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Note: A version of this article was first published in January 2021. We updated it for 2023 with fresh market research trends and predictions.
The last few years have shown both the value and resilience of the market research and insights industry. As brands faced one challenge after another, as consumer attitudes and behaviors evolved again and again, the importance of customer insights has been front and center.
That’s why in 2023, the biggest market research trends are those will help insight leaders build on their momentum while giving them the agility required to meet new challenges ahead.
And, perhaps counterintuitively, we’ll also see a return to the basics.
Doing more with less.
Building customer empathy.
Delivering insights and counsel that drive ROI.
To get a better sense of the market research trends that truly matter, we’ve curated some of the most interesting, useful, and provocative predictions leaders in our industry.
These perspectives will help you prepare for what’s ahead and enable you to deliver more impact in 2023 and beyond.
The smartest brands have woken up to the fact that doing research and talking to customers isn’t optional.
If you want to win, you need to know your customers. It’s that simple.
This awakening is great news for innovative insight leaders. It means they can focus less on justifying the need for market research and focus more on driving the business forward.
“The main research conversation will change from ‘I am struggling to get buy in from stakeholders’ to having a strategic position within businesses,” says Jake Pryszlak, Insight Manager at SailGP. “In 2023, budgets aren't the first talking point; rather it's how can we use research to recommend next steps."
As part of this shift, Jake believes smart market research teams will do their best to get the most out of the data they already have.
He explains, “We will see more traction in the use of data that already exists across the lifetime of a research team to gain maximum value from the work that has already been conducted.”
Amy Maret, Manager of Research and Thought Leadership at HubSpot, agrees. Her team’s research at HubSpot shows that there’s a huge opportunity for companies to do more with the data they already have.
“As we see the rise of zero-party and first-party data, one thing I’ve been thinking a lot about in how we approach market research in 2023 is making the most of the data we collect and have access to,” she explains. “A lot of researchers default to spinning up a new study every time a question comes up, but I think the researchers who will have the greatest impact in 2023 are the ones who are able to get the most mileage for the least amount of time, expense, and energy.”
Amy’s team also found that there’s a growing disconnect between systems and cross-functional teams—which ultimately damages the brand-consumer relationship.
She shares, “The question smart researchers will be asking themselves is, ‘how can we find the connections among all the data sources we have to develop insights that deliver exponential value to our organizations?’”
In an article for Insights Association, Crispin Beale, CEO of Insight250 and Group President at Behaviorally, interviewed industry leaders to learn what 2023 market research trends they’re keeping an eye on.
Many insight pros highlighted in the article are predicting the return of classic methodologies but reimagined for our world today.
As Kristin Luck, President of ESOMAR (and a board member at our parent company Rival Group), says in the article, “everything old is new again.”. For example, she expects insight communities and micro-surveying to experience tremendous growth this year “as advertisers look for opportunities to understand and create deeper connections with core consumers.”
Similarly, Justine Clements, Consumer Insights Manager at Samsung Electronics in Australia, expects “smarter, quicker surveys” and “more longitudinal studies” to be a top market research trend in 2023.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter if a methodology is old or new. What matters its ability to bring to life consumer empathy at a time when companies need it most.
Here’s how Bill Trovinger, Customer Insights Director, Pharmacy & Health at Albertsons Companies, explains it:
“2023 won’t be about the shiniest new technology or most advanced analysis but a year for deep understanding and building loyalty. As a researcher, I am excited about new twists on proven methodologies that help me articulate and quantify how the current economic uncertainty will impact our customers and lead to customer-first decision-making throughout the organization.”
A CMO I worked work with used to tell our team that the prize for winning a pie-eating contest is more pie. It was his way of explaining that as you make a bigger impact, as you demonstrate that you can handle bigger and more important problems, you are given more problems to solve.
We will see dramatic adoption of techniques that offer more insights for less money.
That delicious analogy applies well to market researchers in 2023.
The message: you’ve proven you can do amazing work, now do more of it.
To meet this challenge, market researchers will need to have the best insight platforms and research partners.
“2023 will see marketers needing more while operating with less,” says Eileen Campbell, Co-Founder and Board Chair at Rival Group, parent company of Rival Technologies and Reach3 Insights. “We will see dramatic adoption of techniques that offer more insights for less money. Innovators who can ‘build a better mousetrap’ will be duly rewarded.”
In the past, researchers had to pick between speed, efficiency and accuracy when choosing a market research technology; in 2023 all 3 are required.
“Agile and adaptive techniques (frankly like those offered by by the Rival platform) will replace older, over-engineered and expensive approaches,” Eileen predicts.
When talking about doing more with less, many thought leaders like to highlight the potential of AI. And this year, AI and machine learning are getting even more eyeballs than usual, thanks to some buzzy products like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
When it comes to AI’s application in insight-generation, there will be a notable rise in experimentation in 2023.
But don’t expect AI to replace current techniques. At least not yet.
“Anyone who has played around with ChatGPT can see the potential of AI, but also the risks of taking action on information that can be decisively wrong,” Eileen notes. “In an uncertain economy, the stakes will simply be too high to rely on bleeding-edge solutions.”
Eventually, though, the insights industry will need to adopt AI more fully.
Mike Stevens, Founder of Insight Platforms (which offers resources, courses and training for researchers), is a bit more optimistic about AI’s applications in 2023
“OpenAI’s GPTx, Google’s LaMDA and others will become embedded in research tech and workflows,” he tells us. “We’ll see smarter and more natural Conversational AI surveys; data from qual and quant sources will be auto-summarized into draft reports; and there will be plenty of hand-wringing about the existential threat posed by these technologies.”
2022 felt like an important year when it came to data quality, a topic that dominated discussions at many industry events and market research publications.
The issue of data integrity is far from solved though. So, what can we expect in 2023?
Karine Pepin, Vice President at 2CV, thinks the next phase of the conversation should be about “objectively defining data quality.” A big issue right now is the lack of consensus on the right quality assurance measures to catch survey fraud, straightlining and other shady practices. Karine thinks it’s time the industry tackle it.
She explains, “2023 will be the year where our effort is devoted to understanding what really works so we stop overloading surveys with quality assurance measures that are not effective. To that end, I believe advanced analytics and AI can help us improve our ‘hit rate.’”
AI is a double-edged sword though as it could also enable fraud.
“Tools like ChatGPT will create a whole new set of fraud detection challenges for researchers,” Eileen points out. “That’s why solutions that are video-verified (where research participants provide video feedback responses) will become increasingly valuable in 2023.”
The past decade has been transformational in CX management research, with companies pouring billions on tools like Qualtrics to get a better understanding of the customer journey.
Unfortunately, it’s been hard to understand the impact of these initiatives. Forrester is predicting that as a result, one in five CX program will disappear in 2023.
54% of CX pros admit they’re unable to prove the ROI of their projects.
According to Rick Parrish, Vice President at Forrester, 80% of companies don’t feel like great CX is part of their identity today. Many of these brands will “demand proof that spending on CX improvement is necessary, and some of these companies will dissolve CX teams that can’t show numbers.”
Currently, 54% of CX pros admit they’re unable to prove the ROI of their projects, according to Forrester.
Ironically, a lack of focus on the participant experience—paired with survey fatigue—is partly to blame for CX research’s potential decline.
In a LinkedIn post, Jason Jacobson, Director of Consumer Insights at SH Residential Holdings, explains it well:
“We are bombarded with surveys about every single experience. Brands are asking for feedback all the time, but they're using outdated methods that don't feel personal or conversational and still asking NPS versus finding out about the experience (was it poor, good, or exceptional and why). Response rates are plummeting. We need to make some changes.”
Jason thinks applying conversational research principles could potentially turn things around. His challenge to CX research leaders: “Meet people in the moment and get feedback that will actually provide guidance to brands so they can focus on creating exceptional experiences.”
A notable 2023 market research trend is the increase in demand for services and consulting.
Mike notes, “The market is realizing that it’s not just about software: great research and strategic insight needs smart people. Agencies are figuring out the right combination of tech and humans, and some tech firms are under-shooting growth and profitability expectations.”
Research is so annoyingly human-centric.
To some extent, this is already happening: Mike points out that Ipsos’ share price was up 48% in 2022, while Qualtrics was down by 70%.
For what it’s worth, we agree with Mike—this is why even as a top market research tech company, we’ve invested so much in a multi-disciplinary customer success team who can help our customers with everything from recruitment to authoring to reporting. This combo of powerful tech and expertise allows Rival customers to maximize their budget and impact without breaking their budget.
“Research is so annoyingly human-centric,” Mike concludes.
Much like the previous years, 2023 brings so much uncertainty. While many of us enter the year with renewed hope, the reality is that new market forces will impact what market research techniques and tools companies will invest in in the next year.
In the end, the trends that will have an enduring impact are those that deliver market research ROI and make the life of the busy insight professional easier and more impactful.
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