OPINION21 June 2017

IIeX North America: a future lens

Innovations North America Opinion Technology Trends

Automation and virtual reality were key themes at the IIeX North America conference, held last week in Atlanta. Daniel Evans of ZappiStore reports. 

Future lens crop

Last week I was in Atlanta to attend the annual North American IIeX. For those that don’t know, it’s a key event in the global market research calendar to shine a light on the intersection of market research and technology.

On a good day, IIeX not only provides a great showcase into the emerging technologies that will be used to create impact in the industry, but as Lenny Murphy stated in his opening remarks, “participation and attendance of IIeX drives innovation in of itself”.

For me it was an event of parallels and progress, exploring the client needs that are driving innovation, and how technology is reasserting the credibility of research through impact and ROI at a boardroom level.

IIeX demonstrated that automation will continue to be a key theme in the industry. During the next generation of market research & insights creation panel, Cambiar’s Simon Chadwick stated that “automation is now the dominant form of new technology in insights”.

So, it was thrilling to see automation now being applied to complex methodologies in ways that just a few years ago would have seemed impossible. MindProber, the winners of the annual innovation insight competition are looking to disrupt the neuroscience field with cost-effective, medically-calibrated biometric sensors, and automated real-time data collection, to conduct biometric testing at scale.

Meanwhile the team at Remesh demonstrated how they were using AI to automate real-time digital qualitative research to provide valuable insights to NASCAR, one of the US’s biggest sporting institutions.

The benefits of automation were key themes with many of the client speakers at the event. For the iconic brands panel, Michelle Gansle of Wrigley stated that “it may seem like we’re trying to do more with less, but we’re actually just being asked to do things differently. Big data analytics has meant we are now trying to squeeze insights out of the data we already have”.

She said that automating some vital processes allows research teams to concentrate on squeezing more insights out of existing data.

Getting more out of the data was strong theme emerging from client sessions at this year’s event; not only was it was debated on the iconic brands panel, but Brock Jones of Knowledge Hound and Michelle Gansle (again) discussed it in their presentation do more with existing data: how technology saves you time, money and drives revenue.

It was also touched on in the Coca-Cola showcase track as Gwen Brannon, director of channel platforms at Coke discussed the internal protocols to democratise data within their organisation. This all fed in to a new emerging function for insights teams in these major brands, something that was touched on during the iconic brands panel, but was also the core message from the next generation of market research & insight creation panel with Simon Chadwick, and Chris Enger and Tamara Char of McKinsey.

There is a clear trend towards those in the insights function repositioning themselves as strategic partners and this is a vital way to champion insights at the c-suite level. Emerging technologies such as automation are an essential step in allowing researchers more time in which to make this happen, illustrated by Chris Enger’s statement “10 years ago I used to spend 80% of my time doing analytics and 20% on storytelling, now it’s the opposite".

Another key technology, based on its coverage at IIeX, is virtual reality. A few years ago it was the preserve of a few agency vanity projects, but as the technology becomes more accessible it’s being used to create impact, particularly in the shopper insights sector.

This was demonstrated at IIeX through Stephen Needel’s presentation during the innovation exchange competition and a host of companies providing decidedly disorienting demonstrations in the future tech showcase room.

IIeX as usual blends the leading-edge along with some more traditional methods that are being used in new ways. And as an industry event, it does a fairly good job of balancing the paid-for and earned speaking opportunities. For me it was a conference about growth and progress, but it also highlighted that it should be the client challenges that drive innovation, not the technology. And as long as innovative research agencies keep that in mind, IIeX and the industry as a whole should go from strength to strength.

Daniel Evans is a content marketing strategist at ZappiStore

1 Comment

4 years ago

Great summary, Daniel - and thanks for the shout-outs! The absolutely key point to take away, however, lies in your penultimate sentence - client challenges drive innovation, not technology. I have been saying this for over a decade, but it is very easy for people to be distracted by the technology and to believe that it itself is the key driver. The environment has to be created in which innovation flourishes - and that environment starts with what clients are trying to do.

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