2021 Marketing Research Trends: Deepening CX Knowledge

The significant shifts in customer needs, expectations, and behaviors taking place in 2020 are driving many of the 2021 marketing research trends. Across virtually every industry, there is a heightened need for research that helps marketers quickly respond to changing customer expectations. That need to gain a deeper understanding of customers is causing many existing marketing research trends to gain momentum. Here are some of the ways these trends will continue to evolve in the coming year.

Rising Demand for Expert Research Consultation

The dramatic growth in the volume of customer data available to marketers has made the need for expert consultation more important than ever. Marketers need to make sense of large data sets in less time, especially during these tumultuous times. In addition, we’re seeing a rise in do-it-together (DIT) research approaches. Here, marketers can take advantage of DIY research platforms while partnering with full-service research firms to provide in-depth analysis. Experienced research consultants can help you draw connections across multiple data sources saving valuable time in generating meaningful insights. This collaborative approach helps ensure your research findings accurately measure shifting needs and expectations, telling a holistic story about your customer experience.

Growing Research Culture

More and more internal stakeholders across organizations are coming to rely on strategic marketing research. It gives them the information they need to keep pace and respond more quickly to changes in their market. This requires bringing stakeholders to the table up front to ensure their research objectives will be met. Marketing research suppliers can help with this process by serving as an extension of your internal research team. They can help provide consultation on research study design, analysis, and communication of findings. Plus, collaboration with marketing researchers can help your teams identify new opportunities to incorporate research to assist with critical decision making.

Agile Research is Going Mainstream

As the pace of change continues to speed up, the use of agile research methods is becoming more mainstream. That means conducting a series of smaller studies, in less time, helping marketers learn as they go and make quick, incremental decisions. This allows organizations to become more responsive to changing customer needs. Plus, it helps reduce the risk of falling behind competitors who may beat them to market with new products or enhanced services.

Heightened Attention to Data Quality

The need to ensure high-quality data collection and analysis is becoming more important than ever. That’s due, in part, to the increasing ability for companies to integrate large data sets from multiple sources with their primary research data (see Additional Technology Trends below). Add to this the growing use of DIY research tools and dashboard platforms as a complement to working with full-service research firms. These trends are impacting the way data is gathered, analyzed, and shared across an organization. As a result, heightened attention to data quality is required. Experienced research consultants can help ensure your resulting findings are based on high-quality data principles by:

  • Confirming feedback is collected from a representative target audience sample across all data sources
  • Ensuring survey questions capture the information you need to make critical business decisions with confidence
  • Choosing appropriate data analysis techniques and dashboard designs to communicate results with clarity and accuracy

There’s no doubt that the amount of data available to marketers will continue increasing in volume and complexity. Taking steps to confirm the integrity of your research data, no matter the source will give you the confidence you need to make important business decisions.

Accelerated Use of Online Qualitative

The volume of in-person qualitative research is certainly down in 2020. Fortunately, companies have been able to continue gathering rich qualitative feedback through the increased use of online methods.

The trend towards online qualitative was already on the rise prior to COVID-19. However, increases in bandwidth capabilities and enhanced tools for analyzing audio/visual data are also making online qualitative more common. Plus, the growing familiarity with video platforms like Zoom is likely to drive continued use of this methodology going forward. The question becomes whether replacing in-person research with digital qualitative tools is here to stay. There will still be a role for in-person studies, particularly in the area of ethnographic research once safety concerns with face-to-face interactions have passed. However, it’s likely that the accelerated adoption of online methods will be a lasting development.

Enhanced AI-Enabled Techniques

The capabilities of AI-enabled techniques like text analytics and sentiment analysis are becoming increasingly sophisticated. While not new, adoption of tools like these is growing. This trend comes in response to a need to gain richer insights, more efficiently, from unstructured data. Here are some of the enhancements we’re seeing:

  • Smoother integration of human intelligence with automated features
  • Synthesizing both qualitative and quantitative data from open-ended surveys
  • Ability to analyze other forms of content including images, video, and audio

As always, ensuring a high level of quality is critical, especially as AI-enabled data analysis tools become more advanced. While saving valuable time, these tools are still a long way off from replacing human interpretation and insight.

Additional Technology Trends

There are a number of growing trends in the ways technology is shaping the future of marketing research. These include:

  • Data integration – Increasing use of software platforms that integrate data across business intelligence platforms, CRM, and other sources to add context to primary research findings and create advanced data visualizations.
  • Digital ethnography – In-person, observational ethnographic methods are being replaced with the use of mobile phone technologies to gather behavioral data. Customers are able to document their purchase and usage habits through audio recordings, videos, images, and text messaging.
  • Chatbot-based research – Using chatbots to gather feedback in real-time while increasing the potential to reach a wider target audience.

Responding Faster to Changing Consumer Needs

Regardless of the industry you’re in, 2020 has been defined by the need to accelerate the speed of our responsiveness. We expect these 2021 marketing research trends to gain momentum and help marketers gain a deeper understanding of shifting customer behaviors. The pace at which marketers must respond to evolving needs and expectations is unlikely to slow down. Therefore, marketing research needs to continue providing efficient, high-quality, timely ways to help organizations anticipate, prepare for, and adapt as quickly as possible.


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