People ask for prediction blogs annually but, as fast as technology is moving, our industry pace of change is not one that can — or should — really be evaluated in individual years. Rather, I’d argue it should be measured in decades, certainly not evaluated any more frequently than half-decades. For example, internet data collection was introduced by Gordon Black and Harris Interactive in the very late 1990’s, possibly 1999, but didn’t get real traction until around 2004-2005. Social media analytics, dubbed “listening” by the ARF in the mid 2000’s when they talked about it replacing traditional research, is really only beginning to get traction a decade after it was first introduced. Real change generally takes time to occur, even when it’s disruptive. Do you know that the first mention in a newspaper about the Wright Brothers’ first flight came three full years after the flight at Kitty Hawk, and it took 4 ½ years after their first flight for the world to begin to truly notice what they were doing?
In the following decade, I expect to see much of the following integrated through our industry:
- Asking research will remain the cornerstone of our industry. Enabled by technology, we’re now listening to and observing consumers, but we will still want and need to ask them questions. Survey research is not dead, dying, or even sick. Its share of the category may… likely will decline, possibly even declining a bit in absolute sales volume, but the consumer/marketing data analytics category will actually grow, probably quite substantially. Traditional methods such as surveys and qualitative research will continue to be an important part of this expanded data analytics category.
- A large number of client engagements will include the synthesis of two, three, maybe even four or five different consumer and marketing data streams, such as social media data, passively collected data, customer data, geo-demographic data, etc.
- Artificial intelligence, including machine learning and other forms of deep learning will find their way into the fabric of market research like survey/questionnaire development, field management, “big data” analytics and advanced computing power, which will enable even more powerful data analytics (both within and across data sets) for deeper insight.
- Data scientist will become as common and valued a position as marketing scientist.
- Two kinds of companies will flourish – those who can uniquely access, organize and store important data (data companies) and those who have sophisticated data analysis and interpretation capabilities that know how to use data to drive improved business performance (integrated data consultants.)
I once learned from a brilliant futurist that attempting to predict the future is folly. Rather, you’re better off identifying likely scenarios, and then positioning yourself for success in the most likely of those scenarios. With this blog, I do not pretend to predict the future of our industry. Rather, these are some of the scenarios that I believe are likely … and we should watch for them over the next decade rather than the next year.