by Crispin Beale, CEO of Insight250; Group President of Behaviorally
As the cold of winter subsides, the warmth of spring emerges (or at least we all hope it will as the Easter holidays arrive!), bringing with it new growth and opportunity. In this same spirit, I thought it would be beneficial to sit down and discuss how the market research and insights industry can ‘spring’ forward. So, I approached a variety of experts from across the globe to get their perspectives on positive aspects that are propelling research forward this year.
I hope you find these fourteen global perspectives as fascinating as I did. From Argentina to Australia, Poland to Nigeria, Canada to Switzerland, and Ireland, the US and the UK – great work is happening in our sector and these innovators and leaders shared their perspectives on the following question:
"As market research becomes increasingly important to businesses, what methods, tools, approaches or aspects of the discipline do you feel are helping to drive this growing acceptance forward within both companies and industries?"
Richard Colwell, Owner & Chief Executive Officer, RED Research (Ireland)
“I think we are moving into a really positive phase where companies are truly realising and appreciating the real skills we as market researchers have at reading and analysing data and research. Our strong data mining skills, coupled with new technologies such as AI, enable us to provide real solutions for business now sometimes overrun by data themselves. At the same time passive monitoring of emotional response, such as facial coding or biometric testing, adds another layer of deciphering human reactions that take our understanding to another level. Our ability to tie this all together with great storytelling is more important than ever in my mind, and upskilling in the area of storytelling is vital for us as an industry, to make sure this great data analysis and understanding cuts through at the very highest level.”
Seyi Aedoye, Chief Executive Officer, Pierrine Consulting (Nigeria)
“The availability of market research tools and approaches that are able to provide much needed guidance when business growth decisions are to be made are taking the lead in growing overall acceptance within client businesses. Broadly, MR innovation related approaches have helped businesses break into new markets and categories with great level of certainty. Also gone are the days, when you have to convince business/brand owners to invest in market or category understanding work, like usage and attitudes studies, brand tracking, CX/HX/UX etc.; clients now appreciate the immense value these approaches deliver to their businesses.”
Lonneke de Roo, Senior Vice President of Customer Success, Behaviorally (Switzerland)
“Any tool or method that can provide agile and reliable answers to the business questions of our clients in an efficient way. Here the role of innovation and artificial intelligence is critical. Let's say spring is the period of the year for giving birth to new ideas...more daylight and open windows typically favour creativity. We need to constantly challenge ourselves in what we’re doing and how we can drive efficiency in the learning processes of clients – both in terms of time and money – and contribute to important business decisions. When I started in this industry more than 20 years ago, I would not have been able to imagine that today we can deliver great consumer insights in a few days.”
Mariela Mociulsky, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Trendsity (Argentina)
“Working in a truly cooperative way between regions, agencies and clients to achieve change in the positioning of our industry can be tremendously valuable. This will be increasingly important as time goes on. We, as individuals, cannot do it alone; the spring forward is to be able to work as a network to achieve full potential.”
James Endersby, Chief Executive Officer, Opinium (United Kingdom)
“Machines and tech are vital, but if our profession is going to thrive in the boardroom, we must ensure that we continue to put equal energy, focus and investment into developing our people. They will be the ones our clients turn to as trusted advisors, they will be the ones who are able to communicate that one nugget of insight that changes a brand’s fortunes forever.”
Marcin Godlewski, Vice President of Product, mTab (Poland)
“A lot of the innovation driving the industry forward is focused on applying advanced technology to help the researcher become more effective and innovative in how they extract insight and understand markets and consumers. This is creating a paradigm shift where technology is enhancing the efficiency of the experts so they can deliver more in order to drive success. This not only elevates the utility of research, but also the impact of the researcher within the organization.”
Ed Clarke, Market Research Director, Microsoft (United States)
“Market research organizations have changed their orientation from solving research questions to helping solve business questions. This subtle shift in words has dramatic implications on the overall approach and value delivered by research teams. When a research team is focused on the business question, there is a completely different level of knowledge required, information sources utilized, and recommendations provided. Research teams that do this well, don’t have to ask for a seat at the table.”
Nick Baker, Chief Research Officer, Savanta (United Kingdom)
“The success of our work is in the impact it has - or doesn't have. Research has no value until it's used. The laser-like focus on driving the commercial impact of the sector's work is the most important development (and development requirement) out there right now - through better storytelling and audience engagement, the use of multiple media formats in the delivery of our messages, insights and implications. Breaking out of the methodological hothouse and into the commercial realities and discourse is what is driving the greatest successes - and will continue to do so more and more.
Justine Clements, Consumer Insights Manager, Samsung Electronics (Australia)
“Companies that want to grow need to learn how to meet consumer needs better than their competitors do. We now see more companies with a strong belief in insights and a propensity to use them to improve the customer experience across every touchpoint. I am pleased to see much more effective integration of different information sources to deliver better insight. I’m also inspired by the use of AI and technology in general to give us the opportunity to look at data on a much larger scale. More recently there is a much greater understanding of and importance given to the influence of culture on consumers and the power of behavioural economics to drive behaviour change.”
Mark Ursell, Chief Executive Officer, QuMind (United Kingdom)
“Back in 2005 I read a report about the ‘two rivers’ of data in an organisation and how they will eventually come together. Some years later at an MRS conference I heard that market research will become redundant due to all the behaviour data coming on stream. But inevitably it has been a balance between the two with insight professionals and organisations needing and wanting to know the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ The challenge now is to bring these two data streams together in one cohesive place to get to that holy grail of a single customer view. This is accelerating the trend of organisations in-housing market research to sit alongside their behaviour data, to have a single platform to do this so insight gets in front of decision makers to achieve organisational goals and targets.”
Alexander Edwards, President, Strategic Vision (United States)
"During the great Data Inquisition of years past, many scholars approached research with the primary purpose of capturing data and getting it to confess what those in power wanted to hear. Many who needed insights struggled trusting what was shared because of the researcher’s influence on the tools and metrics used. Just read any Dilbert cartoon depicting the “Two Drink Minimum” offices of market research.
“However, today market researchers have opportunities to connect consumer behavior and psychology with technology. For example, consumers can share their stories in their natural language which is then organized by computer systems, connecting behaviors, product experiences and personal values. These connections generate insights providing the strongest communications to increase advocacy and loyalty. Ask any truck buyer in a satisfaction survey what determines quality and they will say things like towing and engine capability. Have that same buyer share their consumer journey using new machine learning systems and insights are revealed that the truck’s interior door handles have a stronger impact in determining the perceived quality."
Jo Brockhurst, Senior Director, Kantar (Australia)
“I think our ability to connect and bring different data together has really increased the value and worth of research and insights in recent years. This has combined consumers' claimed attitude and behaviours in market metrics, passive actual data etc., and connects it all to business outcomes so we're able to tell businesses a lot more than ever before. By giving businesses this holistic view of how consumers fully experience their brand, what their actual behaviours are or have been as well as being on top of consumers' ever-changing needs we're able to help them grow more effectively and efficiently with their eyes wide open. The availability and sharing of data has provided this opportunity, and this openness is only going to continue in years to come.”
Kristin Luck, President, ESOMAR (United States)
“Unfortunately market research, as traditionally defined, is becoming increasingly UN-important and irrelevant as both executive teams and marketers rely more heavily on readily available “always on” data sources and business intelligence. You can see our growing DECREASE in influence when you look at declines in traditional research as increases in tech enabled research platforms and products drive industry growth. But we can reverse this trend! As researchers, we must become adept at working with multiple data sources and ensure our focus is on delivering strategic value to the C-suite, rather than looking at our research remit on a project by project basis. With unparalleled access to new data sources, data mining and analytical tools, we’ve never had more opportunity as an industry of serving as data translators and bridging the increasing divide between old school and new school methods.”
Arundati Dandapani, Founder, Generation1.ca (Canada)
“Reliance on research has grown in recent years both in Canada and around the world as the “market” for research grows and as a hard skill like “technology” becomes both a technical and an enabling competency (or soft skill, defining the relationship between people and technology). Automation and big datasets dominate the “analytics” component and data storytelling and visualization tools enhance the “insights” component of research methods today. Fear of the unknown will always plague new applications of research, but companies that leverage passive with active data will experience the benefits first hand. A strong understanding of structured and unstructured secondary data including syndicated data, transaction data, social media data, Internet of Things data and their associated strengths and limitations will empower research teams.
“Insights from conversations with employees, consumers, citizens and clients enrich the organizational feedback loop systems. Business dynamics also impact market share and a better understanding of the business and external environments helps companies to succeed. Researchers with access to historical and current datasets from both primary and secondary sources achieve a lot more with predictive tools.”
Thank you all for sharing your thoughts – there’s lots here for all of us to reflect on. To everyone who celebrates Easter I wish you a happy holiday season and to everyone, I hope you find these insights useful as you “Spring” forward into the rest of 2022. Thank you.
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.