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FEATURE18 December 2017

Review 2017: biggest developments of the year

Big Data Features Innovations Technology Trends

Christmas is just around the corner, so it’s time to reflect on the market research industry’s big issues over the past 12 months. We contacted a cross-section of research leaders to ask: what has been the most significant development of 2017? Technologies such as automation and voice stood out, as well as the increasing need to integrate data with traditional research methods.

Jane Bloomfield, head of sales and marketing, Millward Brown
This is the year that AI and automation finally arrived in market research, and they’ll make greater inroads in 2018 with continued development and adoption. Market research firms need to get on the AI train now or be left behind. Improvements in voice and contextual search mean we need to not only understand how clients are using chatbots to engage and interact with consumers, but also the use of chatbots in research itself – for example to run qualitative in-depth interviewing at scale.

Crispin Beale, chief executive, Chime Insight & Engagement Group
Automation’s abilities are constantly growing and this along with its increasing adoption by both agencies and brands is driving big changes in the industry. The pressure is on to deliver faster, cheaper and better research for clients, something we are only able to do with the help of automated processes.

Annie Pettit, research methodologist
Hello, artificial intelligence! AI entered the collective conscious of marketing researchers in a big way this year. A number of companies have already repositioned or rebranded their services to publicise their use of AI (irrespective of whether they actually use it). Some have recognised that it will completely change their research processes or the skills they seek from their employees, and are already planning ahead. Still others are in the early stages of search and discovery to discover how AI will affect their business, services, and client needs. Because it will.

Andy Brown, global chief executive and chairman, Kantar Media
The rise of devices such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home has potentially very interesting implications for both marketers and researchers. With new behaviours – from changing the TV channel to checking the weather – being monitored, we need to think not only about having the measurement systems in place to capture these actions, but also the ways in which they drive new research solutions.

Harley Titchener, head of research, dunnhumby
As consumers generate more and more data sources, there is an increasing expectation for a holistic view of the market and the customer, through the incorporation of an implicit, indirect or passive collection methodology that enriches and supports deeper qualitative and/or quantitative survey approaches. Research companies that will win are those who can respond to these demands for actionable, connected and contextualised results.

Caroline Frankum, global chief executive, Lightspeed
The blend of methodologies and technology, ie using technology to effectively disrupt traditional, retrospective research methodologies in ways that enable clients to ‘know more by asking less’. Gone are the days where people are willing to be shackled to their computers for over 30 minutes answering questions about a retrospective brand experience when it best suits us. Passive data collection via app-based techniques like geo-fencing, and APIs, are fast becoming common currencies. This puts increasing pressure on the demand for faster, cheaper, more seamless, automated and engaging access to ‘buy and why’ insights from consumers, without compromising on quality.

Pippa Bailey, senior director, Ipsos Mori
The interest and traction being gained for virtual, augmented and mixed reality in research applications, allowing us to create and evaluate situations and contexts which don’t exist in the real world. It is still early days but the potential for this tech feels like a potential game changer for market research. 

Will Ullstein, commercial director, YouGov
The biggest development is the momentum that activation has gained. We have seen a rush of news stories about research companies, with the right sort of data, on-boarding that data into ad tech stacks. In doing so, these businesses are creating new revenue streams and enabling a more joined-up solution for brands and media agencies – delivering insight on an audience and then being able to provide the same seed audience for lookalike modelling and targeting in the digital world.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
I don’t think one single development stands out. 2017 has been a case of wider and faster adoption of the potential offered by digital technology – we saw our first awards entries featuring VR earlier this year. I think that the macro-economic and geo-political events have had a more fundamental impact: GE17 saw polling and its techniques under the spotlight again, and the results of the election itself have compounded a sense of uncertainty and unpredictability that we haven’t faced for decades.

Zlatko Vucetic, president and chief operating officer, FocusVision
The research industry is using video more and more as a key component in bringing the consumer into boardrooms and providing context to data. Video is the perfect channel for building narratives, and I think we can expect it to become the new normal across all spheres of business.

Over the course of the Christmas period and beyond, Research Live will publish a series of articles reflecting on 2017 and looking ahead to make some predictions for next year.