Market research trends: Predictions on what’s next for the insights industry

14 December 2023 | 10 min read | Written by Ben Hudson

Note: A version of this article was first published in January 2021. We update this every year with fresh market research trends and predictions. 

2024 is not going to be like other years. Not in market research anyway.

I’ve been on the periphery of the insights industry for nearly a decade, and while there have been some exciting advancements before, nothing comes close to the impact AI is going to have on this industry.

For the record, I am not one of those people who thinks AI is going to take everyone’s jobs. Far from it. I recently completed a course at MIT Sloan on the strategic implications of AI for business, and I prescribe to the notion that humans, working with computers, is the way forward. Humans must always been in the loop. This is especially true in research.

There is a uniquely human aspect of research that can never be replaced by AI. Augmented, yes. Replaced? No.

Trends in market researchSo with that in mind… let’s park the biggest “mega trend” in recent history for a moment and explore some of the more acute implications of AI that will shape 2024. And that is exactly what we did in our e-book, Market Research Trends 2024, which you can download here

It was an absolute privilege to connect directly with many of the future thinkers and researcher who talked to us about trends in the marketing research industry. In this blog post, I give a quick overview of the big 5 ideas we discussed in the e-book, along with 3 bonus responses we heard from thought leaders.

2024 market research trends and predictions to watch:

The "Great Respondent Revolt"

Coined by Jason Jacobson, Director of Consumer Insights at Sekisui House, the "Great Respondent Revolt" requires little explanation. Thanks to survey fatigue, participants will start to push back—a massive issue that could impact research costs, speed to insights, and quality of data.

As Jason says below, the time to act is now.

"2024 may mark the start of the 'Great Respondent Revolt'—a consumer backlash against over-surveying. For decades, falling survey response rates have sounded warning bells, yet brands continue undeterred. They are focused myopically on harvesting customer feedback, with little regard for the true value being delivered to respondents. 

This needs to change. 2024 must become the year that brands make a conscious pivot, dialing back excessive surveying and demonstrating more respect for customers’ time. The alternative is continued erosion of response quality and marginalization of the consumer voice.  Look for signals in other places (i.e. your CRM, social media, reviews, etc.), build communities, meet people where they are at in the moment vs. sending another email or text survey. 

For marketing research to retain relevance and accuracy, we need respondents who truly engage rather than automatically clicking (or simply deleting) through surveys without thought. Achieving this requires restraining our insatiable appetite for feedback. 2024 must mark the start of sustainable experience measurement programs that add proportional value.

- Jason Jacobson, Director of Consumer Insights at Sekisui House

Andrew Reid, CEO and Founder of Rival Technologies, agrees, predicting that we’re going to see a pull-back in digital engagement generally and market research surveys specifically. The consequences of this market research trend are obvious. Some of the solutions are obvious, too, but they will require researchers to really examine if their practices really align with consumer expectations.

It’s not just bad surveys that are frustrating participants, of course. Economic uncertainties and politics are bigger issues that need to be considered, too. According to Bill Trovinger, Director of Customer Insights - Health & Wellness, Albertsons Companies, we need to acknowledge this fact in 2024 and adjust our approach accordingly.

"Between economic turmoil and an election year, 2024 will be a year of customer exhaustion and in that exhaustion, we have an opportunity to uncover and meet customers at their true needs. Working in grocery now and seeing how inflation is changing behavior on basic purchases, customers will refocus and reprioritize their spending.

The election will be a major headwind in the US in the backhalf of the year as media dollars and customer mindshare get diverted to what has the potential to be a contentious election. The best research will build-in time for customers to take a deep breath and vent without being judged and the insights in that venting about the world, their neighbor, the price of potato chips will be amazing.

I am not saying to abandon objectives but giving participants that 5 minutes to collect and verbalize/type their thoughts is where the true insight will come in 2024."
- Bill Trovinger, Director of Customer Insights - Health & Wellness, Albertsons Companies

Shortening Research Shelf Life

Remember when a gold-plated segmentation study could last 5 years or more? How long do you think a segmentation study remains relevant today? For marketing leaders from Aritzia and Arc’teryx, two of the hottest retail companies in North America, it could be a few months. Maybe less.

Jonathan Dore, EVP and Founding Partner at Reach3 Insights, agrees with this sentiment based on his experience working with companies like Kellogg’s and Kimberly-Clark. Consumer habits and preferences are more fluid and complex than ever, giving rise to a market research trend echoed by almost everyone we connected with.

Research needs to be shorter, more often, and perhaps more importantly, more relevant. But it also needs to be faster. (All of these reasons is why is why insight communities remain powerful in the research world today.) “Agile research” can no longer be a buzz phrase in our industry.

"In 2024, the demand for speed to insights will fundamentally change how the industry operates.  The AI genie is out of the bottle and can’t be put back in no matter how much overpromising and underdelivering happens in the industry.  Company leaders are looking to leverage AI and seeing examples of it coming to life in both tangible, applicable ways and pie in the sky curated demos, which will put incredible pressure on insights organizations to utilize those tools and move at that speed, regardless if it fits the business need or helps uncover new and unique insights.

2024 will be a year where research professionals will feel the growing pains of an industry entering a new age."
-Bill Trovinger, Director of Customer Insights - Health & Wellness, Albertsons Companies

In conjunction with the shorting shelf life of research, insight pros need to be better storytellers and elevate the voice of the customer in the organization.

"I’m getting very excited about how many global clients are now investing more in the activation and communication of insights – going beyond the acquisition of data and the analysis.

The industry has long been hung up on methodologies and approaches for gathering data and insights, at the expense of ensuring they are used. Our experience is that more and more researchers are waking up to the importance of elevating the work they do to drive long-term change within their organizations."
-Lucy Davison, Founder and CEO, Keen as Mustard Marketing

Relevance is fleeting, and dynamic insights will be critical in delivering market research ROI.

Trend 3: Video Feedback at Scale

The power of video is compelling. Nothing makes people sit up and take notice like a video from a real customer.

But until recently, managing video feedback has been an ungainly process. Powerful new AI tools like Rival’s AI Summarizer are changing that. As a result, video surveys and video feedback will emerge key market research trends to facilitate genuine connections and deliver nuanced consumer insights.

When used right in the research process, video can provide consumers a platform for authentic expression. It will offer researchers a more profound understanding of consumer sentiments and behaviors at scale.

"With new technology, something I’m excited about is the notion of qual at scale — 'qualt' as I’ve seen it called — i.e. the ability to incorporate qual into a quant project with large sample sizes. 

This has always been done to some extent with open-ends, but I’m excited to see more engaging media in the mix, such as audio (speech-to-text) or video in place of open-ends.
- Bianca Johnston, Market Research Expert and LinkedIn Thought Leader 

Trend 4: AI-Human Synergy and the Rise of Synthetic Data

Honestly, did you think we’d write an e-book about 2024 market research trends without wading into the sticky subject of synthetic data and AI respondents? 😅

At Rival, we believe research should be conversational and human, but we do see the value of these market research trends. For Rival CEO Andrew Reid, the benefits include reducing survey fatigue, optimizing research initiatives, and bringing humans into the loop without deploying an endless barrage of surveys at every single touchpoint.

"I'm excited to leverage AI respondents in the market research process. While there are valid concerns about the impact on data quality, I've already experienced the value of using tools like ChatGPT to test interview guides before I use them with real people, or simulating responses for my target audience so that I can quickly gauge the likely responses before validating with human responses. By reducing the number of unnecessary surveys and interviews we conduct, we can ensure the ones we do conduct hold even more value (for us and for the people who participate in them)."

- Amy Maret, Manager, Research & Thought Leadership, HubSpot

CRM's Renaissance

This trend was divisive. Strangely. In my career, the promise of Big Data was the first genuine hype cycle I experienced from beginning to end. Big Data was the solution to all of life’s problems.

Except for one small problem. Nobody could really figure out how to use it. And in 2019, Gartner revealed that an astonishing 85% of all big data initiative failed. That means 15% of the projects succeeded – please let me know what worked. I can only assume it was for a company like Visa.

What’s interesting now is that AI is breathing new life into the promise of big data. It is making Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms and Customer Data Platforms all the more important.

In 2024, thought leaders like Peter Housely, the former CMO of Unbounce, see the genuine potential of CRMs to become the linchpin of modern insights, orchestrating a symphony of data that empowers brands to make informed decisions and build enduring customer relationships.

To maximize the potential of this trend in the marketing research industry, brands need to explore action-triggered insights as a way to augment that CRM data and ensure that it is a conduit for the freshest customer data being fed to AI systems.

Collaboration is the New Competition

While this market research trend did not make our e-book (we narrowed down the responses we got to 5 big ideas that were mentioned by several people), but we had to include it in this roundup because it’s a feel-good message. And we’re really hoping it comes true.

Priscilla McKinney, CEO of Little Bird Marketing and Host of Ponderings From the Perch Podcast, is hopeful that we’ll see more collaboration among insight pros and research suppliers in the next year.

It’s an optimistic thought, and it’s something that we’ve also heard from our CEO, Andrew Reid, internally. Imagine how much more innovation we can achieve if the top market research companies in the planet collaborated more often.

"The question isn't whether to use AI or not. The question is what we do with this time. Putting a laser focus on the needs of your most ideal customers is always a good bet. 

While we're on the subject of extra time, I hope that while we let the bots battle it out, we in the insights industry look for different ways to connect as humans more dynamically.

The bad news in business today is that you can't go it alone. The good news is that you can't go it alone. Instead, I'm looking for amazing collaborative ideas where bigger wins are achieved because people can see past the immediate competitive landscape. I'm not talking about sharing trade secrets, but coming together for dynamic events or partnerships in a new way where success is amplified. There is a way to go about real collaboration and I line out the ground rules in my new book, Collaboration is the New Competition. While the bots play chess, let's do something special!"
- Priscilla McKinney, CEO of Little Bird Marketing and Host of Ponderings From the Perch Podcast

Behavioral Science Helps Go Deeper

Researchers have always been on a quest to find the truth about customer behavior. In recent years, behaviorial science and implicit association techniques have emerged as a viable way to uncover the underlying factors driving consumer attitudes and sentiment.

These approaches may have taken a step back due to all the buzz about AI and synthetic data this year, but researchers like Warner Bros.’ Sofia Gomez Garcia, a guest speaker in our recent webinar on storytelling best practices, are still thinking about ways of incorporating them in the new year.

"I’m really excited to see a resurgence of implicit association being leveraged more and more in quantitative studies. I think it’s really valuable to have that additional layer, as it helps us focus on results that are most indicative of future behavior. I look forward to more experimentation on this, and any other ways that use psychology and behavioral science to challenge the actionable application of our research."
- Sofia Gomez Garcia, Executive Director, Innovation, Special Projects & Global Community Management, Warner Bros.

Multimodal data

I’m not going to lie…. This one goes a bit over my head, so I’m just going to let Mike Stevens, Founder of Insight Platforms, explain it below. Mike basically spends his whole day talking to research suppliers and thinking about research technology, so he is worth listening to!

"'Multimodal data' may sound like a fancy way of describing something, but if you look at a lot of the work being done with GPT4-Vision and Gemini from Google that was recently launched, you'll see a strong emphasis on what they're describing as multimodal AI. That is, the ability for a model to interpret both visual stimuli as well as language, numbers, and various other types of inputs that could be included in models.

Now, if you think about how a research interview takes place, a researcher may ask questions and they may write down the literal responses that a participant gives. But the insight may well come from many other types of input. It could be observations about the comfort level of the participant. It could be nervous ticks. It could be the way in which they move their eyes when they're talking about certain topics. We've seen the emergence of emotion AI capabilities over recent years that detect emotional engagement or even emotional state based on facial muscle movements.

Imagine being able to combine these multimodal AI models with different types of inputs that make the automation of research far closer to what would be done by a person making those observations of system one type giveaways and behavior in a face-to-face interview. So multimodal AI is going to transform things as well."
-Mike Stevens, Founder, Insight Platforms

Market research predictions from past years

Every year for the past 4 years, we’ve reached out to leaders in the marketing and research space to share their thoughts with us on what’s coming up. We believe in the importance of looking back just as much as looking ahead, so we thought we’d remind you of our market research predictions in 2023. 

In our opinion, we didn’t do too badly. What do you think?

2023 market research trends

Check out our 2023 ebook to read more about these market research predictions.

  1. The role of insights becomes more strategic
  2. The return of proven methodologies
  3. Using agile tools to do more with less
  4. More experiementation with artificial intelligence
  5. A greater focus on data integrity
  6. CX research becomes more conversational—or faces decline
  7. Market research services will be back in fashion

What other trends in the market research industry are you thinking about? 

I’m curious what you think. Do these market research trends resonate with you? Did we miss something big? Are we off the mark? Are we overstepping?

At Rival, we’re all about authentic conversations, so I’d love to hear what you think!

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Written by Ben Hudson

Senior Director of Marketing at Rival Technologies

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