With the closing of the decade, it seems like a good time to stop and think about where we are as an industry and where we are headed in the years ahead. Here are our views reflecting 9 trends that we see gaining speed in the market research and insights industry.
The need for businesses to move fast, and for their research partners to keep up or be left behind has been evident for a long time and shows no sign of disappearing. The reality is that business decision making does move fast and we as an industry need to have the methods and systems in place to respond to this challenge.
But this doesn’t mean that all research should be rushed. As we move into the next decade we’d love to see a polarisation, with research falling into the bucket of being fast with accurate feedback for tactical decision making on some projects, and at the other end of the scale, more considered, strategic research that illuminates business direction and true competitive advantage. In the same way that the food industry responded to the Fast Food trend with a Slow Food counter movement, we predict a similar trend in the insights industry. Agile research won’t go away, but it hopefully doesn’t mean that all projects must be fast.
Chatbots are a great response to the agile challenge. They allow for the combination of qual and quant probing in an elegant and seamless way. The conversational nature invites more natural and potentially truer insight into the mind of the consumer and, when combined with slick and automated reporting leveraging the raft of AI tools now available means that feedback is possible within days not weeks. Chatbots aren’t a replacement for a focus group (no one wants to talk to a bot for 90 minutes) but they are instead carving out new space in between qual and quant. We predict that in the not-too-distant-future all clients that consider themselves customer-centric will have a custom research chatbot that is always on. It will receive qual-ish feedback from customers in the moments that matter, being trained to ask follow up questions relevant to their brand, customer and category and tracking this qualitative feedback over time.
Voice research is a tougher challenge to respond to as an industry but with the growing use of voice-enabled devices across the everyday lives of Australians, it’s a challenge we need to be on top of. The beauty of voice is that when it works well it is truly and naturally conversational. Engaging with consumers without being tethered to a keyboard or screen opens up a world of possibilities for researchers. As with chatbots, the key is to not overstate the potential. A bot can’t fully mimic a human-to-human interaction, but if designed and implemented well, it can certainly do a good job of asking a few killer, timely questions and getting more people to respond because it can offer a better experience. In a 2019 paper for ESOMAR Asia, we found that respondents used 6 times as many words to respond to a single question when asked on a voice bot compared to an online survey. The future is uncertain, but we are optimistic and working on bigger and better challenges in the year ahead. Come along to Esomar Asia 2020 to see us present our ambitious paper Giving Voice to the Voiceless on this topic.
The Rise of the Respondent Experience
Declining response rates is a trend which is not set to change in this era of lower attention spans, 6 second ads, multiple screens and sound bites. Thankfully we have our Purple Patch Community as well as great panels that can provide us with samples of consumers who are willing to engage in long format research, but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore the respondent experience. We must do better to provide tools – from focus group venues, to survey formats, to bots and beyond – which provide a good experience for the respondent, as well as the client and researcher. It should be central to our study design or we risk killing the goose that lay the golden egg.
In-the-Moment Research and Passive Data Collection
From a consumer behaviour perspective we have always understood that moments along the purchase journey matter. What’s changed is that as technology and devices are integrated into these journeys, speaking to consumers in the moment has started to become achievable. Mobile phones are of course the key tool of choice and will continue to grow in relevance, but we also need to consider how passive data collection can complement our understanding of what the consumer is experiencing in the moment, without burdening the consumer with tedious questioning. Passive ad measurement, as well as data from phones, watches, wifi points and routers will continue to offer a source of new knowledge. We know this makes people feel uncomfortable, but we also firmly believe that we can gather this data in a way which is fair and ethical. And if we in the research profession with our ethics and codes of conduct don’t get involved, are we really happy to leave this on the table for others who don’t have the same understanding or appetite for ethics?
This is not a new trend. Back in 2016 we saw combined mobile and tablet use surpass desktops for online interactions and that trend has continued with mobile now well and truly in front. Don’t assume that your survey or even your online qual session is going to be done by someone sitting at a computer with a keyboard. Every survey, online discussion and bot that is used to capture data needs to be optimised for mobile.
Getting feedback from respondents via video will continue to grow in relevance with tools like Vox Pop Me, Glide and others making this easier to capture and analyse. We expect (or hope) that this trend also translates to better quality video coming out of focus group venues. Most venues are on board with live streaming, but the quality of the video leaves something to be desired. We predict that we are not far away from being able to drop auto generated highlight clips from groups into presentations so that those who don’t sit through hours of groups can not only get the researcher’s summary of the findings, they can hear the key comments from respondents.
AI and Existing Survey Data Analysis
Now that AI is so accessible, we expect to see survey data routinely aggregated and analysed to uncover new insight. In addition, it will be combined with other metrics like the weather, Google Reviews, traffic data and of course customer data, and washed through an array of tools to find patterns and correlations. It’s not quite big data, but it’s based on the idea that there could be untold riches to be found by combining data sets in this manner.