Out with the old, in with the new
Happy new year to everyone (it’s never too late in the market research industry to make a public sentiment public). Various MR publications in the UK and US over the past week have been pontificating on where and what next for the MR industry in 2016, as well as retrospectively taking a self-congratulatory look at the successes of 2015.
I’ve read articles on the likely key "buzzwords" for 2016, ranging from "Superforecasting" (check out the work of Philip Tetlock). I’ve also read a lot about "Wearables" becoming mainstream in media parlance (mainly thanks to Apple taking consumer knowledge to the forefront). Then there’s the recurring chestnut of "real time" (a phrase recurring annually since the digital decade), "integration" (in terms of management solutions), as well as more commercial and marketing centric notions of "growth hacking" and "Micromarketing". The IOT (Internet of things) gets my vote as the stock phrase most likely to generate newspaper supplement weekend feature fodder in 2016. It is also likely to be the year that consumers really start to digest, use and embrace the IOT in their daily lives, we well as being the year in which Marketers work harder to understand and leverage the power of the IOT for marketing communication purposes. I also think that the word "Smart" will feature heavily in this context, whether that’s smart fridges, smart watches, smart meters or smart pills. Even smart research will parade itself. In other words, 2016 might just be that catalyst year in which technology cements and solidifies itself as man’s best friend. It’s there for us, always on but in the background helping us better manage and make sense of our daily lives as well as protecting us from dangers. (I no longer need to worry about forgetting to turn the heating off when I go on holiday or worry about an elderly relative forgetting to take their life saving pills. The IOT is there to take care of all of that for us as individuals.)
Also, in the last week, I’ve read plenty about what success for 2016 and beyond might look like for our industry. Key phrases and crystal ball gazing here range from "360° customer experiences", to "Immersive Virtual Reality", and the more intuitive utopia of Qual, Quant, Neuroscience and big Data living harmoniously.
But I’ve also read much about the disappointments of 2015 for our world. In the UK, for sure, the catastrophic and egotistical failure of the Pollsters to correctly predict the outcome of the May 2015 UK General Election called the UK and the global research industry more generally into significant disrepute amongst both the middle classes and the media and political fraternity.
Despite many opinion and academic papers undertaking post-mortem after post-mortem on events, for me, the obvious yet over-riding and unreported conclusion is that surveys alone cannot and will not EVER provide "the truth". In our soundbite media-saturated world where lazy journalists churn out content based on sensationalist statistics, it has become all too easy to disregard the way in which consumers actually make decisions and value based judgments. Human behavior in general and consumer decision making in particular is by and large para-logical, messy, contradictory and (with apologies to the market research industry) incommunicable. The death of the survey in its current guise has to be nigh, in order for the market research industry (which in 2016 should be renamed the Data Inquiry Industry) to have a chance to really get to grips with how the human mind works. Our industry still needs to do much, much more to take heed of behavioural economics and cognitive psychology in order to get to a better (but never 100% accurate) understanding of why and how individuals and groups say the things they do. In that sense, Qual, Quant and Neuroscience techniques do need to better integrate and work together in order to make sense of the world - which itself is becoming ever more fragile, hostile and unpredictable.
Real time or "in the moment" research will become much more ubiquitous, as will its use in conjunction with more broadly available customer profile data. Couple this with the power of as yet untapped data available to us via the IOT, then 2016 could really prove to be the tipping point for a real understanding of the omni-channel customer journey and citizens’ associated experiences.
As for broader macro trends within our industry, cost reduction and budgetary pressures will continue apace as client side research departments continue to demand more for less, and expect efficiencies based on an assumption of ever decreasing cost of data collection and automation. Research agencies standing out with a truly differentiated “value-add” consulting proposition will win out in this paradigm. Many make the claim, but few actually live up to the promise. In addition, Emerging Markets (particularly Brazil, Russia, India and China followed by South Korea, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) will continue to embrace the need for intelligent data and insight to fuel growth and relentless innovation.
Here's to a thrilling, exciting, unpredictable and highly stimulating 2016 for our industry everyone. I hope each and every one of you goes on your own personal adventure, however big or small!
Adele Gritten is European Managing Director of LRW Europe (Lieberman Research Worldwide) whose European Headquarters is in London. Adele joined LRW in Jan 2015 with a remit of growing LRW’s footprint across Europe. Prior to joining LRW, Adele spent 5 years as Commercial Director at YouGov, latterly overseeing the company's 5 core consulting verticals: Media, TechTel, Financial Services, Public Sector and Consumer. Adele started her career in media strategy, planning and research at CIA and Omnicom owned agency PHD. She also spent time as Head of Research for Clear Channel and as a Director for Quaestor Research and Marketing Strategists Ltd. Adele has an MA in Social and Political Science from Cambridge University.