January 23rd 2024

Herberts World #12

Fresh on the table: Issue No. 12 of the column "Herbert's World" (German only)!

This week moweb turns 20 years old. Reason enough to take a look at the past, present and future. But first, let's go back to 2004: from Facebook to Rehhagel to the wren.

Have fun reading!

Exactly 20 years ago: Otto Rehhagel wins the European Football Championship with the Greeks, Schumacher wins his seventh World Cup title, Mark Zuckerberg founds Facebook and the wren becomes bird of the year. There is now a special tax on "alcopops", hundreds of thousands take to the streets because of the "Hartz Reforms" and in Ukraine the Orange Revolution drives the masses to the Maidan.

Some things sound like something from another world, but others are frighteningly topical. 20 years ago, I founded my own institute together with my partner Ryan Gibson in order to throw myself fully into the brand new field of online market research.

"So what", I hear you say. Wasn't it a big deal back then? The Internet had finally emerged from its infancy and even the first smartphones were conquering the market - three years before the iPhone.

When the dotcom bubble bursts, the party is over (for now)!

But that is only half the truth. Although the dotcom bubble burst almost four years ago, it was still very much in the bones of most people - even if, in retrospect, it only seems like a lukewarm crisis compared to the banking crisis that soon followed. But that's another topic.

So back to 2004, when not only the established players in market research had the following to say about online-based services: dubious, unsuitable and immature. At best, they were gimmicks that were sure to burn our customers' money and trust. Many people guessed that online panels would put a dent in the prices of established providers. Not to mention the quality of the new data. Ergo: In the end, online will ruin everything!

Well, of course you could and could see it that way, it really was "terra incognita" back then. And with uncharted territory, it's always the case that what is a possibility and an opportunity for some is a danger and a risk for others.

But things turned out differently. And quite quickly too. Online surveys soon became part of the standard canon of market research methods. And instead of the wreckage feared by many, the professional use of the Internet has not harmed our business. On the contrary: it has become more diverse, bigger and stronger as a result.

Rise of Online = Rise of KI?

Aside from my own personal anniversary, when looking back at online developments, doesn't the current "Rise of AI" almost jump out at you as a parallel? Isn't it pretty much the same emotional world that is currently being triggered? One thing is already clear: artificial intelligence will also be a real game changer - and already is in some areas. Just as the internet transformed the economy around the turn of the millennium and even (creatively!) destroyed it in some places, AI will most likely do the same now. So the question is not whether, but how: How quickly? How strong? How comprehensively?

2004 is not 2024, and history does not repeat itself. Nevertheless, important lessons can be learned from the past, because one thing is clear: at the latest with the launch of chatGPT less than a year and a half ago, this technical revolution is in the world and will become even better and more powerful at breathtaking speed. In market research too, it will speed up almost all processes, replace some of them and certainly make new products possible: Whether in data collection, data synthesis or data analysis. Every area will be affected to a greater or lesser extent.

Quant and Qual come together!

A small example: the distinction between quantitative and qualitative market research will soon become blurred. Too much data or a questionnaire that is "too long" will simply no longer play a role. Survey bots will be able to "talk" to any number of respondents, even in a completely unstructured way if necessary. It doesn't matter. Neither the amount of data nor the depth of data will ever again form the bottleneck for evaluations and thus raise the detection of customer needs and wishes to a previously unknown level.

So - once again - many things will change, some things will improve and some things will disappear. How should we deal with this? Even 20 years ago, the decisive factor was the right mindset and this is still the case today. This means facing the ever-growing AI wave with a critical yet open and positive mind! Being prepared to honestly question existing certainties. Ultimately, it is also the desire for change that matters in phases of upheaval - such as these!

Crises as an opportunity for resilience.

Something we can probably all agree on: Every change needs confidence and resilience. And isn't this another parallel to 2004? Back then, it was the leaden times of the early noughties. Germany was more than just a "sick man of Europe", but was soon able to work its way up again with renewed vigor. True to the motto: what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger.

Despite having survived the pandemic, the crises are currently raging even more fiercely, perhaps more so in Germany than ever before. Even the "sick man" is once again being used as a public image. For the team at moweb and myself, the last three or four years have therefore been used for important internal transformations, so that we have emerged from this phase more resilient than ever. Sure, the times were exhausting, but they were more than worth it for building resilience!

The next 20 years can come!

They should also come to help shape a piece of future market research together once again. And with the same recipe: lots of curiosity paired with a healthy dose of stoicism, plus humor and cordiality, of course. Because hey, life is serious enough as it is!

Herbert Höckel

Herbert Höckel is a managing partner here at moweb research GmbH. He has been a market researcher for more than 25 years. In 2004 he founded moweb GmbH, which he is still the owner today. moweb from Düsseldorf operates internationally and is one of the first German market research institutes specializing in digital processes.

You are welcome to purchase his book "Customer Centricity Mindset ® - Really Understand Customers, Master Disruption Successfully" here.

Your success, our goal!