The future of market research: 2020 and beyond

With no ability to foresee the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on all of us in both our personal and work life before the new year, organizations have had to be agile to navigate, 2020. Despite the halt, perhaps even a ‘reshuffling of the deck’ of what we call our day-to-day life, businesses’ rules have not changed: stay up to speed on major trends and avoid the risk of being left behind. That rule still strongly applies to market research, as we need to meet other organizations’ needs to understand and understand how to maximize growth for our customers and partners.

Now that we’re halfway through a year let’s look back on some of the new market research trends that have emerged. *Note that while many of these trends have come as a direct response to COVID-19, many trends, before the new year, were predicted to thrive, both in 2020 and beyond. These trends are despite COVID-19’s direct impact on the marketplace and based on certain market research patterns from the 2010s.

Where has the focus of market research shifted?

Longitudinal data collection

The phrase “a sign of the times” refers to something that shows the kinds of things happening in culture during a specific period. 

Researchers and insights teams now need to realize that there is now a lot of data collected on things that have now gone ‘tone-deaf’ as a result of economic certainty and conservative consumerism. One example of this could be airline companies collecting data on travel rewards. Right now, that focus in travel may not maximize the insights you need during this time. At the same time, there’s been a rise in demand for specific products, from sleep aids and immunity-boosting supplements to pampering products and cleaning products to pet food and at-home entertainment. While longitudinal (or tracking) studies have already played such a significant role in capturing insights on awareness and purchase consideration, many factors in 2020 could affect the overall demand for particular products.

Regardless of how well and business or industry is thriving during these times, researchers will need to continue monitoring and tracking data to see and understand what is changing over time (and what is NOT) for businesses to better prepare for the future.

Brand perception & consumer sentiment

In addition to the change in demand for brand products, many businesses have needed to focus more on their brand perception and consumer sentiment. A study showed that even just during April, the first full month of self-quarantine going into effect, well over 90% of marketers mentioned that their brand marketing strategies were affected and adjusted due to COVID-19.

As mentioned before, certain brands and products will thrive due to these times, while others won’t. This is a result of the sweeping changes in attitudes and behaviors among marketplace consumers. Something vital to consider is that many of these changes won’t be temporary; purchase behaviors in the masses could change for good. Since customers will be exposed to new ways of purchasing products, many of these consumers have the potential to find out that these new ways may be better suited for their day-to-day lives.

It will be essentials for researchers to consider all of the factors that affect purchasing processes and brand perception and awareness to infer the next steps and directions for clients to thrive during these times.

How have research methods changed?

Shorter surveys

Time is still highly valuable in a busy culture, and the rise of alternative ways to gauge for consumer data is ever-expanding. As a result, researchers realize that they have other ways to get the answers they need that would have been asked in traditional 15-20 minute surveys.

Short surveys and quick polls, more than ever, are popping up on websites, phones, social media, and chatbots. One reason for this is the growing fatigue for respondents to answer longer surveys and a continued increase in utilization in social media or communication apps on electronic devices, particularly mobile phones. Apps for social media and communication account for at least 50% of all apps used worldwide. With that, researchers can intercept and collect more data in real-time at a higher rate. 

A surge in online qualitative research

Over the last decade, online qualitative research has gone from a novelty or a ‘nice-to-have’ into an essential research methodology across the market research industry. In general, traditional qualitative research is declining because it is so time-consuming and expensive to designate physical spaces to host these qualitative research activities. With COVID-19, it is now especially impractical to be running these research methodologies in-person or in-lab. Instead, there are an array of different online methods that can be used and are plenty resourceful to fulfilling your research objectives:

Online focus groups

With added features such as being able to share video responses and recording participants’ interactions on the platform, market researchers can now reach out to their audiences in a shorter period and probe the ‘why’ about a brand or a product now faster than ever. Plus, live explanations of thoughts and feelings are more natural, leading to even more feeling, sharing, and connecting with your audience.

Online communities

Through an array of different qualitative activities (and quantitative), consumers can now share open dialogue and submit video diaries more easily through online communities. This gives researchers more flexibility to adjust and ask follow-up questions to fulfill their business objectives. Not only does this increase opportunities for data collection but more opportunities to interact with customers.

Pre & post-IDI online studies

When it comes to purchasing decisions, people may rely more on each other than traditional marketing and advertising could. There’s a need to find new ways to track whether the promotion of a brand is happening. By setting up in-depth interviews with your audience, researchers can increase respondent engagement, develop deeper relationships with these respondents, stimulate interest in a study topic, and finally help bring the story home that transcends into a business plan.

Market research trends – the facilitation methods

The continued shift to mobile compatibility

The 2010s shaped an immense development in market research as a result of mobile devices and the social media platforms that are used so frequently on mobile devices. With self-quarantine and the constant need for a distraction affecting our day-to-day lives, mobile devices now make up for about half of all online surveys taken.

Adapting with social media has proved essential as well, as studies from this year have found a strong correlation between social followers and product sales or ROI. After consumers follow a brand on social media, they are 75% more likely to spend money on that brand’s products and services – a 63% (nearly two-thirds) increase from 2019.

Incorporation of Artificial Intelligence in data collection

If two key themes revolve around purchase trends in 2020 – it’s convenience and personal control. With this acknowledged, many researchers are pushing for new data collection methods to be more seamless and automated processes. As mentioned, shorter surveys are a direct result of this. But more than that, the demand for data delivery to go straight from laptops to high-level decision-makers is rising.

Areas for data collection to become more seamless include analysis at open-ended text responses. These capabilities will enhance time-efficiency for researchers and create more value for clients and break down the ‘why’ when purchasing behaviors. Another example of this is in Sentiment Analysis – where marketers and researchers will be able to decipher positive or negative responses better.

Personalized experiences

In addition to artificial intelligence, market researchers will continue to be challenged with sharpening points in ways so that resulting insights can carry over into clear and confident decision-making. Fortunately, big data and personalized information are available more than ever. Research has shown that customers value and appreciate it more when brand experiences are more curated or customized, which means that trend will only increase.

For example, brands that use social media analytics and listening tools to gain insights from online conversations and consumer behavior wind up having more success at providing specialized experiences for their target consumers’ needs.

As companies build on their platforms with new forms of data analytics and software, not only will they improve their overall processes of probing for deeper understanding and clarification in their insights. This will further support the storytelling of your research initiative and enhance the connection between the brand and its audience.