Tamara Barber Senior Analyst at Forrester Research – An Interview with a Market Research Expert

Tamara Barber, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, lets us know what an expert of research on research thinks about the newest in market research methodologies, the growing interest in multicultural markets, and a bit about how she ended up working in market research.

“In her role as a senior analyst [at Forrester Research], Tamara advises Market Insights Professionals on technology’s impact on market research methodologies, the evolution of the market insights function, and best practices in positioning insights as a competitive advantage to the adaptive organization. This includes coverage on topics such as social market research, trends in incorporating traditional research data with internal customer data, and tools and best practices for strategic impact of market insights. She is also a leading expert in Hispanic consumer behavior and technology adoption, and previously led the development of Forrester’s Hispanic Technographics consumer research.” – Forrester Research

What are you most excited to see happen with market research in the next three years?

“Well, as you know, I am a big proponent of research that leverages social media or social tools. Based on my conversations with clients and what I’ve been seeing at conferences, this is the year that that market insights professionals not only get the importance of social but are willing to do something about it. This was most certainly not the case a year ago. I’m having more conversations with clients who are asking for us to help them implement and make decisions around social market research, rather than just wanting to be educated on the concept.”

“But, whether you’re talking about an MROC or something like a listening tool, social represents a new data source, and we know that the market insights role is already struggling with what feels like too much data in the first place, coming from all different directions in the company. So, data alignment and consolidation is going to be a huge pain point that organizations will need to solve for. We’re looking at this issue both from a tactical level (what kinds of technology solutions can help with this) as well as from a strategic level (what does this mean from an organizational standpoint). Stay tuned for more on that…” – Tamara

How do you see market research playing a role in the rapidly growing multicultural markets this year?

“In the US, the 2010 Census data is already driving a renewed interest in the Hispanic market, so I most certainly see more market research dollars going toward understanding how to address the needs of this market in digital channels. The recession really clamped down on this kind of spending for MR, but now companies are recognizing (once again) that they’ve got to understand how and if to serve this market. I actually find that they are coming to the table with a more well-thought out view of the kind of Hispanic consumer they want to go after, and many times the segment of interest is a consumer who is not fully acculturated, but not fully unacculturated either. It’s someone who lives in both worlds, and solid market research will be really important to understanding the cultural nuances with this type of consumer.”

“This piece about culture, though, is becoming increasingly important as companies expand globally as well. When it comes to understanding new markets and new cultures, data can only tell you so much. We as researchers need to give proper weight to how a population’s unique culture gives way to unique behaviors and needs.” – Tamara

Where do you see MROC’s playing their biggest role for client organizations this year?

“MROCs really are a very flexible resource for market insights, and the beauty of the ‘always on’ and longitudinal nature of a community is that you can use it for many purposes such as quick turnaround feedback and gut checks, check-ins during the product development process, cocreation, or very in-depth longer term studies. There’s a lot of interest right now using them for much more strategic product development research and including the community in various stages of the development cycle. And this translates into opportunity for market insights to build relationships with more parts of the business and, frankly, potentially show ROI once products are in-market.” – Tamara

What is one of the most interesting pieces of market research insight you have come across in your career?

“When I was writing my first report at Forrester, “Three Keys To Unlock The Hispanic Market,” I was going crazy because there were some very significant findings around Hispanic consumers’ appetite for entertainment and social online activities, as well as devices like MP3 players. This pretty early on in the industry’s understanding of technology adoption trends in this market, and I had to have a really hard look at whether what I was seeing was real or an effect of sampling, method, or what have you. But it all made sense in the context of Hispanic culture, and that was a really exciting story to piece together and present!” – Tamara

Who are your role models or who has given you the most inspiration in your market research career?

“I could answer this question in so many ways…I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing mentors, and only a select few are from the traditional world of MR. In hindsight, I actually ended up in market research because the field is a combination of what I really appreciate from disciplines that I was exploring way before market research even entered my mind as a career choice. Here’s a secret about me: I started off my undergrad years as theatre major, and I realized early on (thankfully) in this pursuit, that what I really found most stimulating about it was trying to build an understanding of why a person is doing or saying the things they are doing. I ended up creating my own major in Latin American studies and communications. And I’ll tell you I still think today of my Latin American literature professor who was so passionate about his work that he brought the stories to life — in how he talked when he taught, how he set the stories in context of the politics and history of the era, and even in the context of the author’s personal life. At the end of the day, market research is all about understanding what drives people’s behaviors, and context – industry, economic, or otherwise – is hugely important. Hmmm, I think I see a theme emerging.” – Tamara

If you have any question for Tamara please feel free to leave comments below this article, comment on Tamara’s blog, or send her a message through Twitter!

“Thanks once again for reading the latest market research expert interview from The New Market Research blog!”


Sean Copeland is a certified marketing research professional (CMRP) known for his broad knowledge of the research workflow, his disruptive approach to problem solving and for building strong client relationships. In over 5 years Sean has developed, sold, executed, and managed hundreds of consumer research studies using a variety of new and traditional research methodologies.

Contact Sean Copeland:

T: 647-269-5085

E: sean@abacusdata.ca

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