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Exciting Times for the Market Research Industry Ahead

Three themes emerge from recent conference proceedings and events that inform how the research industry is transforming itself.

Editor’s Note: As we are getting into the swing of the 2019 conference season, it is useful to put new presentations into the context of what we heard last year.  To that end, Joris de Bruyne of EyeSee provides a valuable summary of key themes heard recently in conferences, as well as market events, and what it all means for research transformation.  Good stuff to keep in mind.

Market research is transforming and re-inventing itself, yielding opportunities for new research tools, methods, and technologies. As we approach another conference season, which is packed heavy with selected speakers who will shed light on the plans ahead, I thought I would share my own expectations:

2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year for market research as more and more paradigm shifts become obvious.  I’d like to take the time to recollect, reflect on, and make sense of trends, compelling remarks and key takeaways from the 2018 conference as well as various analytical texts promising a glimpse into the future. Following are 3 observations which (will) effect, if not completely change, how we do business.

Insights grow on tech giants

“Currently, we are a data-driven business. However, we should aim to be an insight-driven business,” stated Ipsos CEO, Founder, and Co-President Didier Truchot at the 2018 IIeX Europe event in Amsterdam.

In other words, many businesses use data to support their decisions instead of driving their actions. Why is this so? After all, data is really only valuable if we can translate it into actionable insights. First, we need to figure out what we want from data and define its value, which implies providing a more complex analysis of the context, need, vision and outcome of data, and offers a helpful framework for turning that data into business success stories. And we happen to be witness to the changes that major market research companies are going through:

These are just some of the most prominent cases reinforcing the notion that the ‘insights world’ grows more integrated into the work of software giants and Silicon Valley unicorns, thus affecting the transformation of, and generating both competition and opportunity for, dominating players.

Combining approaches set to face the challenge of omnichannel promotion

Former Tesco e-commerce pioneer Grant Wither remarked that the company developed its online business initially as separate. However, nowadays the tendency is to provide seamless and frictionless integration in multi-channel with loyalty programs as the key and focal point. Innovations like voice controls offer the continuous “conversation” and shopping experience and overcome text-based limitations, according to Tesco Tech Product and Data Platforms Director, Sean O’Neill.

Retailers are not the only ones getting creative with data; the big brands are on board as well. Adidas Senior Manager of Consumer Insights, Analytics & Operations, Upma Vermani, explained how the brand builds meaningful and engaging relationships which are focused around the identified causes people actually care about. We are in the era of the “phygital consumer” who expects the same experience from both brick and mortar and online stores. Combining approaches in physical and digital spaces – in order to understand needs, triggers, barriers, occasions and the path to purchase – is a must.

Nick Miles, Head of Asia-Pacific at IGD, recently highlighted the high rate of smartphone penetration that was made possible by new retail partnerships, unique eco-systems, and big circumstances. Asia’s effective embrace of phygital marketing makes it the future leader of e-commerce based on scale, pace, innovation, and drive —the rest of the world is to take notes.

Furthermore, Artificial Intelligence (AI) “supercharges” the possibilities for new types of omnichannel insights which are the focus of the excellent book titled “AI for Marketing & Product Innovation” by Unilever Executive Vice President Stan Sthanunathan. The book offers creatives and marketing professionals a non-tech guide to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) —twin technologies that stand armed and ready to revolutionize the way we sell.  The key challenge is to use “augmented intelligence” to become information rich in order to take the massive leap in the evolution of consumer connections.

MIT Professor Pattie Maes shared that extended intelligence (e.g. sensors) opens a completely new set of opportunities to support individuals and research. EyeSee has been running AI-based eye-tracking and facial coding studies for the last six years with great success and clear quality benefits. It is most gratifying to hear that the market is ready to fully employ AI, too.

Agility and scale become new standards for market research

With many of the tools in use today having been introduced to market research decades ago, the industry could hardly be described as the most fast-paced, agile or innovative. However, things are changing, and pressure is coming from the demands consumers place on marketers. The average consumer expects a seamless shopping experience with elements of engagement and discovery. P&G Director of e-Business Tom Pickford observed that the way to “win” the consumer has sophisticated; today it is all about personalization, efficiency, and brand transparency which in return means a level of automation.

Philips’ Anne-Sterre Mees stressed how important it is to reduce the overall time spent pushing products or ads on the market, while Henry Nicholson, Head of shopper insights for northern Europe at Mondelez, proposed the “test and learn” approach to achieving needed agility. A good example is Twitter’s Jake Steadman who performs speedy mobile survey studies with under one thousand users and less than one million tweets.

The majority of research suppliers who plan to remain relevant are up for re-brush and re-organization. The question they need to ask themselves is: are they able to scale studies globally, with high reliability and in time frames which match the market pace? What were benefits a few years ago have now become the standard upon which we must build further.

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Joris De Bruyne

Joris De Bruyne

Partner, EyeSee Research