The insights industry is in a transformational period, again. Unlike past shifts, this one is happening faster and more insistently, pushed forward by current global crises and societal disruption. This makes sense. We’re in the business of understanding consumers, and consumer behaviors are changing so fast our heads are spinning. As an industry, we’re turning to solutions like automation and smart technology implementation to help.

Digital disruptions like this are boosting speed to market, quality and efficiencies across multiple processes. These are all good things, no matter what the greater ecosystem has in store for us. Yet, with this, comes recognizable challenges that span multiple industries, such as combating fraud and protecting data privacy.  

Renewed focus on digital transformation
Programmatic approaches were already taking hold in the sample and panel sector, well before the upheaval of 2020 was underway. Use of automation and AI-driven solutions are becoming standard, as companies struggle to keep up with increasing demands for speed, quality and cost-effectiveness. Sample exchange companies are creating efficiencies during the execution stage of the research process, speeding up fieldwork and field management by working with programmatic suppliers to automate the delivery of sample to data jobs.

This approach has been around for a while, but now it takes on greater significance as insights technology companies are also pushing changes to the status quo. They are bypassing traditional market research avenues, working directly with brands and offering a more automated way of doing research from start to finish. This is further driving the adoption of programmatic sample exchange and forcing more traditional market research agencies to take another close look at digital transformation.

Cost of transformation: spike in fraud
As technology solves problems and speeds up processes, it doesn’t come without challenges. While fraud has been a persistent problem in market research for years, it is undergoing a metamorphosis that is matching our industry’s technology adoption step for step. This reality requires a renewed focus on fraud mitigation techniques that are dynamic enough to keep up with a tech savvy fraudster.

There are a few different ways that fraud is worming its way into the market research industry, finding gaps in security. The biggest type of fraud we are seeing at Cint is called link or redirect fraud, also called ghost completes. This happens when a fraudster discovers the redirect link from a data collection platform and they use that to communicate that they have completed the survey (at scale) and are entitled to a reward, when they have, in actuality, not participated.  

This is just one type of tech-driven fraud that results in false or bad data. To battle it, and other fraudulent behavior, we must again use the technology at our disposal. An AI-driven approach holds promise as it can use algorithms to detect pattern changes, quickly catching bad behavior before it affects quality. Many sample companies are combining these kinds of dynamic proprietary tools and techniques with more traditional approaches to catch fraud at multiple stages during the process.

Data privacy scrutiny continues
GDPR and other privacy regulations brought a renewed focus to data privacy over the last couple of years. With data misuse and security breaches taking central stage, consumers are now also beginning to seek further control over their own data and demand greater security and privacy. This is forcing market research companies to rethink how they work with data and how they will address these issues, especially in countries like the U.S. where there is no widespread unified federal regulatory measure in place.

Again, this is an area where digital approaches can make a difference. Technology is coming out to support data privacy, including third-party consent management platforms which help companies work with current legislation and deal with consent. Other companies are investing in their own technology to help with compliance. Technology like blockchain is being put to use in some circles, providing a secure audit trail as the foundation for transparency and accountability on data usage, protecting consumers  by giving them greater control over how, when and by whom their data is used.   

We can look to digital advertising trends to see what our future might hold when it comes to privacy. A highly publicized move by Google to discontinue support of third-party cookies in its Pro browser is one significant move. The ad tech ecosystem will change drastically. Apple pioneered some of these moves when they locked down cookies in their Safari browser. These actions by leading tech brands are causing companies to rethink how they do digital advertising, and this privacy-first mentality will continue to make its way to center stage for market research companies as well.

What’s around the corner
The speed and need for change increases daily, and it will not slow down. Organizations are being put to the test to see if they are viable for the future. Digital transformation is pushing for new technology solutions, new regulations and compliance that will, hopefully, mean we all come out better on the other side. COVID and other global disruptions may have provided the catalyst for this recent accelerated change, but forward thinkers in market research industry were already moving in this direction. It is now up to us to address the challenges head-on with innovative solutions and embrace the new opportunities that will future-proof the insights space.