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FEATURE2 January 2020

Preview of the decade: biggest challenges for the next 10 years

Data analytics Features Trends UK

We’re on the cusp of a new decade so what do our contributors think will be the greatest challenges of our industry over the next 10 a word – data.


Andrew O’Connell, managing director, UK, Dynata
The belief that the data that drives insights generation is a commodity – and therefore replaceable by any facsimile – is dangerous and irresponsible. Trading quality for lower cost puts the benefits of that data – the insights and business advantages it can bring – at risk. It’s a vicious cycle: automation and innovation make our solutions more affordable, but data accuracy and quality remain paramount for strategic business decisions.

Anna Cliffe, joint managing director, Trinity McQueen
Too much data; not enough integrity. Our role of championing data accuracy, quality and objectivity will be even more important. And we should be more vocal in raising awareness of where poor practice is used to manipulate or precipitate bad decision-making.

Crawford Hollingworth, co-founder, The Behavioural Architects
As more and more data becomes available, and techniques for analysing this data get more sophisticated, it will be important for the industry to keep these techniques honest. How are data sources skewed? What are the biases in the analysis? The industry should take the lead in establishing standards.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
The ubiquity of data. When I started in this industry, I was told it was our job to create conversations between consumers and brands. In our world where this interaction happens by itself, and on a grand scale, our challenge is to reinvent ourselves as custodians and shapers of this data – before somebody else does.

Jane Bloomfield, chief growth officer UK, Kantar
To get its head out of the data and focus on extracting the insights and meaning – or someone else will do it for us.

Stephan Shakespeare, co-founder and chief executive, YouGov
Data compliance regulations will present ongoing and growing challenges for the industry for the foreseeable future. While GDPR is now a fact of life, other regulations are being implemented in a range of markets that will give consumers greater power over their own data, such as the California Privacy Act, which comes into force in January 2020.

These regulations, as well as linked laws around open banking, will allow individuals to extract more value and services from their data. Many – including YouGov – see this as a great opportunity. The research industry can empower consumers while significantly improving its offer to clients through the delivery of results data around campaigns that is not claimed but proven.

Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos Mori
Staying relevant in an age of instant mass data.

And other mentions…

Annie Pettit
Given so much technological advancement, our biggest challenge will be to retain the humanity of our work. Our job is to understand consumers and markets not to implement artificial intelligence and run biometric scans. We’ll need to ensure that the technology we fawn over retains its place as a second-class citizen and that people remain first. Privacy and respect for the individual must always come first.

Ben Hogg, managing director EMEA and APAC, Lucid
Keeping up to date with the plethora of new suppliers in our space. The best way to do this is to get out of the office to conferences to hear how technology continues to offer new ways of doing old things.

Deborah Mattinson, founding partner, BritainThinks
Ensuring that the research industry really pushes itself to innovate in how it reaches great quality participants. It applies across the industry but it’s a particularly pressing challenge for quantitative researchers. As more and more surveys are conducted online, it’s crucial that they don’t just capture the views of the ‘usual suspects’, that they don’t rely on participants opting into research, and that they link up with wider datasets which tell a bigger story.

Jane Frost, chief executive, Market Research Society
Thinking about the evolving role of the CMO and beyond. There are so many other positions like the chief customer officer, the chief experience officer and the chief data officer. It’s important that our sector looks outwards and continues to reflect the evolving needs for each of these. We have a responsibility to join up and integrate information to help make better decisions – enabling organisations to be truly responsive.

Clearly the other big challenge is how we cope with Brexit. We are the world leader and centre point for global research. Remaining competitive will be dependent on how the sector responds to this challenge. What the sector’s appetite for ambition will be key. 

Laura Ratcliffe, managing director, Flamingo
Delivering real value not just for our clients but for the people that our clients’ brands serve. We have the opportunity and a responsibility to make a tangible difference to the human experience of our clients’ brands and ultimately our world. Let’s use that positively.

Nick Baker, UK chief executive, Savanta
The confusion in the industry’s proposition…the middle is being firmly squeezed, we need to disintermediate our offer and recognise where our real skills are and embrace the changes that technology and data bring, not fight them.

Ray Poynter, chief executive, The Future Place
Navigating from a role where traditional market research (surveys and interviews) were the main techniques, to one where they are a minority, and where the difference between market research, marketing, and service provision become blurred.

Ryan Howard, director, advanced analytics, Simpson Carpenter
Market research can ill afford to become a corporate political football in what has been coined a ‘post truth world’. This industry is predicated upon the idea that evidence matters but as the license to ignore evidence and ‘go with your gut’ spreads, fewer will regard decent research as mission critical.