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Betty Adamou is the Founder of Research Through Gaming Ltd, I'm a ResearchGame' designer where she carries out academic study of market research and games for my PhD. She is doing her PhD with the University of Winchester, where she is putting her invention of ResearchGames as a methodology under the academic spotlight for the very first time.
What Betty Does:
In the literal sense of what I do every day, I do a bit of everything. Some days I am conducting lectures at Universities (in the UK and internationally) teaching game-based research methods to students. Sometimes I am even looking at students' work as they might ask me to check out their writing on game-based research. Other times I am designing and implementing ResearchGames, attending sales meetings and project managing.
Other days I'm designing and implementing game-based apps or providing one-to-one consultation to market research agencies on how they can improve their research products. Other days I will be reading, writing and generally studying. And if that's not happening, I'm speaking at conferences and
filling in interview questions with TMRE. So I do a bit of everything!
How She Got Started
I started Research Through Gaming Ltd three years ago (RTG are about to celebrate their 3rd birthday!) and started from my bedroom where I lived at the time in North London. I started with energized inspiration and this is the fuel that keeps me going to this day. I left my old job to start RTG, sacrificing a good pay-cheque (especially for my age at the time) and the stability that 9-5 work can bring because I believed that there was a better way to conduct research through games, so here I am today.
Initially, not a lot, if anything at all. I was studying at the University of the Arts (London College of Fashion) and when I finished, I found myself making clothes from home and being a tailors apprentice on the weekends but that wasn't paying my bills. A friend of mine got me to work with her at a small fieldwork agency near my home at the time and that's when my career in MR began.
Although it seems disconnected, the use of game-based research may help students like I was at the time to understand that there is such a thing as 'the market research industry'. And not only does this industry exist, but it's interesting with many facets and many opportunities to grow.
I think the first question to ask is 'is the industry changing' and the answer is yes in general, but it's not changing for everyone. How is it changing? I think the answer to that depends on where you sit in the MR industry. My healthcare clients still need to be conservative because of the clients they have, and their expectations. For studies commissioned by governmental bodies, in the majority, they still want to stay traditional too. For studies concerning customer satisfaction and FMCG, I think that market research has evolved in many directions but based from a fundamental need to engage respondents.
Engaging respondents may take on the shape of an increase in use of online communities, or game-based research methods for instance, but the point is that the entire industry has been on it's knees, then realised it needed to put respondent engagement at the heart of everything they do, and now it does. Respondent engagement is the spine of our industry and I'm glad researchers are increasingly understanding that.
Everything is next! But again, this is dependant on where you sit in the MR industry or even outside of it. Wearable tech is now a consumer product and one in which MR will buy into (or already has, in some cases) so in many ways, I could say 'this is next', especially when we just saw the launch of Google Cardboard on August 2nd.
But it's not just wearable tech that's next, it's a host of other tech, methods and understanding. Kantar bought Zappistore, and market research software companies are having to offer more in terms of analytics and digestible insights.
Non MR-companies are merging into 'our field' and as a result, we're having to behave more like non-MR companies just to keep up. For instance: how can we expect to compete with respondent engagement with the traditional surveys we send out to respondents, when richer data (from more people, across longer periods of time) are being captured by Facebook?
How can we expect to compete with our traditional tools on diary-based studies (where we need the respondents' attention across weeks, or even months) when non-research companies are doing so as part of their platform for free, and with much higher levels of participant engagement?
Right now in the Market Research industry, the world is our oyster, we just need even more people to be savvy and future-thinking enough to tell us what's next. One expectation I have is for MR companies that exist today to evolve, merge-with, buy and become less recognisable as 'MR companies' in the next year and beyond.
What is your best tip for researchers in the trenches to become a catalyst for impact?
It depends what kind of impact you want to have and where you want this impact to be felt. If you want to have a positive impact on the entire market research industry with an idea you may have, grab a stage and speak at a conference. Write a paper and publicise it wherever you can. Write in an industry magazine.
If you're impact is a little more closer-to-home, (i.e. you want to create impact in the place where you work) I would suggest to first get your ideas(s) water-tight before you present them to your boss or other decision-maker.
To do this I would suggest the following; read, talk, go out of the office and discover. Most of my inspiration has come from and still comes from reading, studying, playing games, going to exhibitions and speaking to people who, at times, have nothing to do with market research or gaming industry. In turn, the ideas I have become more developed or new ideas start to grow.
Once you're happy you've created the 360-degree account of your idea for impact, present this to the decision-making authorities where you work in a creative and professional manner which shows your heart in the idea and how it will work.
Plan B: If you did this already, and no one is listening to you, go out and make impact elsewhere (another company) on your own. Being an entrepreneur can be scary but is one of the truest tests of 'putting your money where your mouth is'.
Read anything that allows you to understand human behaviour. Respondents, or as they may be increasingly known as 'data-givers', NEED to be intrinsically motivated and engaged in research because without that, we go back into the dark ages of no-one caring about surveys. Try to understand what engages people and what motivates people. Read papers, read books, speak to people outside of MR and ask them how they engage their users.
In this day and age where the online survey is competing with at least 6 other interactive platforms for your respondents attention, we need to be on top of how we can grasp participant engagement, allow them to enjoy the experience and come back for more studies in the future. Only through engaged participants can we save time and money and provide more accurate data to our clients.
Tools to Use
What can I say, I am biased. Use any tool you like, as long as you make the research study into a game. Game mechanics tap into our basic needs as human beings (as evidenced by massive amounts of academic research) so borrow tips of the most engaging medium the human race has ever encountered: the game. In terms of new tech to keep an eye on, first understand older tech which hasn't come out as a consumer product yet, but will or has already.
For instance, virtual reality headsets aren't new (I used to play with a Tomytronic when I was 6, that was 22 years ago) so researchers should look at how these technologies are evolving and how they can be used for data collection in an ethical, enjoyable manner for the participants. Augmented reality, again, isn't new, but still market researchers should think about how to utilise this technology.
The list is endless: QR codes, GPS footwear, smart clothing etc; it all has existed for some time. Instead of looking at what's new, we should try and catch up on the technologies have been available to us but under-utalised for the last 5-10 years.
Random Fun Fact
Haha, a random fact! I could give you something totally boring now couldn't I, like 'I recently had my hair dyed' but who would care? Maybe a random fact about me might be surprising for those who haven't met me'I genuinely and absolutely KNOW game-based research methods are the future of our industry. It's not some commercial stuff I spout off, it's real and it's what I live every single day. I hope the students I've been speaking to in the last three years will make those changes in the short-term future when they join our industry.
Oh and in other news, I got married in June.