FEATURE18 December 2015

2015 Review: the most significant developments

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As the end of the year approaches, it’s once again time to look back at the highs and lows of the last 12 months. This review article, the first in a series of five, uncovers what market researchers consider to have been the most significant developments of the last year.


Research-live asked members of the research community what they felt had been the most significant developments — technological or methodological — of 2015. While a number of key techniques and technologies are mentioned, a stance taken by a few is that the past year has highlighted the need to focus on the thinking behind research, rather than on new ways of carrying it out.

The impact of technology advancements including eye-tracking and voice recognition continues to be felt:

“A continued shift to measuring rather than asking people questions through techniques like eye-tracking, implicit tests, neuroscience, social listening and passive metering.” Jane Rudling, MD, Marketing Sciences.

“The technology that appears to have achieved some of its ambition this year is facial recognition and coding. This is reflected in the adoption by clients and the integration of these technologies in the armouries of some of the larger, well-respected research technology businesses.” Stephen Cribbett, founder, Dub.

“Voice: genius for capturing our verbal response to new ideas. It’s a unique way of getting at the emotional highs and lows of engagement to reveal what we love or hate,” Joe Staton, strategic innovation director, GfK.

As does the influence of mobile and research automation:

“The increasing penetration and use of smartphones. Data singularity is moving closer to an attainable reality: the automation of attributing multiple previously disparate data sources to one person, the analysis of this data and our response to it. This is in large part made possible by smartphones.” Zakaria Haeri, research development lead, dunnhumby.

“For declarative data collection, we have seen a significant rise in panellists wishing to complete surveys via mobile in 2015, and at the same time the industry is struggling to ‘mobile-optimise’. This is creating tension that we have to address as an industry.” Christian Dubreuil, MD Northern Europe, Research Now.

“Automated survey solutions. They are transforming our business as they are many research companies.” Jon Puleston, VP of Innovation, Lightspeed GMI.

“For me, this year it has been the use of automated content recognition. This development will create numerous opportunities for media measurement, as well as opening doors to new research approaches.” Andy Brown, CEO, Kantar Media.

Big data and its analysis remains front of mind for many:

“Marketers have really grasped the concept of using analytics techniques to gain deeper and more significant insights from the ‘big data’ they have – mining the information that’s already in their grasp and making it work harder to find new answers to existing problems.” Amanda Phillips, head of UK Marketing, Millward Brown.

“Big data caught the attention of market researchers and the search for people who know statistics and data and consumers is now full steam ahead. Given that big data is massively relevant to our clients in that it is their consumers, their data, and their intelligence, we need to be ready to merge insights from traditional research with insights from big data.” Annie Pettit, chief research officer, Peanut Labs.

And behavioural economics continues to grow in profile:

“The rise and rise of in-house behavioural science teams – in both the private sector and public (e.g. Behavioural Insights Teams in UK, Singapore, Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Denmark, and announced in the last couple of months – Australia, USA and the World Bank). Equally, the growth of in-house behavioural insights experts including some chief behavioural officer positions at board level.”Crawford Hollingworth, global founder, The Behavioural Architects.

“The year when Behavioural Economics went mainstream.” Anna Cliffe, joint managing director, Trinity McQueen.

But some believe that focusing on innovation in this way isn’t necessarily the best approach to take:

“Our clients care far less about tools and techniques and far more about how it can give them competitive advantages – the focus on outcomes is imperative. So, rather than us talking about the great methodological steps we’ve taken this year, we’re focused on how these tools can embellish the results from more ‘traditional’ MR approaches to give us a broader understanding of how customers think, feel and behave.” Andrew Wiseman, MD, ICM Limited.

“I think we tend to overstate the importance of technology or methodology developments. I think we need to see these tech / methodologies activities as enablers for allowing us to move from ideas through to new insights. Have there been any that significantly change our ability to do that in 2015? Don’t think so – new thinking is where the action has been and will continue to be so.” Colin Strong, MD, Verve Ventures.

“A rediscovery of ‘traditional’ methods as the industry licks its post election wounds.”Deborah Mattinson, founding director, BritainThinks.

On Monday 21 December we’ll be reviewing the biggest buzzwords of 2015