Piggy bank and money, with man worried in the background

FEATURE28 December 2023

Preview of 2024: Biggest challenges – budgets, economics and AI

AI Cost of Living Features Trends UK

With a moribund economy, financial pressures and the rise of generative artificial intelligence, there are challenges aplenty for the market research industry next year, according to our contributors.

FOR some, the biggest challenge for the industry in 2024 will be the economy...

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
Ongoing economic uncertainty may seem an obvious answer, but it continues to pose difficulties for our sector. While there are green shoots of economic pressure easing, prices will remain elevated. As businesses work to keep balance sheets healthy, our sector could feel the pinch, so we need to make sure we’re underscoring the value our insights bring.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
Client retention and motivation in the face of anticipated tough trading conditions.

Kelly Beaver, chief executive UK and Ireland, Ipsos
The economic environment remains challenging for many industries. Alongside this, employees across the industry continue to feel the impact of a prolonged period of inflation and there are still concerns about a recession. As ever though, during tough times, it is vital to have robust evidence on which you can make critical decisions. 

Nick Baker, global chief research officer, Savanta
Budget and revenue predictability isn’t going to be there, so make sure plans are multi-dimensional. There’s no way the journey is going be what any of us predicted, even if any of us land on the end we wanted.

Hannah Rogers, business development director, Kokoro
Client budgets are reducing, procurement teams are piling pressure on to deliver cost savings – but wages and out of pocket expenses increase. As a sector, we need to ensure we don’t devalue insight – we need to work together to prove tangible links to commercials.

On the agency front, challenges come from self-serve models: clients bringing things in house may save budget short term, but they miss the external perspective, crucial for fresh thinking, and spend time on the ‘doing’ rather than the all important stakeholder engagement and management: this is a huge barrier to driving action through the business.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
The economic climate affects our clients, so it will continue to have a knock-on effect on the whole industry.

Jessica DeVlieger, chief executive, C Space
The flip side of this: chief finance officer-led cultures focused on the bottom line pose challenges for insight leaders who will, once again, be asked to accomplish more with less. When humans are in crisis mode, they tend to adopt a fixed mindset, believing they have all the answers and blaming others. Companies may also follow suit, risking increased belief within marketing and innovation divisions that they have all the answers, isolating themselves and forgetting the most critical aspect — putting the customer first.

Andrew Cooper, founder and chief executive, Verve
The lack of any growth in most client’s research budgets. Therefore, agency growth has generally got to be achieved by increasing share of wallet – it will be a very competitive year in the industry.

Amy Cashman, executive managing director of the UK insights division, Kantar
While the economy is holding up better than anticipated, client budgets are still under immense pressure. The big challenge for us researchers will be to carry on demonstrating the commercial value of insights. Getting that right will rely on us being able to quantify the return on investment, putting tangible financial values on the impact we’re helping clients deliver.

Whether that’s identifying the revenue at risk or the potential growth to be unlocked through our insights, we need to have the confidence in ourselves as data experts to underscore the commercial ‘so what’ for stakeholders.

For others, artificial intelligence loomed large...

Crawford Hollingworth, global founder, The Behavioural Architects
To embrace this AI market research singularity as a liberating opportunity.

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate
Regulating and guiding AI and dealing with the quality problems in online panels.

Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank
I’m concerned about the start of a trend where AI will lead to bypassing agency researchers and even respondents in favour of tech-only solutions. We need to act now to carve out our niche and future-proof our work – the market is going to be swamped by products and tools that are already promising cheap ways of doing away with pesky real people...

James Endersby, CEO, Opinium
The biggest challenge our industry faces in 2024 is maintaining obsession level focus on harnessing AI, but at the very same time ensuring we maintain obsession level focus on our brilliant people too. We need both to thrive as a sector, let’s not forget that.