Market research industry trends to watch in 2020

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Market researchers are constantly looking for trends in other industries — but staying at the forefront of your own sector is just as important. With the industry continuing to grow, and data-driven decision-making taking on more cachet in every industry, there are great opportunities for forward-thinking market researchers.   

To that end, we have put to use our experience working as a service provider for market research firms to collate a list of big trends we see impacting the industry today. This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but we think it’s a great starting point for thinking about investments in 2020 and beyond. Equally, we love to get feedback. If you think we’ve missed something, leave a comment. 

This study is an outgrowth of a far larger project we have completed on the future of market research projects. For the more extensive version, check out the full report here.


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1. A new era of storytelling

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We live in the age of Big Data. But data is increasingly taking the back-seat to the contextualising of that data as actual insights. Over the last decade, the inflow of data generated by digitisation has overwhelmed decision-making, demonstrating to businesses that better structures are required to put that data to good use. 

Successful market researchers are using data storytelling to contextualise those data points. Just as critically, market researchers can step in and deliver suggestions on how to augment qualitative research with qualitative insights. 

Pulled together, new methods of qualitative analysis armed with quantitative big data is able to provide insights like never before. Many would point to ‘data’ as the trend, and over the last ten years that is arguably the truth. However, we believe that it’s the move away from a strict data collection towards the contextualisation of big data with storytelling and qualitative research that is set to transform the industry over the next ten years. 


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2. Social listening

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Whilst ethnography has been a staple of market research, in an era where more and more of us live our social lives online as much as the real world, we can expect ethnography to go digital. It will more likely take place over participants’ social platforms instead of or as well as their real-world interactions. 

While marketeers will need to comply with data laws, they may be surprised by how much data can be collected without needing to bother the participants (and because participants don’t know that they’re participants, it could be argued that the data is more authentic). There are already software platforms that use the collection of online behaviour data and cookie tracking to create 360 consumer profiles for meaningful market insights without the time and effort that go into manual data collection. However, again, we would also emphasise looking at ways this data is applied in addition to the growth in its collection. 


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3. Intercept surveys 2.0

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These quick polls have long been carried out everywhere from shopping centres and cinemas to pubs, cafes and restaurants. 

Yet, while they’ve been carried out online for some time, we can see them migrate to social platforms more and more in the coming decade. Social media polling tools and real-time SMS data collection practices are expected to grow increasingly commonplace as more and more of our time online is spent socially — whether we’re scrolling through our Twitter feeds or watching videos on YouTube. 

These intercept surveys 2.0 are short and satisfying to fill out, yet can yield useful customer insights which can inform and enrich branding strategy. 

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4. AI-assisted data collection

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Part of the move towards improving the contextualisation of data is making the collection of data smarter — this can also simplify the process of creating data in the first place. Artificial Intelligence and bots are already a big part of business for many, easing the pressure on their frontline staff. But as AI grows more affordable, more sophisticated and easier to implement, we can expect it to play a much bigger part in how agencies and businesses collect market research data. 

People have less and less time to spare on both sides of the equation. Consumers have less time to spend filling out lengthy surveys and providing long-form qualitative responses. But at the same time, market research professionals have less time available to parse large volumes of qualitative data, especially when it’s collected in audio form (more on that later). 

Combined with shorter surveys, AI-assisted data collection can save researchers a lot of time so that they can spend more time on analysis and drawing strategic conclusions. These AI tools and bots can collect feedback in real-time and analyse long-form responses, sorting them into buckets so that they can be analysed more quickly and effectively.

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5. Increasing use of industry partners 

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With the expansion of data collection methods (AI-enhanced surveys and social listing, for example) and increased pressure on how data is analysed, there are more steps that market researchers can benefit from striking strategic partnerships.  

One of the biggest barriers to analysing qualitative data from market research is the method of its collection. The data recorded from focus groups, one-to-one interviews and other qualitative capture methods are usually in the form of audio files. And when working with large volumes of audio, it can be difficult to parse this data for useful insights. Transcription services are one example of valuable partnerships that allow market researchers to improve internal efficiency and improve the quality of the outcome. 

The growing importance of market research (with an industry valuation of over $22 billion in the US alone) it’s no surprise that there has been a growth of service providers as well. A new year and a new decade is here. Make sure that you’re taking steps to collect the market insights that will give you a leading edge!


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