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55 Predictions for 2016 by Research Industry Thought Leaders

I reached out to the thought leaders I that I respect immensely and asked them to share their thoughts on what we'll likely see as "big things" that impact the insights industry in 2016.

What would the end of year holiday season be without predictions for the coming year? In what’s become an annual tradition here on GreenBook Blog, I reached out to the thought leaders I that I respect immensely and asked them to share their thoughts on what we’ll likely see as “big things” that impact the insights industry in 2016. So far I’ve received 55 predictions, so I thought I’d go ahead and share them.

Updated: You can find Part 2, with 61 more predictions by a whole new group of leaders here:

The predictions cover many topics from the business dynamics and landscape of the industry to the impact of technology, changing client needs, new method adoption, and of course more fundamental needs such as human capital and skills, business models, and the role of insights in a data rich world. Overall our experts expect the pace of change we’ve been experiencing for the past few years to continue with some phases coming to and end, and others beginning. However, make no mistake, our thought leaders expect to see more change, not less.

One leader not represented here is Ray Poynter. We previously posted his predictions as a stand alone piece. You can find it here.

I’ll kick things off with my own attempt at prognostication to get it out of the way so you can get to the really good stuff.

Happy New Year!

Lenny Murphy, Executive Editor & Producer, GreenBook & Founder/Senior Partner, Gen2 Advisors: 

  1. The Tyranny of Norms Is Broken: Some of the largest suppliers in this industry can credit their success to being “data currency”, meaning that through their normative data or benchmarking models they are the standards upon which their clients make decisions (Nielsen, Bases, Millward Brown, etc…). Clients have traditionally been reluctant to move away from those stable measures (to the point of being held hostage by them), despite realizing that new models may in fact be cheaper, faster and yes, better. That resistance started to fade in 2015 and in 2016 we’ll see both many alternatives arise and clients shifting their budgets to them.
  2. What Can be Automated Will Be Automated: The research process can be broken down into a few big phases: Design, Sampling, Data Collection, Analysis and Reporting. Most (and in some cases all) of the labor can now be automated by basic AI systems, and that will only increase. I don’t envision a near future where humans are irrelevant to the insights process, but I do think in 2016 more and more companies will leverage AI and automation to create massive cost and speed efficiency across most types of research, further disrupting the traditional model and forcing researchers to add “human value” elsewhere in the chain.
  3. Follow The Money: Private Equity, Investment Banking and Venture Funds will make more and bigger bets on MR Tech plays. There are a handful of $100 – $500M Companies now flush with backers that will be making investments and acquisitions to race toward Unicorn status. There are more companies between $15M and $50M that are repositioning their business to be more scalable that are poised to jump into the $100M+ club, and at least a  dozen MR tech companies that look really good to get 10 – 12X multipliers from VCs. These folks will challenge and reshape the market landscape.
  4. The Gig Economy Booms: If automation will disrupt process, the emergence of many marketplaces to access talent on an as needed base will change how we deal with human capital. Look for multiple talent marketplaces to start to play in MR or for some tech companies to launch their own talent markets to provide access to folks still needed for human driven tasks. Companies will downsize, but good talent will flourish by being able to do lots of work for lots of clients on their own schedules.
  5. VR Becomes Real: It’s only been hype because it hasn’t been released yet. Once VR tech and content floods the world at an increasing pace in 2016, the race for consumer adoption will be faster than it was for mobile. Within 5 years VR will largely replace our current paradigm for interacting with information, media, each other and the world around us and will open whole new sets of challenges and opportunities for market researchers. Get ready now.


Kevin Gray, President, Cannon Gray LLC:

  1. Not really a prediction, but I sense a growing need for quantitative marketing researchers to rediscover the social and behavioral sciences (besides economics). There is now too much emphasis on math and programming or, worse yet, canned analytics, and one result is a proliferation of models without meaning. There are increasing opportunities for quant people who truly understand how to design, analyze and interpret research in ways that have real value to decision makers. This requires knowing how to integrate data from various sources, including qualitative, but there’s more to it than that.


Dean Macko, Managing Director, North America, Voxpopme:

  1. I see greater use of video open ends within surveys as a complement or replacement to the open text box. This will greatly expose panel quality, necessitate hybrid researchers, and further blur the line between quantitative and qualitative research.


Tom H. C. Anderson, Chief Text Analyst, OdinText Inc.:

  1. Although by 2015 everyone had ‘heard’ of Text Analytics, hardly no one (including the largest nlp software vendors) had the slightest idea what it actually was, and less so, how to use it effectively. [Yes it’s very much the same as the big data analogy with sex in middle school – everyone claims to be doing it…] 2016 will be the year our firm once again takes the lead and starts sharing more, teaching market researchers how to actually do it – become Text Analytics Data Scientists. For the first time many researchers will discover the true importance of Next Generation Text Analytics as well as the power and ease of use of OdinText via


Dave Sackman, Owner, Lieberman Research Worldwide:

  1. The continued reports on the demise of the survey research business will not ring true, as there will continue to be marketing and business problems best solved by survey research. However, people will continue to experiment with supplementing survey and other forms of marketing research with other streams of data to provide better answers. Few will have big success, but those who understand how to integrate data from a variety of sources to provide great analytic-based consultative advice will thrive


Richard Thornton, Global Sales & Operations Director, Cint AB: 

  1. M&A activity. MR needs further disruption and consolidation, especially on the supply side. Expect some major technology-driven deals in the next 12 months and some unexpected tie-ups to shake-up the space and finally transfer MR into the future.
  2. ‘Real-time’ research to generate “in the moment” insights. Mobile will play a role here, but this will be primarily driven by cookie-tagging & tracking, allowing profile enrichment on top of behavioral tracking data through API event based triggers. This will see customer analytics and CX platform data collide with consumer profile data, growing the overall MR opportunity with it.


David Rabjohns, Founder & Chairman, MOTIVEQUEST LLC:

  1. I think that the pendulum will swing back from pure SAS solutions to technology enabled people.  Understanding things like big data and human decision-making are very complex and most companies are not equipped to analyze the data and turn it into smart actionable insights internally.  This is a specialist field and specialists are still needed, no matter what the software vendors would like you to believe.  Just as the car made people go faster than the horse, the future of market research is turbocharged people vs a researcher free world.


David Forbes, Chief Innovation Officer, The Forbes Consulting Group:

  1. Social media analytics providers will experience a “shake-out” with companies capable of discerning more complex psychological insights coming to the fore
  2. The pendulum swing away from “traditional” methods will moderate, and next generation survey and survey analytics strategies will arise
  3. The use of dedicated “proprietary panels will increase, and Data gathering vis a vis these panels will become increasingly interactive and real time.


Alejandro Garnica Andrade, Vicepresidente Ejecutivo, AMAI-México:

  1. Sharing economy will explode globally, impacting almost every business that has a wide range of consumers (local, regional, national and even international)
    • Three important reasons for this:
      1. Harsh economic (again) times in many countries
      2. More free time because of layoffs, part-time models and new family arrangements
      3. Widespread familiarity with p2p linkage based upon popular social platforms (i.e. Facebook)


Dave McCaughan, Thought leader and Storyteller, BIBLIOSEXUAL: 

  1. AT LAST, AT LAST the 30-50 % of the population over 50 and under 113 (I think that is oldest know human today) will get the proportional representation in all research they deserve. At the same time someone will finally wake up the the myth of and over simplifying of “generational differences” is a waste of effort (millennials and pre-boomers have more in common than not).
  2. Meanwhile AI will boom as we re-look at how to analyze content but we will still struggle with the re-emergence of pictures as the norm for literacy.


Peter Harris, EVP & Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Vision Critical: 

For 2016 I am shaping my predictions and behavior on three key words ASK, REINVEST & LEVERAGE.

  1. I am looking for MR to be able to ASK more questions that make intimate connections with people.
  2. REINVEST in our people and the customers that choose to participate in conversation rather than one way interrogation.
  3. Then better LEVERAGE what we already know/have asked before from increasingly unrepresentative samples. Technology will keep making this possible as long as we keep our profession open to change.


Navin Williams, CEO, MobileMeasure Consultancy Limited: 

If it was the just another year I would have said “2016 will be the year for mobile research”. But this year is different. For one digital is mobile and mobile is digital, so the year will belong to Digital NOW research, which encompasses a wider spectrum with “Mobile” and its immediacy “NOW” in its core. This has forced us to rebrand and expand our services in preparation for 2016 and beyond.

From a research perspective we are going to see a few technologies and services growing:

  1. Growth of WeChat enabled surveys in China to begin with. MobileMeasure just signed up a global giant to conduct a first round of 70 surveys on WeChat in China
  2. Beacon enabled engagements for:
    • Shopper Research
    • In Store Satisfaction insights
    • Marketing activation ROI measurement
  3. Digital NOW passive + active tracking


Dan Foreman, Chairman of the Board, ZappiStore:

  1. It is essential we dramatically improve our Conferences / meetings and escape from our 80s time-warp format. If we are to be one of the winners in the race for relevance we need to transform how we share information, network, co-create and speak as an industry. I have been to many conferences outside the industry these past few years, including several TED events, and we are stuck way behind the curve – for many wrong reasons”


Reg Baker, Ph.D., Executive Director, Marketing Research Institute International/University of Georgia:

  1. Both buyers and suppliers will be emphasizing research fundamentals–the third most in demand skill according to the latest GRIT Report —in their hiring and training programs. Rather than rendering these skills obsolete, the explosion of new methods and data sources has created a pressing need for people who can make smart choices about which methods to use given the business problem being studied, understand the strengths and weaknesses in the data they bring to bear, and synthesize multiple findings and points of view into a compelling story. At the same time, MR education needs to migrate away from a single-minded in-depth teaching of specific skills toward an emphasis on breadth of knowledge and the foundational principles that distinguish good research from bad research, emphasizing how to apply them in the real world of contemporary MR.



Charles Trevail, Chief Executive Officer, C Space: 

  1. Market research departments are becoming increasingly commercial & business orientated. The best will become alike in house customer consultancies.
  2. Fewer clients care about qual or quant. Businesses are more concerned about being able to move with speed and confidence. New tech offerings will continue to disrupt (including our own)!
  1. Great impact and forward looking storytelling have become the new minimum standard. Old fashioned tracking studies are fast becoming redundant. Having permanent consumer relationships, at senior levels within business, will become the new normal.


Steve Needel, Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations 

  1. 2016 will be the year that we realize that technology is not what market research is about. MR is about helping our clients make better decisions, no matter what the technology, or lack thereof, is employed. We’ve always known this – this year we’ll see more people talking about this.


Michalis A. Michael, Chief Executive Officer, Digital MR:

For the first time ever a global insights director from a blue-chip multinational has put listening before asking questions. He said: ​“I have asked my team to only resort to surveys if they cannot find the answer in social listening or behavior tracking data.”

  1. Thus my prediction is that 2016 will be the year social listening and analytics will move on the technology adoption curve from early adopters to the early majority of blue-chip multinational clients of MR. This means that substantial budgets will shift from surveys to listening for the first time since 2006 when social media monitoring tools appeared on the market.


Mark Michelson, Executive Director, Mobile Marketing Research Association (MMRA): 

  1. More adoption of mobile data collection by research agencies as client demand increases. Expansion of definition of mobile MR to include remote data collection from a variety of IoT connected devices, including wearables, smart TV’s, appliances, and cars as well as embedded video in store displays and aisles for shopper analytics.


Jason Anderson, President, Insights Meta: 

  1. I expect 2016 to be the year that political polling in the US goes off the rails. A major prediction “miss” would not be shocking, with political campaigning, social media, phone-based polling, and general angst all swirling together in turbulent ways. In the aftermath of what will almost certainly be an endless parade of polling data, the average person is going to question even more the usefulness and accuracy of survey data. Some of those people are clients and collaborators; I expect to be explaining and defending the virtues of our work for most of the year.


Simon Chadwick, Editor-in-Chief, Research World & Managing Partner, Cambiar Consulting: 

  1. 2016 will be the year when the final battle for dominance in media measurement starts to take place, with comScore/Rentrak/WPP challenging Nielsen for its throne.
  2. Expect more consolidation in panel.
  3. In India and Japan, the new multinational insights providers will continue their stealth march to challenge the Big Four.
  4. 2016 will also be the year in which the sheep will be divided from the goats in social media analytics while text and video analytics will become more and more mainstream.


Jeffrey Henning, President, Researchscape International: 

  1. I’m seeing an increased interest in agile market research from suppliers and clients alike. To me, true agile research projects are more open-ended than traditional research: they iteratively hone in on insights over a series of phases, with the number of phases not predetermined at the outset. Suppliers I’ve seen champion this approach in 2015 include GutCheck, ZappiStore, and Kadence.


Nicholas Tortorello, Executive Vice President, TMG Partners, LLC.: 

  1. I am going to stick my neck way out and make a few brave predictions for 2016. The first is that we are going to see a slight increase in more traditional research involving phone and mail. Second, online research through panels will remain fairly constant. Third, there were be a more mixed mode research particularly involving phone and online research. And finally, research involving virtual reality and Occulis type glasses will also begin to take-off.


Kristin Luck, Growth Strategist / Sales & Marketing Consultant, Kristin Luck Consulting: 

  1. Rather than focusing on new trends or methods, as an industry we need to look thematically at how the greater business ecosystem is evolving around us. Fueled by “Generation Flux”, the desire for simplification, “passive” data, and agile on-demand products and services will rapidly driving change both inside and outside the market research practice in 2016.


Will Leach, Founder & President, TriggerPoint Design: 

  1. After yet another year of data and insights commoditization, leading firms like Capital One, Pepsi, Kimberly Clark and Nestle are evolving their insights departments into “behavioral change” departments so they can specifically drive growth for their firms.  In 2016, this client shift will become the needed catalyst for other clients to follow AND MORE IMPORTANTLY for our industry to begin investing in Behavioral Economics AND Behavioral Design capabilities to meet this demand. By EOY we will see more behavioral change conferences, consulting firms and new behavioral change models and methods in this area.
  2. The big question coming out of 2016 will be… who will step up and down the Behavioral Design industry?  Research firms who understand human behavior OR marketing agencies who understand design??  I know where I’m placing my bet J


Edward Appleton, Director Global Marketing, Happy Thinking People:

2016 – the Olympics in Rio, a new (female?) President in the White House in the USA, continuing turbulence in the European Union,…..there’s lots of eminently predictable stuff going on in the real world. What does the Market Research crystal ball reveal? I’d see a continuation of the rumblings witnessed in 2015:

  1. Legacy MR practices will be under high scrutiny for value delivery.
  2. We’ll likely see some merger activity going on as the pressure to reduce costs continues.
  3. Qualitative research will continue to enjoy a renaissance.
  4. Geographically, emerging markets will continue to impress with their energetic and fearless drive to innovate.


Brett Watkins, President, L&E Research: 

  1. My prediction would be the hyperactive M&A market getting even more frothy:  the lack of ability of companies to differentiate will likely result in more acquisition of market share.  Wouldn’t surprise me either to see some new players start going in that direction, i.e. companies not considered traditional research companies that start acquiring MR firms in efforts to broaden their portfolios.  I’m hearing a few rumors from sources I trust that some new and unexpected players could get involved in the M&A world of MR.
  2. My hope would be corporate researchers continue to embrace MR quality standards and leading from the top down to require best practices that ensure a healthier consumer marketplace.  Corporate researchers we work with are expressing interest in following best practices that don’t alienate consumers:  hopefully this will pass along to their consultants and we begin to work together to deliver great research that engages consumers, not fatigue and frustrate.


Jackie Lorch, Vice President, Global Knowledge Management, SSI:

  1. The need for researchers to be better storytellers will be a big theme this year. At conferences we’ll see fewer PowerPoint slides, more stories and other creative ways to get the point across.
  2. Mobile will finally find an application with widespread appeal: videos of consumers speaking at the point of decision being used to bring research findings to life.


Joel Rubinson, President, Rubinson Partners, Inc.:

  1. Alignment to the digital world. I expect new media measurement and ROI solutions for an always on, multi-screen world and enhanced panel services that integrate survey data with the digital data in DMPs used for ad targeting so insights can drive action.


Jan Hofmyer, Chief Researcher: Behavior Change, TNS (Retired):

  1. The slow but unstoppable transition from automated visualizations to automation analysis and reporting, will continue. Those who get it right and persevere, will win big. They may not be from our industry.
  2. Similarly: the steady but inevitable migration from long (meaning 15 minutes or more) to short, fast, predictive surveys (meaning 3-5 minutes or less), will continue. It will become clearer where ‘asking questions’ fits in to the world of marketing information.
  3. And we will learn that social media don’t offer quite the panacea that we thought they would.


Adriana Rocha, Co-founder & CEO, eCGlobal Solutions:

55.  Companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Linkedin and Google — and possibly others such as Apple and Amazon — will be the best positioned to connect brands and audiences with highly targeted survey technology services.

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12 responses to “55 Predictions for 2016 by Research Industry Thought Leaders

    I already perceive a growing CRISIS OF CONFLICTING CREDIBILITY, as autonomous responses obtained by neuroscience and its arsenal of biometrics qualify, restrict, or openly contradict conscious responses.
    Take your years of mega-sample tracking data consistently showing how much seemingly loyal consumers respect and allegedly adore a market leading brand. This general truth could be belied by a collective “meh” from a well-grounded biometric measure with a representative sample of 50.
    AG / Abaco Brazil

  2. That’s what I call a long list of “predictive analytics” [pun intended]

    @Alan, Neuroscience doesn’t really have a very impressive track record.. 😉

    Completely agree though that it’s all about predicting actual behavior.

    However in my admittedly biased experience, nothing beats text analytics and unstructured data (when available) in this regard.

    But as mentioned in my ‘prediction’, we’ll be putting our money where our mouth is at

    OdinText and will be posting a series of ‘Text Analytics Tips’ including real world examples on starting in January of 2016! So stay tuned…

  3. Really interesting list with ( as would be expected ) a mix of the predictable, the “isn’t that already happening and therefore not a prediction”, the challenging and the not so. Bit surprised there was not much to indicate how MR will tackle the half of the world who don’t have internet access, or choose not to use it. Throwing no stones as that thought only hit me as i read this great list today and have to admit i too missed it in contributing.

  4. Perhaps “one year ahead” predictions are not sensible in this industry. One only has to look at the latest GRIT survey to see a lot of uptake of potential new disruptive technologies seems to have stalled and some even to have shown declining support. There is certainly a disparity between the offer side (suppliers) and the uptake (clients). Perhaps the one prediction we might all conclude is that reality always wins over hype, and 2016 will deliver more of that.

  5. Would have liked a word about how complexity theory methods are now maturing. How through, for instance, sensemaker, text analytics are obsolete since the only person capable of stating what the ‘surface layer of verbatims’ means is the person writing it – NOT a text algorithm. How text can be quantified (not by using a scale) but via micro-narratives and a unique approach to removing response bias.. How complexity theory ditches driver analytics in favour of complexity methods. Driver analytics are not obsolete but constraining. How the new KPI ‘more stories like this, fewer stories like that’, parameter metrics, and the inability to game micro-narratives is superior. Just my opinion.
    As for neuroscience – I like MnS, and nope there is no biometric buzz from that statement, but i still like it…Neuroscience is interesting but not the truth!

  6. @Tom, I would love to agree fully with you, but people tell us more than words alone. However perfect text analytics becomes, and you do it splendidly, it uses verbalization. It uses rational content, although it obtains revelations unbeknownst to the respondent.
    I too defend a method, perfected during 40+ years, to diagnose advertising and other forms of communication. Ad-Visor® has 1000+ normative studies.
    It answers every agency or client-side doubt, but now I confess that biometrics can make question-based diagnostics even better.
    Why? Because while Ad-Visor® bypasses a consumer’s conscious social defense mechanisms, efforts to please the interviewer or “say the right thing”, biometrics detect UN-conscious responses that the consumer does not even realize. Biometrics are coming of age.
    Here’s a 2015 example:
    We added both Eye-Tracking and Facial Coding (by Dan Hill of Sensory Logic®) to the usual Ad-Visor® campaign analysis for a top financial services client,
    In open-ends, respondents fed back and even praised benefits they could have remembered from previous campaigns or the brand reputation.
    Standard evaluations of the campaign’s appeal to consumers’ “Four Vital Organs”: Eye-Heart-Brain-Pocket, all revealed modest scores on the Sensory, Emotional, Rational, and Commercial Appeals.
    We might have stopped with these lukewarm results, but we incorporated Eye-Tracking and Facial Coding data and had some surprises.
    Eye-Tracking results were unequivocal: Viewers did not gaze directly at the cues to the specific brand benefits. So this campaign did not generate much of that playback.
    Facial Coding was also telling: When commending the “social responsibility” benefits, consumers revealed minimal ego involvement; they were just “saying the right thing”.
    These incisive results, what the eyes and facial muscles told us, strongly reinforced our recommendation of a significant change of direction in the new campaign.
    Without doubt we’ll use these tools more, now that they became less invasive, more accessible, and easier to demonstrate to clients.
    I believe that “If you want to know what people really think, DON’T ASK!”. Maturing methods that circumvent rationalizations, both text analytics and biometrics, are bound to take a larger share of research investments.

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