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FEATURE27 December 2023

Preview of 2024: Reasons for optimism

AI Features Inclusion UK Youth

From artificial intelligence revolutionising work to engaging with staff and increasing workforce diversity, senior industry figures tell Research Live their reasons for optimism for the year ahead.

What are you most excited about for the industry in 2024 – what gives you reason to be optimistic?

Fiona Blades, chief experience officer, Mesh Experience
I am most excited about the momentum around new marketing measurement. For many years we have relied on metrics like share of voice and media reach. Now these are eroding in their usefulness with companies investing in digital, sponsorship and more (not picked up in share of voice) and people’s declining attention spans. It is good to see clients re-evaluating their marketing ecosystems, with metrics like share of experience and attention gaining traction.

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
AI will force us to be brave or die, and I can live with either outcome.

Jessica DeVlieger, chief executive, C Space
Our responsibility is to ensure businesses remain connected to people. Economic and societal turmoil is compelling forward-thinking chief executives to consider rewriting the relationship playbook, as yesterday’s winning strategies won’t work tomorrow. And how do you accomplish this? Through your customers. Thus, I am hopeful that insight leaders will increasingly become strategic partners to the board in defining future directions. Less evaluation, more proactivity. Fewer data discussions, more action. Bring it on.

Andrew Cooper, founder and chief executive, Verve
The transformation of the industry that artificial intelligence is precipitating. Not just through the more obvious ways of doing what is currently done more efficiently, but through new ways of generating insight – “insights without asking” versus the traditional “insight through asking” of survey research and qual. It is going to be so disruptive – and so exciting.

Ben Shimshon, chief executive and managing partner, Thinks Insight & Strategy 
I’m really excited about the election. I think the industry can play a huge role in putting the citizen voice front and centre; supporting campaigning organisations to frame the debate; meeting bad information with great data; and helping businesses and brands understand the impact of the election on policy, regulation and their customers’ expectations. But mostly for the polling, predictions and post mortem.

James Endersby, chief executive, Opinium
I am very excited to be handed the MRS chair baton from the outstanding Sinead Jefferies in April, and to continue the excellent momentum the MRS has been building over the past few years across numerous areas, but for me personally, most importantly around equality, diversity and inclusion and people and culture.

I’m keen to ensure that we really lean in and focus on engaging with researchers from all backgrounds, and at all levels along their career path. Firstly, we need to continue the hard work to ensure the sector is considered a destination career, then we need to strive hard to support &More, giving our junior researchers the best possible foundations and setting them up for success. There is also a huge group who are not quite junior any more, yet not considered senior, or even frustratingly ‘too senior’, and I think we need to focus on them and win them back, keep them engaged, and most importantly remaining in our sector so they can thrive.

Sinead Jefferies, senior vice-president, Zappi
Collaboration. Our agency leaders conference in November showed the huge power that comes from sharing ideas, and the energy and buzz that comes from collaboration and collective learning. Whether it is how to embrace the opportunities of AI or strive for more inclusive workplaces, some of the biggest questions and issues should bring us together in openness, not beavering away in gloomy isolation.

Hannah Rogers, business development director, Kokoro
Clients are switching sectors: far more clients with fast-moving consumer goods backgrounds are moving into retail, transport, tech, hospitality, education and vice-versa. C-suites are ‘shaking things up’ to learn different techniques and approaches through new voices and fresh thinking: there is a dedication to being ‘more external’ to deliver incredible cognitive diversity.

Talking about ‘people’ not just ‘consumers’ or ‘customers’ is more prevalent. Delving into the total, contextual human experience is genuinely exciting; it forces us to think about real world needs holistically to deliver better products and services.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
This is a time of innovation with AI and all the possibilities it brings us. The industry is attracting incredibly bright young talent and it feels like a very exciting time to be working in the insight industry.

Amy Cashman, executive managing director of the UK insights division, Kantar
The opportunity for AI to revolutionise what we can deliver for our clients can’t be understated. It’s allowing us to deal with increasingly complex, varied datasets and at lightning speed, giving our analysts more room and thinking time to interpret the findings and do the really important bit – help clients understand what the data means for them and use it to make better decisions.

We’re still expecting a challenging landscape next year, but looking on the positive side, the UK economy hasn’t taken quite the hit many thought it would over the past 12 months, so I’m hopeful we might see more stability through 2024.

Crawford Hollingworth, global founder, The Behavioural Architects
I believe AI will allow much of the more mundane and time intensive data collection part of research to be done more simply and cost effectively. This will mean the huge value our expertise adds at the design and interpretation stage of research will be the focus and the value we deliver will be magnified and liberated.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
From clients all the way through the supply chain, the sector is really pulling together on the issues it cares about in a way I’ve never seen before. On the client side, we’re seeing a rallying around inclusion and greater representation which is incredibly encouraging. We’re more than the sum of our parts and the collective action and responsibility to improve our work as an entire sector give me great cause for optimism.

And let’s not forget the contribution research makes commercially to UK gross domestic product. The sector is a UK success story and we need to carry on celebrating that.

Nick Baker, global chief research officer, Savanta
The opportunities in the twin growth or survival (take your pick) drivers in AI. This really will be an existential crisis for some and the most wonderful opportunity for others. Please don’t be an ostrich. You need to work out who to ask if you can’t already do it. But there are so many ways you can whether you are 10 or 152 years old (I realise the latter is unlikely). Don’t not try, that’s all I am saying.

Bethan Blakeley, research director, Boxclever
What gives me reason to be optimistic? The people. Always the people. We’re a fab bunch, full of passion and excitement – we just need to make sure we keep finding more of us.

Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank
I am excited (as well as worried) about large language models – but they may well prove to be a way of reinvigorating our work and of rethinking entrenched modes of doing qual.