FEATURE20 December 2019

Review of the decade: how has research changed in the past 10 years?

Data analytics Features Technology Trends

With a new decade on the horizon, it is time to reflect on the shifts that have taken place in the industry since 2010. We asked a cross-section of the industry: what has had the biggest impact on market research in the past 10 years?  

Nick Baker, UK chief executive, Savanta
The realisation that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum… The commercial frame and application of research is what matters. Research has no value until it is used.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
New entrants into the market research field from outside of our industry have had the biggest impact, bringing new technology and ways of thinking that has forced us all to re-think what market research is, how to engage with consumers to conduct it and how to deliver these insights to client brands. Technology really has made the world smaller and more accessible.

Sinead Jefferies, consultant, Watermelon
Technology as an enabler of new ways of engaging research participants and making data available faster and in better, more interactive formats. But also as a driver of the market overall – there are some brilliant agencies and suppliers who have emerged from the technology space, pushing the rest of the industry to sharpen up and be more agile. We are finally realising that doing things differently, faster and cheaper does not mean we can’t deliver high-quality research, and we should all be aiming to up our game using the best of technology to enable that.

Paul Twite, managing director for Europe & MENA, ITWP
The ubiquity, change in price and enhancement of processing power to analyse, transmit and display data has caused a seismic shift in what’s possible in research. The simultaneous impact on consumer behaviour of putting super computers in everyone’s pockets has been fascinating to observe.

Babita Earle, executive vice-president, strategic and industry partnerships, ZappiStore  
Automation has to be cited as having the biggest impact on our industry. It has fundamentally changed the speed, cost and ultimate value insights deliver within organisations. Additionally, machine learning or AI has meant we can be more sophisticated and smarter about what we are able to learn and predict from all the data that organisations have collected.

Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank
Digital has morphed from an experimental differentiator into an obvious part of a methodological mix. Clients, consumers and practitioners have become much more confident and more adept at harnessing technology as a pathway of getting insight into the richness of consumers’ personal lives.   

Stephan Shakespeare, co-founder and chief executive, YouGov
Online research has completely transformed the industry. When we started YouGov 20 years ago, people saw online research as a ‘quick and dirty’ tool. We saw that it could be far superior because it made large longitudinal panels practical, and therefore the collection of high-quality structured data at scale. This is still minimal in the industry but growing. 

Online has the potential to provide a much richer portrait of consumer behaviour, but it has also created an unregulated space where poor quality data proliferates and, worse, where consumers are treated unethically – where people’s personal data is harvested without their consent and then turned against them.

Deborah Mattinson, founding partner, BritainThinks
Ten years ago, too much of the industry was structured around methods rather than the client challenge. We’ve seen a really big shift over the past decade towards a truly methods-neutral approach where the emphasis is on what’s going to best achieve the research objectives. Gone are the days of thinking about people in reductionist, binary terms as ‘quallies’ or ‘quanties’ (or they should be!), and in their place seems to be a much better rounded approach drawing on qual, quant and a whole range of other specialisms – particularly behavioural science.      

Ryan Howard, director, advanced analytics, Simpson Carpenter
For better, and worse, our data sources changed. Online panels almost entirely replaced face-to-face and telephone interviewing. While there has been a great deal of clever thought and investment to get close to replicating the eagle-eyed control over sample representation and non-response, we remain conscious that our perspective is narrowed and unavoidably fragmented by exclusively digital lenses. Urged to seek out new methodologies, we are no longer one-trick ponies wholly reliant on surveys and focus groups.

Ben Hogg, managing director EMEA and APAC, Lucid
The prevalence of smartphones. Lucid was proud to be involved in researching the impact of mobile optimisation within our industry, alongside our friends at Toluna, Dynata and Kantar with the MRS. As more research respondents choose to use their mobile phones to respond to surveys, it is now absolutely essential to ensure (to make research representative, if for nothing else) that surveys are suitable for mobile devices, and worryingly, around 30% of surveys globally still aren’t.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
Investment: the constant pressure to do more with less has driven the industry to innovate and develop new ways of doing research faster that we could never have imagined a decade ago.

Laura Ratcliffe, managing director, Flamingo
In the last 10 years, we have seen the pendulum swing in our industry from human-centred to data-fuelled. It is now critical for the market research industry to bolster the integration of the two – to demonstrate how transformative the layering of those two aspects together can be to unlocking opportunities for brands.

Ray Poynter, chief executive, The Future Place
Insight communities have moved from being a niche to mainstream, from an interesting experiment to a mainstream essential.

Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos Mori
Social media and the internet coming of age in the last decade – WhatsApp and Spotify etc only launched in 2010.

Jane Bloomfield, chief growth officer UK, Kantar
The use of digital technology and devices has fundamentally transformed the industry, both in terms of the collection and use of customers’ personal data. Big data, real-time data, continuous data – what does all this data mean? It remains a huge opportunity and challenge for the industry.

Also in our end-of-year series, we explored the most significant industry developmentstrends and campaigns of 2019.

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