BAQMaR 15 – FUTURES FESTIVAL

By Steven Debaere @ IESEG School of Management.

Go home with a fresh view on your Future! This was BAQMaR’s promise of the 9th edition of its yearly conference in Belgium. This idea was supported by the different conference tracks. Two afternoon tracks shared ideas about “Consumer understanding” and “Data science”, whereas in the evening the subject of “future expectations” was tackled. A quite busy schedule, but nicely alternated with the right refreshments, networking breaks and technology workshops. BAQMaR 15… Futures Festival… I was ready to get inspired by the newest trends and ideas in the market research and data science industry!

Ray Poynter (The Future Place & Vision Critical) started strong by pointing out that current market research projects may not be as adapted to consumers’ needs as what we think it really is. A “Mobile First” strategy must be used, prioritizing user friendliness, to improve consumer experience. We have to listen to what consumers really want instead of telling them what to do.

In the data science track, Andy Petrella (Data Fellas) preached that distributed data science is the way to go. Legacy data pipelines create important productivity and interaction problems in data teams because specific skills are needed, brought to the table by multiple experts. A central notebook-based solution should eliminate those problems. Next presentation of Stijn Geuens (IESEG School of Management & La Redoute) introduced us to the world of recommendation engines. Integrating the right data sources and deploying the right algorithms allows us to better predict what will be bought next summer. Finally, Marie Willo (AXA bank) explained us how survival analysis can be highly beneficial for companies to identify true customer value. Chloé Van Vreckem (4C Consulting) explained in technical terms how this prediction technique exploits the time dimension to know the moment when customers will churn.

Nevertheless I chose the data science track, it’s a pity I couldn’t join the consumer understanding track. With topics like “Behavior change: 5 things that work” (Peter Harrison, Brainjuicer), “Auctions speak louder than words” (Anouar El Haji, Veylinx), “Turning insights into company-wide memes” (Anouk Willems, InSites Consulting) and “Disrupting the traditional MR model” (Christophe Ovaere, ZappiStore), I’m sure people in the other track were overloaded with plenty of compelling ideas.

The evening track consisted of top speakers. Tom De Ruyck (BAQMaR) introduced Fredo De Smet (Digital Media Expert & GentM) by stressing the keynote’s gig characteristics. And yes, he was right! While mixing songs in-between and providing the right background beats, Fredo pointed out the many similarities between the music industries’ transformations and business transformations in general. Thereafter, Aart Labee (McDonald’s) stressed how data can be used internally in organizations to increase productivity and enhance decision making. Managers prefer dashboards on mobile phones over presentations and reports! Denyse Drummond-Dunn (C3Centricity), the expert in customer centricity, told us how market researchers need to be positioned central in organizations because they (more than anybody else) know the customers the best. Don’t let big data fool you, use it only in a supporting role. Yuri Van Geest (Singularity University & Trend8) concluded the conference with a mind-blowing presentation. Exponential organizations drastically change traditional industries. New companies grow faster than ever and radically lower expiration dates of traditional companies due to emerging technologies (e.g. AI and biotechnology) and novel organizational ideas (e.g. transparency). We better be prepared!

To conclude the day, I have to admit that BAQMaR really kept its initial promise. I did get home with a fresh view on the Future. If this view will come true in 10 years’ time, it’s hard to say. Let’s talk again in 2025!