By George Terhanian
The views expressed are his own.

Nearly every product you interact with — from the car you drive, to the TV and movies you see, to the advertising to which you’re exposed — has benefited from market research, a $32-billion-and-growing global industry. Businesses value such research. They demand it. And why shouldn’t they? Good research is vital to innovation and competitive advantage, bringing to light new needs as well as clues on how to satisfy them. Market research has some downsides too. It can be complicated, slow, and expensive — available only to big spenders with plenty of time on their hands.

But what if just about anyone could pose questions to a target population and receive unfiltered, immediate answers they could trust? The ability might just change the way a lot of us make decisions.

It’s already begun to happen. When you post a picture on Facebook or ask a question on Twitter, you may get back a number of responses from your circle of friends and followers. Those responses lack the scale, coverage and diversity that high-quality market research promises, of course. And your friends’ knowledge of you will invariably color their replies.

Let’s imagine you want more depth. You’ve got several questions in mind, and you need to know that your respondents will represent your target population of interest. My company’s QuickSurvey enables you to select the respondents yourself, write the questions yourself, pay a small fee with your credit card, and, in a matter of minutes, see a detailed report of what people think. You can even tweak the data to see how responses vary by geographic location, age, income, or gender.

A number of market research buyers are embracing the new tools. Sony Music Entertainment, for instance, relies on Toluna QuickSurveys for a fast read on how consumers worldwide feel about various recording artists, and therefore which ones are likely to benefit from a marketing boost. Sony finds TQS a great way to stay ahead of the game without breaking the bank. The alternatives — phone interviewing or more traditional online research — take a week or two longer, and cost five to ten times more.