2020 Market Research Trends: Impacting Researchers’ Roles

2020 Market Research Trends: Impacting Researchers’ Roles

If we had to use only one word to describe the 2010’s, it would be disruption. Across nearly every industry, the way we do business has changed with the emergence of the gig economy, rapid advancements in technologies like AI, VR, and machine learning, and of course, the impact of the ‘Amazon effect.’ These innovative yet disrupting forces have ushered in a new normal of escalating customer expectations. To keep pace, marketers need to respond to their customers’ changing preferences faster than ever by delivering meaningful, personalized experiences at scale. How can market research help? We believe it’s through the power of making connections.

In many ways, the essence of market research’s role has always been about helping make connections. Connecting data observations to generate meaningful customer insights. Connecting insights to tell a holistic customer experience story. Connecting marketers more closely with their customers.

However, we believe the most important 2020 market research trends underscore the need for researchers to take the role of ‘connection making’ to new and higher levels.  As the use of advanced technologies becomes increasingly accessible, market researchers will be relied upon to harness evolving technology to gather and analyze customer data in new ways and generate deeper insights to help marketers achieve their business goals. In order for this to happen, market researchers must take on three key roles to better serve their clients’ needs.

The Evolving Roles of Market Researchers

  1. Data Curators
  2. Emotive Storytellers
  3. ROI Bridge-Builders

1. Data Curators

According to Pablo Jose Perez, Head of Market Insights at Google Spain, “We are facing a reality where each aspect of consumer behavior is being measured best by a particular methodology or data source, but does not give the whole story. In order to have a complete view, all those sources have to work in combination.” In the midst of this fragmentation of data sources, the role of the market researcher needs to shift more and more toward becoming data curators.

More than ever before, market researchers will be relied upon to provide sound consultation on selecting the right research framework and the most appropriate data sources. As data and insight curators, we must first help our clients identify the right questions to ask. How can we anticipate and address customers’ rising expectations more effectively? What are the common themes that shed light on the elements of the customer experience that matter most?

It has also become increasingly important to think critically about the choices we make when curating customer data from a wide range of sources in order to maintain high data integrity. Add to that the need to bring the same methodological rigor to bear on the process of data gathering, synthesis, and analysis of customer data when using new technologies and non-traditional sources. The challenge then becomes to develop improved processes for integrating disparate sources of information in order to generate insights that help solve pressing business problems.

Advances in technology, particularly in AI and automation, will become increasingly useful in the process of data collection, organization, and analysis. However, the human component of the market researcher’s role remains critical. To be successful, researchers will need to help marketers curate insights with the highest potential to solve critical business challenges and inspire goal-oriented decision making.

2. Emotive Storytellers

As market researchers, we will also be called upon to bring our emotive storytelling skills to higher and higher levels. The growing adoption of sophisticated technologies to gather and analyze customer feedback is generating exponentially larger data sets, which makes the importance of telling a cohesive, human-centered, emotionally powerful story all the more critical. Marketers need to understand not only what their customers want most, but also why they are thinking, feeling, and behaving as they do.

In 2020, we expect to see further developments in the areas of text analytics and sentiment analysis. These tools will become increasingly relied upon to help identify customers’ personal storylines and convey the tone and magnitude of emotions associated with their experiences. Innovations in online qualitative techniques, building on existing technologies like chatbots and natural language processing, will also continue to emerge, making it possible to conduct conversational qualitative research at scale.

As we refine the tools needed to capture customer stories in greater detail, market researchers will need to translate the rich volume of data into human terms, conveying the emotional impact of the customer experience to key stakeholders. Here, we expect the use of visual imagery and video content in research deliverables to become more sophisticated. We need to capture the emotional depth and impact of customers’ experiences and inspire marketers to take swift action. It’s no longer sufficient to simply ‘tell the story in the data;’ it needs to be brought to life.

3. ROI Bridge-Builders

In the face of fierce competition, there is a heightened sense of urgency for marketers to demonstrate the ROI of CX initiatives. Market research can support ROI bridge-building by helping organizations uncover and resolve critical disconnects between employee and customer experiences. Here, the goal as ROI bridge-builders is to better understand the reciprocal impact that EX and CX have on each other so that improvement efforts in both areas can be more strategically aligned.

Existing research has demonstrated the benefits of providing great customer experiences on the bottom line. Likewise, the financial advantages of providing positive employee experiences are commonly recognized. What organizations now need is to uncover linkages between CX and EX performances and their combined effect on business outcomes. With that information in hand, marketers will be able to refine improvements in both areas with greater likelihood of positively impacting the bottom line.

Looking Ahead – 2020 Market Research Trends to Watch

A review of 2020 market research trends would be remiss if we didn’t include a look at emerging technologies on the horizon. Here are three areas we’ll be watching in the coming years.

Image & Video Recognition: See Your Customers More Clearly

Advances in image and video recognition technologies will enable researchers to analyze volumes of multimedia customer feedback at scale. As these capabilities become more sophisticated, promising market research applications will emerge in areas like new product development, advertising testing, and competitive intelligence.

Voice Assistant Technologies: Potential for In-the-Moment Conversational Research

Nearly one in four Americans currently own a voice-enabled smart speaker. That figure is expected to reach 55% by the end of 2022. As household penetration increases, voice-enabled technologies hold great potential to engage consumers in truly conversational, in-the-moment market research.

Blockchain Technology: Reinvigorating Research Participation, Quality, & Security

The promise that blockchain technology holds for market research deals with three key challenges facing the industry: decreasing participation rates, the time and cost involved in verifying data integrity, and growing privacy concerns. The nature of blockchain technology, with its decentralized, encrypted, and cross-checked solutions, will enable new ways to incentivize respondents, thereby encouraging greater participation. It also offers the ability to make the process of verifying data quality more efficient, while enhancing levels of data security.

As new technology continues to emerge, market researchers’ multi-faceted role as data curators, emotive storytellers, and ROI bridge-builders will also evolve. Ultimately, before recommending the use of a new technology, analytic technique, or tool, we must always ask ourselves three key questions:

  • Will it significantly enhance our ability to generate deep customer insights?
  • Will it enable us to tell a richer and more cohesive customer experience story?
  • Will it help guide strategy development and decision making in a way that leads to measurable business success?


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