The 6 Trends That Will Shape Market Research in 2020, According to Experts

Madeline Jacobson
Madeline Jacobson
4 mins
crystal ball with city backdrop represents market research trends

Market researchers have more data available to them than ever before– which is both a blessing and a curse. Access to all this data presents exciting opportunities for creating innovative products and making our organizations customer-centric, but it also means that researchers have their work cut out for them parsing through this information and getting their key insights to stick with company decision-makers.  

It’s not too surprising, then, that some of the topics that are top of mind for researchers going into 2020 include artificial intelligence, automation, and agile research methods. We’re interested in drilling down on some of the biggest trends in market research and thinking about how these trends will impact the market research landscape in 2020— so we asked six market research and insights leaders for their top predictions for the coming year. You can check out their responses below.

Chatbot Projects Will Take Off

Chatbots have been taking off in popularity over the past several years, and we’ve already seen innovative chatbot uses in research. For example, over 10 million people participated in a color perception research project over Facebook Messenger in 2018. We’ve also seen a steep increase in the number of chatbot survey software available to researchers.

Ray Poynter, Founder of NewMR and Chief Research Officer at Potentiate, predicts:

“2020 is going to be a year when we see more and more chatbot projects, both qualitative and quantitative.”

Chatbots can be a powerful tool to reach a large, representative sample of consumers for research projects, and we’re looking forward to seeing the insights that arise from innovative chatbot studies in 2020.

Researchers Will Increase Their Agility with DIY Projects

The pressure’s on for both client-side and agency researchers to move quickly and react to the needs of their marketing and product teams. In the fall 2019 GRIT Report both client-side and agency researchers ranked time-related challenges as their biggest obstacle. But as the need for speed increases, Forbes columnist and Meshh Group Insight Manager Jake Pryszlak believes that the tools that enable an agile approach will become more accessible. He predicts:

“Fast/agile approaches will become ever more important. These will also be cost-effective for both brands and entrepreneurs. Technology companies will develop their suite of products to enhance the DIY nature of research.”

Data Privacy Will Become More Pressing

GDPR has been in effect since mid-2018, and tech leaders (including Microsoft and Apple) have been calling for a U.S. version of the data protection regulation. No matter where in the world they’re based, market researchers will need to pay attention to good data privacy practices. Joaquim Bretcha, ESOMAR President and International Director of Netquest, says:

“The increasing awareness of the value of personal data by people in all their roles (consumer, viewer, purchaser, citizen) along with stricter regulations will boost the focus on all aspects of data ethics and the good management of data privacy.”

Companies that fail to comply with data regulations risk not only hefty fines, but serious damage to their brand’s reputation. As businesses continue to collect customer data, they can’t afford to neglect good data security and privacy practices.

AI Will Reduce the Need for Traditional Research Steps

Another insight that emerged from the fall 2019 GRIT Report was that artificial intelligence (AI) is the market research industry’s biggest buzz topic– by a long shot. And it appears that as researchers get more comfortable automating processes through AI-powered technology, certain traditional research steps will no longer be essential. Innovation expert Andria Long predicts:

“More companies are going to gain speed to market by skipping traditional research steps like ad and concept testing as they begin to use AI-created content. Given that this content is generated by all the possible consumer data you have, what level of testing will really be needed? I still think testing product usage is a must, but I am sure there will be ways that are simpler and faster to do it than what currently exists today.”

(You can see more of Andria’s thoughts on how technology is impacting market research in this interview from our Future of Knowledge at Work series.)

The Need for Market Research Training and Education Will Intensify

While the fundamentals of market research remain the same, the introduction of new technologies and techniques means that market researchers are never done learning. And as experienced market researchers retire and more young professionals enter the field, the demand for ongoing training will only grow. Lenny Murphy, Executive Editor and Producer at Greenbook, says:

“With the democratization of data collection and analysis via various technologies, we’ll see a renewed focus on understanding the core principles of market research as well as determining the ‘fit for purpose’ match between techniques and business issues. As new blood comes into the industry, the need to shorten the learning curve will become imperative. Trade bodies, educational programs, universities, and trusted individual educators will be very much in demand to help address this need.”

Businesses That Centralize Insights Will Accelerate Revenue Growth

At most organizations, market research teams are viewed as business contributors rather than strategic partners. In fact, a Boston Consulting Group study found that only 20 percent of insights functions were viewed as strategic partners or sources of competitive advantage within their organizations. However, as we near the start of a new decade, we’re starting to see a shift. When insights teams share their research through a centralized “library,”  they’re increasingly being seen as integral to the health and fortunes of the business. Mark Hammer, CEO of Bloomfire, predicts:

“In 2020, we’ll see more insights teams using knowledge sharing platforms to give their internal stakeholders easy access to research. Rather than remaining siloed within one team or department, research and insights will be central to the entire organization. And key decision makers within the organization will use this knowledge to make better informed, data-driven decisions that lead to revenue growth.”

Preparing for Market Research Trends in 2020

From tightening data regulations to new AI-powered technology, the trends that we’re seeing in the market research now have the power to transform the market research landscape. We’re excited to see what the next year and the next decade bring, and we want to thank the market research professionals who shared their predictions with us. 

February 6, 2020

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