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30 Industry Leaders Share Their Predictions for 2019

In our annual "Predictions" feature, thought leaders in the insights space share their predictions for what 2019 will hold.

It’s that time of year again, when we look ahead to the next year and ask all of the industry leaders we know to pull out their crystal balls and make predictions on what they see happening that will impact the analytics and insights industry.  It’s a fun tradition, and one that also offers immense value to c-suite leaders as they make their own decisions on how the future may manifest and what it means for their business.

Before we dive into 2019 though, it’s useful to look at 2018 to see how our accurate our seers were. Once Again Dan Foreman has reviewed them and offered his analysis on the “hit rate”.

Looking Back: 2018 Predictions in Review by Dan Foreman, Director Hatted

As with previous years many of the predictions put forward for 2018 were aspirations, not really predictions. Several people wrote what they hoped would happen for the industry or for their business. There were some common themes which have all started to have an impact on the industry but very few accurate, specific predictions.

  • Automation
  • Technology
  • Blockchain
  • Agile
  • Quality
  • Machine learning
  • Programmatic
  • Platform
  • Data integration
  • Connected shopper

That said 4 predictions jumped out as more accurate than others and an interesting observation on history repeating itself by Hunter Thurman.

First let’s begin with Steve Needel’s opening statement:

Steve Needel, Managing Partner Advanced Simulations: Our relative inability to predict complex behavior will continue in 2018, including many of the thoughts in this compendium of predictions. Forecasting is hard, especially when it involves the future, said Neils Bohr

And the four subjectively judged as accurate are:

  1. Rafael Cespedes, CEO Provokers Chile: the big 4 (IPSOS, GFK, KANTAR, Nielsen…) will see a decline in their business, but they will make more profit via Digital transformation
  2. Jeffrey Henning, PRC, CEO of Researchscape International: Survey researchers will continue to write questionnaires that don’t reflect research-on-research best practices, while lamenting the fact that no one pays attention to their research. Panel companies will continue to field long dreadful surveys, because none of them can afford to say no to business, even bad business that burns out their panelists. Corporate researchers will continue to sacrifice quality for affordability, because some information is better than no information. And, for all of these reasons and more, technology companies will continue to steal market share from traditional research agencies.
  3. Dave Sackman, CEO LRW: Bottom line prediction: Continued industry slow growth with more losers than winners, but those who successfully traverse these changes, often making big, bold moves, will thrive and continue to experience dynamic growth.
  4. Sarah Snudden, Consumer Insights at Keurig Green Mountain: Automation will continue to scale.  Brand/equity/ad tracking will remain a key ‘pain point’ and ‘problem to solve’ struggling to blend ask/observe and rational/emotional responses.  Social listening, AI and big data will continue to be important forces that the client-side world will continue to grapple with.  Small, scrappy, differentiated little fish will continue to take bites out of the big meaty fish (both in terms of vendors and competitors).  Using great storytelling to bring data to life in an attention-challenged world will remain an important skill to hone.  IIeX will continue to evolve as the ‘Early Adopters’ tell more people and the ‘Early Majority’ begins to take note.

An interesting longer-range prediction from Hunter Thurman:

  • Hunter Thurman, President – Thriveplan: We’re now in the “late 2010’s” – the tail end of this decade. And anthropological study reveals that historically each decade has consistently been represented by one of the 3 social need states that shape every society. The current decade – the 2010’s – has been marked by a dramatic rejection of social norms, and behavior that’s subconsciously compelled by the desire to shake up the status quo. As we transition towards the 2020’s, people will experience a subconscious desire to re-establish their individual identities, and behave in ways that are “true to one’s self” vs. assimilating with broad societal conventions. Essentially, instead of “running from society” as culture has in the 2010’s, they’ll be “running towards individualism” as we ease into the 2020’s. This means that, more and more, people will reward brands that provide the ability to show what makes each person unique, and gain social credit for it. They’ll expect media to speak to them as individuals, not cohorts. And they’ll look for experiences that celebrate this “walk to the beat of your own drummer” mindset. As Gen Z comes of age, they’ll be marked by these characteristics, and most will assume that it’s the hallmark of this generation. But in reality, it will simply be the 1960’s and 1990’s happening again, just as behavioral science predicts…

And one absolute howler:

  • Jon Puleston, Vice President of Innovation, Lightspeed Research: England are going to win the World cup! And here is why.

Looking Ahead – 2019 Predictions from 30 Industry Leaders

Now that we’ve calibrated for 2018, let’s look ahead to 2019. We asked 30 movers and shakers to tell us what they think will be defining developments for the year ahead. We also made use of a wonderful new platform by our friends at Currnt to not just collect the submissions, but to facilitate discussions, voting, and the development of a community for all participants to interact with each other. It is a very cool new tool for getting rapid insights from expert communities and we deeply appreciate the Currnt team for letting us try it out for our predictions!

  • Robert Passikof, Founder & President at Brand Keys, Inc.:  Personalization Will Augment Customization. The availability of enhanced Big Data will make personalized content and outreach more engaging. Think of it as real-time outreach based on real consumer behavior, multiplied by how customers really see themselves.


  • Jeffrey Henning, President at Researchscape International: The buyer demand for survey platforms with integrated panel will result in slowing growth at both independent panels and one-off survey tools. Expect to see M&A activity that produces integrated solutions.


  • Michael Phelan, Principal & Founder at Go-to-Market Pros:  I believe that localized predictive shopping analytics will soar and evolve to the next level, allowing retailers to offer trending local products and events customized and personalized to individual preference and specific store locations with live inventory availability


  • Stan Sthanunathan, EVP CMI at Unilever: AI and ML will go mainstream in the insights industry and that will disrupt the industry as we know it today.


  • Tom O’Malley, CEO & Founder at Currnt: In 2019, it become clear that ML, and gig economies make it possible to conduct qualitative insights as the same pace as quant thereby improving the qual of quant. Though expert networks have made it possible to find experts, it still has been a task to motivate, coordinate and extract the needed information from those that know, and then distill that back into actionable insights. The manual lift of identifying people with the right insight, then bringing them together, and distilling insights has historically been too expensive and time consuming to be a regular practice. With the Quant piece commoditizing, there will be a premium advantage for those that can layer in quantitative insights at scale. Those who wield both quant and qual will have a competitive advantage in 2019.


  • Dave McCaughan, Chief Strategy Officer at Ai.Agency: VISUAL QUESTIONING AND ANSWERS WILL EXPLODE … the use of emoji, stamps, pictures as language will continue to grow in the social media space, already we are seeing businesses and education exploring having people use only or primarily graphic languages ( emoji, stamps, pictures ) as languages for complete documents, essays, commercial messages. As languages in their own right/write. We will see much more use of graphic languages as both the means for asking and answering research questions in all forms of qual and quant research


  • Alex Hunt, Chief Revenue Officer at PRS IN VIVO: Driven both directly and indirectly by the disruption our clients are facing in their own industries, in 2019 it’s certain that the long overdue change now sweeping across the insights industry will continue to quicken in pace. Client-side insights departments, facing explicit demands to deliver business outcomes and not research outputs, will continue to rebrand and reinvent their objectives and partnerships through this lens. It’s therefore predictable that over the next 12 months four things will happen:
  1. First, the coming of age of behavioral science as the accepted foundation and application of our industry, Behavioral science is, after all, the only way to accurately understand human behavior. Applying behavioral science is the most effective way to predict and influence human behavior.
  2. Second, the continued abandonment by clients of legacy research tools that are output heavy and outcome negligent. This negligence occurs largely because such tools fail to accept the ‘new’ truths behavioral science inflicted upon conventional market research. Conversely, those legacy research methods that always were based on a truly behavioral foundation, as well as have now been innovated upon in ways that harness new technologies such as biometrics or artificial intelligence to help sharpen and improve their accuracy, will prosper.
  3. Third, the growth channels many of our clients continue to invest in, namely e-commerce and digital, will emerge as new and exciting growth areas for the insights industry. It’s never been clearer that 2019 is the moment for any client-side insight department or agency to invest in methods that will provide business outcomes in channels that will be relevant in 2021 and beyond.
  4. Fourth and finally, no matter where the growth and change in our industry comes from, it’s certain 2019 will continue to reveal what a disruptive, dynamic and exciting time it is for all of us insights professionals – or should I say behavioral scientists!


  • Patrick Henz, Head of Governance & Compliance at Alpharetta: The implementation of AI in manufacturing will be supported by 5G-networks, as faster networks can handle a higher number of sensors, which are required for Digital Twins and other AI applications.

Similar to the manufacturing industry, also the Healthcare sector will introduce Digital Twins. In this case a virtual version of the patient. The model gets fueled by the information from the doctors and hospitals, and in parallel also by actual behavior (smoking, exercise, etc.). That way vulnerabilities get faster detected and diseases predicted. Of course, this will also lead to ethical questions, as data protection, as insurance companies may get a better insight, how much costs they would have with the potential client.


  • Marc Rappin, VP, Strategic Partnerships at Currnt:  The Russia misuse of social media, online scandals/truth deterioration and user data breaches will have no impact on increasing consumer reliance on technical and mobile solutions, apps, eCommerce growth and subscriptions per capita Consumers, particularly in the US, will continue to trade-off quality, expense and safety for convenience.


  • Fiona Blades, President and Chief Experience Officer at MESH: We’re in a period of pollical and economic uncertainty across the globe. Nothing thwarts business like uncertainty and so the insight companies that will thrive in the next few years will foster a culture of emotional intelligence to complement the traditional skill sets required in research. This will include encouraging creativity and lateral thinking to develop solutions to help clients solve business problems alongside embedding values like bravery and courage to urge colleagues to step outside their comfort zones.

Leveraging AI and machine learning to undertake text/image analysis on big data sets will continue apace, providing efficient ways to mine data for high level findings. This will offer the smarter insight organisations the opportunity to provide true consulting on linking together disparate data sets with light interpretation and answering those important “So what” questions into a cohesive story to address client business problems.

The attention deficit we’re all experiencing will push insight organisations to develop a better balance between passive data collection and reaching out to participants to complete surveys. Surveys will become shorter and more engaging to take part in. This shift will lead to better coverage of both system 2 and system 1 thinking.


  • Frederic-Charles Petit, CEO Toluna: I expect that there will be a boom in the demand for consumer insights, given the recent acquisition of Qualtrics. We should expect to see DIY platforms and surveys becoming a key feature in the martech stack going forward, as marketers leverage these real-time insights to build a holistic view of their consumers.


  • Polina Pomerants, Business Operations Professional: Big data- evolving around efforts to streamline development and deployment of ML apps at enterprise scale, including the emergence of cloud platforms to enable end-to-end machine learning workflows.”


  • Kimberly Nasief, CEO of Mystery Shopping Firm: Geolocated apps will continue to drive real time feedback, based on exchange for customer data.


  • Bill Harvey, Founder/Chairman at Research Measurement Technologies, Inc.: In 2019 the demand chain will shift focus to Full Funnel metrics, being able to see holistic effects at all levels of the ARF Model, engagement and branding measures as well as search, store visitation, purchase, and brand love. Erwin Ephron will smile down upon us.


  • Jimmy Zollo, Co-Founder and CEO at Collaborata: My prediction would be that in 2019 the industry will finally begin to more widely adopt cost-sharing on appropriate projects, recognizing that it’s not about accessing data that gives a brand a competitive advantage, it’s about how you filter those insights through your own unique lens and activate them for your business. After all, old-school syndicated studies have essentially been cost-sharing research for decades, but they’re built on a less-than-agile model, which doesn’t pass on savings to clients. Cost-sharing democratize data, reducing redundancy and cost, while sharing the savings and insights with clients.


  • Gregg Archibald, Managing Partner at Gen2 Advisors: Three predictions:
  1. We will see another one or two acquisitions of research technology firms by CRM-ish type firms. This expands the footprint for the research technology company and provides a more holistic view of the customer for the CRM-ish company.
  2. The “data” side of the research industry will continue to innovate and grow – offering easier data collection, new data sources, and new innovative suppliers. The “insights strategy” side of the marketing research business will continue to struggle to make the change to truly being consultants.
  3. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and NLP will make significant improvements allowing better understanding of unstructured data, in the context of both the consumer and the business issue.


  • Eli Portnoy, Co-founder & CEO Sense360: As the economic waters get choppier, companies already feeling the pressure of intense competition will turn to data as a crutch to help guide their decisions and get more out of every resource they spend. This is the big market research, insights, and analytics opportunity of 2019.

At the same time, the bar for what companies expect our of their data will be significantly higher. Interesting will not be enough. The baseline will be data that is real-time, always on, and with high accuracy that highlights both what is happening and why it is happening, This data will also need to be productized to help business leaders quickly make decisions and take action. This means vertically focused solutions will do better than do-it-all providers, and companies that combine datasets will fare better than point solutions.


  • Karina Besprosvan, DataStoryteller, Insight & Innovation/Consumer Behavior specialist at Sony Pictures Entertainment: Barriers among the research industry and the analytic industry will start to close. We will smoothly become one bigger and modern industry, giving us the advantage of melting the best of both worlds and contributing in meaningful ways to broaden global problems.


  • Kevin Gray, Freelance Marketing Science and Analytics Consultant: In just about a year we’ll be in The Roaring Twenties 2.0, yet a myth persists in marketing research.

This myth – really a misunderstanding – is that qualitative research is for developing insights and quantitative research is for descriptive statistics (e.g., % aided awareness of our brand), for inference (e.g., in the population of consumers, is awareness of our brand higher among women than men?) or, more recently, predictive analytics (e.g., which customers should we target in our new campaign?).

The reality is that quantitative research is extremely useful for developing insights and, in fact, this is one of its chief purposes.

Qualitative research is often a useful precursor to a quantitative study, but is just one of many sources that can be used to help design quantitative research. Customer records, call center data, social media, government statistics and consumer surveys are some other sources.

Confusion also surrounds the term analytics, which some associate narrowly with the application of machine learning and AI on customer records and other big data. Again, very odd…

So not really a prediction. Just raised eyebrows.


  • Todd Kaiser, Sr. Director Fuel Cycle: In 2019 we’ll continue to experience shifting of the research business. There will be further consolidation of ‘traditional’ research suppliers as clients seek alternative methods of collecting insights which combine perceptual and behavioral data for attribution, better analysis of qualitative video IDIs and focus groups, and research communities that offer instant access to pre-qualified respondents. If you don’t know digital media research or modeling/analytics good luck finding a job.


  • Anne Zieger, Founder at The AI Healthcare Report: In the healthcare sector, predictive analytics will continue to grow in importance. While identifying the high-quality datasets needed and normalizing this data for analysis will be challenging, as these obstacles are overcome AI-guided diagnoses and predictions will begin to emerge.


  • Leonard Murphy, Executive Editor & Producer, GreenBook: Pace of disruption across the board will increase. We’ve seen a steadily increasing arc of disruption occurring since the introduction of ubiquitous internet connectivity and cheap devices to access it. This has only accelerated since the advent of mobile networks and smartphones, social media, IoT, AI, etc.. and in 2018 we saw all these technologies building upon one another to create a data ecosystem that can now be efficiently harnessed to provide strategic foresight.

What will happen in 2019? More of the same for sure, but new wrinkles based on data sovereignty and privacy, economic nationalism, and micro-targeting of everything from products& services to media and entertainment. The role of insights professionals will shift from answering “who, what, when, where, and how” since data synthesis will largely answer those questions, to “why, and what now?”, which require radically different approaches and skills to accomplish. Look for consolidation driven by owning data steams (or at least the tech to collect and analyze disparate data sources) to create scalable systems that investors love, while consulting organizations will focus on delivering value via strategic foresight.


  • David Sable, Chairman Emeritus VMLY&R: Consumers will begin demanding more for their data. The value exchange that we’ve all agreed to (our data for free service) is out of whack. Companies are making too much off of our data, while we, the consumers, are being bombarded with ads/ fake news (some targeted, more often, not). And to add insult to injury, our data is sometimes then being stolen or hacked and resold for more money. 2019 is the year where the narrative will begin to change.

Many have already joined together in a mass exodus from increasingly distrusted websites and social media platforms. For example, just 51% of US individuals aged 13 to 17 said they use Facebook in a 2018 Pew study – a dramatic plunge from the 71% who said they used the social network in Pew’s previous study in 2015. My prediction? This exodus will continue until media companies make serious efforts to regain their user’s trust and create a sensible system for collecting user data. Let them impress you with their product and service and allow you to share in the revenue…you don’t owe them a thing.


  • Shane Skillen, CEO of Hotspex: I predict clients will want to move even more to even faster, even cheaper and WAY better. Clients will always be looking for NEW in the market to bring value to their internal stakeholders and to grow their careers. The pace of innovation is staggering. It used to be nobody gets fired to hiring Nielsen and nobody gets promoted for hiring Nielsen either. Now to truly add value clients will start taking more risk as playing it safe is NOT actually safe anymore. Big brands are trying to be bolder because competition from Amazon and upstart brands is fierce and they don’t do things “the way they have always been done”. Amazon’s insights function doesn’t resemble anything traditional. So … in 2019 things will get much cheaper, faster and better.


  • Matt Kleinschmit, CEO and Founder, Reach3 Insights: For the most part, research is still siloed today when it comes to capturing different aspects of the customer experience. We do surveys to understand opinions, do focus groups to explore emotions, and then do transactional data capture to validate behaviors. But I’m optimistic that in 2019, we’ll be a lot closer to the holy grail: the marriage of emotions, behaviors and context.

New approaches now allow us to understand the entire customer journey in one research experience. Through new conversational insight solutions, we can capture behaviors and opinions in the moment, while also contextualizing these data with videos, images and emojis. For example, you could engage a customer in a research exercises while she’s in your store, ask if she’s noticed anything new, and capture her stream-of-consciousness feedback via video or voice. This is a much better experience than asking for feedback a few days after the customer’s visit and then doing additional activities later to uncover qualitative insights.

Capturing real-time quantitative and qualitative insights via conversational techniques (what I like to call “experiential insights”) creates a win-win: It requires less time and effort from respondents because they are using messaging-based inputs they are well accustomed to, and it provides a faster way for brands to get deeper, more authentic insights.


  • Pete Reilly, SVP of Sales, Marketing, and Implementation for AnswerRocket: The analytics and insights industry will lean more heavily into AI and machine learning in 2019. As routine reporting is increasingly automated across different industries, business people will become more familiar with AI and its advantages.

The initial inclusion of AI in the analytics space brought skepticism, in part because only technical people could verify how it worked and in part because of fear that automation would replace traditional roles like that of a data analyst. However, business people are beginning to recognize how AI can enhance their roles with its accuracy and insights capabilities. As we enter 2019, more professionals will start to see AI as an asset rather than a threat.

AI allows machines to perform the tasks in which they excel— computation, classification, and clustering, for example. Thus, a business person like a marketer has the opportunity to focus their time and energy on the truly human aspects of business, like setting strategy and messaging to better reach consumers and drive growth. On the data science side, analysts will recognize the benefits of AI when they can lead complex data analysis that leverages their education, instead of generating routine reports.

On the whole, AI vernacular will become more commonplace, and business people seeking out analytics solutions will feel comfortable asking questions like “Does this product incorporate natural language processing?” (and hoping the answer is “Yes”).


  • JD Deitch, CRO of P2 Sample: Automation and AI will continue to make inroads across the entire marketing ecosystem, including market research. In MR, these techniques will go beyond data collection and permit non-researchers to accurately and easily draw conclusions without special training. These innovations will change the landscape of the industry to the point that it is unrecognizable. Agencies will need to shift focus to add value beyond data collection or insight discovery. Those who have developed proprietary technology-driven platforms can continue to evolve with industry needs; others may need to add a consultancy component that speaks to business issues, not insights.


  • Ray Poynter, Managing Director of The Future Place: Chatbots are going to be the biggest buzz in 2019, followed by other AI-associated techniques such as text and video analytics, Expect nearly everything to be tagged with something like ‘AI inside’ or ‘based on AI’.


  • Edward Appleton, Director Global Marketing, Sales & Communications of Happy Thinking People:  The trend to data democratization and DIY will continue – data landing directly on decision makers lap-top dashboards.

Training non-specialists on the basics of MR excellence and social science will remain a growth field. Awareness that such training should also include those in digital journalism will grow – the perceived value of survey data is high amongst journalists, but the time, inclination and arguably ability for querying and eye-balling data scarce.

The main MR operational challenge will be making sense of increasing amounts of different types of data, reconciling sources, linking up to business agendas – without increased budgets or time-frames. Doing this will remain the domain of real human beings, however much AI or automation are used to cut out low-value tasks.

The main strategic challenge is ensuring recognition for our discipline: as the MR gatekeeper function becomes a distant memory, making sure we have the right relationships across the organization, being involved early on, fully informed is of paramount importance. Keeping the focus on “simple” and “impactful” will be useful.

Despite various headwinds, the pressure on companies to develop timely and successful innovations will be relentless, with market research playing a key role at the front-end, identifying white spaces, unmet and even unarticulated needs.

Qualitative research will continue to be valued to get to the bottom of the question “why”?

The industry will have an ongoing quality challenge – in the provision and analysis of data. Whilst important, it shouldn’t prevent us for focusing on business impact. The same is true for new data regulations on privacy and data protection.

Finally, we will increasingly need to be creative and professional about attracting new talent to the industry, as the nimbus of being “in market research” has waned.


  • Eileen Campbell, Executive Chair, Reid Campbell Group: In 2018, we’ve seen a lot of buzz about conversational marketing; in 2019, we’ll see this ‘conversational’ trend expand in insights. More than ever marketing teams need to get closer to their customers, but getting insights on the attitudes, motivations and behaviors of consumers is getting harder. Email and survey fatigue are big and very real issues that we need to contend with as an industry. When it comes to insights, marketers tend to rely too much on the same approaches and survey technologies, but it has never been more urgent to rethink that. Companies need to adopt conversational technologies (things like chats, voice and video solutions that run within messaging applications) to better engage with consumers for insight. These are technologies that consumers already widely use. I see a huge opportunity for conversational insight technologies to improve how companies reach, engage and provide real value to mobile-first consumers.


  • Gary Laben,  Chief Executive Officer, Research Now SSI: We will see even more mergers and acquisitions in 2019. While part of the reason for the consolidation is competitive and market pressure, another driver is the fact that data-driven marketing and advertising is in its next stage of its evolution. Previously, “big data” was the holy grail. However, the bar has been raised. Now, market researchers need to provide better insights and marketers want precise, reliable, and trustworthy data. And, this data is the sweet spot for online panel data providers. The need for data lakes anchored in actual people for better accuracy and for linking to customer and third-party data will accelerate mergers and acquisitions so that even larger, more complete, first-party data resources become available. Along with this, new quality metrics and standards will emerge.

Predicting the Predictions

One of the unique features of the Currnt platform is the ability for all participants to vote on each other’s submissions, so we asked everyone to score each submission based on likelihood to happen and impact. The resulting map is an interesting addition to our predictions as our 30 prognosticators evaluate each other.

What does everyone agree on? It can best be summed up as MORE: more change, more AI, and more self-service tools all radically changing not just our industry, but the world itself.


Thanks to all our thought leaders for contributing their time and foresight. We’ll see how accurate they were around the same time next year!

See what was predicted for 2018 this time last year.

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