It is that time of year again where we reflect on the last 12 months and look forward to the 12 ahead. While we could not have predicted the direction of 2020, the year’s events have certainly left their mark on the Market Research industry. With our workforces adapting to changes that we never anticipated, introducing new methods and ramping up operations (or unfortunately slowing down), we successfully made it to the end of the year with lessons and knowledge to take into the year ahead.
If we’ve learned one thing this year, it’s that we have so much to learn from each other, and we all do better when we collaborate. With that said, we asked our friends from the MR community to join us in sharing their thoughts on 2020 and hopes for 2021. Check them out below:
How do you think things in MR will change as a result of 2020’s events and what are you looking forward to in 2021?
2021 in many ways will be a build year. The reality is that by and large companies, specifically, the people that make up companies rallied in uncharted, choppy waters in 2020. Some businesses had to change altogether, others pivoted. As we lean into the new year, there is a sense of hope and commitment to continue on the mission.
As it relates to talent, it has been a very mixed bag. Layoffs came in the Spring of 2020, and would expect we will see some in early 2021. We have seen placements – at all levels – pick up, and would expect as plans for 2021 are approved, this will continue.
Meetings are now called “zooms” whether it happened on zoom or not. The way we work has changed and this is an opportunity for talent. People at every level have proven they can be efficient, effective and maintain company culture by working remotely. Business win with having the right talent and employees win as they are able to contribute to businesses that need and appreciate them.
Also, would expect to see exciting new MR capabilities emerge which means for opportunities – 2021 has the makings of an exciting year.
One market research outcome that I see continuing into 2021 is a major floodgate on online qualitative work – clients have grown more comfortable with digital-based research methods after becoming reliant on them this past year, and I believe a high degree of that reliance will “stick.” Virtual sessions have really been a tremendous asset to companies, as they provide the depth of insight we seek from qualitative research, yet also come with a series of incremental benefits – no overhead cost for travel, more scheduling flexibility, cross-regional representation, and the ability to invite more internal clients to watch live. Likewise, remote presentations, conferences that can really be webinars (e.g. not networking focused), and remote working will stay more common, even when in-person returns. Because now we see that all of this is working. The hurdle in the past was a fear that operationally, these virtual alternatives would fall short of expectation. 2020 ended up being an accidental trial run in virtual operations, and it wasn’t nearly as destructive to business operations as everyone feared! If anything, we’ve actually seen an increase in productivity and a sense of camaraderie as people get creative with Zoom backgrounds and share their personal lives with colleagues. I anticipate that a lot of the changes that were initially temporary will ultimately become a more permanent reshaping of the workplace.
Pattern recognition over time will be critical as the industry tracks how consumers behaved prior to, during, and after the pandemic. The industry will need to evolve to better automate the tracking overtime and connection across data sets that weren’t necessarily designed to be connected.
2021 will bring a refreshed energy as the world starts opening back up. Humans will appreciate the events that will be able to take place in person and doing simple meetings in person again. Where we once took for granted we will now find joy.
We all know what an unprecedented year this has been. So unprecedented that it has its own word used to describe it. This word has come to connote so many different things: difficult, surprising, confusing, unimaginable…. It’s in sharp contrast to expectations of the year when we first started it. Going into the year, I thought “2020” has such a nice round number sound to it. The numbers, when you say them, sound elegant and a bit grand.
This year has not had that elegant and grand sound, feel, or ring to it at all. And while this year has been unimaginably hard for so many people and in so many ways, it brought with it a groundswell, a momentum, of a large number of unprecedented behaviors and changes, including some of which are good. I have seen more creativity, collaboration, and community-mindedness than ever before—in market research and beyond.
We have seen more creativity and accelerated change in market research than I’ve seen in 25 years in the industry. The biggest changes I saw in 2020 that I think will be here to stay are:
- An accelerated adoption to digital qualitative research. We will continue to have in-person qualitative but the reasons we have it will be more selective, and there will be greater adoption of digital qualitative research.
- There will be an increased pressure on sample quality and that will lead to better insights.
- There will be a long overdue increase in diverse perspectives in research that support and drive more inclusive branding, communications, and product development that help improve people’s lives.
What I am really looking forward in 2021 is:
- This accelerated pace of change in the industry and adoption of new behaviors.
- Being able to bring diverse voices and perspectives to the work we do for clients.
- Collaborating with clients, my team, and industry partners to do creative, fantastic research that will drive growth and change.
After a tumultuous year full of change, our research shows consumers are paying more attention to how brands are impacting their communities and livelihoods. Brands can no longer sit on the sidelines of our social and political conversations. Even if they don’t actively join in the fray, consumers will expect corporations to have clear values and uphold them throughout all aspects of their business. As researchers, we need to focus more on consumer values, perceptions of brand values, and how to help our clients navigate and succeed in this more scrutinized world.
In 2021, I’m looking forward to building a better future for my business, my clients, my family, and community. We’ve learned a lot about what not to do and about the fragility of many of our systems in 2020. Now we have to put that knowledge to work.
Well, the events of 2020 have been a bit mind-blowing and sometimes mind-numbing – so many challenges, so many struggles but also so many successes!
While much work was stopped in April, May, and June with the impact of Covid, many companies realized that they needed the knowledge the market research brings to navigate this changing/new world. So requests for projects started to flow in for many research agencies, including my small boutique firm. To deal with the need to interview people but avoid human contact more virtual techniques and platforms have become available and embraced. Qualitative work has “zoom”ed ahead and become important. Quantitative work will continue to include a measure of the effect of Covid, comparisons to the past, best guesses as to what the future holds.
I’m personally looking forward to 2021 allowing in-person research to resume, though it may not be possible until the latter part of the year. And we will all be measuring the impact of the pandemic, watching how trends and activities change, trying to determine what the new “normal” will be, and providing important info for our clients so they can meet the consumers’ needs and appetites.
As a small research shop, 2020 has certainly left some bruises, and there have been days where I felt like the Black Knight, down three limbs but screaming, “just a flesh wound!”
In 2021, I expect to see continued squeezing of the independent researcher as costs of sampling and platforms will continue to go up and clients continue to demand more for less. And the need for insights will increase, as risks of making bad decisions goes up in a post-pandemic world.
I know, that just sounds bleak.
But, we researchers are thinkers and doers. The silver lining of 2020 is that it allowed many of us to slow down and do some deep thinking. This pause in demand has resulted in some great advances in platform capabilities, text analysis, adaptation of qualitative methods, and sampling quality initiatives. These will serve as a springboard to launch into 2021 better equipped to meet increased needs for stronger insights. I believe we may one day look back at 2020 as the year that research shifted on a grand scale to more choices in unearthing insights.
One thing is apparent from those to whom we posed our question; 2021 will be a prosperous and exciting year. For many of us, 2020 has propelled us into a new way of thinking that gets us closer to our goals or has given us new longer-term visions. As a continually evolving space, RFG’s DataForce can help support and prepare your organization’s growth for tomorrow. Interested to learn more? We’d love to schedule a demo! Say Hi or find out more about DataForce Connect, Community, and Collect here.