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Top Insights & Analytics Leaders Share Their 2020 Predictions

It's that time of year again, and we bring to you 38 predictions for the market research industry in 2020. See what the industry leaders of insights have to say about what to expect as we enter the new year.

The end of the year is a time of traditions for many of us; family gatherings, exchanging gifts, religious celebrations, and renewal for the year ahead. And of course….predictions! For many years we’ve reached out to various industry luminaries, thought leaders, and all-around smart folks to solicit their thoughts on the year ahead and, as usual, they did not disappoint!  We have thirty-eight contributions covering a range of topics and ideas that are sure to be of keen interest to everyone in the insights & analytics industry.

Of course, the real question is: will they come to pass? We’ll have to check back in 2021 to find that out, but for what it’s worth I wouldn’t bet against any of them.

As for what I think the future holds, my $.02 is included at the end, although our contributors are very tough acts to follow!

Now, on to the sagacity of the prognostications of our esteemed seers; enjoy!

2020 Predictions

1. The Research Rule of Thirds

I predict this year will be a year of big changes.  As researchers we will be compressing research turn around times from 3 months to 3 weeks and 3 weeks to 3 days. This will happen by making changes in vendor line ups, methodologies and providing one page key findings 24 hours out of field. Companies will lower the threshold for accuracy and make less important decisions faster.  Last year we saw quantum leaps in AI  technology and predict continued tool stability.  –  A Senior Client-Side Researcher in Financial Services

2. The Value of Feeling

  1. Our industry has been getting better at understanding the emotional engagement of a person with a brand, product, and advertising. We have struggled (though, a few have made good progress) to say what to do about those emotions, what they mean to a brand, and how to change the emotions. That knowledge will expand and improve which will make the measurement of feeling more valuable.

  2. The services offered to brands will continue to bifurcate between providing unique data solutions (capture, types, analytics) and powerful consulting capabilities (utilizing market knowledge, issue knowledge, and industry knowledge). Full service marketing research companies who struggle to move in one direction or the other will continue to feel pressure on financial performance.

  3. AI will help make substantial advances in data integration, unstructured data analysis, causal analysis, and attribution. Major steps will be taken to help us get closer to realizing the full potential of these data sources and solutions.

Gregg Archibald, Managing Partner, Gen2 Advisors

3. The Renaissance of Qual

At Fuel Cycle, we fully expect 2020 to be the advent of the “Renaissance of Qual.” Photos, videos, and text are often richer, more compelling, and higher-fidelity than traditional quantitative research. However, qualitative research has historically been expensive and time-consuming. This has limited its adoption by researchers who face time pressures and budget constraints when delivering insights. Conditions that prevented scalable qualitative research are changing rapidly. The ubiquity of smartphones and the advent of machine learning enable researchers to gather qualitative data with large sample sizes. Researchers can process thousands of images instantly using computer vision. Respondents provide data in the form of videos or photos that are more natural than participating in lengthy surveys. This results in conditions that allow richer and more meaningful data collection at the same speed and price of traditional quantitative research. – Rick Kelly, Senior Vice President, Product & Research at Fuel Cycle

4. Agility

Clients will continue to seek more for less. Agility will be the name of the game. Agility would go beyond delivering same research or analytics faster and cheaper. True agility would be about how new emerging technologies are being smartly leveraged to deliver high , and disrupting time and cost barriers at the same time.” – Pranesh Misra, Chairman & Managing Director, Brandscapes Worldwide.

5. Technology Will Lead The Way

  1. More AI and automation – including automated analysis and more chatbots

  2. More evolution from descriptive analytics to predictive analytics towards prescriptive analytics

  3. More growth of ‘real qual’

  4. More co-operation between the trade associations

Ray Poynter, Managing Director, The Future Place

6. A Focus on Business Outcomes

In 2020, we will see a continuous focus on business outcomes and success driven by the increased integration of humans, data and technology. The combination of different data sources will enable us to move from results to insights to full-sight and eventually to foresight. For this, we will need curious individuals who can also answer the “why” question working hand in hand with best-practice technology solutions. – Horst Feldhaeuser, Group Services Director (SVP), Infotools

7. Data Science is Overtaking Insights

I lean towards long-term predictions, because people are more forgiving when you’re badly wrong, as I hope I am here. Marketing research has historically focused on data collection, and analysis has typically been simple. This applies to qualitative as well. In some ways, MR was ahead of its time, though, in the sense that the ability of decision makers to use data for decision making has lagged the capacity to collect it.

Now the data industry is much larger and MR is increasingly a small part of it. One can argue that MR is being absorbed into data science, qualitative included. Many of my contacts working in marketing research-related areas are programmers and software developers. Many are adept at selling, but know little about marketing or research. They usually do not refer to themselves as marketing researchers. Ironically, I advocated that MR move into what’s now called data science when data warehousing and ERP were the buzz, but our industry had other priorities at the time. By 2030, there probably will still be people calling themselves marketing researchers but far fewer than now, I suspect.

Whatever we call ourselves, the key to survival as a marketing researcher will be going beyond mechanical data collection, simple analysis and interpretation, and plugging the gaps increasingly sophisticated AI and machine learning – and human data scientists – leave behind. Those able to design primary quantitative research who have a good grasp of statistics, as well as marketing and business generally, will be at an advantage, as will top-notch qualitative researchers. – Kevin Gray, President, Cannon Gray LLC

8. Consulting & Simplicity

Insights firms will continue to move toward one of two extremes along a continuum, either moving further toward consulting or further toward simple studies done quickly and at low cost via automation. I expect continued industry consolidation and private equity activity. A small number of companies may find a new business model that injects new growth, but otherwise, I anticipate continued low growth within the industry. – David Sackman, Chairman and CEO, LRW Group

9. Do It Together

The emergence of Do It Together. As market researchers look to leverage automation without being locked into the restrictive methodologies of the pure DIY Mrx tools, a new type of managed research-as-a-service firm will emerge. These firms will provide a Do-it-together model combining research consulting and survey design and analysis skills with use of technology tools that deliver significant cost and time benefits. This approach could serve to significantly grow the pie of market research utilization where time, budget and lack of know how has previously caused companies to forgo market research.  – Fred Barber, CEO, Response:AI

10. Build Brands & ROAS

Ad dollars are moving into addressable marketing (now more than half of ad spending) and the genie isn’t going back into the bottle. Eventually 75% or more of ad dollars will be addressable and that leads to one conclusion.  We better learn how to build brands while also driving higher ROAS via addressable marketing. My white paper evidence suggests it CAN be done, as performance is about targeting while brand building is about creative. If so, delivering brand messages to the right consumers at performance moments should work! Since brands exist in the minds of consumers, research has a huge role to play in proving this out. – Joel Rubinson, President, Rubinson Partners, Inc.

11. Technological Renaissance

The Market Research Industry is about to experience a massive technological renaissance.  Finally, Market Researchers will be able to go down the Causal Rabbit hole, and really give data scientists an opportunity to intellectually collaborate with machine learning and AI tools that will bring incredibly deep insights for their clients. The industry will come to learn that these innovations in machine learning and AI are not intended to replace the data scientist, but enhance their worth and abilities. Additionally, I believe there will be greater collaboration with firms developing new technologies in the areas of visualization, services and platforms.  This will improve the lives for data scientists and researchers, and really raise the bar for questionnaire design and improved data collection.  Undoubtedly, this will increase the RoI for everyone across the market research spectrum from vendor to client.  – David Wolfe, CEO, Inguo

12. Democratization

In 2020, we’ll continue to see cost pressure on the traditional Market Research industry, especially if we enter a recession. Corporate insights departments will look for technology solutions to replace expensive full-service offerings. Traditional full-service providers that haven’t embraced technology will be the ones to suffer most. Expensive ‘consulting’ will be increasingly replaced with automated and interactive machines. Traditional providers will need to answer the question, “Why am I paying you per regression (or conjoint analysis or correspondence map, etc.) when I can have a piece of software give it to me for a lower price more effectively”?

There will continue to be a widening in performance between corporate insights departments that democratize data and those that don’t. Corporate insights departments that digitalize and democratize their data across the enterprises will be viewed as invaluable conduits of data. Insights departments that put a moat around the data to ‘keep it safe’ will be viewed as backwards and irrelevant.

Buckle up – 2020 is going to be one heck of a ride. – Alex Gelman, CEO, mTab

13. Data Governance

Driving Action from Governed Feedback:  Today, nearly every company gathers some form of feedback – customer, partner, employee – via surveys. This research is used to improve products, customer experience, and employee engagement. Typically, each department within an organization has the freedom to choose and buy their preferred survey tool to give them the freedom to create the best survey for their needs. The result is several different tools are used across a company, which means there’s no consolidated view or oversight of the feedback data.

  1. Survey data will be better governed than it is today. Running surveys is very easy because buying and using survey software is very easy. A credit card and a little imagination is all that’s required. But nearly every survey contains personally identifiable information (PII). And if IT isn’t involved in the purchase, setup, and management of the survey software, it’s unlikely that the data is governed, creating a potential compliance risk for the company. In 2020, more companies will look to provide survey-building freedom while simultaneously delivering data governance by standardizing on single feedback platforms.
  1. Feedback data will be integrated directly into existing systems to drive action. Most survey data ends up in dashboards and pie charts to be presented at meetings for discussion and debate. But the people who provide feedback expect action. In 2020, more companies will integrate feedback directly into existing CRM, customer-support ticketing, and other customer-management systems to take immediate action on the feedback provided. This will allow companies to close the loop with their individual customers instead of viewing them as an aggregated number in a pie chart.

David Roberts, CEO of SurveyGizmo

14. The Customer Comes First

Three marquee trends across the customer experience landscape for 2020:

  • Brands are going to put less effort into measuring Customer Experience as the leading way to gauge customer satisfaction and loyalty, opting instead to manage customer journeys. Customer experience is personalized, and the ways in which it’s measured — metrics like time on site, NPS, loyalty — are subjective and inferential. Those measurements will take a back seat to metrics that track personalization, context, and convenience across key touchpoints in the customer journey.
  • Customer Journey Measurement, as opposed to CX measurement, will increasingly enable brands to effectively gauge customer convenience. The ability to continuously identify sub-optimal interactions and drop-off points across customer journeys will determine the CX winners of 2020 and beyond.
  • The proliferation of channels will enable powerful new means of personalization. Technology keeps adding new channels and capabilities for brands to capture customer data, improve customer experience, and measure customer journeys. Eighty percent of consumers say technology should add value to brand interactions, and voice and AI assistants, in particular, continue to growing areas of engagement — more than half of consumers say they are looking forward to AI making brand interactions better, according to a new Acquia study. New channels open new doors for bespoke experiences at every turn and through every medium, but only if brands have the ability to measure and optimize through every channel.
  • The industry will see a return to human-to-human interactions and increased adoption of real-time monitoring and decisioning where AI fails. Gartner predicts that by 2021, artificial intelligence will completely handle 15% of all customer service interactions, a 400% increase over 2017. But don’t discount humans just yet. Artificial intelligence, despite its promise, can make mistakes and is still years away from replacing humans in sensitive situations; it can still only do what we tell it to do. In certain situations, AI missteps could spell disaster. In regulated industries, for example, an AI matching the wrong product to the wrong customer could even mean a hefty fine. The job of human agents will change and evolve, but there will always be a need for human-to-human interaction, particularly in sensitive customer service and support interactions. Real-time monitoring and decisioning can not only incorporate business rules and logic to safeguard against CX hiccups, they can also support and enhance in-the-moment human interactions by providing up-to-the-second information about customer histories, interactions, and preferences.

Mark Smith, President, Kitewheel

15. Data Integration

“Clarity through data integration” is gearing up to be one of the biggest marketing research themes in 2020.  This will play out with an acceleration in demand for software as a service (SaaS) through new online Apps and Dashboards which integrate data for more accurate decision making. These new online services will meet this growing demand for clarity by providing solutions with the following qualities:

  • Agile: Quickly and efficiently configure solutions by integrating different information sources.
  • Collaborative: Enable the sharing of information through teams to facilitate learning.
  • Smart Functionality: AI will be used to create more intuitive and powerful ways to request and find information through search and configure queries, and to gain speed and efficiencies for data collecting and processing information into delivered insights.
  • Behavioral KPIs: New Key Performance metrics will emerge which are powerful Indicators of customer and consumer Behavior for more accurate marketing and innovation decision making.
  • Accessibility: Common platforms and points of access for decision makers, analysts and researchers.
  • Affordable: A wide range of subscription-based business models will emerge giving more users affordable, on-demand access to these online services.

Dave Lundahl, CEO, InsightsNow, Inc.

16. A Return to Humanity

2020 will be a year of reckoning for the industry in remembering the human element of the data we so covet.  Platforms that enable human understanding though the dual value-add of driving a rich and positive experience for the participant and also driving key business insights for brands, will win. The conversation around sample will move from one of price to one of respect. ResearchTech platforms will drive the integration of research into the lives of consumers in a way that honors the uniquely human needs of privacy, respect and a sense of belonging. Doing so will enable a depth and breadth of human understanding we don’t yet see today. – Baillie Buchanan, Co-Founder, Research For Good

17. Back to the Fundamentals

  1. The pendulum will start swinging back to rigor and data quality in insights. Companies relying on insights for competitive advantage will increasingly demand quality and transparency of their suppliers and all those in the supply chain, especially sample providers.

  2. Privacy legislation will pass in Congress that will force increased transparency and limit third party cookies, bringing the concept of privacy to the forefront of public attention.

  3. The insights industry itself will start debating the concepts of quality, integrity and ethics, forcing a hard look across the entire supply chain as to what these concepts mean at each level.

  4. Given the rise of AI and ML, discussion of inherent bias will return to the insights conversation – a concept that has been buried in techno-hype for far too long

Note that, apart from #4, none of these relate to the latest toys or shiny objects. Instead, they relate to the fundamental roots of what it is that we do for a living – generate insights on the basis of quality data that can be trusted to lead to great business and social actions while protecting the rights of data subjects. – Simon Chadwick, Managing Director, Cambiar Consulting

18. The Empowered Consumer

The turn of the decade will bring continued empowerment, from both companies and consumers. Insights teams will start taking a more active role in capturing data, utilizing internal resources and DIY platforms that allow for fast results. We’re already seeing global brands, including P&G make this shift, and anticipate small to mid-size businesses to follow suit given the affordability of resources available. In today’s fast moving and digital world, teams can be receiving instant feedback from highly targeted consumer groups to make quick and informed decisions. This includes reaching people while they are inside a particular store, at the airport or even while attending a sporting event.

From the consumer perspective, 2020 is the year they start getting paid fairly and timely for their data. Whether companies are capturing it directly through a platform, such as Google and Facebook, or they are participating in a research panel, businesses need to stop treating them like zero-value commodities. They deserve to be paid instantly with cash, not with points or sweepstakes entries. This will also vastly improve the quality of results companies receive. People are much more authentic, candid and cooperative when they are being compensated appropriately. – Keith Rinzler, CEO,  1Q

19. Convergence

2020 will be a continuation of ‘convergence’. Full-service, client-service driven firms will continue to add and improve technology-driven offers, and SaaS or technology-driven firms will continue to add and improve layers of optional services. Each firm’s strategy will need to strike a balance between ‘services-led’ and ‘technology-led’ products and offers. While firms will move at different paces and won’t strike the same balance, the industry will increasingly be comprised of competitors who look more similar than different. – Heath Greenfield, COO of Marketplace, Kantar

20. The Data Privacy Onslaught Continues

  • CPPA will have a mild to moderate effect on the models we use for attribution. Our survey of modelers suggest it could impact about 30% of their data.

  • Just as we saw in comparing our 2018 to 2019 privacy survey, we expect that consumers will be slightly less willing to share their data in 2020.

  • The “Are we targeting too much?” debate will be center stage at many of the year’s conferences.

Paul Donato, Chief Research Officer, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF)

20. Behavioral, Holistic, On-Time and Sustainable

As we enter a new decade, the industry-wide transition from provision of research outputs, to creation of business growth outcomes, must accelerate.

At PRS IN VIVO we predict four themes becoming evident along this journey: behavioral, holistic, on-time and sustainable.

First, behavioral methods will be recognized as the only way to accurately predict how consumers make choices. We’ve been pioneers developing a validated behavioral framework for shopper and product research at PRS IN VIVO. In 2020 we’ll be working with our clients to leverage new technologies providing business intelligence purely on the basis of behavioral data-sets.

Second, under a validated behavioral framework for human understanding, insights functions and partners will be expected to transcend delivery of project-based research outputs, and instead build business outcomes sourced from across holistic and interconnected data-sets. For example, as the path-to-purchase for most brands and products is now both digital and physical, improving these experiences will rely on behavioral data from many sources to understand both channels, interdependently, in a holistic way.

Third, clients will expect the insights and intelligence that drives their growth outcomes be delivered at the speed of business decision-making. The standard will become minutes in the media sector, hours in the product and innovation development process, days in the store experience domain. Agency partners who are not on-time will lose relevancy.

Finally, the definition of a positive business outcome will continue to expand beyond the purely financial to incorporate a new brand imperative: placement of authentic sustainability goals at the core of business decision making. At PRS IN VIVO this is something we believe in passionately, and done right, we see sustainability as good for both the financial outcomes of our clients and our own company. In 2020 we’re excited to work with our clients to help create sustainable outcomes, that grow their bottom-line, and help to make the world a better place. – Alex Hunt,  CEO, PRS IN VIVO (a BVA Group company)

21. Opposites Attract and Documented Validity

I believe the industry in 2020 will see at least two main changes. First, I expect that there is a larger integration between different approaches, which merge stated preference, subconscious responses, and behavior, in a combination of big and small data. Until now, we have seen each method trying to demonstrate their right to existence by pointing fingers at other approaches. But clearly, most methods have a right use, right, and place — here, I expect that 2020 can see a substantial increase in the joining of forces of these methods — such as behavioral tracking, consumer neuroscience, and surveys.

Second, I expect that 2020 will also see a strong focus on documented validity and reliability of the scales being used across these disciplines. 2018 and 2019 have very much seen signs of increasing demand for scientific documentation of vendor metrics, and I believe 2020 will reach a critical mass of discussion and treatment of this.- Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy, PhD, CEO & Founder Neurons, Inc.

22. Data Rights

Looking into my crystal ball I see four main trends which will define the personal information industry 2020:

  • Increased government regulation governing the use of personal information
  • The rise of community based not-for-profits dedicated to promoting individual data rights
  • An expansion in the innovative uses to which personal information can be put
  • Increased focus on monetisation of personal data on behalf of the data subject

The first two of these trends are what I call “suppressive” forces. They make it more difficult for companies to extract actional insights from personal data. The third is are what I term a “stimulative” force, which increases the appetite and business case for companies to extract these insights for the benefit of both individuals and companies and the forth is a means to enabling the exploitation of personal data to the benefit of both companies and individuals.

How the clash these inexorable suppressive and stimulative forces is resolved is likely to define the course of the personal information economy for years to come.

Ross Farrelly, Director, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, IBM

23. Quality Over Quantity

In looking ahead to 2020, there are three predictions I would offer:

  • Connected Data Becomes King – I expect to see connected data become the standard for decision-making. Combining first, second and third-party data sources, along with “identity clues” associated with consumer behavior, opinion, location, etc., will drive better understanding of the consumer, faster insights, and higher levels of engagement.  New tools will come to fore that make this possible, with greater effectiveness than ever before, delivering real-time consumer response and the ability to transform insights generation.
  • Consumers Take Greater Control – 2020 will be the year consumers begin to harness technology for more control of the data they share, advancing their levels of sophistication when it comes to what they provide, to whom, and for what purpose. This growing sophistication means they may provide more information (since they know the outcome of doing so), receive a higher level of compensation for their data as sample prices rise due to this growing consumer sophistication about data monetization, and even help expose companies that betray this relationship and trust.
  • Brands Insist on Quality Data for Better Decision-making – Next year could see a reshaping of the market as brands prioritize quality data, fully-permissioned and connected, to ensure success, over simply “finishing the job” and moving to the next project. This means treating data as a premium asset and not a commodity, which is dangerous and irresponsible. Data governance and transparency, and growing consumer sophistication about their data will be factors. Couple that with predictions of a potential economic slow-down that may tighten brand budgets, and we will see quality data and their resulting decisions become even more critical.

Gary S. Laben, Chief Executive Officer, Dynata

24. A Continued Evolution for Insights

2020 could be tough. Election years always make the market jittery and this is on top of prolonged recession speculation during 2019. Businesses will be vigilant with their budgets and Customer Insights, already dealing with tight budgets, are an easy target for companies that haven’t seen tangible successes with their CI efforts.

On top of this, we continue with the business transformation journey where companies are struggling to adapt to 21st Century business models; that is organizations that are centered around the customer, immediate response, complex technological systems, and diverse skillsets. Not to mention a relentless drive for increased profit.

In this world, Customer Insights and extremely tight collaboration with Marketing, Voice of Customer and Customer Experience should be a given along with open information across all other departments. However, we are still plagued by organizational silos, clunky systems and processes, and an overreliance on big data. These are challenges that are slowly, and painfully, being addressed.

In 2020, CI departments will continue to evolve, reshaping organizationally with a broader skillset but still operating lean. The DIY trend will grow with more research conducted in-house and studies often being quick-turn iterations building on existing knowledge, requiring exploration and experimentation with new approaches and technologies. At the same time, internal teams will retain outside assistance – both from agencies and their technology partners – to provide expertise and support.

CI professionals will grow in their role as consultants, educators and collaborators across the organization. They will refine being resource-savvy; combining lean in-house research with thorough deep dives as required.

In sum, notable headway will be made in 2020 but don’t expect a smooth ride. – Zoe Dowling​. SVP Research , FocusVision

25. Clients and Technology Face New Challenges

Clients: 

1. Budgets squeezed: Recession looking likely. Most economists predict at least a cyclical downturn some time soon. Then there’s the trade war impact on China, the run-up to the US election, slow growth across the EU … expect smaller purses and greater scrutiny of insight budgets.

2. Sidelining: Traditional market research teams are struggling for share of voice and relevance in their own organisations. User Research, CX and Analytics teams are taking the money and the glory. Expect more re-badging of CMI teams in big organisations as they get folded into cooler-sounding business units.

3. In-housing: The trend for companies to use DIY platforms will continue – but the pace will slow a little. There won’t be a research-tech winter … but there will be a slightly chilly autumn. Many firms are struggling with transformation. IT Security, Procurement and Legal teams make it hard to go agile. And insight teams need to re-skill as well as re-tool – which takes even longer than buying software.

4. Data bloat: The unforeseen consequence of abundance. Insight teams are struggling to reconcile so many conflicting signals about customers – from sales data, digital traffic, location analytics, surveys, syndicated panels … so expect to see ever more demand for ‘storytelling’ from clients.

5. Public SNAFUs: Pre-testing concepts and ads is easier, quicker and cheaper than it has ever been. But – like flat-earthers who reject centuries of scientific learning – many Creative Directors and CMOs will persist in believing they know best. Watch out for more Gucci blackface sweaters and Peloton ads – whose proponents were no doubt captivating storytellers.

Technology: 

6. Macro trends: AI-as-a-service, 5G, conversational interfaces, computer vision, edge computing. And more privacy awareness.

7. Startups: We’ll see a lot more new research-tech players. 3 areas to keep a close eye on. Video and image analytics (especially ML-based tools like eyequantAitrak and Dragonfly – video equivalents are round the corner); making AI easier and more accessible (Element Human) and more personal data empowerment tools (UBDICitizen Me).

8. Overcrowding: The flipside of startup proliferation. There are already far too many similar software tools for insight. Another NPS feedback platform, anyone? Soon we’ll be in online mattress firm territory. 2020 will see some thinning out to offset the new entrants.

9. Valuations: Most of the players in our industry are privately held, making it hard to gauge valuations with confidence. But even a quick look at funding rounds suggests many pitch decks have been over-optimistic. There’s a reason why they all quote the global market research industry at $80bn … even though half of that is analytics, and ‘traditional’ research is barely growing. It’s not quite WeWork pretending to be a tech firm … but the research market isn’t big enough to sustain investors’ growth expectations. Some of the free beer will have to stop flowing in 2020.

10. Adjacent moves: Partly in response to the above – a mis-match between market reality and investor expectation – we’ll see more tech players acquiring lateral capabilities to grow beyond their current market. Customer Experience Management, for example, has historically been about measuring perceptions and fixing service issues. It can’t support $8bn acquisitions and hundreds of vendors. That’s why Medallia, who went public earlier this year, has been on a buying spree – adding customer co-creation with Crowdicity and journey analytics with Cooladata. We’ll see more horizontal moves like this.

11. Consolidation: This week, we’ve seen 2020 Research acquire Over the Shoulder, the smartphone ethnography platform, and Delvinia acquire conversational research tool CRIS. There will be more of this in the year ahead. Some of it will be a natural consequence of frothy valuations and over-supply; but some insight platforms are not really sustainable businesses – they are features that will work better as part of something bigger.

Mike Stevens, Managing Director, What Next Strategy & Planning

26. Using What You Got

We have seen the business consultancies making overlaps with MR, the big tech brands like Google and FB and LI all becoming research providers, the increasing success of AI/machine learning platforms that aggregate knowledge from across existing sources, old fashioned “libraries” like WARC moving increasingly in to not just collecting but summarizing and digging deeper across contents and “collection” agencies that focus on bringing together thousands of examples within a category and then providing services to access knowledge in answer to requests for insights. And all that is just the beginning.

It is not a case of saying new qual and quant is not necessary but a simple reality. Clients and their agencies have an endless steam of options for research markets from existing sources that will increasingly be the primary choice. Asking people to answer questions will be less relevant when we have not just data from actions ( retail, app, media usage etc ) but also all kinds of existing data and analytics tools informing us of what, why, how.

2020 will be the year the revolution in making secondary data the primary source of wisdom ( and then supported with original research when needed ) becomes the innovation core of MR. – Dave McCaughan, Chief Strategy Officer, AI.Agency

27. Taking Advantage of Trends

One of market research’s greatest sticking points, as an industry, is its ability to embrace and drive change.  We are a clever, creative industry but we need to evolve, or risk becoming obsolete among the more forward-thinking industry-outsiders, whose technology is paving the way in how we think and deal with data (think IBM Watson or Google DeepMind). To compete and work alongside, we need to take better advantage of the changing trends within our industry. We have got faster, more international and more mobile but we’re still failing to draw on new methods. The industry needs to re-think it’s approach to innovation. We need tech platforms driven by our goals and client’s needs, talent attraction which competes with the likes of Google and methodologies which take a more curious, human approach to research. With this in mind, there is no reason why the industry should not evolve. Vin DeRobertis, CEO – Americas, Savanta

28.  Outlasting Technology

With the new decade approaching market researchers, other industry leaders and consumers are wondering about the exciting technologies that 2020 will bring. Here is my take.

5G wireless technology:  2020 will see a proliferation of 5G networks as more manufacturers and telecommunication companies adapt their designs and networks to keep pace with the consumers’ demands. The increasing availability of reliable wireless connections at broadband speeds will transcend the city limits and benefit country-dwellers as well.  However, the most radical changes will come in the fields of automation and the Internet of Things (IoT), since the high data speeds of 5G networks will facilitate the use of drones, driverless cars, and the development of smart, futuristic cities.

For market researchers this means more mobile surveys for sure. But more importantly there are many opportunities to integrate the data collection experience with participant’s everyday devices:

  • automobiles
  • home appliances
  • home systems
  • business.

Each of these station points can pay a part as a data entry portal for behavioral information and/or provide alerts, or triggers to spawn interactive research activities. Data collection incorporating the use of video will be another big winner.

Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS): For a long time, artificial intelligence (AI) has existed only in the realm of research institutions, corporations and governments. However, the rapid progress done on technologies like machine learning, relational databases, deep learning, and neural networks mean that AI is already a reality. The business world has played a big role in this technological leap and now — thanks to the combination of AI with the Software as a Service (SaaS) business model — artificial intelligence might soon reach the masses at an accessible price.

Research organizations hiring data scientists can today access a large catalog of commercially available software for building models based on Populations, Weather, Map Data of U.S City Supply Chain, and just about every conceivable database you will ever need (over 250,000) at Data.Gov. By combining and modeling with your customer transactional / behavioral / demographic data you can now build very powerful insights.

Blockchain technology:  The importance of blockchain will rise in 2020 to keep pace with its increased application in fields as diverse as healthcare and asset management, where secure communications and verifiability are a requirement. Blockchain is about more than Crypto-Currency, it is about building a global verifiable trust network which breaks down institutional barriers and inefficiencies by creating more transactional transparency.

The market research industry stands to gain significantly by improving continuing to strengthen the relationship between research participants and how their data matriculates to a final report or reporting systems in return for their compensation. Watch for companies like Veriglif who have assembled a consortium of consumer data suppliers with over 100 million first-party opted-in relationships with consumers to be a leading trust-based solution provider. Partnering with organizations that are building solutions which are not only blockchain based but solving the validation and data-privacy concerns of the industry is paramount for the health of our mutual interests.

Analytics:  While, until now, analytics has been mostly used to analyze the past or make predictions on future events, the increasing power of machine learning and AI means that in the future companies will have a clearer picture of their options that will help them make better decisions. Such machine-assisted decision processes are already a feature of many industries, including the oil and gas industry as well as the medical field. However, 2020 might see the popularization of prescriptive analytics as more organizations partner with big AI platforms like Google and Microsoft, to help them identify issues, make sense of the data, and predict where the market is heading.

Without a doubt, this is an interesting time. Think about analytics being built into every workflow or process. With technological development moving so fast, it’s almost impossible to keep track of every innovation. What we do know is that as the market research industry evolves technology will continue to drive innovation in how we think about methodology and work. – Jim Whaley, CEO, OvationMR

29. Knowledge Management Systems

This will be the year that multiple large clients move towards integrated technology platforms that will change the structure of the industry. It may well be that knowledge management systems lead the way with clients wanting all their data and reports in one place, easily accessible from anywhere by anyone. This will then be coupled with platforms that enable the research to get done and those systems will need to integrate with each other so that access and usage is as simple but powerful as possible. Then the rest of the supply side of the industry needs to work out their role in this new ecosystem. – Stephen Phillips, CEO, Zappi

30. The Year of Humans

Is 2020 The Year of the Rise of the Robots, Chatbots….Humans? Without a doubt, the competitive environment of the market research industry is changing rapidly and broadening from an old paradigm of traditional research to a new one that converges with both business intelligence and data analytics providers. Both GfK and Nielsen have sold off their custom research businesses in favor of building out syndicated products and third-party data providers are, in some cases, eliminating the need for primary research entirely. With the rise of automation, chatbots and AI, many researchers are scratching their heads and wondering…where’s the long-term opportunity?

After spending years creating technology solutions that speed the time to insights and optimize research profits, researchers (and investors) are becoming acutely aware of the negative impact many of these solutions have on both respondent experience and data quality, illuminating the need to return to more authentic consumer interactions. I believe 2020 is the year we embrace technology solutions that RE-humanize the industry. – Kristin Luck, Managing Partner, ScaleHouse

31. Direct from the Source Data

Improved tools, better data, more direct access – – this means largely bypassing the big overhead research agencies and going direct to the target for sophisticated behaviorally driven metrics and straight to consumer insights led by hands-on consultants. High tech with a human touch. New implicit tools for evaluation of emotions; behavioral science metrics for more reliable preference; biometrics embedded into qual, etc. will replace outdated standards.

Meanwhile AI is taking over the marketing  world along with everything else. It will soon not be enough to fuel methods and streamline processes. The next frontier for AI is creation and advertising is ripe for establishing MVP, “Minimally Viable Product” prototypes to help improve the hit rate for advertising effectiveness.

I once predicted a world where neuro or nonconscious measures would be embedded in the majority of market research studies. That has now come true. I next envision a world  where the best and brightest young graduates will once again flock to ad agencies because creative will be fueled by AI and Machine Learning and it will be very fun again – – just in a new way. – Elissa Moses, CEO, BrainGroup Global 

32. The Merging of MRX and Tech

2020 will be an exciting and turbulent year for the industry in my opinion.

  • M&A – consolidation and tech buys across both MR and CX as use cases & value become clearer and buy wins over build for those with the capital
  • Humanizing feedback – I know it’s close to home for LivingLens, but building on 2019 upturns, we can see big leaps forwards in terms of brand adoption and demand
  • AI layers delivering commercial value – as data science and AI continue to disrupt the MR space, we will see more and more clear commercial applications of insight-surfacing analytics driven by AI

Carl Wong, CEO, LivingLens

33. Where Qualitative and Quantitative Meet

In 2020 we will see clients continue to embrace platforms that natively incorporate both qualitative and quantitative capabilities.  The familiarity and convenience of a single platform supporting both is compelling. Further, an increasing number will include first-party and third-party sample integrations to support always-on, real-time insights.  Clients will expect a DIY interface that is easy to use, but also the ‘do-it-for-me’ service when needed. The big issue to solve, which got worse in 2019, is sample quality. – Craig Stevens, Co-Founder, UBMobile

34. Social, MROCs, Research Proposals, & Data Sources

  1. The global social intelligence market will be US$ 9 billion by the end of 2020 up from US$ 3.4 B in 2018

  2. Market Research Online Communities (MROCs) are getting a new wind; More and more end-clients will have their own private and custom online communities with customers for multiple insights and marketing use cases. They will use a combination of DIY and supported service.

  3. In 2020 more market research proposals than ever will include a social intelligence related value added service.

  4. Certainly related to point 3, but data source agnostic: in 2020 more market research proposals than ever will include unstructured data analysis as a response to the RFP or a value added service.

Michalis Michael, CEO, DigitalMR

35. Technology, Storytelling, & Collaboration

2020 is special because it’s not just a new year—it’s a new decade! I’m optimistic that the start of a new decade will inspire fresh thinking and drive the adoption of game-changing innovations.

The most widely accepted technologies in our industry today have been developed in the 2000s; now there’s a new generation of insight leaders who are hungry for the next big thing. I see more researchers making investment in doing parallel studies to test the effectiveness of bleeding-edge technologies. This is a good thing for our industry as it will drive innovation while making sure we’re still providing credible data to those who need it.

Second, more research teams will embrace the use of video for storytelling. It’s interesting because while C-level execs are certainly interested in numbers, there’s nothing quite like seeing the faces of your customers. More insight pros will invest in approaches that allow them to capture videos from customers at scale. I see researchers using video content to create customer empathy and drive virality for insights within their organization.

Third, I predict more collaboration. The most innovative researchers I talk to say they’re now working more closely with marketing, social media and other customer-facing departments to improve customer engagement. This cross-pollination will enable research teams to deliver more impact by helping them build the brand in a more meaningful way. More companies are waking up to the fact that the respondent experience is not separate from the brand experience. It makes sense that research teams work more closely with external-facing departments to deliver a better experience to customers.  – Andrew Reid, CEO & Founder, Rival Technologies

36.  Transparency, Transparency, Transparency

In 2020, the US election, Brexit and populist movements around the world will loom large. Unfortunately, all of these will be fueled by disinformation and digital propaganda campaigns that risk leaving the public at best skeptical and at worst, cynical and disengaged. As an industry, we’ll have to work harder than ever to overcome distrust. We’ll need to focus more than ever on transparency, security and compliance. Trust is the currency of our industry — trust that we are using data and insights as a force for good to improve products and services and ultimately, people’s lives. It’s not really a new prediction from me (since I’ve been saying it for years!), but the best way to build trust is to quit “studying respondents” and start engaging people! – Eileen Campbell, Chair & Co-founder, Reid Campbell Group

37. Disruption Will be the New Normal

No matter what industries, categories, or service sectors our customers operate in, disruption appears the be the new normal, and the same can be said for market intelligence and insights.  Those companies that can identify the early indicators and impact of disruption will gain competitive advantage and find opportunities at the expense of traditional business models and competition.  Speed, quality, service, and efficiency will continue to drive growth in tactical Insights work, however, tools and platforms that can frame a story about the future will gain unprecedented traction.  2020 will be exciting! – Brad Marsh, CEO, Consensus Point

38. A Word from GreenBook’s Lenny Murphy

Wow. As I said following up these folks is going to be tough; there is much here that I was thinking as well, but perhaps I can tease out a few new predictions. Here are my top five:

  1.  A Focus on Training & Education: with the democratization of data collection and analysis via various technologies, a renewed focus on understanding the core principles of market research as well as determining the “fit for purpose” match between techniques and business issues. As new blood comes into the industry, the need to shorten the learning curve will become imperative. Trade bodies, educational programs, universities and trusted individual educators will be very much in demand to help address this need.
  2. Uncommon Partnerships: The world seems to be realigning relationships at all levels, and our industry isn’t an exception. As paradigms continue to shift, look for team-ups of organizations that used to be competitors or function in adjacent categories to find that magical “1+1=3” formula to drive new growth or create breakthrough solutions for new markets. We saw quite a bit of that in 2019, but it will accelerate in 2020 driven by the quest for competitive advantage.
  3. Privacy Compliance Changes the Game: Data Privacy is a “BIG DEAL”, and we are just beginning to feel the impact of the various legislative initiatives globally to deal with it. With the fear of sanctions for non-compliance being a very real threat for many organizations (and the bigger the company, the bigger the threat is) look for a variety of new solutions to flood the marketplace. No one standard or protocol will emerge and fragmentation may get worse before it gets better, but the momentum will be on the side of organizations that look for ways to address compliance needs while also unlocking new potential value for data stakeholders.
  4. The Quest For Truth: In a “Post Truth” world where seemingly contradictory information exists side-by-side and are used to support virtually any narrative aligned to the bias of the users, there will be a push to use data and analytics to try to determine what the objective truth of any issue is. Unfortunately, this will likely fail. The fallback will be to rely on provable and replicable evidence and empirical measurement. Sound familiar? This is the world insights and analytics has always lived in, so the opportunity is to apply the hard-won best practices we have developed to at least get as close as possible to that “single point of truth”.
  5. Expect The Unexpected:  So-called “black swan” events happen all the time, and the pace may only increase. “Moore’s Law”  can be applied to technological innovation as a whole,  not just to computing power, and the curve is accelerating.  New technologies, new insights, new business models and of course unforeseen events will all produce outcomes few will see coming. Conventional wisdom doesn’t carry as much weight in this dynamic, so we will all have to develop unconventional wisdom to take advantage of the changes that will happen that we didn’t predict.

Looking for More?

If you are still hungry for predictions and what to know what our colleagues in the marketing industry are thinking, here are two more resources from our friends at Pan Communications and Forrester. I encourage you to check them out; there are interesting synergies and overlaps to what we’ve shared here in the world of insights and analytics.

2020 CMO Predictions: Content Overload, Advocacy, Customer Data & Personalization Remain Top Priorities

Predictions 2020: B2C Marketing – Economic Uncertainty Forces B2C Marketers To Rethink Their Engagement Strategies

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