2021 has had its share of challenges and triumphs for the market research, insights and data-driven marketing industries. And whilst the challenges appear to be mounting there are also growing opportunities to enhance the impact of our profession, our organizations and ourselves in 2022.

Following on from my articles for Halloween and Thanksgiving I decided to comb the globe for an array of industry leaders and innovators across enterprises, agencies, and associations to get their unique perspectives as to what they see as the two top priorities for market research, consumer insight and data-driven marketing professionals to lead on in 2022 in order to effectively elevate strategies, innovation and decisions. Here is their advice and guidance and I hope you find it as valuable as I have ...

Kristin Luck, President of ESOMAR, Founder of WIRe, US
“Think like a CFO, present like a CMO. Insights pros need to think like big consulting and focus more on holistic strategies that drive business performance. Also, move from an “office-first” to a “remote-first” mentality. We are living in a time where, as knowledge workers, we have unparalleled access to global talent. “Remote-first” practices ensure you’re not only hiring the best talent but also the most diverse – which has been shown time and time again to drive innovation and increased profitability.”

Perry Li, General Manager, QuickDecision, China
“The top priority is to drive the digital transformation of our industry. We still run the research business in a quite traditional way, from translating business questions to research questions, research design, execution, data report and insight generation. This can't catch the pace of the change in the area we serve like marketing and production innovation. Beyond this, the other priority is to find a better way of engaging consumers to join the research, by motivating them with topics and interest vs. the incentive, we need to continue improving our interview quality.”

Babita Earle, Executive Vice President, Strategic & Industry Partnerships, Zappi, UK
“Launch an industry-wide campaign on 'who we are and the value we add,' with the aim of demystifying and bringing to life the value we bring and to inspire new talent into our sector. Also, collaborate to accelerate, don't try to offer your customers the ocean, work openly with the best to get the best for your customers. Finally, move from pledge to action on inclusion issues. Don't say it is important – do something about it and put in some investment. This is an area the whole industry can pull together on.”

Nichole Gu, Managing Director, Behaviorally, Asia, Singapore
“For me, the two top priorities for MR and Insights professionals for 2022 will be, now that we are finally out of COVID lockdowns – all clients want to know what changes that have happened in the retail landscape and consumer shopping behavior during COVID are going to stay? In Asia we must lead on to e-tailers that have been successful in our region, e.g. TMall, JD, Lazada, Shopee, etc. instead of the western players like Amazon, and learn from their Omni strategy. And only insights consultancies that have tools and expertise in defining, diagnosing and predicting consumer & shopper behaviors will be able to win this game in the long run. Also, be bolder and more courageous. Let go of existing approaches, experiences and beliefs that no longer meet the above rapidly changing business and consumer needs.”

Mark Langsfeld - Chief Executive Officer of mTab, US
“Democratize insights and analytics to the widest audience possible so your onsite and remote workers can make their most informed decisions. At mTab, we're working hard to introduce new and exciting products in 2022 that will help make data and analytics even more accessible to knowledge workers and business units. We want to help organizations work smarter and become more productive in these ever-changing markets and work environments.  

Joy Uyanwune, Head, Global Marketing, Decision Support, Nigeria
“An excitement for market research and consumer insights is in witnessing consumers with little or no formal education or sophistication, stepping up in the kinds of phones they use just to be better able to access a variety of digital services. We may soon be able to relax to some good palm wine and worry a little less about representativeness as local network providers expand in missions to rope in everyone from their nooks and crannies. The future for the insights community as we grapple with fighting to stay apart yet connected (no thanks to the pandemic) is in seeing that the design of our research and the data interpretations bear a good mix of our digitized selves amidst our cultural identities. Gladly, I see an era where getting people to joyfully, confidently and painlessly share so much information about themselves in an e-environment comes ‘without pulling teeth’ as we say in Nigeria.”

Sally Joubert, Chief Executive Officer, Luma Research Australia
“We have learned a lot from the extraordinary events of 2020 and 2021 and have adapted in many ways which would have been incomprehensible two years ago. To effectively elevate strategies, innovation, and decisions I see our top two priorities are our people and technology.  We need to make sure we build diverse and focused teams giving priority to competency, gender balance, diversity in age, background, and experience. A diverse team will ensure we don’t consistently skew our decisions which will weaken rather than strengthen our progress.  Prioritizing the use of Research Technology in everything we do is also crucial to ensure we move forward and innovate. There is an absolute sweet spot when these two align.”

Danny Russell, Strategic Advisor, Danny Russell Consulting, UK
“The first point would be the need to become more commercial. Insights without financial implications are less impactful. This additional layer of context to market research and consumer insights professionals’ outputs in 2022 will ensure their audience includes the key decision makers within the business. Secondly, in the post-pandemic world that we (hopefully) will see in 2022, our sector, more than any, should be leading the charge towards observation. Technology takes us part way, but never let your clients or stakeholders get comfortable viewing the world through Zoom and PowerPoint charts.”

Giulia Fabrizi, Founder & CEO, Almar Quality Research, Italy
“Personally, I think the two priorities our community of market research professionals need to focus on in the coming year are, first, support companies and brands in building their ethical credibility by creating consistency between their values and everything that is related to the company/brand. This includes the products/services, the customer experiences, the online and offline communications, the activities, and events for the well-being of individuals, society, and the planet. When consistency is lacking, the consumer notices and prefers to turn to those who clearly state what they do and do what they state. Beyond this, intervene on the internal community of employees, with the methods of market research blended with other disciplines (e.g. coaching, laughter, yoga, mindfulness, semiotics, social psychology, work psychology, methods such as LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, etc.) to restore the health and well-being, through activities and actions aimed at restoring balance in a work situation that is still 'hybrid'. When working in a serene and stimulating environment, employees engage in a flow that allows them to gain satisfaction by becoming brand and product/service Ambassadors themselves, because they are proud of their work.”

Pete Green - Customer Data & Insights Manager, Volvo Trucks, UK & Ireland
"A huge challenge for insights professionals moving forward is to develop, embed and prove out insights from multiple interlocking sources, not just via traditional market research studies. Tailoring these insights to the most immediate of business questions and proving out the financial value to businesses of acting on these insights (or not!) should remain a focus for many in the industry. As ever, we're all swamped with far too much data and finding the truly valuable insightful stories in this quagmire of information is a never-ending quest."

Tony Costella, Director Global CMI, Heineken International B.V., The Netherlands
“A simple two-word mantra – Bold Change. Our role is to constantly challenge and evolve ourselves and our organizations. We continue to want to drive bold change within the insights industry – better integrating technology and analytics, multiple data sources and real-time insights to ensure our function is seen as an enabler not a blocker. Also, within our own organization – provoking and inspiring corporate strategy through bringing the voice of the consumer to more decisions. And finally, with ourselves – personal growth driven by an insatiable appetite to learn and improve.”

Christian Dössel, VP Client Development & Country Manager Germany, PRS Invivo
“After spending more than 22 years in the research industry, year after year predictions have mostly been around technological innovation like automation, AI etc. that should help our clients to get data faster, cheaper and at least with the same quality. Of course, digital transformation has had and continues to have a major impact on our business, but over the years not many of these predictions have fully materialized. In 2022 for market research and consumer insights professionals, it will be about refocusing a bit more on what it's all about: understanding, explaining and influencing human behavior. Technology will help us do this, but it is the human advantage of the many highly trained people in our industry that will matter.”

Angus Hunter, Chief Executive Officer, The Research Society, Australia
“Coming into the research community from the buying perspective, I see a fair amount of industry division both between the various research disciplines and the application of technology in the research process. I do not feel that clients are particularly interested in these divisions.  Naturally they want rigor, but they are equally as concerned with timing and agility. I believe there are enormous opportunities for insights professionals over the coming year. COVID is one of those once-in-a-generation events that has completely reframed consumer sentiment and behavior. Governments and companies need to understand how this shift affects them and how these behaviors are likely to develop over time. Insights professionals are ideally placed to provide the answers. To be effective however, we need to simplify and accelerate our delivery processes and embrace the new technologies available to us. We need to accept the specific benefits of all forms of research and show the decision-making community how they can work together to provide the insights they need in the time frames they want. I feel that these are not new issues to raise but they do not appear to have been fully addressed.  So, my priorities for 2022 are to integrate and collaborate and, also embrace the new technologies that are available to us. If we do this, our decision makers will benefit and our value will be enhanced.”

Stephan Gans, SVP & Chief Insights & Analytics Officer, Pepsico, US
“To me, two key priorities for 2022 for consumer insights professionals that come to mind are foresight and diversity. With all the disruptions in our businesses over the past 2 years, it is crucial we get better at developing a (scenario-based) view of what the future holds for the people who buy our brands and products, and as a result for our businesses. Continuing to drive for more diversity in our teams is imperative, to ensure we have diversity of thought as well as to make sure the make-up of our teams reflect the world we aim to serve with our brands.”

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Well, that’s a whistle stop tour of views from around the world – to me both fascinating and inspiring to see the truly global profession in which we work. It would also be remiss of me not to encourage everyone to nominate their “superheroes” for the 2022 Insight250 Awards. Nominations are now open at www.insight250.com.

All that remains is for me to wish everyone a very Happy and a Prosperous New Year.