Putting AI Aside - What ELSE Do Insights Leaders Consider the Most Impactful Emerging Trends? - Articles



Putting AI Aside - What ELSE Do Insights Leaders Consider the Most Impactful Emerging Trends?

Administrator | 22 May, 2024 | Return|

by Crispin Beale CEO, Insight250  |  Photos by Pixabay

AI, like the summer sun, is “hot” and can be both dazzling and blinding at the same time. Yet with all the hype and distraction of AI are there other potential applications and trends that are being overlooked?

Summer is kicking off soon in Europe and North America, and I’m sure we’re all hoping for some enjoyable weather that won’t result in us getting burnt. Just like we need to be cautious with the sun, we must also be cognizant of burning-hot trends and issues across our profession.

As I speak to insight leaders and innovators from around the world, it is clear that the almost universal response when asked about current trends in MRX is “artificial intelligence.” However, delving a bit deeper, beyond synthetic data and generative AI, a whole host of other topics start to emerge.

I spoke on these emerging trends in May at a conference in Italy and it struck a chord with the attendees, so, for this article I reached out to some of our global industry leaders and asked them the following question:

"With summer approaching, the focus continues to be on artificial intelligence. However, this may be blinding much of the insights industry to other hot, emerging trends and advancements. Which trends do you see having the biggest impact on market research outside of AI?"

Here’s what they said; I think you will find it interesting. It is important that as individuals we don’t get burnt by ignoring the summer sun and as a profession we are similarly cognizant of these emerging and innovative trends that are influencing and impacting the insights industry.

Stephan Gans, SVP Chief Insights and Analytics Officer, PepsiCo, U.S.
“Data quality - which we define as receiving authentic, accurate responses from real people – has always been a table stake in consumer testing; however, it is increasingly important to get the balance of speed and quality right in a world where emergent technologies are both enabling bot-based fraud but also counter measures for automated checks to ensure we are gaining responses from real people. For example, our partner Zappi uses bot detection, response repetition checks and geo-IP fingerprinting to ensure respondents are real people who are where they say they are.”

“And even in a world with improved automation, manual checks are still necessary in some cases to ensure we are not compromising quality for speed – particularly in traditionally offline markets where a blended approach to quality oversight is necessary to get the right balance.”

Ben Page, Global CEO, IPSOS, France
"Outside of AI, our biggest challenge is how we address quality of data collection and speed in a world where clients are told you can have both cheaply, but in reality you can only have two of these things.”

Sharmila Das, Founder, Purple Audacity, India
“Trends besides and beyond AI that are having the biggest impact on market research are around non-traditional and non-textbook approaches which must be built for addressing ambiguity.

Complexities are increasing with intergenerational participation, cross-category references, inter-changeable needs and wants influencing decisions and behaviours. Understanding hitherto unseen behaviour such as a person delaying acquiring an entry level mobike because he wants to first own an iPhone or a newly married woman in rural India defying patriarchy and deciding when to have a child because she wants to first develop a good relationship with her husband, or  strategic inputs for developing new governance policies are becoming regular asks.

Most of these are difficult to address by conventional methods and models and thus they push the boundaries of the research thoughts. The trend is leading to more and more Researchers developing their acumen as investigative journalists or Detectives.”

Mark Langsfeld, CEO, mTab
“A trend we’re seeing emerge is the need for advanced insight management to disseminate insights across the entire organization. Research teams face challenges delivering timely insights due to limited resources and disconnected tools for analysis, visualization, and reporting, which often results in spending 80% of their time on data prep.”

“Insight management systems (IMS) address these challenges by drastically reducing data management time, allowing research teams to focus on delivering analysis. They also allow business teams to dive deep beyond traditional dashboards to diagnose the 'why ' behind behaviors to drive change. Additionally, they ensure survey data and insights are shared securely across the organization, overcoming data silos so teams can make faster, smarter decisions.”

Sir Martin Sorell, Founder & Executive Chairman, S4Capital plc, UK
“With clients focussing on short-term results and, most importantly, like-for-like revenue growth, the key becomes measuring effectiveness, results, return on investment and media mix modeling. AI will help enormously, but irrespective of this the key to media effectiveness is measurability.”

Fiona Blades, President and Chief Experience Officer, MESH Experience, U.S.
“We are finding that clients are increasingly concerned about the erosion of marketing metrics in their usefulness. Share of Voice (SOV) no longer reflects the myriad ways that marketers are spending their money.  Media Reach has drifted a long way away from what people are noticing in the real world. And we have the demise of cookies. Some clients are trying to create their own SOV using a combination of data sets.

“Others are focusing on “attention” to overcome the Media Reach issue. And, at the same time as the trend to AI and synthetic personas is growing, we are seeing another opposite trend, valuing speaking to real people through market research. We are offering clients a Share of Experience (SOE) metric, based on people’s experiences captured in real-time. In 2014, Keith Weed, suggested in an HBR article, that Share of Experience would be the metric for the future. When you look at google search data you can see that SOE has overtaken SOV globally (see below).”


Justine Clements, Consumer Insights Manager, Samsung Australia
“In terms of significant trends influencing market research, big data and predictive analytics stand out, offering unparalleled opportunities for forecasting outcomes using vast amounts of data. Other noteworthy trends include the use of genuinely representative and inclusive samples and methodologies, the rise of mobile research facilitating increased participation and sharing of more user-generated content, also voice of the consumer research providing real-time across all touchpoints. Additionally, there is a growing trend towards bringing research operations in-house or reducing the number of agency partners to achieve seamless data integration across different activities.”

Alex Hunt, CEO, Behaviorally, U.S.
“Commercial understanding and perspective. Perhaps a corollary of leveraging AI and automation of research design and execution more generally. But nevertheless, with less time spent doing the insight and more time spent applying it, we as an industry need to become commercially focused. Perhaps then we’ll finally earn the seat at the table we too often are still aspiring too.”


Roland Abold, Managing Director, infratest dimap, Germany
“An incredible amount of insights are produced every day, where AI is helping us in gathering and analyzing data, securing quality, and enabling real-time delivery. But if we want recipients to properly evaluate results and enable them to make good decisions, we need to focus on Transparency, Data Literacy and Consultancy.

“To name one example: As 2024 is a super-election year around the globe, there will be countless political polls published. Citizens need to know, how data is produced (transparency). They need to be able to understand and interpret the results (data literacy). And they should have the opportunity to listen to neutral experts helping them to get meaning out of it (consultancy) to then finally make their choice. What is true for voters is also true for all clients and users of market and social research. In conclusion, transparency, data literacy, and consultancy are indispensable pillars for ensuring informed decision-making in the era of AI-driven insights.”

Ryan Barry, President, Zappi, U.S.
“Talent. As the industry and its technology evolve who and how the talent inside of large corporations evolves from market researchers to transformation experts, data architects, and strategists will be interesting to follow. I see a dire need to invest in L&D inside of “client orgs” while also recruiting fresh and new thinking into the industry.”

Pavi Gupta, Multi-year Insight250 Winner, U.S.
“I believe, the future for the industry is in synthesis and storytelling. It comes by embracing the “Power of And” across the left and the right brain. Data Science coupled with Data Art... Technology and Intuition. The Power of And - will help us become more agnostic to the tools themselves, and drive greater commitment to the action. As long as we stay relentless in our pursuit of driving impact from our work, we will create real value for the organization.”

Urpi Torrado, CEO Datum Internaciona, Peru
“Innovation is already at the heart of our industry. The purpose of our profession remains the same: understanding human behaviors. Some companies are experimenting with behavioral sciences, integrating different disciplines to comprehend how individuals learn and how they can be taught. Additionally, data integration is becoming increasingly popular. To expand knowledge, researchers gather data using different methodologies and sources, centralizing it to forecast and anticipate trends.”

Arundati Dandapani, Founder, Generation1.ca, Canada
“Beyond AI, we should consider other significant changes in technology (e.g. virtual and augmented reality; data story visualization dashboards; privacy visions, metrics and milestones), changes in the economy (e.g. inflation coming down and growth in Canada is very slow when compared to the United States and the rest of the world) and changes in society (e.g., more geopolitical power shifts, greater ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity with more globalized yet fragmented societies and their vast diasporas influencing consumer and citizen wealth in exciting and disruptive ways, intergenerational agile workforces, etc.), and how all this impacts our research approach. We need to spend more time on problem identification, the development of empathy muscles, and contextualizing and communicating our results better to diverse audiences in truthful and highly engaging ways.”

Matt Hay, Founder & CEO Bulbshare, UK
“In a world infatuated with artificial intelligence, deep qual serves as a reminder of the equally important other side of the coin: human empathy. Consumer immersions will be an even more salient approach this year, as we embrace the rich and unruly nature of qual to bring the consumer into focus. Going deeper is qual’s North Star, and by immersing ourselves in consumers’ worlds via ethnography, IDIs, metaverse observation, and video diaries, brands can truly walk a mile in their shoes.”

Ritanbara Mundrey, Global Head of Innovation & Insights, Nestle, Switzerland
“With growth at a premium brand builders are increasingly sensitive to “what’s being put out there” and “how is it faring.” In this context, smaller and iterative research is on the rise where we connect with consumers to input at various steps in the innovation journey. AI is a useful tool to tap where applicable….but has yet to displace the entire toolbox of research techniques that are tried and tested.”

Nick Baker, CRO, Savanta, UK
“There is an undoubtedly significant 'squeezing of the middle' really manifesting in terms of agency requirements. Whether driven by a greater client DIY capability or by the advancements in automation and the enablement of direct to dashboards etc data solutions, the requirement for agencies providing 'analysis' not just data (and there's nothing wrong with providing high-quality, robust, efficient access to data - it's vital) is for genuine quality, informed and commercially meaningful advisory support for clients bringing in contextual understanding, marketing, commercial or strategy expertise. Simplistic reportage or meaningless 'recommendation' slides just don't cut it. Research and Insight businesses need to massively up their commercial nous and expertise to stay relevant as advisory partners.”


Marianella Ghiggeri, Senior Insights Manager - Customer Service at Netflix, Brazil
“Three things, all of which are very aligned:

1. Customer Journey or Experience (CX) Research: Understanding the customer journey and improving customer experience is a top priority for many businesses.

2. Voice of the Customer (VoC) Programs: VoC programs involve systematically collecting and analyzing customer feedback across multiple channels to understand customer needs, preferences, and pain points.

3. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): AR and VR technologies are increasingly being used in market research to create immersive experiences for consumers, gather feedback on new products and services, and conduct virtual simulations to test hypotheses and predict consumer behavior.”

Alexander Edwards, President, Strategic Vision, U.S.
“The Dot-Com Boom, Metaverse, Movie Subscription Services and even the Fyre Festival; each have significantly and forever changed the landscape they live in and each has proved to be a financial disaster for those who invested.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems *today* are akin to these past technologies and services. Yes, AI is changing the research and consulting landscape significantly and forever, however, today’s systems will not generate the wealth Wall Street expects.”

“In research specifically, projects are being canceled, and both internal and external consultants are being let go because generative AI is more than capable of doing these jobs.  However, in reading tens of thousands of AI-generated content based on good data inputs, the results at best, tell a flat story that would convince few to follow their direction, nonetheless pass any Turing test.”

“While AI today is the absolute hit as was the Game of Thrones (GoT) series when it first launched, we must not forget that the natural language of the consumer, organized and analyzed, then crafted into a narrative by master storytellers, is what will have the strongest impact on successful market research over the next decade.  Generative AI alone will provide researchers with the equivalent of GoT season 7, leaving them unhappy and wishing they never invested their time in it.”

Patricio Pagani, Founder, The Black Puma, Argentina
“Data visualization and storytelling: As the complexity of data continues to grow, there will be a growing emphasis on data visualization and improved storytelling techniques to make research findings more accessible and actionable to clients. Interactive dashboards, infographics, and multimedia presentations will need to be radically improved to continue to convey insights effectively to clients and stakeholders.”

Jean-Marc Leger, President/CEO, Leger, Canada
“As pollsters, we are very good at measuring yesterday’s behaviors, fairly good at measuring today’s emotion but pretty bad at understanding tomorrow’s trends. However, there are 5 emerging trends outside AI, that need to be followed closely in our industry:

1. Integration of behavioral data

2. Neuroscience and biometrics measurement

3. Expansion of DIY platforms

4. Automation of research processes

5. Data privacy and ethics

And they will all be powered by artificial intelligence.”

Caroline Frankum, Global Chief Executive Officer, Profiles Division, Kantar, UK
“With 79% of consumers’ purchase intent influenced by a brand’s involvement in social issues to some degree, the power of ‘Brand’ is a key trend (outside AI) that will ensure the market research sector stays firmly in the driving seat of growing penetration, profitability, and value in times of ongoing challenge, change, and uncertainty. At Kantar, we shape the brands of tomorrow by better understanding people everywhere and believe brands grow by being meaningfully different to more people. This ‘blueprint for brand growth’ comes from analysing 5.4 billion attitudinal data points for over 21,000 brands in 540 categories and 25 markets, with 1.1 billion purchase data points for 20,000 brands in 100 categories - spanning over 10 years. So, if your brand is ‘what other people say about you when you’re not in the room’, it’s arguably never been more important to define your brand’s functional and emotional positioning.”

Madhavi Kale, Global Head, Consumer & Client Insights, Energy & Resources, Sodexo, Singapore
“Qualitative and quantitative primary research is still a huge part of our insights strategy. This is becoming more important as clients and consumers expect hyper-personalisation in our services. And in turn, we are seeking to understand their changing business environment very closely. Online communities is an emerging research methodology for us.”

Jennifer Hubber, Global Head of Insights and Analytics, Campari Group, Italy
“The increasing need for cultural intelligence, building the ability to deeply understand different human groups, local markets unique traits, ethnicity, diversity. Opportunities for brands (even global brands) often lie in leveraging specific cultural contexts and we must be conscious about building that understanding muscle.”

Hana Huntová, Executive Director, SIMAR, Czech Republic
“To me, the trend should be showing that research projects serve actual purpose and help to somebody. I think „research with purpose“ is a good mantra. I see this with some agencies that have seasoned professionals. The technical tools give them the freedom to concentrate on gathering evidence from more sources, carefully looking at the interpretation of all available evidence. Shiny tools don’t replace thinking. They should help us to earn more time for thinking. I think the second trend I could mention is data quality. In contrast with everything being from the beehive of AI data, we in research still talk to real human beings and look for genuine perspectives of people using products and services. As practitioners in market research, we know how to get real feedback from real consumers. Authenticity, data quality, real people and real thoughts are the antidote to the fast and artificial.”

Seyi Adeoye, Chief Executive Officer,  Pierrine Consulting, Nigeria
“There are various trends (aside AI) that are already impacting our industry positively and deepening the type + scale of work we now do with clients. Advances in data science and analytics now allow different data sources merge into a single ‘data lake’, tell a single story and at speed. The value of this insight stream has now surpassed established research. Improvement in neuroscience and biometric methodologies are also giving us access to consumers’ emotions on a deeper subconscious level beyond claimed behavior data. Online communities have also emerged as a great alternative to consumer panels, easing concerns around data quality while allowing us crowdsource insights at scale. Lastly, social media platforms have become a ‘third space’ for humans, and recent improvements in social media listening offers now allow us to leverage this data source more aggressively.”

Jon Puleston, VP of Innovation, Kantar, UK
"It is so difficult to untangle the opportunities created by AI from other emerging trends as they are all so linked. Everything I can think of: the blurring of the boundaries between qual and quant, synthetic data, causal analysis techniques, data lakes, digital twins, deep profiling are all linked to developments in AI. One trend I see is how behavioral science is slowly and steadily helping us to understand how advertising works and how the likes of Ogilvy are successfully developing communication strategies from the ground up using research to understand the psychology of everyday consumer decisions."

The Bottom Line
So clearly whilst AI is getting much of the industry’s attention, there are a myriad of other issues, trends and advancements that are accelerating and elevating insights. While easy to get dazzled by the hot trends like AI, it’s critical not to be blinded to the point you miss other dimensions that could create major opportunities for you and your business.  


Crispin Beale - Chief Executive, Insight250, Senior Strategic Advisor, mTab; Group President, Behaviorally 

Crispin Beale is a marketing, data, and customer experience expert. Crispin spent over a decade on the Executive Management Board of Chime Communications as CEO of leading brands such as Opinion Leader, Brand Democracy, Facts International, and Watermelon. Before 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 Fellow, Board Director (and Chairman) of the MRS for nearly 20 years and UK ESOMAR Representative for over 10 years. Crispin is currently a Senior Strategic Advisor at mTab as well as Group President at Behaviorally.

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