Google just put the market research biz on notice

It’s not so much the statistics from its various mobile industry surveys that make Google’s new Databoard so cool, but the fact that they’re free, pretty and ready to use. It’s not going to put analyst or research firms out of business any time soon, but if I were in the business of charging hundreds to thousands of dollars for market research reports, I wouldn’t take Databoard too lightly either.

Here’s the service in a nutshell: Google has done a bunch of research into how people are using mobile devices, and now it has created a service where you can easily find the key data points from those studies and then share them or turn them into infographics. You can also just download the reports in their entirety. It’s remarkably simple and, in theory, remarkably useful.

I created the infographic here in about an hour, pretending I was someone in the food and restaurant industry (something on the top of my mind after recently writing about the need for data in that industry). We can quibble about the order of the data points or the number of them, but it was pretty easy to lay out a case for building a quality mobile site and investing in various forms of advertising designed to target mobile users either in the area, in the store or in front of their TVs. If I needed to produce a report in a hurry, this would be a good place to start.

Yeah, the infographic-building experience isn’t ideal, and the end product isn’t either — infographics by nature tend to be long, and Databoard’s are without annotations to explain why the various points matter for your purposes. (Although, you can easily just copy and paste the individual images into PowerPoint.) The fact that it’s Google, a company with a vested interest in promoting industries such as mobile, promoting its own data on these very topics is also a bit unappealing. But it’s the idea that matters.

One of hundreds of data points visualized in Databoard.
One of hundreds of data points visualized in Databoard.

I look at Databoard as part of a larger trend toward changing how we do market research. Elsewhere, companies such as Placed are collecting location data on the businesses people physically visit and letting subscribers drill down into it to find the points that matter to them. Firms like Dachis Group are using social media to gauge customer sentiment at a scale that focus groups and phone surveys never could. GigaOM Pro, our market research business, gives subscribers access to everything its analysts publish for $299 a year.

With Databoard, Google is trying to change visual experience of reading reports and also making it easier to reuse its data for your own purposes. The fact that it’s free is just icing on the cake. If it wanted to take this product even further, Google could incorporate interactive behavioral data tools like Trends, as well as reports from outside sources, and create a one-stop shop for finding market data that matters and turning it into reports.

Market data, it turns out, isn’t a lot different than any other types of data or the technologies for analyzing it. It’s getting better while also becoming easier and cheaper to come by, and is a lot easier to consume. These are trends that don’t bode well for the former data gatekeepers, who can’t keep selling the same data in the same format for the same premium price forever.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user Pixsooz.