heating pipe and coins - concept of high cost of living and rising energy prices

FEATURE18 December 2023

Review of 2023: Standout trends – cost of living and ‘ripflation’

AI Cost of Living Features Sustainability Technology Trends UK

The cost-of-living crisis has continued to impact the public in 2023, while a return to more in-person industry engagement, artificial intelligence and blended methods also stood out for research leaders, who share their key trends from the past 12 months to kick off Research Live’s end of year series. 

The economy has defined much of the year…

Jessica DeVlieger, chief executive, C Space
While our industry is rightly focused on adopting more inclusive practices in recruitment and research, there’s still much to be done in stepping outside our ivory tower. The human impact of the cost-of-living crisis is just beginning to be understood. Poverty, especially child poverty, is reaching alarming levels.

Sometimes, even those in the insight industry can be oblivious to these realities. Yet, these realities significantly influence people’s choices, shopping habits, and emotional interactions with brands. Businesses that ignore this, staying silent and relying on business-as-usual and stringent financial management, are in for a rude awakening. What makes them relevant today won't necessarily make them relevant tomorrow.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
Rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis have defined the political and economic agenda in the UK this year. We’ve seen this reflected in the volatility of the scores in our Consumer Confidence Barometer.

James Endersby, chief executive, Opinium
Ripflation, sadly – companies passing price increases on to consumers, while at the same time reducing quality, value and service. Definitely not all, but there have been many and it is a worrying trend that I hope will fade away in 2024, as price- and value-conscious consumers have needed little excuse to consider cheaper alternatives. A reminder that brand loyalty can take decades to rebuild.

Meanwhile, many budget brands have been the big winners. The Opinium 2023 Most Connected Brands Index showed brands like Aldi, Lidl, Iceland and TK Maxx soaring up the rankings by offering savings and still holding value – a real connection-win as far as consumers are concerned.

…And high cost of living has impacted attitudes in areas such as sustainability

Kelly Beaver, chief executive UK and Ireland, Ipsos
Depressingly, we are seeing changes in attitudes towards climate change and the environment in the face of cost-of-living pressures. Britons remain committed to the overall goal of reducing our impact on the environment – in our Earth Day polling, 63% said the country should be doing more to fight climate change. But the prospect of the cost of these measures has clearly given some pause: 51% of Britons agree that they’d like to do more to reduce climate change but can’t afford to. So, it was unsurprising that the announcement that prime minister Rishi Sunak was delaying and cancelling some net zero targets received more support among the public than it did among business and opinion leaders: 47% of Britons said he was making the right decision and 46% said he was making the wrong choice.

In-person engagement also had an impact in 2023…

Amy Cashman, executive managing director of the UK insights division, Kantar
The trend I’ve noticed – and have really welcomed – has been people remembering the power of getting together in person. 2023 has been the first full year in which we’ve moved on fully from Covid restrictions and it’s clear that, while we could carry on doing our jobs remotely during the pandemic, we were missing something by not seeing each other face to face. It’s been wonderful to see everyone’s enthusiasm for getting back out there. For us, it means we’re seeing people eager to spend plenty of time in our new office – which was designed around collaboration – to develop ideas together with colleagues and our clients.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
2023 was a year of change more than trends. The UK has seen some fireworks economically, politically and commercially. We’ve also had more subtle changes – people shifting away from pandemic-era, virtual working and tentatively moving back to the office, for example. It’s these shifts, rather than any notable trend, that have defined the year for me.

…While others pointed to AI (more on this later in the series…), technological disruption and data quality

Nick Baker, global chief research officer, Savanta
Unpredictability. But within a context of guaranteed certainty. The spectre of AI is already haunting us. Time to get all Darwinian. Embrace. Adapt. Evolve or die.

Bethan Blakeley, research director, Boxclever
The general panic about whether AI is going to take our jobs, and the over-played response of “no, but someone who’s using it might”.

Andrew Cooper, founder and chief executive, Verve
The respondent crisis – where bad actors posing as respondents to game the incentive systems of the access panel models – is becoming critical. The issue is coming to a crescendo with the ability of AI in dishonest hands and based off unknown datasets to be passed off as human response. Hence the crazy world of survey research where 30-40% or more responses are being thrown out.

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate
Concerns about the quality of data from online access panels, and the rise in the interest in synthetic data.

…And combining research methods was a winner

Ben Shimshon, chief executive and managing partner, Thinks Insight and Strategy
Mixing it up – truly blended methods that get more out of every approach: behavioural randomised controlled trials (RCTs) as a dialogue input to challenge claimed motivations and over-rational recommendations; ethnography combined with senior team immersion to reach genuinely shared insights and implications; EEG monitoring, large scale public trials and longitudinal deliberative, to get under the skin of transformative new technologies.

This article is part of Research Live’s Review of 2023 series, exploring the standout trends, developments and moments of the past 12 months. 

1 Comment

5 months ago

Some great insights there and reminders of how real things can get for people. From our perspective as trainers in the MR industry, we see people have been, and are becoming, even more important to agencies. Don't get me wrong. Saas, AI, synthetic data - big developments of course. But when it comes to differentiating an agency, making it a great place to work, innovating, defending it, growing it...people are the most important part. We witnessed clients saying this too. As the pace of the rise in tech-enabled solutions gets quicker, the trend for clients to lean more on agency people will grow. Meaning demand for commercially savvy teams able to prescribe the way forward for their clients, and guide them through the journey.

Like Report