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How the research industry will evolve in 2022

FEATURE: After a year of unprecedented disruption in 2020, followed by a constant state of uncertainty in 2021, brands are actively seeking out ways to stay on top of ever-changing consumer behaviour and sentiment to maintain their competitive edge. This has brought technology-driven market research and automation to the forefront.

In 2022, we expect to see further innovation in the research technology space, which will ultimately transform the ways that research providers and brands approach research in the coming years.

Increasing speed of insights
Although the research industry has been talking about real-time data for a while now, many clients haven’t quite caught up with just how quickly insights can be delivered. Thanks to advancements in research technology, the speed of data collection has accelerated at light speed, providing brands with the opportunity to not only gather intelligence faster, but also watch the responses coming through in real time. However, the majority of clients are still thinking about research in traditional terms, approaching 10-14 day deadlines as ‘quick turnarounds,’ without realising that insights can be delivered in as little as 24-48 hours.

As more brands begin to truly understand the new speed at which they can access consumer insights, this will ultimately change the way they approach market research in 2022 and beyond. We’ll see more clients demanding quick and robust results, with shorter, more regular surveys becoming the norm for those who need to keep their finger on the pulse of consumers. Established research companies must move to embrace the plethora of research technologies now available, including Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, to ensure they are able to meet this growing customer demand for quick, real-time data.

Hyper-segmentation and the multi-faceted consumer
In line with our changing, multi-dimensional society, market research will need to evolve in 2022 to better address the diversity in populations. Hyper-segmentation will become vital as research moves from simply defining key attributes of a person—such as age, social class, wealth, gender, et cetera—to create insights that are uniquely relevant to a consumer as an individual.

Market research will continue to evolve in a way that better considers the complex and multidimensional nature of consumers. For example, a person may be passionate about sustainable living, growing their own food, recycling, and driving a Tesla, while also enjoying international travel and flying thousands of kilometres via plane—one of the world’s biggest polluters.

Research needs to follow the complex—and sometimes contradictory—nature of consumer behaviour so that it can deliver the information brands need to make key decisions in how they market their products and services. And research technology, driven by innovation in artificial intelligence, will be the key to capturing this complexity—delivering truly agile, responsive insights about consumers that enable brands to remain relevant to their customers.

The integration and democratisation of data
With the pandemic impacting staffing levels, both due to cost-cutting measures and employee shortages, client teams across the board are becoming leaner. With dedicated Insights teams shrinking, marketers are under increasing pressure to take on more responsibility and become more hands-on with research and insights. But thanks to advancements in research technology, combined with proven research methodologies, data can now be easily interpreted by just about anyone. The most junior members of an organisation’s marketing team are now able to interact with data and glean key insights, and this ease of use will see the democratisation of data become ubiquitous in 2022. No longer reserved for the experts, staff across all levels of an organisation will have access to key insights to inform their decision making.

We also expect to see more integration and data connectivity within organisations. We’ll see data stacks connecting directly into marketing stacks, informing media planning, media buying, and other activities. As consumer data is constantly updated and refreshed with the most up-to-date psychographics and buyer-graphics, with the most intricate details about the hyper-segmentation of their customer, it will automatically feed into other areas of the organisation to help inform strategic decision making across the board.

The socially conscious consumer
When it comes to consumer sentiment, our regular COVID-19 Barometer research has shown us that consumers have changed significantly over the past 18-24 months. In addition to living through a global health crisis, the economic concerns and major political, social, and environmental issues raised over the past two years have drastically changed consumer behaviour. Now, Australians have found themselves re-evaluating the things that matter most to them—spending more time with loved ones, becoming more socially and environmentally conscious, and supporting brands that align with their personal values, with many looking to support smaller businesses and locally made.

Moving through to 2022, we expect consumers will continue to search for positive connections—making feel-good purchases, dropping unethical brands in favour of socially conscious ones, and continuing to make more environmentally friendly choices. In 2022, it will be increasingly important for companies to monitor their own brand health and future relevance, to ensure they continue to align themselves with their core customers as their sentiments evolve and change over the course of the year.

Investing in research
Insights are the new currency in today’s market, and when research is conducted project-by-project, it no longer meets clients’ needs for agility and speed. Research is constantly evolving to meet new market demands, and more clients are demanding access to consumer insights, anywhere.

Ultimately, this growing demand has opened up a world of possibilities for research providers, with subscription services and other offerings transforming the way brands purchase and use research. These new opportunities for recurring revenue models makes the research industry attractive to outside investors, which may result in higher levels of investor interest as the industry continues to grow and innovate in 2022 and beyond. 

Author:  Sej Patel, Country Director, ANZ, Toluna

Image credit: Unsplash

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About The Research Society 1063 Articles
The Research Society is the peak body for research, insights and analytics professionals in Australia. It has a diverse membership of individuals at all levels of experience and seniority within agencies, consultancies, client-side organisations, the non-profit and government sectors, support services as well as institutions and the academic community. As well as over 2,000 individual members, the Research Society has 125+ company and client partners, with the number continuing to grow. The Research Society research professionals and company partners commit to and are regulated by the Research Society Code of Professional Behaviour.