FEATURE19 December 2018

Review 2018: biggest trends

Brexit Data analytics FMCG Features GDPR Media Privacy Public Sector Technology Trends

The macro trends of continued political uncertainty, distrust and cynicism, the pressures on FMCG companies and an ever-changing media and data landscape all had an impact on research in 2018, according to our panel of contributors.

Tom Ewing, head of communications and market intelligence, System1
Financial market fluctuations. The uncertainty around Brexit, Trump, mid-terms etc has made the financial markets an absolute minefield going up and down like the tide.  

This has had a major impact on international projects as you may quote on a piece of work for X dollars, then 24 hours later your quote is off by 10%, or vice versa. International businesses have always had currency challenges but in a year where it is so unpredictable, I think it has had a massive impact. 

Anna Cliffe, joint managing director and founder, Trinity McQueen
The continuing focus on trust in institutions, and the way people are challenging the filter through which big brands, business and government communicates with them. The search for a more ‘reliable truth’.

Sinead Jefferies, consultant, Watermelon Research
The whole area of ‘experience’ continues to grow, whether that’s people spending money on ‘doing’ rather than ‘having’ or retailers focusing on the in-store experience as a key brand touchpoint while more and more sales happen online. I suspect this is why I’m increasingly seeing more and more forms of observational research. Alongside growing use of data and technology (many of which are actually observational as well), there is a quieter rise of some of the oldest forms of research that exist – watching people doing what they do and using that as a springboard to understand why.

Ben Hogg, managing director EMEA and APAC, Lucid
Ageing populations, a disaffected youth, and a growing rich and poor divide are some of the key macro trends affecting how people view the world. These trends are making it far more complicated for researchers, as segments become more nuanced and demographics are thrown in the bin. Yet still, we continue to talk about millennials and Gen Z as if they’re separate and distinct segments. These macro trends should be affecting research more, but it feels we’re not there yet, which is something we need to change.

Andy Brown, chief executive, Kantar Media
GDPR has been one of the most impactful trends in the industry this year. But I would say the biggest trend influencing market research has to be behavioural data, which has now reached a point of maturity. Increasingly, people are recognising the limitations of ‘big data’ and seeking ways to make it work more effectively by integrating it with smaller, ‘primary’ research solutions.

Deborah Mattinson, founding partner, BritainThinks
Against a backdrop of national – and international – gloom, we have to work even harder to cut through and understand the layers of cynicism – cynicism enhanced by a growing suspicion of ‘fake news’. Genuine insight is rarer than ever…

Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos Mori
The pressure on FMCG company budgets and the pressure on consumer insight functions to innovate and provide more ROI.

Desirée Lopez, chief executive, Flamingo Group
The global crusade for justice and equality, which has highlighted even further the need for representation in research; this isn’t a passive act of inclusivity – it’s our duty as researchers to comprehend and seek out the widest possible spectrum of voices. Striving for better representation in our own teams is a big part of this. 

Nick Bonney, founder, Deep Blue Thinking
The shifting media landscape is fascinating. On the one hand, trust in institutions remains cripplingly low but we’re also seeing a recovery in trust towards traditional media channels as consumers realise that everything they see on social might not be all it purports to be. There are some interesting parallels here for research ie. how we position ‘proper’ research vs. scraping social media data.

Greg Clayton, managing director, Kadence International
The obvious one is data security. For years we assumed that people knew what their data was being used for and how. But recent big data breaches, particularly Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, have turned the spotlight onto data collection. The market research industry has always been pretty good in this area, but the greater scrutiny on it now means that there are no excuses to lack transparency or ethics.

Lewis Reeves, chief executive, Viga
It feels like we have the beginnings of a changing of the guard amongst the biggest players in our industry. Kantar looks set to be sold by WPP; GfK sold a huge part of its market research business to Ipsos; Nielsen’s share price dropped to a five-year low: large-scale change seems to be brewing.

Matt Lynch, chief strategy officer, Big Sofa
The continued tension between people’s appetite for brands and their disdain for the corporations that produce them.

Ryan Howard, head of analytics, Simpson Carpenter
The proliferation of point and click analytics has created a new class of analyst, the ‘citizen data scientist’ whom analyses without coding. Mix in what you have with a bit of machine learning, sprinkle in some natural language processing and layer on data visualisation and one goes very far. For years, the trend was accelerating in the opposite direction; learning to code was everything. This has changed the ‘who does what’ along the value chain. Data science has been democratised, pulled nearer to the coalface, made practical, no longer just for nerds in ivory towers.

Nick Baker, managing director, Morar HPI
The continued focus on value and outcomes, not inputs and methods. You can’t just ‘do research’ any more – it’s got to have a commercial bent, otherwise clients are not satisfied. It’s all about helping clients make better decisions, which means commercial context and nous alongside research capability.

Over the course of the festive period and beyond, Research Live is publishing a series of articles reviewing 2018, including the year's biggest developments and a look at the impact of GDPR on market research.

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