By Crispin Beale
This year has been one that has thankfully seen the reemergence of more in-person events and engagements. However, it’s also been a year of continued trials and challenges, emotionally and economically. Yet with these obstacles, we’ve also seen new ideas and emerging innovations that have elevated and advanced the market research industry.
To try to help predict what 2023 has in store for us I sat down with two dozen innovators and leaders in our profession, from all around the world. This article pulls together their thoughts on 2022 and what they see ahead in 2023 along with some industry resolutions they have for the new year. I hope you find these global views both insightful and inspiring. Whilst still a little early, to everybody who celebrates, Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
“Prepare to be blinded by the growth of this sector in 23! Looking at ESOMAR’s most recent forecast into 2024, the data, analytics, and insights industry is expected to grow to over $130B in 2023 alone. We’re predicting less revenue volatility in the sector as research is finally perceived as a “must have,” not a “nice to have” for navigating turbulent times. In 2023, everything old is new again, with communities (and micro-surveying within them) experiencing exponential growth (even as Google continues to push out the expiration of cookies…now set for 2024) as advertisers look for opportunities to understand and create deeper connections with core consumers. Lastly, we continue to see specialist firms steal market share from generalists. This brings to mind a quote from futurist, Patrick Dixon, who said, “take hold of the future or the future will take hold of you!” Specialization clearly isn’t just for insects.”
– Kristin Luck, President, ESOMAR | Co-Chair, Insight250, United States
“2023 is going to be a fun year. With the breadth, depth, and span of opportunities in Technology in the D&A space, speed and scale will be key themes. The approach should be on Amplifying strengths & leveraging existing investments, finding multiple engines of growth and not being single-threaded, ensuring we savor the past but not stay in the past, and making sure fatigue doesn’t set a long shadow with the volume and variety of work ahead of us all as we continue to advance our space.”
– Sol Rashidi, SVP & Chief Analytics Officer, The Estée Lauder Companies, United States
“I prefer to focus on an old word: curiosity – but there is a new urgency to really double-down on this. The world has become more divisive than ever in 2022 – East vs. West, Left vs. Right. etc., and the echo chambers we all exist in only exacerbate these differences. My one hope for 2023 is that we all focus on understanding, and really listening with an open mind – and it is my resolution to force myself to be exposed to different opinions (in all areas of my life), not assume but rather always ask why.”
– Tony Costella, Director Global CMI, Heineken International B.V., Amsterdam
"The Automation and insourcing process by end-clients will continue while maturing the understanding of where it works and can be intensified and where it does not work and must be stopped to get back to traditional. Once the tech stack is settled, the back to basics song will be among the top hits of the end clients' playlist."
– Joaquim Bretcha, International Director, Netquest | President ex-Officio, ESOMAR, Spain
“Not necessarily brand new, but in 2023 I expect to see a renewed focus on the four Ps, all of which are driven by the uncertain economic picture. People: as through any and all crises, it’s having the right talents in your business and as partners, and then working together as a team, that ensures you are part of the 10% of businesses that emerge from a recession stronger. Product: as it’s against the steepest of odds when starved of budget and resources, the most breakthrough of innovations occurs. Profit: as the cost of capital grows, many firms will be closely watching cash, thinking about ways to consolidate or face a challenging outlook. And, finally, positivity: 2023 will be the most exciting year to be in insights. After all, we have incredibly talented people, an ever-expanding scope from the metaverse to AI for product innovation, and are integral to driving profitable growth both within our own industry and for the commercial brands we serve!”
– Alex Hunt, CEO, Behaviorally, United States
“In 2023, we expect smarter, quicker surveys, more emotional surveys, and at the other end of the spectrum, more longitudinal studies. I am hoping AI-based social listening tools get a lot smarter (analysing so much more than just words), interpreting images and, eventually audio/video content, exponentially improving the richness of data we have access to. We will continue to question whether our ‘representative samples’ are truly representative, or to look at it another way, we will improve our practice of delivering multicultural and more inclusive insights. We will tell better stories, deliver better-looking research, and leverage automation more for the boring bits.”
– Justine Clements, Consumer Insights Manager, Samsung Electronics, Australia
“In many ways, 2023 will be a very challenging year. The macro environment is tough and, in recent memory, somewhat unprecedented. And yet, through challenge, the best marketers see opportunities and new ways to inspire consumers and customers. Those that enter 2023 with a spirit of optimism, challenge the status quo, and ensure that sustainable brand building and marketing are entirely complementary to the commercial agenda will stand out as winners in a tough environment.”
– Kingsley Wheaton, Chief Growth Officer, BAT, United Kingdom
“The increase of a holistic understanding of people´s behaviors. Data is already a commodity, but companies still fail to integrate that data from multiple sources and turn it into insights to connect with their audience. A deeper level of analysis will come up from qualitative, but with new innovative approaches.”
– Urpi Torrado, CEO Datum Internacional, Peru
“As wizards in predicting and magnifying conquest, advocacy, and loyalty, through ValueCentered Psychology, we foresee in ‘23 customers and businesses wandering away from the technology that artificially connects us to each other in favor of those that connect us together. For businesses, this means fewer Video Conferences and more people in “the office,” creating a more productive, agile, and connected organization. For consumers, this means an increase in in-person shopping, a preference of live entertainment over live streaming, and going to the movies with friends over scheduling a watch party. Netflix will continue, but we will enjoy it more often with others. A true innovation in ’23 will be what genuinely connects us rather than separates us.”
– Alexander Edwards, President, Strategic Vision, United States
“New Year’s Resolutions that I would love to see in our sector:
1: Keep agencies engaged – no more gaslighting; they’ve spent valuable time in submitting a proposal, so it’s only fair to provide an explanation when they don’t win. And no fishing for ideas by sticking with the incumbent.
2: Keep stakeholders engaged – the debrief is king, so spend time making sure that it’s a show that is worthwhile attending. It’s where the magic should happen.
3: Keep consumers engaged – writing a long questionnaire is one thing, and it might look good on screen, but complete it yourself and ask how you’d feel if you had to complete it.”
– Danny Russell, Owner, DRC, United Kingdom
“Our New Year’s resolutions for 2023 are all about quality in research. The German market research association (ADM) has recently launched a broad initiative around quality, transparency, and data literacy across the industry – in the market and social research as well as in consultancy. Together with our members and partners, we aim to emphasize the importance of quality in the market and also to improve knowledge on how to distinguish good from bad quality.”
– Dr. Roland Abold, VP Sales & Commercial Excellence, GfK, Germany
“My New Year’s resolution for 2023 is about really using automation and technology to increase our people’s impact - and their time to really think about clients - the pressure on the payroll in inflationary times means it’s even more important to get these things right. And, as always, to spend more time with clients.
– Ben Page, CEO, Ipsos, France
“Over the last few years, our industry made great strides to increase the gender diversity of speakers at both virtual and in-person conferences, and most conferences have come very close to or met gender parity. We also talked really big about creating more equitable opportunities for people of colour. In 2023, I expect our industry to finally move beyond words and take measurable action to create better opportunities for people from all marginalized communities and people with disabilities. It’s time for every one of us to demand diversity in our magazines, on our stages, and in our leadership teams.”
– Annie Pettit, Chief Research Officer, NA, E2E Research, Canada
“2023 is yet another year of uncertainty; perhaps that is actually the new normal many have been searching for. But uncertainty presents opportunities, especially if you subscribe to the view that 'you make your own luck’. For me, one of those opportunities is to understand and help our clients navigate the emerging new channel that is/ will be the Metaverse. Do you know your Roblox from your Bored Ape Yacht Club, your Ethereum from your OpenSea? Or were you the person who bought the house next to Snoop Dogg in the Metaverse for $450K? What's absolutely clear is that it's coming, and it's definitely here to stay....just look at how much is being invested and by whom.....a lot, and it's the investment banking giants leading the way. Get to know it, or else you're missing a boat for your clients, as the next generation will be Metaverse natives. Analogue and digital, not VR. It's a new comms channel, and do you really know it or how to navigate it for yourselves or your clients?”
– Dr. Nick Baker, Chief Research Officer, Savanta, United Kingdom
“2022 was a year full of uncertainty, where hybrid formats won importance. In 2023, they will keep being the protagonist; a shift in paradigm which affects relationships, space organization, mobility, work, education, and the use of time. 2023 will be the year to establish the ways of thinking and doing, highlighting the importance of sustainability, especially in new generations who are concerned about the causes and values that brands and companies promote and put into practice.”
– Mariela Mociulsky, CEO, Trendsity, Argentina
“I think we see major movements to bring market research and insights closer together, uniting the content and community dimensions. Sharing insight and innovation is how the industry evolves and excels and is something that professionals and experts around the world are seeking more of. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that connectivity is critical to our personal and professional advancement and that we all need a deeper appreciation for our connections to achieve this. So, I see 2023 being a pivotal moment that brings us all closer together and helps our industry make significant strides forward.”.
– Mark Langsfeld, CEO, mTab | Co-Chair, Insight250, United States
“Marketing and industry leaders will look to leverage, develop and measure the impact of Owned Channels (like websites, apps, brand homes). They will be the next frontier for marketing effectiveness measurement, fueled by the rush for first-party data, the demise of cookie tracking, and more empowered consumers with limited attention spans.”
– Fiona Blades, President and Chief Experience Officer, MESH Experience, United States
“2023 will see:
- Data Analytics become the biggest sector in the global data & insights profession, driven by increasing brand-owner (client) awareness & usage of multiple data sources
- Agencies assume a greater role as "truth finders", by providing more independent, objective and strategic guidance, as well as providing more social research (voice of the citizen), to combat fake news and misguided governmental decisions
- Data Quality (and respect for citizens/consumers) continue to be a priority for all data collection and curation exercises
- The ethics debate around A.I. and machine-learning systems accelerate, in response to greater "unintended consequences"; this is where the insights sector must align globally around agreed principles, and lead the debate!”
– Finn Raben, Founder, Amplifi Consulting, Netherlands
“One of my key New Year’s resolutions for 2023, as well as one of our company's north stars, remains to prioritize the mental wellbeing of our people. Recent data from our Workplace Mental Wellbeing Audit with the Insights Association has revealed some green shoots for the industry, but also a lot that still isn’t good enough. As leaders, we need to model what taking care of ourselves means, to signal to those on our teams that it is okay to do so.”
– James Endersby, CEO Opinium, United Kingdom
“For me, it's a New Year's wish; I would love to see everyone make a commitment to do something to support another person in the sector. The response we're getting in the UK to the MRS People & Talent program demonstrates how much we all want to make this a brilliant industry to work in. Whether that is breaking down barriers to improve well-being at work, providing opportunities for others to learn and grow, opening up job opportunities to someone who wouldn't traditionally embark on a career in insight, etc. I think all of us looking for ways to do our bit for others across the insight community would be a wonderful thing to achieve in 2023.”
– Sinead Jefferies, SVP, Zappi | MRS Chair, United Kingdom
“For 2023, I’m looking forward to a year when consumer empathy will drive business decisions like never before. 2023 won’t be about the shiniest new technology or most advanced analysis but a year for deep understanding and building loyalty. As a researcher, I am excited about new twists on proven methodologies that help me articulate and quantify how the current economic uncertainty will impact our customers and lead to customer-first decision-making throughout the organization.”
– Bill Trovinger, Customer Insights Director, Pharmacy & Health, Albertsons Companies, United States
“As we wrapped up the last quarter of the year 2022, I have been having lots of conversations with client contacts to set a tempo for next year. In 2023, there will be more focus on ‘Now what’ as against ‘So What’ as clients seek to have market research engagements provide strategic guidance in a “perma-crisis” (defined by The Economist as an extended period of instability and insecurity) world context. Clients are also looking for partner agencies that can proactively envisage their business intelligence needs and offer pragmatic approaches to these. There will be a rise and rise of research technology platforms’ usage as businesses look for agile, quick, and dirty market feedback. However, they will also work more with insight firms that display dexterity in the use of platforms and who also would help them craft ‘Now What’ business implications clearly. Lastly, there will be the increased strategic use of qualitative research by businesses to unpack the changing dynamics around the world of consumers and categories of interest.”
–Seyi Adeoye, CEO, Pierrine Consulting, Nigeria
“2023 will undoubtedly be a challenging year with many people and businesses facing great uncertainty. Consumers will look to brands that mirror their values and beliefs, as well as opportunities to share meaningful experiences with their family and friends – and sport has a really important role to play in that space. We will double down on our efforts to connect with our audiences around the globe across all our platforms to offer new ways of experiencing the thrill of racing and bringing to life the joy of being part of something bigger. We are also laser-focused on progressing our sustainability strategy, from accelerating the transition towards a fully circular F1 car by 2030, to attracting more talent from under-represented backgrounds into motorsport.”
– Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, United Kingdom
"'Perma-crisis' was Collins' word of the year for 2022 - and sadly, the trend looks set to continue as we move into the next 12 to 18 months. Record inflation, rising energy prices, and the cost-of-living crisis will continue to be front of mind for consumers in 2023 - and brands will have a key role to play in collaborating with communities around these challenges.
"The past decade has seen an erosion in trust between brand marketing and consumers at large, with the emergence of phrases such as 'green', 'community' and even 'sport' washing characterising a growing sense of skepticism around brands that want to be 'seen' to be doing good - just look at the recent BrewDog World Cup backlash.
"The next 12 to 18 months offer a real opportunity for brands to build communities, work towards authentic initiatives around the issues that matter, and genuinely look beyond profit to help alleviate the challenges facing consumers. These brands will win the long game."
– Matt Hay, Founder & CEO, Bulbshare, United Kingdom
So, as we close the 2022 year there is much to learn from and reflect on. This will no doubt serve as a strong foundation to move forward in 2023 to advance the position and importance of market research and the role insights play in understanding markets, motivating customers, and advancing brands. I want to thank you for allowing me to share the expertise and perspectives of so many industry experts and spotlight their insight into the many dimensions of research and understanding. I wish you a happy, healthy coming year and look forward to sharing more expert stories from around the world and across the industry.
About the Author
Crispin Beale is a marketing, data and customer experience expert. Crispin spent over a decade on the Executive Management Board of Chime Communications as Group CEO of leading brands such as Opinion Leader, Brand Democracy, Facts International and Watermelon. Prior to this Crispin held senior marketing and insight roles at BT, Royal Mail Group and Dixons. Crispin originally qualified as a chartered accountant and moved into management consultancy with Coopers & Lybrand (PwC). Crispin has been a Board Director (and Chairman) of the MRS for c15 years and UK ESOMAR Representative for c10 years. As well as being CEO of Insight250, Crispin is currently Group President of Behaviorally with responsibility for the client and commercial teams globally and the Senior Strategic Advisor at mTab.