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7 unexpected takeaways from the 2021 Market Research in the Mobile World conference

Kelvin Claveria
Kelvin Claveria (@kcclaveria)..

Last week, the Rival team attended and sponsored the 2021 Market Research in the Mobile World. Hosted by Merlien Inc., the three-day conference featured a stellar lineup of speakers from companies like Google, ViacomCBS, Citi, Facebook, Twitter and Panasonic.

The conference touched on the biggest market research trends—everything from Gen Z engagement and agile research to new ways of driving ROI. Of course, COVID’s impact to businesses was also a huge topic.

We learned a lot from the sessions. Here are some of our biggest takeaways.

1. The marriage of data science, market research and user experience

On Day 1 of the conference, Mac Smith, Head of Cross Portfolio Research at Google, shared provocative predictions on the future of insights. Among his “5 bets” was the integration of data science, market research and user experience (UX). Smith predicts that in the next decade, these three will be “defined as one organization.”

Mac Smith Google 5 Bets

This prediction makes a lot of sense given the need for a unified view of the customer. At Rival, we’re already seeing glimpses of this trend happening. Companies like Kimberly-Clark and Hyundai, for instance, are already using our market research platform to support and drive UX studies. In some companies that we work with, customer experience (CX) and research teams collaborate closely to establish  unified Voice of Customer programs. I suspect that Smith’s prediction will come to fruition faster than most of us expect. 

2. The rise of the Chief Insights Officer 

Another interesting prediction from Smith is the addition of a “C-level officer for customer experimentation and insights.” This new position could come in various titles: Chief Customer Officer, Chief Insights Officer, or something similar. Fifty percent of the Fortune 500 will have this position established in the next 10 years, Smith predicted.

Having an insights leader in the C-suite will benefit market research, but it also means that insight teams will become accountable for their direct contribution to revenue. Alignment with other departments like marketing, product and sales, and using the latest market research techniques will be key to making this goal a reality. 

3. Uncertainty is the only thing certain 

Not surprisingly, the pandemic’s impact on consumer behaviors was a big topic at MRMW. In a panel discussion about the “New Normal,” Google’s Smith joined Anton Popov, Director of Insights from McDonald’s, and Victoria Sosik, Director of UX Research from Verizon, to explore the long-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis

One key point was that purchasing decisions today aren’t just driven by products; according to the panelists, emotions have been a big factor during the pandemic, and it will continue to shape customer behaviors in the futureThe pandemic has been a great change accelerator, according to the panelists, and some of the macro-trends that we’ve seen (for example, the shift to ecommerce) will not be temporary.

In a separate presentation, Jennifer Collins, Vice President of Research and Insights at Citirevealed that contactless payments and other similar trends are also here to stay. Citi used ainsight community throughout the pandemic for a tracker study (not dissimilar to our Consumer Closeness in the Age of Social Distancing programto understand the biggest changes in the market as the pandemic was evolving.

4. Democratize (and promote!) insights 

Laith Ulaby, Director of Research from Patreon, shared a useful presentation about increasing the reach and influence of insights. For Ulaby, democratizing insights isn’t just about sharing data and customer feedback to various stakeholders — it’s also about getting non-researchers to do actual research. 

Now, that may sound scary to some insight teams who want to protect the rigor of their craft, but Ulaby said taking baby steps should work. Rather than giving non-researchers full access to insight platforms and survey tools, researchers can choose to give some access to start

Democratizing insights should be an ongoing effort, according to Ulaby. Consider having regular sessions with stakeholders and running “drip” campaigns to continuously get other departments informed of what the insight team can do and how they can help.

5 key learnings Patreon

One tip from Ulaby that I absolutely loved is to market and brand your insights team. For example, at LinkedIn, the research and user experience team have teamed up for a program they called Research BentoSimilarly, Udemy branded its team as UDoUAs a marketer myself, this tip gets a huge thumbs up from me because I know that many researchers are humble and don’t want to make noise about their work. Ulaby's presentation reminds us that marketing your team internally can help raise your profile, but it can also open opportunities for collaboration, which may enable your team to make a bigger impact. 

5. Agile research should be SMART 

Pallavi Agarwal, User Researcher from Amazon, shared how her team used agile research to support Amazon Pay in India. Through an internal program called Open Lab, Agarwal’s team asks everyone in the organization for ideas for research, and then executes the ideas that could have a direct impact on revenue.   

The key to the success of this program is having a SMART approach, according to Agarwal. Open Lab’s projects are Simple, Methodical, Agile, Rewarding and Timely. 

The Power of small data

Agarwal said agile research should focus on “small data” and deliver “lightweight reporting” that highlights 5 to 6 key insights. Arduous projects and long reports do not fit with the agile research methodology. 

6. Don’t share data, don’t share insights. Share counsel.

On the final day of MRMW, Ari Zelmanow of Panasonic, shared an action-packed presentation about building collaborative research teams.   

Insight teams need to understand the Hero’s Journey and take on the role of “guide” for other stakeholders, he said. With that framework in mind, insight teams need to recalibrate their role within the organization. Zelmanow argued that to make a bigger impact, market researchers should NOT be offering data; they shouldn’t even be offering insights. Rather, insight teams need to be offering counsel and providing a strong point of view to help other departments make better business decisions.    

Deliver counsel not data

7. To engage young trend-setters, keep it conversational

Dana Wade, VP of Creative Strategy & Cultural Intelligence at ViacomCBS, joined Rival’s Andrew Reid and Julia Morton to talk about youth engagement. For a year now, ViacomCBS has been using the Rival platform to engage with hundreds of Gen Z and Millennial consumers. Insights from the community help the company and its partners understand trends and important shifts in culture.

One key lesson from the presentation is the need to keep engagement fun and conversational. Working with the Rival team, ViacomCBS ensures that chats sent to their mobile community are engaging and mobile-first. To encourage video feedback, the company itself regularly uses videos from its team to show the human side of ViacomCBS.

According to Dana, the community is already delivering huge ROI, saying, “I can't imagine life without this tool available to us because we've gotten such great traction in the use of our studies and with our team using it."  

3 tips when engaging trendsetters rival viacomcbs

Julia reminded the MRMW audience that engaging with Gen Zs and Millennials requires going where they already are. That means rethinking the use of channels like emails to send surveys. With people moving to mobile, social media and mobile messaging apps, it makes sense for companies to engage consumers in these popular channels. 

If you’d like to learn more about how ViacomCBS engages its Culture Keepers community, watch our Market Research in the Mobile World presentation here

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