OPINION5 January 2022

What to expect from market research in 2022

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It’s a new year – how can we expect the research industry to fare over the next 12 months? Frederic-Charles Petit examines the prospects for 2022.

'2022 action plan' sign on desk'2022 action plan' sign on desk

Following a year of disruption in 2020, the seeds sown by the pandemic began to grow in 2021. Brands have recognised the need to understand constantly changing consumer behaviour and sentiment, which has brought technology-driven market research and automation to the forefront.

So, what does 2022 have in store for the market research industry? What lessons can be learned from 2021, and how can these create real opportunities for consumer insights moving forward?

Adaptation to a multi-dimensional society and individual
A key trend we’ll see in 2022 is how market research keeps pace with innovation alongside a rapidly changing, multi-dimensional society. Research will need to address the diversity in populations to truly embody being not only nationally representative, as the term is historically defined, but to capture the diversity of the ubiquitous consumer.

Hyper-segmentation will become vital as research must move from simply defining key attributes of a person — such as age, social class, wealth, gender and the like — to create insights that are uniquely relevant to a consumer as an individual. Research needs to follow the complexity of society and consumer behavior so that it can deliver the information brands need to make key decisions in how they market their products and services.

Technology, driven by innovation in artificial intelligence, can capture this complexity — and market research organisations must harness this power to deliver truly agile, responsive insights about consumers that enable brands to remain relevant to their customers. 

Democratising research
As we create superior ways to curate detailed and complex research on consumers, the industry must focus its efforts on the democratisation of research. There’s a common misperception in that many think the democratisation of research means the simplification of insights. This is not the case. When we say democratisation of research, we mean making detailed data available in a simplified manner and in a seamless way to any business or any brand.

2022 will be the year to truly drive democratisation because the technology is there to enable it. In the 21st century, you do not need to be a research expert to do this. The most junior members of an organisation’s marketing team should be informed by easily available research that they can interact with, respecting the integrity of methodology, but at scale — and this is what we’ll see come to fruition next year.

We’re currently in a situation where the everyday consumer has access to more data than, for example, a brand manager. They can simply go onto Google or ask their friends for their opinion online on whether they agree with something or what their favorite movie or outfit is. Why? Because there’s still this notion that research, in the business-to-business market, is for experts.

We’ve witnessed a democratisation of consumer opinion and user-generated content online, but this has yet to be replicated in the business world. In 2022, as research continues to be technology-driven against the backdrop of constantly changing consumer sentiment, the industry must democratise research within the enterprise, giving marketing and brand teams the ability to access automated research at scale that can inform key decisions.

The multifaceted consumer 
Today’s consumer is complex and multidimensional. Real and relevant insights are no longer solely about a person’s geographic location, job role, or opinions on societal changes. It’s about understanding that a consumer can have several different individualities.

For example, a person can be passionate about sustainable living. They might grow their own food, re-use plastic, and drive a Tesla, while, at the same time, enjoy holidaying in Barbados — which involves traveling thousands of miles via plane, one of the world’s biggest polluters.

As we move into 2022, the question becomes, ‘how can we reflect these different and complex facets of the consumer in research?’ The industry must focus on how we can give organisations the ability to capture three, four or even five dimensions of the same individual or group of individuals.

This is especially important as we move into the next generation internet — a 3D sequel to the internet called the metaverse, which has the potential to revolutionise the way we shop and the way brands market their products. How does a research company do that? It’s about delivering hyper-segmentation, hyper-personalisation, at scale, and in real-time to enable brands to deeply understand and empathise with their consumer to deliver products they truly want.

Looking ahead
There’s no doubt about it, the industry is set for profound transformation in the next year. Powered by automation and technological innovation, we’ll see market research companies change from simply asking questions to listening and participating in conversations, analysing vast amounts of data at scale.

Market research will become the medium of choice for brands to understand what their consumers are thinking, how they’re feeling, to predict their actions and to co-create truly consumer-centric strategies with them. It won’t be just about collating data through surveys or other means, but via live and continuous interaction through technologies that enable relevant and real-time consumer insights. Research must be technology-led, platform-led, and embed the intelligence of the researcher in technology through automation. 

Frederic-Charles Petit is chief executive CEO at Toluna.