What trends should market researchers expect in 2016? To find out, we asked a variety of executives and thought leaders to share their predictions for the coming year. Our sources include industry veterans at established firms, as well as a number of innovative entrepreneurs.
These respondents cited a range of influential factors including the role of mobile devices, big data, and social analytics in understanding consumer behavior. New technological developments could help market researchers unlock real-time data and answer strategic business questions more quickly and accurately. To find out more about these trends, check out the series of quotes below.
For a more current view, see our latest blog post covering predicted market research trends for 2022.
In-the-Moment Research with Mobile Devices
“I think in 2016, and this isn’t necessarily a new trend, but more and more research will be done on mobile devices — but not simply because of their proliferation in market and share of usage vs. desktop computers, but because of the ability to intercept respondents while they are in the middle of certain actions or at certain locations is becoming more achievable and accurate. In addition, I think in 2016 marketers will continue to use big data to better understand consumer behavior, but market researchers will begin to use the same data to help understand the ‘why’ behind this behavior, and how they can help marketers develop strategies to impact these behaviors.”
— Mitch Markel, Partner at Benenson Strategy Group
An Emphasis on Customer Values and Motivation
“While it’s true marketers have access to more data than ever, the real differentiator will be in how they use it. In today's increasingly cluttered marketplace, marketers need to go beyond traditional demographic segmentation to speak to what truly motivates customers to take action — their inner values. In assessing their customer’s values or their inner ‘why,’ marketers can gain forward looking, rather than backward looking, insights. For example, you can look at past data and see that millennials were interested in things like YOLO, Snapchat, tiny houses, or craft beer and invest more in brand-building connected to those trends. Or you can look at the broader personality trait (Do they seek out new experiences? De-emphasize material possessions? Live for each moment with little regard for the future?) that might provide meaning to the trends and help predict their future actions."
— Ravi Iyer, Data Scientist at Zenzi
The Importance of ROI and Leveraging Results
“Looking to 2016, market research ROI will take center stage and corporate researchers will need to demonstrate a tangible, positive ROI on their programs. ‘Nice to have’ customer satisfaction tracking studies and syndicated research programs sold by third-party providers will be replaced by bespoke, action-oriented research initiatives focused on transforming the client experience and new product development. Corporate researchers will bring more of their studies in-house, as they will be expected to leverage the results of their programs to champion change across their organizations. Researchers who rise to the occasion, integrate themselves into the business, and become advocates will thrive, while others will be relegated to obscurity. Similarly, research vendors who understand the nature of their clients’ businesses and are focused first and foremost on helping them solve business issues will be successful, while others will become commoditized outsourcing centers.”
The Growing Role of Automation
“The biggest trend for the next few years is likely to be automation, and we’ll start to see more and more of it in 2016. Look out for companies like Zappistore from inside the research world and a growing number from outside."
— Ray Poynter, Founder of The Future Place and NewMR, Author of The Handbook of Mobile Market Research
An Increase in Neuromarketing Research
“With growing evidence that people cannot accurately predict what they'll do or explain why they did something, 2016 will see an increase in neuromarketing research, supplementing or in some case supplanting traditional focus groups, surveys, and mall intercepts. Companies seeking both a better understanding of consumer motivations and a surer way of forging emotional connections will appreciate the additional insights derived from neuromarketing research — and from related behavioral economics and cognitive science studies.”
— Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at Wilde Agency
Mobile Research and the Data Race
“First, mobile is a game changer for the research industry in the way that the internet was 15 years ago. It means we can capture more timely and location-sensitive information from consumers, but offers far more exciting possibilities. As consumers’ lives increasingly move away from the desktop and towards mobile (a more personal device), it provides us with the ability to passively capture huge amounts of information about their lives, thereby reducing the burden on respondents and increasing the accuracy of our data. Mobile will drive hybrid qual/quant research as well as an explosion in the importance of spatial analytics and attributing digital exposure to an offline ‘conversion event.’
Second, at the moment, the data race is on with customer, sales, and loyalty data being aligned with media and other datasets around the world. The question we increasingly ask our clients is what data do you have, can we help you monetise it, and how can we integrate it directly into media planning? We don’t believe in a future where a handful of businesses ‘own’ huge datasets but see a more likely future being one where datasets and businesses come together ‘on the fly,’ benefiting both businesses in the short to medium term but leaving them free to pursue other avenues. Agility and flexibility will remain key.”
— Jane Watson, Head of Solutions, Anomaly Australia
Online Tools and Social Analytics
"For the first time in history, the average daily time that people spend consuming digital content has now surpassed the average time spent watching TV. Therefore, market research providers need to be utilizing electronic surveys, video conferencing for interviews with thought leaders, and other technological tools to conduct research. Market research techniques and tools have also grown exponentially over the past two to three years, so market research firms should now be using multiple inputs required to confirm key findings. It is no longer acceptable to make a trend statement based on a single data point. Finally, social analytics are becoming critical to assess, in addition to traditional analytics, because nearly the entire population is now engaging with online tools, such as social media and online search, of which Google dominates more than 70 percent. Social analytics are user findings derived from social platforms (such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Search, and Google Trends), analytics which can reveal both individual user behavior, as well as aggregate group activity."
— Cade Hildreth, President/CEO of Bioinformant.com
The Power of Data for Storytelling
“I anticipate that we¹ll see more market researchers partnering with data owners, data aggregators, and software suppliers to gain access to more structured and unstructured data. They will couple that data with their methodologies, and it will enable them to build and tell more complete stories for their clients."
— Adam Rossow, Partner with iModerate
Engagement and Sentiment Analysis
“The definition of local reach will continue to tighten as smarter tech provides the opportunity for a greater breadth of data across more devices and platforms. From multiple screens to wearables to the wired home, unlocking this data and understanding behavior and opportunities will be key. Real-time data — including engagement and sentiment analysis — will allow brands to unlock experiential marketing opportunities that are more personalized than ever before. And all of this will result in continued growth in value for those — both individuals and their agencies — who are able to analyze, understand, and act upon this information to create nimble campaign engagements.”
— Jonathan Cooper, SVP, Director of Public Relations, Content, and Social Media at LevLane Advertising
A Shift Toward On-Going, Real-Time Research
“There is a cataclysmic shift in the marketplace that is just beginning. We are seeing executives moving away from periodic, big and expensive research projects performed by third parties. Commissioning a once-a-year study just won't cut it anymore. The speed of market learning is a real and sustainable differentiation, and so we are seeing executives starting to move this in-house as a core competency and running their research in an always-on, real-time, agile, iterative fashion.”
— Ben Werner, CEO and Founder of IgniteFeedback
A Push to Humanize Big Data
"The trends will be big and small. Big in the quest to further connect survey data and big data in more meaningful and robust ways. Small in the way qualitative growth will accelerate as researchers seek deeper answers to humanize the big data. Finally, expect continuing pressure to ensure respondents are ‘real.’”
— Chris Barnes, Senior Vice President of Client Strategy at actûrus
New Emotional Research Tools
“Looking into my crystal ball, I see the emergence of emotional research tools that will — eventually — be game changers. A Carnegie Mellon University start-up has created a tool for facial recognition. It will compete with a product called Affdex, and both of these will enhance our ability to measure emotional response. Studies show how strongly our decisions are driven by emotion. Better tools to gauge and tap into these emotions will bring better ROI. But maybe not until year after next.”
— Lisa Silipigni, Senior Research Manager at Brunner
Rising Demand for Graphical Information
“We see enterprises actively demanding ways to better present information in a more graphical, easy-to-consume manner. They want to be more inclusive and share the information in a way that can be easily deployed across the company. Finally, they want better storytelling to graphically communicate their business process and show key metrics along those paths."
— Rudy Nadilo, President of Dapresy North America
A Focus on What Drives Customer Choice
"Market research has been traditionally focused on brand perception, product features, or customer experience. We're seeing a trend towards focusing specifically on what drives customer choice. We also see a trend towards focusing on customer data that can be tied directly to the decisions that need to be made in the organization."
— Bart Frischnecht, VP of Research Strategy at Vennli
The Need for Sustainable Research Solutions
“In 2016, big data will continue to get bigger, especially as the Internet of Things infiltrates more and more consumer products and retail spaces. Increased adoption of mobile technology will also continue to expand consumer feedback contexts to produce more in-the-moment insights. As data sources expand in size and mobility, research products will push the limits of efficiency and speed through automation, DIY research, and quick turn insights platforms. However, the real winners of 2016 will be those in the market research industry who can rise to the challenge of slowing down amidst all the hype of “bigger and faster,” to create and sell sustainable research solutions that are actually fit for purpose.”
— Per Smith, Senior Delivery Manager at Research Now
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