Following a year of disruption in 2020, the seeds sown by the pandemic began to grow in 2021. Brands have recognized the need to understand constantly changing consumer behavior and sentiment, which has brought technology-driven market research and automation to the forefront.
So, what does 2022 have in store for the market research industry? What lessons can be learned from 2021, and how can these create real opportunities for consumer insights moving forward? Frederic-Charles Petit, CEO at Toluna, a tech company operating in the market research space, explains what next year will bring to the sector, including specific industry developments that will be key to progress.
Adaptation to a multi-dimensional society and individual
A key trend we’ll see in 2022 is how market research keeps pace with innovation alongside a rapidly changing, multi-dimensional society. Research will need to address the diversity in populations to truly embody being not only nationally representative, as the term is historically defined, but to capture the diversity of the ubiquitous consumer. Hyper-segmentation will become vital as research must move from simply defining key attributes of a person—such as age, social class, wealth, gender and the like—to create insights that are uniquely relevant to a consumer as an individual. Research needs to follow the complexity of society and consumer behavior so that it can deliver the information brands need to make key decisions in how they market their products and services.
Technology, driven by innovation in artificial intelligence, can capture this complexity—and market research organizations must harness this power to deliver truly agile, responsive insights about consumers that enable brands to remain relevant to their customers. That’s why, at Toluna ,we’re boosting our investment in technology—which has always been at the forefront of our research platform—by 40% next year. We want to enhance our capability to continue capture the complexity of a multi-dimensional society, at scale, on demand, and in real-time to provide detailed, specific insight to brands on their consumers. We look forward to working with our clients to write this new chapter for market research.
Acceleration in the democratization of research to build and execute truly consumer-centric strategies
As we create superior ways to curate detailed and complex research on consumers, the industry must focus its efforts on the democratization of research. There’s a common misperception in that many think the democratization of research means the simplification of insights. This is not the case. When we say democratization of research, we mean making detailed data available in a simplified manner and in a seamless way to any business or any brand.
2022 will be the year to truly drive democratization because the technology is there to enable it. In the 21st century, you do not need to be a research expert to do this. The most junior members of an organization’s marketing team should be informed by easily available research that they can interact with, respecting the integrity of methodology, but at scale—and this is what we’ll see come to fruition next year. We’re currently in a situation where the everyday consumer has access to more data than, for example, a brand manager. They can simply go onto Google or ask their friends for their opinion online on whether they agree with something or what their favorite movie or outfit is. Why? Because there’s still this notion that research, in the B2B market, is for experts.
We’ve witnessed a democratization of consumer opinion and user-generated content online, but this has yet to be replicated in the business world. In 2022, as research continues to be technology-driven against the backdrop of constantly changing consumer sentiment, the industry must democratize research within the enterprise, giving marketing and brand teams the ability to access automated research at scale that can inform key decisions.
The multifaceted consumer – how market research must respond
Today’s consumer is complex and multidimensional. Real and relevant insights are no longer solely about a person’s geographic location, job role, or opinions on societal changes. It’s about understanding that a consumer can have several different “individualities.” For example, a person can be passionate about sustainable living. They might grow their own food, re-use plastic, and drive a Tesla, while, at the same time, enjoy holidaying in Barbados—which involves traveling thousands of miles via plane, one of the world’s biggest polluters.
As we move into 2022, the question becomes, ‘how can we reflect these different and complex facets of the consumer in research?’ The industry must focus on how we can give organizations the ability to capture three, four, or even five dimensions of the same individual or group of individuals. This is especially important as we move into the next generation internet—a 3D sequel to the internet called the Metaverse which has the potential to revolutionize the way we shop and the way brands market their products. How does a research company do that? It’s about delivering hyper-segmentation, hyper-personalization, at scale, and in real-time to enable brands to deeply understand and empathize with their consumer to deliver products they truly want.
There’s no doubt about it, the industry is set for profound transformation in the next year. Powered by automation and technological innovation, we’ll see market research companies change from simply asking questions to listening and participating in conversations, analyzing vast amounts of data at scale. Market research will become the medium of choice for brands to understand what their consumers are thinking, how they’re feeling, to predict their actions, and to co-create truly consumer-centric strategies with them. It won’t be just about collating data through surveys or other means but via live and continuous interaction through technologies that enable relevant and real-time consumer insights. Research must be technology-led, platform-led, and embed the intelligence of the researcher in technology through automation.