Technology is leading the shift of market research – a look at The Store-Checkers

by Thibaud Andre

“Technology is eating the world” as the famous motto says in the Silicon Valley. It turns out that it is also eating the market research and consulting world. In the last few years, this industry has experienced phenomenal growth and change in terms of how researches are conducted. In the past, paper and pencil ruled and the research process was long and laborious for both the supplier and the client.  Now the market research industry is experiencing a transformational shift, and technology is leading the charge.

With examples in mind in the likes of VC-backed companies such as Survey Monkey (who’s former CEO was the husband of the current CEO of Facebook), the world of market research and consulting is encountering a revolution that few have realized. The last wave of revolutionary breakthroughs is mobile with apps making it possible to answer questions, collect information literally everywhere, anytime and in very little time.

The Store-Checkers is a startup that many talked about in Europe as the bridge to Chinese shops and is a great illustration of these new processes. This APP makes it possible for any company to collect information in Chinese shops for a couple of hundreds of dollars or Euros. This app is a spin-off from a traditional consulting firm (i.e. Daxue consulting in this case). It is rare enough to mention it as most traditional consulting firms have little chances or hard times, depending on how you see it, to launch a pure tech product, obsessed they are about delivering services to their current clients and pitching. A similar story happened at the Beijing-based start-up App Annie which raised dozens of millions of USD over the last 2 years.

The StoreCheckersWhen The Store-checkers was created in 2013, the app had just a couple of hundreds of users forcing the founding team to find each store-checker one-by-one. This is a typical example of supposedly tech-company which actually has to collect manually its first set of data and execute manually (meaning not through coding) its services. Remember when Airbnb founders started knocking on every door of Atlanta city to get more users on their platform ? The beginning is hard for tech companies as they often need to compromise with their ideal about tech and scalability. When talking to its founder, Matthieu David-Experton, we learnt that the first crowd which was willing to use their app was actually made of the staff of the consulting firm Daxue consulting as well as their part-time assistants from universities or other communities. As a matter of facts, this seems to be a key misinterpretation from founders who tend to think about their start-up into “pure tech” or “non tech”. As it is stated in the excellent book “0 to 1” by Peter Thiel, the true disruptive companies are the ones, like Palentire (do not forget it is Peter Thiel’s own start-up), that combine tech and human interventions. Let’s think again about Airbnb, Groupon or even Apple which has a retail network now.

To go back to our example, the app The Store-Checkers (a Daxue Consulting’s subsidiary), is part of a wider wave of changes so-called “uberisation”  in the name of Uber. This consists in getting a crowd of executants that are part-timers and share their spare time to execute simple tasks.

More is to be expected in this field as tech is eating the world and the market research field as well.

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Thibaud Andre is a French consultant working at Chinese market research firm. Daxue Consulting. He is passionate about Chinese culture and likes to share insights about the many emerging markets of the Middle Kingdom. In particular, he likes to identify emerging trends and innovations that may change economic landscape in China.

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