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FEATURE2 January 2019

Preview 2019: biggest challenges

Features Trends UK

From the big issues like Brexit, to the industry specific ones such as questionnaire design, our contributors share their thoughts on the challenges facing our industry in 2019.

Jane Frost, chief executive, Market Research Society
Well you can’t get away from Brexit – as much as one might like to. It’s the beast that’s spread its tentacles to all corners of the UK economy, and market research has already seen a drop-off in international forward commissions. From the previously unthinkable possibility that we do not achieve data equivalence now more likely, to how UK companies will invoice third parties in the EU – we must plan for the eventuality of no deal.  MRS will be providing support to member businesses as we navigate these choppy waters into the new year.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
To take more risks and push the boundaries of what is possible to provide deeper insight, but in a way that meets client’s increasing demands for results quicker and for less money.  If we don’t break away from some of our more traditional preconceptions of what research is and how it should be done, others will take our place.

Nick Bonney, founder, Deep Blue Thinking
Staying current. While we might not believe the doom and gloom on spend figures in the IPA Bellwether reports, I think this reflects a climate where CMOs believe they should be spending less on research. One could argue that research is more important than ever to help us understand the ‘why’ behind the patterns we see in transactional data but there’s a big risk here that, as an industry, we’re seen as being from the ‘old world’. I believe we’re facing a situation similar to the print media industry where we’ve seen greater fragmentation – on the one hand an increase in quick/cheap ways to get access to news (e.g. online/free sheets) but on the other hand people still prepared to pay (and pay a premium) for high quality editorial. I think the same is true in research but this probably means we have ‘over-supply’ in the middle ground.

Andy Brown, chief executive, Kantar Media
Striking the balance between large-scale and smaller-scale data remains one of the key challenges. At the moment – in particular with the advent of digital – there remains a slight bias toward larger-scale, deterministic data. However, brands need to strike a balance between that deterministic data and higher-quality probabilistic data.

Andrew O’Connell, managing director UK, Research Now SSI
One of the challenges for the industry is to design questionnaires which are more mobile optimised to ensure the sample is representative from a behavioural perspective. In some developed markets, we are now seeing up to 50% of respondents wishing to take their surveys on a mobile device.  So shorter questionnaires, no grids, less images, no 11 point scales.

Steve Phillips, chief executive, ZappiStore
The majority of the largest spenders in research are continuing to slash their budgets.

Desirée Lopez, chief executive, Flamingo Group
Integrity – to stay honest about the role we have in making the world, brands and human experience more authentic – to keep pushing the discussion about why understanding human behaviour is vital to better decision making. 

Annie Pettit, research methodologist
I’m becoming more concerned about privacy in the work we do. We’ve become accustomed to privacy failures via hacks, breaches, lack of care, and a lack of concern about human desires and rights (ahem, Facebook). Business seems to come before people more and more often. Technology is making all things possible not only for brands and marketers, but also researchers and we need to keep in mind that consumers only give us their information because they TRUST us with it. We need to make sure we continue to earn their trust no matter how easy technology makes it to ignore privacy.

Crawford Hollingworth, founder, The Behavioural Architects
The very uncertain future leading to short term decision making and a try it and see mentality replacing insight and understanding.

Deborah Mattinson, founding partner, BritainThinks
Getting beyond the urgent (Brexit etc) to the important things in people’s lives: healthcare, economy, jobs, security.

Frédéric-Charles Petit, chief executive and founder, Toluna
It is to stay relevant. The norm of yesterday has become the dogma of today and being stuck with dogma is the best recipe for failure. If you directionally agree that consumer behaviour has changed more in the past five years than in the previous 25 years, then you have to accept that like in any industry, the methodologies have to cope with that. 

Anna Cliffe, joint managing director and founder, Trinity McQueen
Demonstrating the value of analysis and insight skill in a world awash with data and direct access to information.  Showing why insight intelligence is better than artificial intelligence.

Ryan Howard, head of analytics, Simpson Carpenter
In 2018, self-service market research and machine learning platforms reached a tipping point. We are competing with software, no longer with each other, in the search for competitive advantage. It has forced traditional agencies to undervalue research craft or double down and innovate around their strengths. This edges quantitative researchers toward the more challenging and interesting problems that can only be answered with exploration, creative problem solving and business acumen. The race is on to develop what software cannot.

Greg Clayton, managing director, Kadence International
Perhaps not the biggest challenge, but certainly a key issue for the industry, and one that is often overlooked, is how our usually strict segmentations, demographics and purchase funnels fit in with an ever more fluid and transitionary world. Gender and sexuality, for example, are much more fluid and nuanced than they were when many of us set out on our careers; purchase funnels are not (and indeed never have been) entirely linear. These changes – enabled by social acceptance, technology or simply better understanding, are still not being suitably reflected by the industry.

Lewis Reeves, chief executive, Viga
Evolution. As the last year has taught us, our industry is moving faster and there are more organisations from non-research fields competing. Hence it is vital that we are constantly looking to evolve the way we do business to stay relevant, from clients to vendors we have to all ensure our work continues to provide value. 

Matt Lynch, chief strategy officer, Big Sofa
Clients wanting to do more in house, but with the support of external partners. It requires a different set of skills and a new toolbox

Nick Baker, managing director, Morar HPI
Adapting to the pace of change in the industry, to how people shop, research or buy and how clients need data, results and research to work and adapting to deliver relevant quality work but without being restricted by the timelines of established approaches.

Ray Poynter, chief executive, The Future Place
Failure to attract, train, and retain the right people.

1 Comment

7 months ago

Great contributions all. Collectively I guess we all have a responsibility to ensure research is front and centre of all major decision making. We know that research has historically been counter-cyclical - so as we head into a Brexit induced recession we have more responsibility, and opportunity than ever to help. Just one request - let's not over-complicate things - clients don't usually care how we do it - they just want us to help them make better decisions - so let's focus on offering clear, balanced business recommendations. Good luck for a happy and successful 2019.

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