a row of matches, one of which is burned

FEATURE20 December 2022

2022 review: Industry developments – pandemic recovery, burnout and blended methods

Covid-19 Features M&A Trends UK Wellbeing

As part of Research Live’s end-of-year review series, we asked a cross-section of the market research industry: what has been the most significant industry development of 2022?

New blends of methods have been forged from the disruption of the pandemic, face-to-face conferences have returned and burnout has been brought into sharp relief.

Shazia Ginai, chief growth officer, Catalyx
I would call out a development around people management – a greater awareness of burnout. Our industry leaders have started to open their eyes to the damage being done to their teams from being overworked and under rewarded. Thanks to a few who have spoken out, this is now being recognised so ask me the same question next year and hopefully the resulting better people management may cause some significant development. After all, happy people make for successful businesses so I hope in 2023 we see the rewards of this.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
It has to be the results from the 2021 census, which have been released in stages throughout this year. These are crucial to how we account for national representation in our research, and the headline data sets have already told us so much. These will be the most complete findings ever with the answers to new questions around gender identity, sexual orientation and armed forces service to be released in January 2023. They’ll offer us a new layer of understanding about the UK population and the more we know about the people we’re seeking to represent, the higher quality our insights will be.

Ben Shimshon, co-founder and managing partner, BritainThinks
Increasingly, being able to use a range of platforms and blended methods seamlessly to meet people where they are, not where we want them to be, making taking part in research more naturalistic and flexible. Examples include WhatsApp for ongoing participant check ins and immediate response work – it’s simple, in the moment, and has minimal barriers to use for large swathes of the population; or the ongoing ease and success of online groups – which are now brilliantly being coupled again with face to face immersions, workshops and observation sessions. If the pandemic brought any benefit this is one: now we can mix it all up and reach even more people in the way that suits them and their lives while also gaining even richer insight – and we can bring clients along on the journey, too. 

Nick Baker, chief research officer, Savanta
We are back stronger from the worst of the pandemic. There is a fair amount of mergers and acquisitions activity and consolidation, but the successful blossoming of the Askia/Ipsos deal is a pretty huge thing for the future of our industry I reckon. Research, data, tech, and nice people…pretty good recipe for success.

Amy Cashman, executive managing director of the UK insights division, Kantar
The most significant trend for me has been starting to see the full power of technology’s ability to free up time and thinking space for our analysts. Tech works best when it enables expertise. It means we can analyse huge swathes of data faster and that’s becoming more and more important as the information we have about consumers grows, but there is no replacement for human insight.

James Endersby, chief executive, Opinium
Machine learning has started to become more than a buzzword, with historical databases starting to be leveraged to predict likely outcomes for packaging through to adverts. Research companies are uniquely placed in this area, as we can test our predictions with real consumers, thus improving their accuracy in the future, so I expect to see this trend to continue in 2023.

Ryan Barry, president, Zappi
The most significant trend in 2022 is the tech-led shift toward testing and learning. So often, we see businesses invest in agile software, but fail to realise that people and process are just as important to the research function as the technology that underpins them. 

Over the past year, more organisations adopted an agile mindset around testing and focused on educating and empowering their people on how to harness data, iterate, fail fast – and share learnings across the team in every step of the way. The result is more engaged teams that feel empowered to tackle big problems. 

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate
The growing evidence about how much fraud there is in online survey data and the need to tackle it.

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
The return to face-to-face conferences. They are the lifeblood of research creativity, innovation and thought leadership. The commitment of physical presence seems to lift the whole event – whether presenting or viewing it feels different – there is more connection and collaboration – maybe I am idealising a little… let’s see at the MRS annual conference in March.