Addressing the market research skills gap

Daniel Nunan

Henley Business School, University of Reading

The nature of the gap between academia and practitioners is one that has been visited regularly in this journal (see, for example, Schulz 2005; Piercy 2006; Keegan 2007; McDonald 2008). While cathartic, this debate is unlikely to be fully resolved due to the differing philosophies, motivations and incentives of academic and practitioner research. This debate is also focused on research output, a factor that misses the key role that universities play in the provision of market research skills. My argument is that it is this gap – a skills gap – that should be of growing concern in the context of the changing commercial environment in which researchers operate.

At this point the hype over ‘big data’ has begun to exceed its utility, yet the corresponding increase in board-level interest over the strategic use of data should be good news for market research. However, a common theme in conferences, in print and online discussion is the potential for negative impact upon the research sector. As Don Schulz (2005) noted nearly a decade ago, ‘marketing research can do better. But why don’t we? Why don’t we attack the problem with the idea of solving it, not just agreeing it exists?’