are now finally becoming integrated into overall multichannel research programs as the specialized tool we had hoped it would be. We’re well on our way up the Slope of Enlightenment.
The latest hype train to leave the station is Big Data. We all know the immense promise of consumer data that is collected via consumer actions made when no researchers are watching. But the Trough of Disillusionment is deep, and Big Data is going through changes as researchers are getting frustrated with its implementation.
We will soon learn the intricacies of using Big Data the right way – if social media and mobile can be considered lessons, the answer will be ‘as one defined element within a greater research methodology. Once that happens, Big Data will start sliding its way up the Slope of Enlightenment on its way towards a Plateau of Productivity.
The future of MR technology hype
So far, none of the 3 innovations above have proven to be a gamechanger. Innovation hype dies down and technological change usually settles into a specific role within a quickly evolving research landscape.
But that being said, we are in a Technology Revolution akin to the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. As innovations emerge (and there will be more!), it’s essential that we embrace them, while understanding that the hype train is generally driven by the loudest prophets looking at on-paper potential, which can inflate expectations. Once those prophets jump to the next hot thing, reality sets in as the industry learns to adapt and adopt.