Covid-19 is undoubtedly the biggest disappointment of the year. But putting the pandemic aside, what else has underwhelmed the market research industry in 2020? 

Ben Hogg, managing director Emea and Asia-Pacific, Lucid
Bringing new people on board without ever having had the chance to meet them personally. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to join a new company without getting a taste for the culture, the work environment or getting to know people outside of the office. Likewise, working with new clients and suppliers virtually just does not have the same impact as face-to-face.

Lizzie Gilthorpe, managing director, Differentology
It is hard to think of anything that has not been directly or indirectly impacted by Covid-19. The upheaval came more at a human level. Over the summer we spent a lot of time and effort to get Covid-19 policies and safe working practices in place for a much-anticipated return to the office. We went as far as getting ‘welcome back’ packs sorted for colleagues, and were super excited at the prospect of being reunited ( 2 metres apart) at our headquarters. Literally the day before our planned return, the government changed the guidelines back to “work from home if you can”.

Ryan Howard, freelance data science consultant
Ofqual’s omnishambles algorithm penalised disadvantaged students. This was foreseeable by even the least cynical among us. Being both relatable and local, it made plain the ever-yawning gap separating the rising expectation of data science and its limitations. It reminds this industry that data modelling is no longer the game of scholarly types with bow ties and pocket protectors, that have time, experience and peer reviews. Rather, it is highly commercial, overly hyped, misunderstood, rapid and democratised – a heady cocktail with equally predictable consequences.

Andrew O’Connell, managing director, Dynata
As an industry, there is still a way to go when it comes to attaining a 360-degree view of consumers. Collecting attitudinal data is something we are all well-versed in, but there still is not a reliable and scalable method of value exchange for personal data between consumers and researchers.

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate
The reluctance of so many research companies to promote the democratisation of insights.

Crawford Hollingworth, global founder, The Behavioural Architects
In complex, challenging times people either pull together or pull the proverbial bridges in. While many businesses and communities linked arms together in collective support and influence, I sadly feel we did not as an industry. Were there pathways or routes that could have gloriously brought us together to solve global issues? Yes. And in my view this was a missed opportunity to flex our collective muscle and bring light to a world struggling on so many levels.

Frederic Charles Petit, chief executive, Toluna
From social unrest to Brexit and the European de-union, to the health and economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, this year has been full of uncertainty. The impact has been significant, and we will feel the ripples of 2020 for years to come.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
Brexit. With days until the end of the transition period we could limp into 2021 without agreement about our future-trading relationship. We’ve only had since June 2016 to sort this out…

Deborah Mattinson, founding partner, BritainThinks
That oven-ready deal.

Caroline Frankum, global chief executive officer, Profiles Division, Kantar
Something that really concerns me is the fact that inclusion and diversity are clearly at risk in the crisis, but are critical for the recovery, resilience and reimagination needed to ensure businesses emerge in the strongest, healthiest states possible. There is enough evidence now to prove the critical importance of inclusion and diversity – and that does not change in a crisis. But the pressing need to focus on new ways of working, consolidate workforce capacity and yet maintain productivity threatens to unintentionally put the progress made over the past five years at risk. The market research industry has an accountability to ensure it reflects the diverse world it serves.

Nick Baker, global chief research officer, Savanta
Stephen Lawrence would have been 46 now. At the time his murder was abhorrent, and we couldn’t believe that in 1993 such racism could be happening. Not far off 30 years later the Black Lives Matters movement has still been needed to push for basic human rights for all. This is because far too little has changed on so many fronts in terms of diversity and inclusion. In 2020, only 5% of FTSE 100 chief executives are women. The FTSE 250 is even further behind, with just 2%. 

Shazia Ginai, chief executive, Neuro Insight
Unfortunately, I would say it was the racial hatred that was spewed out following the launch of the beautiful Sainsbury’s ‘gravy boat’ Christmas campaign. In a year where people lost loved ones, one would assume that everyone would come together and recognise the spirit of family and togetherness but sadly many opted to vocalise hate all over social media. This goes to show we still have a lot to do to re-wire the bias and hate out of society.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
Sadly the Covid-19 crisis moved the environment even further down the global political agenda. It felt like progress was being made in 2019 and that has certainly stalled this year.

Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos
I was hoping to see climate change really break through as an issue – but the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26 ) next year, and rising global concern about climate change despite the pandemic, means I might still get what I hope to see.