New Year is traditionally the time when we all take stock of where we are and where we want to be. It’s a good time to evaluate and our industry is no different, so to keep with tradition, I’ve pulled together our predictions for what will happen in 2018. Prediction blogs are often not specific to the coming 12 months. Rather they tend to explain long-term trends and direction of travel which is helpful of course but does not address immediate strategic business concerns. This year I’ve tried to tie down what we are likely to see happen (or not!) within the confines of the 12 months as well as how these developments fit into the longer-term trends.
In many ways 2018 will be the year for ‘action-orientated insight’; getting insight closer to the points that stakeholders need to make decisions.
These are the eight things that I think will happen during 2018...
1. We will hear a LOT more about Automation, AI and Machine Learning
First, let’s be clear that these three things are NOT all the same, despite often being cited, as I have here, together in one sentence. Second, 2018 will see a lot of hype and misuse of the terminology. But, third, 2018 will be the year where we begin to apply these concepts in practical use cases. Whilst a lot may not touch our everyday use of insight, I am sure that 2018 will create the foundation for the application of these elements in our industry in the future.
2. We will see the term ‘Blockchain’ enter the lexicon of market research
From the hype, to the early trends, ‘blockchain’ is a term that we will first hear applied directly to our industry in 2018. It’s a trend in Silicon Valley right now and a lot of Venture Capital is being invested in blockchain businesses. How it applies to insight and market research is not yet clear, but it will be discussed and new businesses will emerge. The need for data privacy will likely drive interest in this area and it may also lead to a further erosion of the need for the ‘middle men’ - traditional market research agencies – in the industry.
3. Businesses will need agile insight
What brands really need more of in 2018 is agile insight. I don’t just mean fast insight; I mean insight that is agile in delivery, supporting the lifecycle of development. Businesses don’t just need insight when something is about to be launched (when decisions and budgets have already been made and set), they need it continuously - before, during and after development so that consumer needs are ‘baked-into’ every aspect of new products, services, technology, websites (UX) and marketing campaigns. This requires insight to take place in tandem with development through the use of research and testing iterations (develop-test-learn-develop-test-learn-develop, etc.). 2018 will see an increasing number of companies realise and articulate the need for this.
4. Businesses will ask for speed!
We will see a lot of misuse of the term ‘agile’ when applied to insight delivery - what many businesses will actually be asking for in 2018 is speed! The need for speed will increase dramatically in 2018. We are already familiar with the mantra, ‘faster and cheaper’ which is, in part, driving the hype of automation, but during 2018 a lot more insight briefs will demand faster turnaround times for research projects. The need for speed is here to stay but we must also all work harder to discern the difference between agile insight methodologies and ones that are simply faster.
5. Stakeholders will expect insight on demand
In 2018 stakeholders will increasingly demand that insight is delivered when they need it - at the point of their decision. This desire for insight on demand is a reflection of their need for insight to be continuously at hand but it also demonstrates the need for insight to be stored, collated and disseminated better. Insight on demand is not just about being faster or more agile; it’s about putting data and insight into the hands of the people who will make decisions based on it. During 2018 we will see the beginning of a democratisation of insight; no longer held in reports owned by agencies or teams, but curated by stakeholders themselves.
6. The desire will grow for MR data to integrate with business systems
Clients will increasingly expect to see the outputs of customer feedback integrated into their enterprise systems. In 2018 we will likely be asked more frequently about how different data systems can be connected and integrated. In turn, this will challenge the data privacy standards traditionally set out by our Research Society guidelines. In the UK, MRS guidelines traditionally ask for customer feedback to be collected on the basis of it being anonymised and used in aggregated form. The need to integrate data sources together – seeing all feedback data appended in CRM systems – will directly challenge this.
7. Insight will continue to move ‘in-house’
More research will move into the marketing departments of brands and away from the traditional marketing research organisations. We will continue to see client-side insight teams expand to contain broader skill sets and take on more of the process of insight creation, which has traditionally been the domain of the market research agency. As the growth in so-called Big Data continues to drive the shift from data collection to data analysis and demands from stakeholders for speed and agility get louder, businesses will respond by expanding the in-house skill set required to build insight into internal functions.
8. GDPR will force companies to properly manage data privacy and data security
The introduction of GDPR in Europe on May 25th 2018 will prove the impetus for all brands and consultancies to finally come to terms with treating customer data with the respect it deserves. GDPR will completely disrupt the marketing and CRM worlds during 2018 and will challenge those whose roles depend on data analysis. It should however be an opportunity and a positive boost for market research, where we’ve typically built feedback based on clear opt-in and permission-based processes. Some strands of the industry will no doubt be greatly challenged, but others, such as the provision and creation of opted-in research communities and panels, will likely flourish.
The over-arching theme that connects all of these together is an increasing drive towards ‘action -orientated’ insight; feedback, analysis and interpretation that is much more closely aligned to business decisions, as they happen, wherever they happen, and in the hands of the stakeholders who make them happen.