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Predictions for MRX That Are Becoming Reality

Forecasting in the market research industry can be tricky, given how technology has brought up innovations previously believed to be impossible. Reflecting on previous forecasts can provide insight into what the future has in store.

Editor’s Note: One of the most popular types of posts we run on the GreenBook Blog are articles about Predictions, e.g., “what will be in the biggest trends about X in the coming year?” It is rare, however, for authors to come back a year or two later to assess how well their predictions have held up. Today, Michalis Michael assesses predictions he made several years ago. It is interesting to see which predictions have held up, and which haven’t.


Humans are inclined to think linearly. We overestimate the short-term and underestimate the long-term when we forecast. Quite often, linear trends are interrupted by “hockey sticks” that no-one could foresee. For example, no one predicted the exponential growth of computers and smartphones but we have been forecasting flying cars for over 30 years.

Credible forecasters in their quest to become better, look at their past predictions and measure their “batting rate”. This is what Greenbook asked me to do with my 2015 predictions about market research.

There is one dynamic about forecasting that needs to be explained. It may sound like an excuse for getting a prediction wrong but really it’s a compliment to the forecaster. When a prediction puts governments, companies or people in a bad place in the future, then the affected parties do their utmost to avoid that future. Case in point: blockchains were predicted to be the end of traditional banks as we know them due to their power of disintermediation; according to a FinTech rep at a conference in London, Bank of America owns 82% of all blockchain-related patents in the US. This article does not mention the percentage but it quotes BofA as the leading company with the most patents in the field!!! 

10 Predictions From 2015

Below are my 10 predictions published on this blog on February 9, 2015, along with commentary on whether they came true, are still valid or proven wrong:

1. 2015 Prediction: The traditional market research agencies that refuse to change will go out of business

2019 Comment: It is consolidation time again, many have changed or are in the process of changing. This mostly affects smaller companies. The large multinationals will find a way to adapt.

2. Prediction: DIY market research will catch on even more and will democratize our sector.

Comment: SurveyMonkey is thriving and other tech companies double down in DIY tools for market research; automated coding, online community tools, visualization tools. Qualtrics was sold for 20 times revenue to SAP! 

3. Prediction: Social listening analytics will be a must-have for every marketing and market research manager

Comment: Not the case yet but there are real signs of traction. Reuters predicts the spend in social analytics to be US$ 16 Billion by 2023 (up from 3.4 in 2017).

4. Prediction: Agile research will become mainstream and will be facilitated by online communities

Comment: Not the case yet, long term online communities seem to be a hard nut to crack. Some end clients are still trying to make them work, short term communities thrive. 

5. Prediction: Micro surveys and intercepts will eventually replace long monthly customer tracking studies

Comment: Not the case yet, this was a longer-term prediction. There is definitely a trend in reducing the length of surveys, especially trackers.

6. Prediction: Processing behavioral data in motion and delivering real-time micro insights will be a core competence of any insights expert agency

Comment: Not the case yet still in play many tech companies are working toward this future.

7. Prediction: Adjacent marketing services such as customer engagement, enterprise feedback management, customer advocacy, will become solutions offered by the market research companies of the future

Comment: We see signs of this happening. Think Qualtrics, Medallia and Ipsos Customer Experience who is trying to compete with them. There are more domains that can now be added, such as sales lead generation and micro-influencer marketing.

8. Prediction: Data scientists will be the new insight experts, utilizing a lot more predictive analytics than rear-view mirror analytics

Comment: Well no-one can deny that there is a hell of a lot more of them. They have still not replaced the insights experts. It looks like there it might be a different skill-set after all. Crunching numbers and text coming up with accurately annotated and well-organized data is not the same as discovering “gold nuggets” of actionable insights.

9. Prediction: The code of conduct of market research associations such as ESOMAR and MRS will be revised as it does not apply to the digital economy. If not, the new breed of MR agencies will refuse to be members of such archaic organizations, and the latter will die out

Comment: They are definitely awake and they are listening. Some have been revised, there are new guidelines that cover social intelligence.

10. Prediction: Nielsen will no longer be the largest market research company in the world

Comment: Nielsen still is the largest market research company in the world but it is about to break up in two pieces. Give it a couple more years.

Here is how I score myself on the above 10 predictions:

Happening: 4

Not Happening (yet): 4

Possibly happening: 2

10 Predictions from 2017

Two years later – in 2017 – I published a new list of predictions. As you will see below the quality of my forecasting improved a lot. 

Getting the hang of it!

1. 2017-2022: The total spend on social listening and analytics from market research budgets will be US$ 9 Billion by 2020, up from US$ 2 Billion.

2019 Comment: We are on track to hit the 9 Billion by the end of 2020 and we are looking at 16 Billion by 2023.

2. 2017-2022: Social media listening will be about integration with surveys and other data sources instead of a single customer insight source.

2019 Comment: We still stand by this.

3. 2017-2022: Market research online communities will replace a lot of the “asking questions” part of market research, possibly 50% of all spend by 2020.

2019 Comment: A recent survey in the UK by the British Research Barometer has found online communities to be the star of all methodologies.

4. 2017-2022: Listen-probe-listen-probe using a social listening platform in conjunction with online communities will become mainstream by 2020.

2019 Comment: A couple of online community platforms in addition to DigitalMR’s communities247 announced the integration of text analytics tools.

5. 2017-2022: Micro surveys that will intercept customers while they perform a relevant action and ask about the experience will grow exponentially by 2020.

2019 Comment: This is part of the customer experience measurement offering already.

6. 2017-2022: Traditional customer tracking surveys will become a lot shorter in the meantime until they will at some point during the next 5 years be replaced by a combined approach of intercepts + social listening + online communities.

2019 Comment: We still think this will happen.

7. 2017-2022: Artificial intelligence will become mainstream in analyzing data for customer insights in the next 5 years.

2019 Comment: Definitely.

8. 2017-2022: A lot of the market research solutions in existence will become available as DIY in the next 5 years.

2019 Comment: No doubt about that.

9. 2017-2022: As a result of point 8 market research will be democratized as a service i.e. become affordable for SMEs.

2019 Comment: It would be very odd if this doesn’t happen.

10. 2017-2022: I will chuck this last one in the category of “self-fulfilled prophecies”.  A very powerful notion that has to do more with the persistence and drive of the “prophet” to make something happen. By 2020 DigitalMR will become a global powerhouse in the market research industry or it will be acquired by a global multinational player who will emerge as a winner in the current consolidation wave.

2019 comment: Hmmm, no comment.

The Batting Score

My new batting score is way better than that of 2015:

Happening: 7

Not Happening (yet): 1

Possibly happening: 2

From 40% to 70% in two years…. not bad if I may say so myself!

One last prediction (from Reuters this time) which we endorse: The social analytics market will be US$16 billion by 2023.

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