FEATURE29 December 2021

Preview 2022: Biggest challenges

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From improving the survey experience for respondents to the importance of resilience, insight industry insiders discuss some of the biggest challenges facing market research over the next year.

Caroline Frankum, global chief executive, profiles division, Kantar
Being able to attract significantly more tech engineers and data scientists – and ensuring those we do attract represent greater diversity, to be able to truly reflect the world we serve, will be one of our biggest challenges next year. The market research industry is just one of many sectors that is seeing a gap between demand and supply of these skillsets widening and, with women still representing a minority in tech and data (<25%, with this figure dropping to low single-digits for Black, Hispanic, and Asian women), the competition for this talent will be fierce, adding even more pressure to already rapidly rising levels of wage inflation.

Matilda Andersson, group managing director, Crowd DNA
Uncertainty and leaders not investing in the future and growth is an issue. Young talent not wanting to come into our industry and there being, therefore, a shortage of good candidates.

Shazia Ginai, chief executive, Neuro-insight
We must sustain momentum on all things relating to diversity and inclusion. For me, walking into a room full of my peers immediately awakens my imposter monster as there are rarely many people who look like me in those spaces (I’m a British south Asian female), so over the past couple of years it has been great to see people taking note and making pledges to drive more equality. In 2022, as businesses begin to really boom again, I hope that momentum isn’t lost.  Driving equality is vital to our industry. MRS has an inclusion pledge that open businesses can sign up to; I’m hoping we can sustain momentum by increasing sign-up considerably next year.

Kelly Beaver, chief executive, UK & Ireland, Ipsos
I think we will have a bit more turbulence to come during the endemic phase of the virus – as we have seen with the concern and disruption caused by the Omicron variant – and we may see more of this in Q1 next year. Beyond this we are also entering into a tricky period of high inflation and economic disruption, which could impact on important sectors with whom the research industry works.

Andrew O'Connell, managing director UK, Dynata
I worry about the poor survey experience for our respondents, who give up their valuable time. An 18-24-year-old male doesn’t want to answer more than three verbatims; surveys should be mobile-compatible and we need to remember that concentration is affected after 20 minutes – our respondents are not robots. Many have one poor survey experience and don’t come back for more. As an industry, we need to work at improving this.

Lisa Wilding-Brown, chief executive, InnovateMR
As technology use continues to ramp up, it is going to be vital to never lose the human element. If systems are not human-centric and there is no empathy or understanding, it is a missed opportunity. As an industry, we need to be sure to never lose appreciation for the people behind the technology. Our team champions what we are calling Do-it-Together, or DIT. This focuses on a blended approach to research that is not fully DIY, but also provides more control than traditional full-service offerings. Rather than replacing human ingenuity, our technology is enhancing it.

 Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank
The commitment to more diversity. This is such a great industry to work in and I really look forward to encountering new entrants with fresh perspectives.

Stephan Shakespeare, chief executive and co-founder of YouGov
One way or another, Covid-19 will continue to shape the economy and our sector for the foreseeable future. While much has improved, there is still a lot of pandemic-related uncertainty. Many companies are experiencing “the great resignation” as staff look for new opportunities post-pandemic and such movement in the industry creates a sense of flux. However, the waters will be smoother for those who have made good investments for the future and who have a point of differentiation.

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate
The hunger for evidence to enable better decisions to be made.

Barrie Brien, chief executive, STRAT7:
Our challenge for 2022 will be to make businesses understand how much value we bring to the table and show just how much impact our work has on the bottom line. The research professional is so much more than the caricature of the dull grey figure reading stats off a PowerPoint slide.

Ryan Barry, president, Zappi
I think the biggest challenge for insights right now is getting the attention of the rest of the business. Every insights leader I speak to is incredibly smart, but they don't always have the business acumen, storytelling skills and gravitas they need to expand their reach outside of their teams to the rest of their organisations. Developing those skills next year and beyond is critical for elevating the role of the insights function. 

Nick Baker, global chief research officer, Savanta
Not resting on one’s laurels; while we have been resilient and in many cases continued to post excellent growth rates, it’s vital that the foot stays on the pedal and we don't get complacent, as there are many places where other industries are eying up our lunch. 

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
Having an honest conversation about face-to-face and online research.